archived fragments

imported from fragmented.posterous.com

Category: Uncategorized

full circle

I started this posterous when I first arrived at SF last year and I thought it should be apt that I should do a post upon returning to this city. 

SF will always be special to me. It is the city I have found myself and a new lease of life. In many ways it is almost as though I was reborn again. 

I am a different person before and after SF, July 2011. 

It is hard to tell the difference if you’ve just gotten to know me, but friends who knew me prior to 2011 would know how extreme the transformation has become. 

To be really honest, it has not hit me yet that I am here. Everything has happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to react. I am not even reacting now. The only reaction I really had was that I was very, very, very happy to see my team. For the longest time I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to see them again.

It made me realise that I wanted to be with them more than the location itself, but I have not really immersed myself into the city yet. 

I have a million thoughts in my head that I would like to share and write. But I don’t have the headspace right now, having just travelled 8,447 miles across the oceans. 

I am just very grateful to be here and all the things that have happened between the first time I stepped into this city and upon returning to her once again. 

With the benefit of hindsight, I recognise that this one year journey I had to take in-between was neccessary, and if I could choose again, I’ll definitely take on this one year in limbo, because it has allowed me to grow into myself. 

That being said, I am looking forward to finally settling somewhere. I didn’t realise it before but I actually really like having a wardrobe. Living out of a suitcase was fun – for a while. I also miss having a space to return to, somewhere I can you know, put stuff I like around without thinking that I have to pack it in a suitcase soon.

I am sure there will come upon a time when I’ll miss my nomadic travels, but for now I would like to focus on one single thing – my work. Having to constantly think where I was going was a distraction. 

For once, it’ll be really nice to live life distraction free. 

Advertisements

when things do not make sense

I have a penchant for doing things that do not make sense. I do not do them deliberately, more like neccessary, because if I don’t do the things I believe in, I cannot breathe. 

As a designer I should have started a design blog instead of a blog with emo writing like this, it would have made a lot more sense trying to maximize my online capital, isn’t it? 

When I started connections.sg I wanted to keep it pure and away from any commercial influences, I got told countless times that it was a waste of time and it would make more sense to monetize it. 

I told a good friend a few years ago that I wanted to create my own reality, he was genuinely worried and asked me if I needed ‘help’. 

A lot of things I choose to do and want to do, they do not make sense. But by convention, it implies that since there are no monetary or obvious gains, why do it? 

For years I have been wondering the same question of other people. Politicians especially. When I see a good person who could have chosen to live his/her life in peace instead of having to play the dirty game of politics – I ask why. The people in question to me are not in it for power, but for something else extremely intangible. 

Why don’t people actually realise that there are a lot of things that we wouldn’t be enjoying right now if everyone in this world wanted to make sense. 

Would envisioning flying in the sky in a huge metal machine make sense? When people first dreamed of equal rights for all human beings, I am sure it was presposterous. When Rosa Parks indignantly decided not to give up her seat, did it make sense then?

As part of humanity we need to start to invest more in the well-being of other people, because that is the only way the world can sustain its evolution. We have always needed gigantic leaps of faith to move forward. Our progress was not possible because of calculated risks and logical reasoning. It was because there were people who wanted to do things that didn’t make sense.

I do not do things for tangible benefits, at least they are not tangible by society standards. How do you really measure emotional impact? Should we only do things which have measurable impact? If I deeply impact one single person’s life, does that make me less worthwhile than someone who goes on to impact a million people superficially? Who are we to decide? 

Basheer books, if you are in the creative industry in Singapore, you would have heard of them. They deliver books to you for you to browse, if you don’t like them you can return them without paying for it and there’s no time limit. Did it make sense? No. They have probably tons of damanged books but in return they receive loyalty from their customers, which in return probably brought them a lot more economic benefit than a typical bookstore would have received. When I tell this to outsiders of the industry, one of the first questions they ask – “How can people be trusted?”

BooksActually, they publish work of local authors without much profit, if any. It doesn’t make sense at all to most people. But when I was there last weekend, touching the covers of these books made my spine tingle. It left a deep imprint on my soul, how much had to go into these little printed books of words. 

It didn’t make sense, but it made me want to cry. Are my tears less precious than dollars and cents? By a mere touch of these books, recognizing all the blood, sweat and tears going into them, a memory in my consciousness now, the sudden awareness of the love for humanity.

Some things do not make sense at conception, some things may not make sense at all for the rest of linear time, but I sincerely believe we should be less caught up with whether they make sense and instead focus more on doing things we feel needed to be done.

I think that’s one of the greatest ways of self-expression, that you do things because you want to or needed do, in spite of and despite of. We could have modern-day Shakespeare among us but we wouldn’t have recognized him because these days, all we expect is for people to make sense. 

I have been so caught up in my professional work, that I have lost touch with that part of me. That part of me who loves the subtle intricacies of other people’s creations. I do not listen to new music anymore, I barely have time to discover new books, and don’t even talk to me about art. My life has been defined by the internet. Which I am utterly grateful for, but I forgot how much I had missed the physical connection of other people’s work until I experienced it once again. 

Each time I want to make something that doesn’t make sense, I am blessed right now, because of entities like BooksActually, I don’t feel all alone. When I touch the cover of one of their books I feel a sense of connection to the author, that he or she wrote that book painstakingly despite of and inspite of. That it doesn’t make economic sense to write at all, but what is it that is more important – numbers, or your sense of self? 

I find myself having to make similar choices lately. Increasingly. As though if I have to go through a series of tests – do I choose to remain true to myself, or do I want to make sense to other people? If I remain true to myself, am I being selfish?

But being true to myself is ultimately being true to you.

owing a debt to the unlucky

“Life’s outcomes, while not entirely random, have a huge amount of luck baked into them. Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck — and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your Gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.” – Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball

I haven’t always been the person most of you would know today. In the first two-thirds of my three-decade life I had been self-centered and quick to hurt people without much regard for their reactions.

I cannot really pinpoint exactly how and why along the way I transformed. It was probably the despair I felt very keenly back then, I was trying to find an incentive to be alive and I couldn’t find it on the trajectory I was going on.

Kindness is addictive. If only one opens herself/himself to experience it. I was lucky, despite my emotional immaturity I had a few people in my life who allowed me their grace even though I thought I didn’t deserve it. 

I was such a difficult person, I was brimming with negativity, I resented my circumstances but wouldn’t do much about it. But perhaps the key difference was that I still tried harder than the average would, despite all my complaints and misery I was still willing to try to do something, even though I was a wet blanket to myself, to everybody around me.

Someone saw that I guess. That little spark of fire which was almost invisible and thought to be non-existent. There have been so many times I was sick of myself, but there had been people who would extend their grace and tell me otherwise.

Time and time again I have been touched by people’s kindness and generousity, time and time again I feel compelled to extend my own grace to others, simply because I know exactly how powerful it is to be at a receiving end of an unexpected act of kindness. I remember all of those times I was in desperate desolation and someone showed me a door I thought to be closed, or a perspective I have never considered.

I remember all these people, every single one of them. I remember all the blog posts strangers have written – posts they probably think were deeply personal and nobody would care to read, but made a difference to the way I think and feel today. I especially remember the people who made a bet on me even though I really wouldn’t bet on myself. 

I owe a huge debt to these people which I could probably never repay in my lifetime, for every single moment of my joy and happiness that I experience now is only possible because they have once taken a chance of someone. Someone whom the rest of the world had given up on.

And that is why I am deeply obligated to the ones who have given up on themselves, or those who are thinking right now that they have nothing to live for or look forward to – I know only too well how it feels like to be in that position. 

I don’t forget. I can forget to do my laundry or eat my lunch, even some tasks on my to-do list for work, but I don’t forget the pain I used to feel. 

The memory of my pain propels me forward though it is the grace I have received in my life which truly drives me along the way. The recognition of other people who are like me but didn’t have the luck to have their breaks breaks my heart, every single day.

And so it is such, I owe a debt to the unlucky. I can only try to pay it forward in every little way possible, including little things like sharing my personal experiences on this blog. I think, and I hope I am right, if someone like me can experience what it feels like to be truly alive, perhaps one day, the one who sees no light in front of them now, can too.

I cannot count how many times in my life I thought it has gone pitch black but I waited it out. 

And I am glad I did, because the events for the past few years are very encouraging, especially on the macro level. That humanity is at her best when people are collectively working for the betterment of fellow humans. 

Slowly, due to the grace of others I have become a happier and better person. Generosity and kindness did not come to me because I am kind, but because I am selfish – for I selfishly want to find an incentive to live, I selfishly become happier when I make someone smile. 

Kindness is addictive, once I have experienced a tiny bit of it, I only want more. Knowing that I could have an impact on someone else’s well-being gives me a rush irreplacable by anything else. 

I am not a saint, I just want to be selfishly happy, and I am grateful to have found out that at least for me, happiness comes in the form of trying to light up the paths of others.

the story I want to tell

Each time I feel lazy, tired, disillusioned or jaded, when I feel like giving up all my bold dreams and naive passions, I remind myself of the story I want to tell.

There can be two vast extremes:

Version A:

“Winnie worked for 40 years, she climbed the corporate ladder well enough, saved enough to buy a house, was able to buy whatever she needed and go on a holiday twice a year”. 

Version B:

“Winnie tried to do a thousand things in her lifetime, failing miserably at some, was moderately successful with the others, she spent half her life covered in grime, pain and tears, the other half full of joy and laughter. She was never able to fulfil some of her outrageous plans but she was happy to have given it her all while trying. Not many people knew who she is, but those who truly knew her cherished their temporal but significant connections. She was always enthusiastic about sharing her stories, some deeply personal, some belonging to other people who inspired her. She didn’t leave behind one big legacy but she felt passionately alive with everything she tried to do.”

Ultimately, if I can leave this world with story B, I’ll be a very happy person. Instinctively I want to be a part of some big thing and save the world, but it is okay even if I don’t end up doing so, I will not end up dying a bitter person with regrets as long as whatever I choose to do, I do it with all my heart and soul. 

Despite being deeply entwined with tech and startup dreams, would I be equally happy being a poor hobo travelling on a minimal budget to different countries trying to lend a hand to various different causes? I would. I appreciate forming deep connections to whatever I do, the medium doesn’t really matter. 

What if I become old, sick and penniless? If I had spent my youth vigorously pursuing what I feel for and believe in, then so be it. I’ll take the tradeoff. 

If trying to ensure I will not be sick and penniless when I am old, I give up my heart and liberty for three quarters of my life, the math doesn’t even compute. 

The only thing I feel bad for is that I may not be able to take care of my poor parents in their old age, but I can only hope that everything will work out that it is exactly meant to be, or that they can at least proud that I am brave enough to truly be alive. 

Would they have preferred me to be well to do but bitterly angry with myself, feeling like my life might as well not matter? I believe the best way to deliver my gratitude to them and those who love me is to learn how to love myself and my life.

So here it is. This is my secret for having the courage to live an unconventional life, at least in Singaporean/Asian standards. The darker secret is I do not have the strength to live a conventional life. It is not that I didn’t try, I did, and each time I have only ended up physically sick. I have gotten sick enough to realize I would take my health over money/stability/comfort anytime. If I end up forgetting because it is so easy to get caught up in material comfort, I get a prolonged bout of sickness – isn’t my body awesome?

These days, especially the past year, I no longer need my body to remind me of the need to feel alive. It has been wired deeply into my conscious mind – there have been times when I get so caught up in the perceived busyness of life that I forget that my priority is to truly live life.

Everyone has different means to feel alive, I always remember Christina Lamb’s story which was told to the world by Paulo Coelho:

“As long as I’m in a war zone, my life has meaning. I go for days without having a bath, I eat whatever the soldiers eat, I sleep three hours a night and wake up to the sound of gunfire. I know that at any moment someone could lob a grenade into the place where we’re sitting, and that makes me live, do you see? Really live, I mean, loving every minute, every second. There’s no room for sadness, doubts, nothing; there’s just a great love for life.”

Reading such stories make me realize I am not that crazy after all for trying to seek growth, discomfort and the feeling of being alive. And I ask myself what is my one thing to do to keep myself feeling alive? 

It took me a while but I came to terms that I may or may not find that one thing to do, and that is okay, because whatever I do from now on will always carry its own meaning to me. And that to me is what matters to myself, the desire to lead a meaningful life. It would be a bonus if it can be impactful, but if I can make my own heart sing half the time for the rest of my life, that to me will be the greatest achievement I can take to my grave.

Why I love @skinnylatte

@skinnylatte and me, we share an atypical relationship.

I don’t call it a friendship, as I once mentioned it to her before, “I am not your friend, I am a figment of your imagination.” And she replied in the next instant, “And I am also a figment of yours”.

Before any strange ideas fire off in your head, no, we are not romantically involved. Never have and will never be, the official reason (we actually never spoken about it before because we never needed to) is we’re not each other’s type. The unofficial reason is, we both know we have other roles to play in each others’ lives.

In this instance, we really knew each other before we had met. I have fallen in love with her writing when she was 17 and working in an Apple reseller store – I cannot remember how, but if you’re gay, Singaporean and into blogs, there is really not much of a chance you have never come across popagandhi.com.

Her writing has taken on various different incarnations over the years, but here are my favourites – Portraits of Love. She has taken them offline a few times before, but I’ve always maintained that those have always been to me – the best, truest part of her.

I’ve always looked forward to every single piece of her writing, whether she’s off travelling in some remote region of the world or if she’s waxing lyrical about someone, reading her writing feels like a travel experience in itself. Traveling to a different plane of the universe.

If it was left up to me I would never have thought I’ll one day meet her in person. But as fate would have it, she was looking for a designer, I was one of the very few independent designers in Singapore, so she sent me a polite email (the one and only polite email, since then, her need to be socially polite to me has since disintegrated) asking me if I was available.

I remember receiving that email in Tokyo back in 2009 (probably almost a decade after I’ve first seen her writing), I remember the joy of being contacted by someone I so deeply admired. I wasn’t able to take on the project, but I sent her a long emo email explaining why and how much I was in love with her writing.

It must have amused her greatly, though she truly captured my heart by sending back an equally long email.

The rest, they say, was history. Or not. We didn’t get to meet up until a long while later and she had to deal with a socially awkward version of me.

We didn’t meet each other again until another long while after. She was always not in the country, as expected for someone who lives and breathes wanderlust. But it was significant to me, by the second time we’ve met, I remember feeling the inexplicable thread of familarity which still exists between me and her.

Between then and now, I’ve started my own travel journey – am not sure if she knew this, but I was afraid to travel alone (and afraid to sleep in the dark), but I motivated myself to do so by using her as an example. If a 24yr old (then) can travel alone to Yemen and barely escape a suicide bombing due to a last minute change of route, I can definitely travel to Phuket by myself, can I?

So it is with enough credit to her that I started my own journey of incessant wanderlust on my own and I have never looked back since.

They say familarity breeds contempt, in a way though there were times when I feel like wrapping my hands around her neck, she was never afraid to be herself with me and therefore in return I reciprocated by never being afraid to be myself with her.

That’s just part of the equation. The other part is our overlapping interests across different spectrums and our common ADD in these interests. We have been talking about channelling our ADD into something meaningful for our communities we share, we have never really gotten around to it because we’re both evolving so much in our separate personal lives. But it is on the way, I promise.

I build and she writes. She tells me in a while I can expect her to build while I write for a change. We shall see.

And if so far this makes it sound like we’re BFFs, we’re really not. That’s why I said I’m a figment of her imagination. We see each other barely once a year, if ever, and we communicate much less than most other social relationships. We don’t hang out much, if at all.

That to me is the atypical part of it and that is why it is beautiful. It is a romantic un-romance tied together with the possibilities of our common desire to make a difference to this world.

I tell her to keep herself alive despite her instinct to put herself in every threatening situation possible, because I said to her, I do not want to live without her.

Because she has been my benchmark for my own insanity, whenever I feel like I am crazy for jumping off a cliff, I refer myself to her, what she has done and my internal sanity meter is instantly calibrated.

The most cherished part of this – she understands why certain issues matter so much to me, when I exist in a sea of apathy it is really appreciated when another human being knows exactly what I live for.

She is crazily optimistic about the things she can do, through that I derive strength for the things I can do. I celebrate her successes as though they are mine. I know doors can be opened because she was there to open them first.

There are certain relationships which need not be quantified by time and space – this is one of them. In my personal reality it is as though she doesn’t exist, most of the time she manifests as an instant message, really.

Through the wonders of 3G I’ve had random IM convos with her at the top of some hill I’m climbing here in HK, almost rolling down it because she says the most unexpected things at the most unexpected time, while she’s wandering in some unspecified street at the opposite end of the world. Once in a while she sends me a nonsensical message and I give her an equally nonsensical reply – with a thousand words in between the lines.

With her, it feels like we’re living in the future. Our communcation doesn’t feel tangible, we have never neeeded physical space to prove each other’s existence.

Thank you Adri, for existing. I am not sure if I’ll always love you, but at this very moment in time, I am grateful you exist and you deserve to have my gratitude locked into cyberspace for the rest of our lives.

overcoming the fear of being myself

In the not-so-distant past, I was very afraid of meeting people. It took multiple synchronistic events plus persistence from @andycroll for me to agree to my first meetup with a friend from cyberspace.

It has been three years. Only three years, I would say. I am still an introvert, I am still fearful of public speaking, crowds still drain me, I still seek a corner to hide in when I go to events, but I am no longer afraid of meeting people.

It was really hard in the beginning, I would stutter, be really unsure of myself, how I look, how I speak, how I gave my answers, whether I sounded stupid, whether if I had met people’s expectations. 

If you have been a common friend or twitter follower of @skinnylatte and me, you may have come across our online banter which makes us sound like we’re totally at ease with each other. Or that we’re flirting with each other. It depends how well you know each of us. 😉

However, you should have seen how awkward we were when we first had coffee. Not her, because she’s used to this shit by then. Though it really helped that there was an inexplicable thread of familarity which existed between us from the second time we met. Not the first, not sure why, but by the second time I felt like we have had been friends forever.

By the time I met people like @jasonong, I was recounting my life to him like nobody’s business. Our first conversation lasted more than five hours in one sitting, I swear. 

It took me probably a hundred meetings in between, but I am used to this now. I no longer feel awkward meeting someone I barely know, I am comfortable telling my story, I am equally comfortable listening to your story.

But if you had asked me three years ago if I had envisioned myself this way – I would have secretly, passive agressively, laughed in your face. 

Lately, I have been ruminating over myself, wondering how much of myself I can truly be. I seem to go backwards and forward, swinging left and right, one moment I am proud to be my quirky self, the next split second I am wondering if I am an embarrasment to myself.

That is the problem. Why should I even think of myself as an embarassment? Why should I apologise that I am really not like anyone of you? 

I typically have an opinion and I shouldn’t be sorry for it. But I had been consistently apologising when I try to speak my mind. It is like I am commiting a crime because either I have a different perspective from you, or I have a different way of doing things from you. I keep apologising for my unique differences as a human being. That sounds ridiculous in writing but not so ridiculous when we consider how much we, as a human race try not to rock the boat, especially with social groups. 

I am afraid of sticking out like a sore thumb.

I am afraid you’ll laugh at my opinion.

I am afraid you’ll think less of me if I tell you honestly how I really feel about something.

I am afraid you’ll mock at me if I tell you I believe in reincarnation and astrology.

I am afraid you’ll judge my capabilities if I tell you I had suffered from clinical dysthemia.

I am afraid of what you’ll think if I tell you I really believe in rainbows and unicorns. 

But yesterday, triggered by a chain of synchronistic events, I came to a conclusion – I really do not want to pretend to be someone I am not. Why should I hide myself so much? Why should I feel sorry for being myself? 

Who, has the power to decide I am less of a human being than you? 

Nobody but myself. 

I don’t want to live in a world whereby I am constantly afraid to be myself – if I have to give up on a world which has certain criteria whether it will certify you as a human being, I would. 

I’m tired of constantly seeking validation. I didn’t even want to validate myself. In all honesty, I have been the one thinking less of myself. 

I think life is incredibly short. I can’t imagine going on for the next 3, 5, 10, 50 years trying to cover up parts of myself. 

I have had moments of lucid joy before and they all have some things in common. These are moments when I was not afraid to be myself and when I simply surrender to the wonders of the universe. Moments when I am no longer afraid of how people think or react. Or when I allow myself to fall and hurt myself. 

I am the happiest when I have faith, in both myself and in people. I am at my best when I channel my inner self and strength to freely create. 

Thirty-one years of life, I have never looked back at one moment and thought to myself – gee I shouldn’t have been so stupid and foolish. In fact I think I am always rewarded when I am foolish.

What is the big deal about being embarassed anyway? Nobody dies from embarassment. In the end we just want to satisfy our egos. 

I’ll gladly give up my ego in exchange for being myself.

When I had my first surfing wipeout I was truly scared. Nth time later, I simply allowed myself to let go and enjoy the experience. I know I will surface if I simply had faith. 

When I had my first job interview more than a decade I was really nervous. Nth job interviews later + the inner knowing that I don’t need anyone to give me a job, I wanted them to want to work with me, there is a difference – my last few interviews were simply storytelling sessions.

It is always scary at the beginning. There is always loss and pain to take. But it is like, do you want to go through a painful surgery and get rid of a tumor once and for all, or do you want to slowly disintegrate and die? New plants can only grow if you pull out the weeds. 

It is okay if people think that I am crazy. It is not okay if I am not comfortable with my own insanity. I can deal with losing people because they think less of me, that’s fine, I don’t think I want them around anyway. I cannot deal with myself thinking less of myself. 

I have always believed if I am truly earnest and sincere in being myself and what I do, things will naturally fall into place for me. Each time I see a cliff in front of me, I hem and haw for a while but I have always chosen to jump. Each time I have discovered I am capable of growing much larger wings.

I am working towards a world which values empathy and authenticity. I need to demonstrate those values to myself first. When I made that realization, though it has waxed and waned, I have felt a sense of inner peace I haven’t felt for a long, long time.

It will just be like making a new habit. It will be difficult at first, I may forget and I may fail a few times, I may swing back and forth, but eventually it will simply be a natural extension of me.

If I come to you one day in panic about being myself, do me a favour and point me to my own blog post, thank you. 😉

my rose-tinted lenses

I will admit this. I view everything with a pair of rose tinted lenses. People, work, life, dreams, ambition, everything.

Having had a side of me who was disinterested in everything and anything, I will very much rather wear those rose-tinted lenses.

They make me believe anything is possible, that humans are kind by nature, that my imagination is just another perception of what can be real.

Without my rose-tinted lenses I wouldn’t have believed I would one day live the life I am living now. Dreams are possible only if you believe they’ll come true, despite the ridiculousness of them all. I’m a living example of disappointing those naysayers again and again. Thanks to my rose-tinted lenses.

Perhaps I’ll stumble, perhaps I’ll cry, perhaps the greys of life will appear but what matters is that I am carrying faith and hope with me instead of jadedness & apathy.

Pain is only temporary, but dreams can be permanent, if only I have courage to hold on to them. And my rose-tinted lenses give me the strength to do so.

Not all the time though. Sometimes I’ll mock myself for wearing them, for like any human being I waver.

But I have always picked them up time and again, I have never once given up on them.

I’ll continue to wear them, I hope I’ll still have them with me when it is time for me to wrap things up in this world.

That will be testament of how I lived my life. Because it is mine to live, not anyone else’s. With my very own rose-tinted lenses.

must-dos in HK

For once I’ll not write a long emo blog post. ;p I have had several requests for tips on what do to do & eat in HK. Obviously there’s lonelyplanet, tripadvisor etc but well, travelling is personal, isn’t it? I don’t expect everyone to have the same tastes as me but in case you’re curious, here’s my list (so far, becase there’s tons I haven’t seen – and yes I am food obsessed).

1. Australia Diary Company

548088_10151223906388223_1576294614_n

Everyone has to try their steamed milk pudding and fried eggs here. I repeat. Must try. Just being in the restaurant itself is a unique HK experience. It is really not from Australia, I am not sure why it is named that way. I guess they mean the milk. Hmm.

Img_4070

 

2. Egg tarts at Tai Cheong

I have had great egg tarts randomly at plenty of HK streets, but Tai Cheong is one of those hyped experiences one has to do for the sake of doing. Eat it right after buying it. Warning: it crumbles into your mouth so don’t be smart like me and eat it while pinching it only with two fingers – I found half of my egg tart on the street afterwards.

 

3. Dim sum at Lin Heung Lao

Hat tip to Belle, this is one of those places where there are no English menus and carts get pushed around. Another great experience just for the sake of it, the food is great too, albeit I would be uncomfortable going there alone. Some of those aunties pushing the carts can be grumpy, ahem. Things to eat: Roast pork, creamy custard buns, rice flour rolls. 

Img_2391

 

4. Visit Tai O

13333_185987273222_3715662_n

I fell in love with this fishing village. I can’t express it using words.

5. Visit one of the outer-lying islands

You’ll feel like you’re visiting an alternate reality from mainland HK. Cheung Chau, Peng Chau, take your pick. Just hop onto a ferry, it is less than $2 and you can even island-hop in a day.

Img_2289

6. Eat at a Cha Can Teng (aka Hongkong-style cafe)

Recommendations: Iced yuan yang (coffee+tea with milk) or Iced milk tea, egg & luncheon meat sandwiches, baked pork chop rice – as you can tell by now, they are not very healthy and not very chinese. But that’s what I love about HK’s food, it can be so chinese and so not chinese! If you are not comfortable with the dodgy looking ones yet (though I swear, the dodgier, the more delicious), you can try Tsui Wah for a very comfortable dining experience first. There’s quite a few branches scattered all over. Try the soy-sauce chicken wings please.

7. Eat French Toast

8719_174073953222_6807620_n

This needs to have its own mention. This is not your typical french toast. It is deep fried with peanut butter in between, drenched with syrup, and a slab of butter melting on top. Sinfully delicious.

8. Eat at one of these at Sheung Wan / Central

8530_181797038222_1415868_n

You should be able to tell by now, I really like these old nostalgic places.

9. Eat Tang Yuan (glutinuos rice balls)

I typically don’t really like flour-y stuff but the ones here are so soft and delicious…

10. Take a tram on Hong Kong island

Img_2273

Maybe it is just me, each time I take one of these I feel like it i
s magic. 

11. Eat Claypot rice/congee at temple st

Img_4067

I recommend the congee actually. If you can’t be at temple st then just hop into the many congee restaurants. 

12. Eat street food

223096_10151250306548223_1871414747_n

You can find them almost anywhere but definitely at Mongkok. I like the curry fishballs and octopus. Yummy.

13. For geeks only

Visit Golden Computer Arcade & Apliu St preferbly on weekdays unless you’re into crowds.

557537_10151234012063223_634121655_n

14. Malls at Yau Ma Tei & Mongkok stretch 

I don’t mean big ones like Langham Place, but the small tiny packed ones where you can find obscure toy shops and tidbit shops among the usual youth fashion. If you’re there at night, take a walk down the Ladies street night market, just for fun.

301035_10151250342748223_1411580269_n

These are what I ❤ so far, I expect myself to see a lot more I haven’t covered during my past trips, but these are the ones I keep repeating, even on my nth visit now.

For everyone’s convenience, I’ve saved all of the above in a foursquare list. 😉

the beauty of the ordinary

There were plenty of times within the past few weeks that I’ve wanted to write but I’d stopped myself – I’ve always desired to put out a good post, it didn’t really matter if there wasn’t an audience but at least I know by the end of the post I have given my all to it. 

That is the problem. I seldom have the time and space where I can give my all to a blog post. 

Yesterday I finally somehow remembered when I started this posterous blog, it was meant to serve as a travel log. When it was incepted last year with my trip to SF, I wrote pretty much everyday. I rambled on and on, writing about ordinary but personally beautiful sights I had encountered, about the gratitude I had felt, even about the onion dispensers I saw in Costco. 

Partially it was driven by me falling head over heels in love with SF, partially I simply wanted to write so I could remember it from the future one day.

Once in a while I’ll read my own posts during my 3-month journey in the US last year and they never once felt mundane to me. I guess that is what that really matters – writing for my future self to reflect upon, not for any other reason.

I have come to realise what makes life truly beautiful is the capacity to find the extraordinary out of the ordinary and that is why I love travelling so much. Having a foreign perspective allows me to see the beauty in different cultures, beauty which have since been neglected by the locals because of the daily grind.

I am guilty of the same when it comes to Singapore. And I derive the opportunity to learn when I hear what other people have to say about Singapore during my travels. 

Yesterday I chanced upon this live performance amongst the crowd at mongkok. It was pretty awesome and there was a crowd gathering. When the song ended everyone clapped passionately but nobody took out a single cent. I dropped a small note into the empty case feeling all awkward because I was the only one to do so, half feeling sorry for the performer, wondering how much and how long she has to sing in order to get a little monetary return. 

402667_10151250300123223_1305710658_n

I wondered if I was missing some picture. Perhaps the same crowd gather every night showing their support but they cannot afford to give on a regular basis. Perhaps they don’t feel the way I feel – how much it takes to be standing there singing. Perhaps there’s some part of the local culture I don’t understand and I shouldn’t judge. 

But I enjoy the thoughts which pop up in my head – a constant string of questions. 

I passed by a street hawker trying to sell her catch of the day before the day ends. She was telling her prospects how the various types of seafood would be cooked best. For some reason I was very moved by the scene, I guess it represented some form of an authentic connection between the seller and buyer which is quickly disappearing with fancy gigantic supermarkets these days.

480914_10151237248303223_1396201027_n

I recounted the event to my foot masseuse later on and she gave an exclamation of horror, wondering how I could be enamoured with the non-existent hygiene in such street selling. 

I didn’t consider the hygiene factor at all and I still don’t. The same scene, provoking extremely different reactions. 

That is the beauty of the ordinary, it is really up to us to capture such fleeting moments and listen to the story each moment has to tell. 

Stories like superamit’s pop up in our conscious stream all the time, serving as gentle reminders for us to treasure the ordinary. But we just keep ignoring them, indulging ourselves in our falsely perceived busyness. 

I tend to fall into this trap myself, despite having a few episodes of bad health – swearing each time I’ll never take my health or time for granted again, only to end up doing exactly the opposite.

I tell myself gently that it is okay, being aware is better than being in perpetual denial, if I see myself as a piece of software perhaps it would take multiple iterations for myself to get it right. 

Sometimes I had been so wrapped around with work that I think I feel too drained to be anywhere else apart from what I call home in my temporal locations. I keep forgetting that surrounding myself with different sights everyday have an empowering and energizing effect on me. 

But I think I am slowly getting better at this – I instruct my lizard brain to take a step back and I will myself into going somewhere, anywhere. 

Each time I am successful with that, I am always rewarded with seemingly ordinary events which move the core of my soul.

For that, I am grateful. For the desire to always be engaged with my own life, I am grateful.

For being able to write this seemingly random blog post and post bits of my thoughts into a space where people may one day find it by serendipity, I am grateful.

If you happen to be reading this, I am too, grateful, for you have graciously spared me a few minutes of your attention.

Thank you.

Hongkong, happiness & freedom

When I was cold, hungry and lonely in Vancouver, it wasn’t Singaporean food that I missed, it was the cantonese-speaking old uncles and aunties in HK-style cafes which I had found deeply comforting. Eating an eggtart or pineapple bun (thanks Elaine! – everyone else needs to eat these at Lido Cafe in Richmond, Vancouver) made me very satisfied and they warmed my heart.

I am not sure what exactly it is – my love for Hongkong extended to having crushes on various cantonese-speaking girls back in my teenage years.

The first place I ever dreamed of going out of Singapore was Hongkong. It was supposed to be a reward-trip for me when I topped my class at age 7 but it never happened till I was 19 (long story). Perhaps that longing for it only sought to extend the whole magical feel of the place. 

I grew up listening to cantonese pop and watching tvb dramas. I used to be embarassed about admitting it because it made me sound so auntie but these days I appreciate that part of my life a lot more. Yup, am one of those who doesn’t listen to strange hip music on Spotify. 

My favorite thing to do when I used to visit Hongkong, well, apart from eating, was to stock up on out-of-print CDs and VCDs/DVDs. I would spend hours in HMV or little local-owned record stores. These days I have a digital library instead, so I don’t really visit record stores or bookshops much anymore. That in turn gave me time to take in whatever sights which come along.

I really love the city for being so city and yet so uncity, you know what I mean? Instead of tearing everything down and building skyscrapers everywhere, you catch glimpses of tradition everywhere (these are taken in my 2009 trip):

Img_2110

And I haven’t even started on the ridiculous amount of street food:

Img_2153

And then there’s things like these on the road:

Img_2276

Little dessert shops like this:

Img_2423

Then strange shops perched in the middle of nowhere:

Img_2427

And I can’t tell you how much I loved Tai-O:

Img_2458

The thing about Hongkong, you can’t just visit Central or Mongkok and call it done, there is so much to do here that I am actually glad that this time around I have the opportunity to be here for a month.

This time around instead of rushing everywhere, I am just slowly walking around, taking in ordinary but meaningful sights:

Img_1693

After the past year or so, I am really appreciating the silver linings in every cloud. I would probably stay in Singapore if short-term accomodation wasn’t so expensive. I had a blast for the last month I was there, but stay anywhere for too long and it turns into a comfort zone. 

If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal. – Paulo Coelho

I feel tired lugging a heavy luggage everywhere – my luggage is only heavy because I wanted to see how it is to lug my external monitor around, I have no regrets because having an external monitor is awesome and perhaps I do need some arm exercise anyway. Despite the apparent fatigue of moving all the time, it makes me feel like I am living my life with an extra layer of consciousness and awareness. Because everything is so temporal, I feel happy eating a bowl of fishball noodles in Singapore knowing I am not going to have access to it everyday, it makes every cup of iced yuanyang in Hongkong seem more precious.

It occurred to me that this is the life I have always dreamed of. This life which I dreamed of, was only possible precisely because life did not work out the way I thought it would. With this, I learnt that there is a key difference between what I think I want and what I really want.

People have commented that my face looks brighter. I feel brighter and lighter because I realised happiness to me is freedom. The freedom to be anywhere, to do things I want to do, to be creating anytime. It does not matter what I own or if I’ve managed to reach milestones I have set for myself – as long as I don’t feel stuck – I feel blessed. Freedom is knowing that I can lose everything now and it will be okay. 

I know I will be okay because I have gone through shit to know that everything will work itself out. Even all those times I was in despair.

Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. – JK Rowling

For me, reaching rock bottom was one of the best things to ever happen to me. Reaching rock bottom allowed me to see that I have nothing to lose, and knowing I have nothing to lose allowed me to understand the true meaning of freedo
m. 

If there is one thing I fear, it would be losing my health – and that makes me even more enthusiastic about wanting to experience more of the world. So each time I hesitate because I want to be comfortable, this is what I remind myself with. For it is not too long ago when I couldn’t even get out of bed, I remember how it feels to be better dead than alive; that memory takes away all my desire for comfort.

I am really happy to be here in Hongkong.