The Day I Went to a Cafe

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I never liked cafes. It makes me uncomfortable in a way that I can never fully comprehend, almost like being trapped in a glass chamber under heavy observation. I think it has something to do with the rise of indie culture and how people in cafes are always dressed in an artificially laid-back manner that sets my skin on fire. Intentionally comfortable dressing that looks comfortable but actually isn’t. I don’t like the indie culture very much.

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Yet on a rainy afternoon, amongst hectic schedules and intense editorial meetings, I found myself walking into Loysel’s Toy, looking for something I wasn’t sure if I was going to find. But my shoes were wet, and my shoulders heavy. For once, the scent of fresh brew and the clinking of cutlery seemed inviting.

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What was I trying to look for? I don’t really know. Perhaps it’s the budding of first loves or the reconciliation of lost ones? The serenity on the faces of coffee drinkers? Or the fluster and frenzy of the servers hurriedly pulsing black liquid into the bellies of white mugs? What do you look out for when you’re sitting upon wooden chairs and eating upon wooden tables? What captures your attention and gives you a reason to stay? The food wasn’t sublime, it never is and never will be. But yet there’s a strange attraction that cafes have that keeps the seats filled and the coffee cups empty.

I don’t like cafes, but I keep going back, only to be left more confused every time.

I don’t like cafes, but I do?

I Will Be Great

giraffe The other day we were at Starbucks, you picked up a magazine and leafed through it absentmindedly, periodically stopping to take a sip out of the Hojicha Latte set upon the table, equidistance from you and me. When the swishing of pages paused for a little too long, I barely noticed, until I felt the uneasiness of your eyes boring holes through the book I was holding.

“Is this your article? Oh my god, it’s your name! In a legit magazine. In Starbucks!”

“Yeap, that’s me.” I quipped before snatching it over to snap a photo for my mother who’s still hung up over my drop out from Law School. “What is that.” She cooly replied.

I want to be big in the industry. Big, as in you’ll be saying my name in hushed whispers big. Big, as in you’ll be envious of my life spent living aflutter and be jealous enough to leave spiteful comments on my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Big, as in big enough to pick up a random magazine on the news stands and either find my name in the mast head or as reference in a feature.

The sad news is? I’m still frightened. Frightened of the gargantuan figures in the industry, of the interviews I have to attend and the small talk I have to make. I am inferior of the way I talk, the way I laugh and the way I hold my wine goblet when a toast is proposed. I hide behind my laptop, behind the false sense of security it provides me, pushing out words I carefully compose and artfully string into a melody.

The sad news is? I’m not there yet. Not near, nowhere close. But it’s okay, because sometimes it’s fear that sets the heart ablaze and lights up the long winding road ahead. And I’m alright with that.

Some day, I will be great.

Chronicles of a Kitty Seeking Fanatic

imageThe title contains a factual error, because I do not seek a mouthless kitty that looks as though it’s been electrocuted and neither am I a kitty fan. However, having a title that reads “Chronicles of a kitty seeking fanatic’s disinterested +1” might seem a bit of a mouthful so I decided to settle on the erroneous title anyway.

I will attempt to chronicle my experience in queueing up for the limited edition “Singing Bones” Hello Kitty available at all McDonald’s outlets starting 12am (if it happens to be 24/7) this Thursday morning.

1115pm: Decided that since we’re stuck doing nothing and inspiration is not coming, perhaps a site survey of nearby McDonald’s might sound like a good idea. Especially since my brother made a pact to collect the entire set of Hello Kitties for his fiancé.

1120pm: Even before reaching the traffic light that’s closest to the McDees located at the Pasir Ris Sport’s Complex, cars with hazard lights on have already lined up till the bus stop opposite Downtown East. Why? They’re queuing at the drive through to get their kitty. Brilliant move, waste of petrol.

1130pm: Parked the car and decided to try our luck at the physical store anyway. Realised it looks like the entrance to a concert at the Indoor Stadium. We were told coupons have already been given out, and that if you would like to wait (in the hopes that someone would buy less than the limit of 4 kitties), feel free to do so. We left.

1136pm: Picked a friend who wanted to join us, headed over to (outlet name concealed so nobody will know who we got kitty from), convinced that because it is inaccessible and has no residential areas nearby, we stand a chance.

1138pm: Queues look longer than when freebies are being given out. Thankful for the relatively cool weather.

1140pm: Coupons given out! Crowd seems to be dispersing and disappointed faces whip out their phones to capture a sign that states “Hello Kitty sold out” — we’re assuming it’s a form of proof to angry girlfriends, and for boyfriends to proof their sincerity. We didn’t get a coupon. But managed to secure a spot as the first people to get a non-couponed kitty while everyone was snapping photos and heading home. Score.

1145pm: The wait is boring, we make small talk with others in the queue with us. Senior couple behind us hopes to buy 4 kitties for their daughters. Cute.

12am: Release the kitty! Queue isn’t moving, all I want is my Mcspicy really.

1230am: People are carrying bags and bags of kitties, will you guys sell them?

1235am: Just for fun, whipped out my iPad and scribbled “WTB @ $25”. Proceeded to put said iPad on my head and wait for offers. No offers, just weird looks. Consider STOMPing myself to get a $50 remuneration.

1245am: Transaction spotted! Old uncle selling kitties for $50! Supposedly a fair price since he queued for 3 hours. Too free?

115am: We’re near the end. The situation is tense. Wait, did someone say no more kitties? What about those with a coupon? I hear someone’s voice breaking. She’s crying. Over a mouthless kitty. Lord help humanity.

117am: “We’re sorry no more kitties, only those with coupons have kitties. 7 coupons? Last 7 kitties left.” We wait patiently. Meals are dispensed without kitties (hallelujah McSpicy!), but hold on a minute. Didn’t you say no more kitties? Where did that one come from? Don’t think you put in paper bag we don’t know ok!

130am: Request to chat with the manager after I am settled with my McSpicy — I honestly just wanna know what he thinks of this horrific kitty queueing frenzy and the magic behind conjuring up kitties when they supposedly have none left.

135am: Manager has great service attitude. I think he should switch jobs and become a PR instead. I’m impressed! He asked if we really wanted a kitty, but desperate woman sitting next to us screams ” IF THEY GET IT I WANT ONE TOO!”. We reject politely, saying that if we get a kitty now, we’d be starting a war. I’m happy with my Mcspicy anyway.

145am: Everyone says we should get the kitty from the manager. I buy Mcwings and proceed to whisper in the manager’s ear while pulling serviettes out from the brown box “If there are extra kittes, you know where I am.” I think I may have sounded too breathy. Manager says ok.

230am: We’re done with the food. Manager is missing. We insist on collecting our kitty when the lady next to us leaves (in case she reports us for coercing the manager into giving us a kitty.)

235am: I head to the counter unabashedly. “Your manager said he will give us a kitty when the rest of the people leave. Can I have the kitty now?” Manager is taking a smoke break, staff heads out to find him.

240am: SCORE, we get one kitty for $4.60. It looks ugly. Even the box is black. We carry it back with us in a paper bag.

3am: I am back to work, inspiration finds me. I wonder if the kitty blesses me. Nah, I think it’s the nuggets and fries that’s fuelling my brain cells.

330am: Brother texts to say the sister-in-law is at Funan queuing up for kitties. They only open at 7am. Insanity takes human form in girls who have a kitty obsession.

2pm: Receive text from school musical committee saying we should sell kitties for 90k to raise funds for our musical. Realise kitties are being sold at $1000 now.

230pm: I lose faith in humanity.

Pasar Bella

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This place needs some colour, and I need to hone my photography skills. So in a bid to achieve the perfect balance between both, I’ve decided to bring my camera out more often, and develop an added diligence towards post processing the photos I take.

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Singapore’s a small place, but for an island state that’s got nothing but an eternally shining sun and high humidity, I say we’re not doing too bad in terms of keeping our lovely selves entertained. 2013 alone has seen the opening of the SEA Aquarium (which I am DYING to visit), Adventure Cove, River Safari and Pasar Bella. It’s a good year to pretend you’re a foreigner in your home country and prance around the new tourist spots armed with a pair of shades (to mask the local face) and a camera. At least that’s what I did.

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Despite it’s obscure location, (Pasar Bella is tucked away in the depths of Turf City’s Grandstand, a place only accessible by those fortunate enough to own a car or have the means to take a cab) I dragged Daniel down with me on a punishingly sunny Saturday afternoon — in a cab of course. Holding the hopes of visiting a market like the ones in Australia, a memory I although only vaguely remember, was pleasantly sweet and was one I looked forward to reliving.

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The verdict? I love it. It’s the combination of being able to pick up bite sized food (pound cakes, macarons, sausages, waffles), admire fresh and exotic produce as well as bask in the concept of how happiness can be so simple. It’s like going to the market with your mother, only this one’s air conditioned, filled with things you’ve never seen before and so affordable. Buy a peach for a dollar and chow down on it while you walk pass little booths selling temporary tattoos and little cakes. Relish in the joy of having too many choices when picking a bottle of beer to quench your thirst. Head into the cheese shop that smells strangely like unwashed socks and share a block of cheese you can barely stand to smell.

It’s the experience that really counts here at Pasar Bella. It’s the energy, the food, the concept that appeals and makes me feel like going back there again this weekend even though it costs me $20 to get there. It’s the feeling of being away from your little cosmopolitan city, yet being in it at the same time. The crowd is genuine and polite, the food not exceedingly delicious yet satisfying because of the entire experience it provides.

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Have nothing much to do this weekend? Take a little excursion down to Turf City and discover this little gem of a place. Pretend you’re not stuck on this sunny island and pick up anything you want in the faith that it holds endless possibilities. I made a Shashuka from the peppers, rocket leaves and spices I bought the other day. Who knows what you’ll end up making too. 🙂

Of Politics, Transport and War

Tomorrow will mark my 16th day in school. And out of these 16 days, I’ve spent 2 and 2/3 days travelling to school. That makes 64 hours.

I live in the far east (or more specifically, Pasir Ris) and that’s a whopping 27 stops away from the nearest train station to school. On good days, I take 4 bus rides and 2 train journeys to complete my voyage from home to school and back again. On bad days (really horrifyingly bad ones that include tastings at inaccessible places), it takes me 6 bus rides and 4 trains. Cringe.

Money aside, travelling sucks away your energy in the most unfathomable way possible. You’re well rested, excited about school, board the bus/train at 7am in the morning and you’ll realise that there’s a mysterious force in the universe of public transportation that’s slowly but definitely siphoning your energy away for its own use. I call it war. PT (public transportation) war.

Classes that begin between 9-12pm can hurt my sanity, because even when I’m taking the train from the depot, the fucking thing arrives half filled. Why? Because Singaporeans have mastered the distasteful art of bouncing. Residents of the next few stops (ranging from Tampines to Tanah Freaking Merah) take the train in the opposite direction so they’ll be able to sit comfortably to work. Even if it means wasting an extra 10-15 minutes bouncing from station to station. I live in Pasir Ris. And during peak hours, I can’t even get onto the train that supposedly starts its journey from this station. I cannot even fathom how many trains others have to miss.

The congestion, the rush, the heightened senses and magnified grumpiness — it can hurt sense and sensibilities sometimes, and it can bring out the worst in people. I’m not really a fan of politics, because I come from a country I’m proud of for being safe, efficient and wonderful to live in. But there are some small things that’s easy neglected in a forward looking nation like ours. Tiny little things like how people like to have both feet planted firmly on the ground.

With a population density of 7252.43/square kilometre (that’s about 7 people per square meter), we have gotten so accustomed to spending most of our lives upon the cemented floors of our HDB homes, or the glass panelled surfaces of our latest malls, forgetting that these are not set upon solid ground. I don’t need much space. I don’t think we all do. I only hope that one day, we can stand side by side on real solid ground and not feel the sound of our nation whining beneath our weight. I only hope that one day, this nation will be able to comfortably fit us all.