An Eight-Year Blessing

Saturday, November 29, 2014

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Sometimes, I fail to see the blessings that I have in my life, especially on cold, empty, dark nights like tonight. Times like these, my mind tends to stray to the things I've lost, the friends who've turned into strangers, the good feelings I don't experience anymore and it makes me feel like a shell without anything within. And that's dumb, because in reality, I have so many things to be thankful for and I say and mean it honestly. It is difficult, to constantly look at the brighter things in life whilst one is feeling down in the dumps and knowing I barely have anyone to turn to. People tell me I can turn to them and I appreciate that so very much but tonight's just one of the moments I'd prefer pulling myself up on my own. I'm starting with appreciating this friend I've been blessed with for the past eight years. 

I've written countless blog posts about Emily, especially since the archive of this blog stretches all the way till primary school - she's probably been the person that I've mentioned the most on this space, with good reason as well. She's just always been there for me - and when I say always, I mean it. I'm not talking about her replying my texts quickly (because she doesn't, and neither do I) or always checking up on me. But I know that I can always count on her to be supporting me silently from the side. We don't see each other often as well and have extremely different personalities and quirks but she knows the strangest things about me, and most of all, she accepted me for who I was, and who I have grown to become. She's been there through all the toughest times and I have faith she'll always be there for years to come. 

Two weeks ago, I celebrated her birthday with a belated birthday cake I baked for her - it's a white chocolate, green tea and caramel cake with matcha kit kat lined up all around the side and I do hope she enjoyed it. I went to her house with the cake, and we had a slice before we headed out for some good old comfort food. 

We headed to Nakhon Kitchen (nearest MRT: Kovan) for warm Thai food. We had pineapple fried rice, kang kong, tom yum soup and fried pork with garlic (all $6 each). It was my first time there and it's apparently a pretty famous to-go place for authentic Thai cuisine and we had to queue for quite a while before we were seated. It was an extremely satisfying meal though, and I especially enjoyed the spicy tom yum that warmed my stomach up, which was timely as the sky was getting really cloudy and it started raining soon after. 

The rain got extremely heavy and we sought shelter at the Kovan Hougang Market and Food Centre, where we got a very interesting concoction called Ice Orange Tea ($1.40) from a stall called Yong Hua (#01-42). It was unlike the usual lemon tea (evidently, since this isn't even made of lemons) and we saw how the uncle prepared everything from scratch, taking out full oranges from the fridge before slicing and pulping them. He brewed the tea on the spot and the cup of tea we got was so fresh and thirst-quenching, with real orange pulp in every sip (or gulp) we took. 

Emily and I sat at the hawker centre for at least two hours just catching up about everything that was happening in our respective lives. I think I've mentioned this before once but Emily takes on a very different perspective probably because of our very different school cultures and it's so refreshing for once, to hear something that is out of the "ordinary", or the something rather than the things I'm so used to hearing on a daily basis. 

When the rain got lighter, we made a joint decision to go to Habourfront, to visit our favourite primary school haunt. I know, it's so strange how Vivocity used to be the greatest hang out spot for primary school outings with our class even though it's nowhere near our school. Sure, it's on the purple line, but it's right at the end and places like Plaza Singapura were even nearer. It felt nostalgic being there again with her, and we laughed a lot thinking about how we used to come here all the time, as if there was no other option at all. 

Fun fact: Duckie was a gift from Emily last year :") 

After walking around for a bit, we headed for Max Brenner Chocolate Bar to do what seems like our favourite thing to do - to sit down, eat and talk. It was the first time there for both of us and we decided to get "Tutti-Fruiti", which were waffles with berries, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and another serving of a more diluted chocolate sauce at the side. It was disappointingly mediocre - the waffles weren't crispy and were rather stale in my opinion. I just read a couple of reviews online and most of them were raving about this place and I can't quite comprehend why - perhaps their standards aren't consistent but honestly, for the price and even for a fraction of the price, I don't think I would visit this place again.

The hot chocolate (I got the salted caramel, and Emily the one with marshmallows) we got were really good for the first couple of sips because it was rich and creamy. However, after a couple more, it just got too decadent for our liking and we regretted not sharing one cup. I don't think I'll be back, though it was a pretty nice experience with a lovely, quiet atmosphere for chit-chatting. 

I spent a lovely, laid-back day with Emily and I'm so thankful for it, and for her. She's an eight-year (and counting) blessing I have that I will appreciate for a long, long while. 
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Friday, November 28, 2014

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I entered the train carriage and by habit, I didn't bother looking for a seat for fear of the pressure of having to give it up afterwards and headed straight for the little space beside the doors and the glass panel separating me from the person sitting on the end of the row of seats, the seat they call the "reserved seat". I had my earphones on and I could barely hear anything around me. 

I noticed an elderly man sitting a few seats away from the reserved seat looking, in a rather shocked manner, at the man standing in front of the lady who was seated on the seat. The strange pairing caught my attention - the man appeared to be a stereotypical "Ah Beng" with slightly messy hair, a face that was extremely Chinese-looking and he wore a singlet. The lady, on the other hand, was in a tailored work dress with her hair pulled up into a bun and mascara applied on her eyelashes. Their conversation piqued my interest, and I removed the earphone stuck in my left ear to hear what they were saying. 

Taylor Swift was singing in my right ear and I couldn't hear what the man was saying to the lady, but he had on a very harsh and strong tone which looked extremely intimidating. From his body language, it seemed to be like he was in a position of control over the woman, and I was quite captivated by the relationship they had with one another - it was so strange in a way that made me very interested. The man had placed his duffel bag on the lady's lap, which I didn't think was very gentleman-like. After a while though, the train got very crowded and I didn't really focus my attention on the couple anymore. 

As the train pulled into Serangoon station, which was where I was going to alight, I noticed that the lady stood up and she moved forward towards the door and the man was right behind her. At that moment, I was in the best position to observe them and I was facing the man directly, though he wasn't looking at me. A movement caught my eye and I saw that the man flicked open a knife and was clutching it at his waist level. I was horrified, and scared, looking away immediately, praying that he didn't see that I spotted it. When the train doors opened, I let them leave first before following behind and making sure I didn't step on the man's toes. 

The man kept walking behind the lady and she never did look back once. She stared straight all the time as I followed them. At that point in time, so many things were running through my mind due to the appearance of the knife. More than not, I was afraid and worried for the lady and really concerned at what their relationship even was and how they were related. As I followed them, I kept on staring at the man. He looked back and caught me looking in his direction. I was so nervous and I immediately turned and walked away. 

I lost them soon after trying to save myself from being caught. I spent the next hour walking around the mall trying to gather my thoughts but all that I could think of were the worst case scenarios that could have occurred just because I wasn't brave enough, just because I wasn't strong enough and really just because of my inaction. One of it was that the man was actually holding the lady hostage, which explains the bag he placed on her lap to stop her from running away and the appearance of the knife was to threaten her, to let her know that when the train doors opened, she should jolly well follow his instructions and walk in a calm manner rather than running off. I'm not sure what he would do to her afterwards but what I'm hoping is that all he took from her were monetary or material possessions. 

It's just insane, the many things that could have happened because I failed to do something bigger than myself. I did nothing when there was possibly someone else in a much more vulnerable position than I was. Then again, I wasn't very sure of their relationship or the exact reason why the man whipped out his knife. Perhaps it's his way of displaying masculinity or something but I still feel guilt-ridden because in hindsight, judging the entire situation especially in their body language, there was something very, very fishy and all I did was to chose to remain an observer. 

So many terrible things, even personally in my life, have resulted due to the mere reason that I always seem to choose the more comfortable option, the option that allows me to run away from things and act ignorant when I really am not. Doing nothing can sometimes be akin to doing harm and that's just so, so, horrifying. I am horrifying.

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Singapore Art Book Fair 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

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Hello friends :-) 

These couple of years, I've come to realize that the arts scene here in Singapore isn't all that unexciting as a lot of us perceive to be. It's not thriving, nor doing extraordinarily well but I think there's a growing acceptance and interest in independent creative home-grown works and to me, that's wonderful. I must say, there was a little break in my exposure to the arts from secondary one to three due to a little blow I received that caused me to abstain from exploring it as much as I did as a kid even up to primary six. In secondary four though, I got inspired mainly by Shermaine to explore and appreciate art in Singapore - I mean, if I can't produce art, there's no stopping me from consuming it!

And thus began my little journey and I think my favourite place in Singapore to immerse myself in arts in a really relaxed pace would be Gillman Barracks which is usually empty apart from about three other visitors but recently I've learnt that the occasionally host events, including the annual Singapore Art Book Fair which ran from 13-16 November, and I visited it with Shermaine last Sunday (16 November). It was the first time I've seen the place so full of life and activity and it was quite refreshing.

Lovely lovely company :-) 

There were new art pieces from the previous time we visited it at the start of this year, and I made a mental note then to visit it again to check out the galleries (which I did, yesterday!) 

We stumbled upon an artist who was in one of the studios working on an art piece and he's painting with a broom, which gives him a very rough surface but the resulting strokes are very controlled and his completed works of the same form are quite impressive

After walking past a few galleries, we found our way to the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) where the Art Book Fair was situated at. The previous time we came, the CCA was pretty barren with a few exhibits and I remember lounging on huge beanbags watching a film but the entire atmosphere was so different. For the lack of a better word, most of the people there appeared to be "hipsters", and I say that based on their dressing. It was quite exciting though, because the booths were all very hipster-like which provided plenty of photo-taking opportunities that would be deemed Instagram worthy. I know, the description "hipster" has gained a pretty bad rep but these were /true/ hispters and it somehow didn't feel pretentious at all? Yes, I am currently failing at putting what I saw down into coherent statements but it was actually really cool and I honestly loved the whole vibe. And I shall let the photographs speak for themselves now :-) 

Magazines from different countries/ published by independent firms - it's all very exciting because I'm personally very unfamiliar with most of the titles. Definitely eye-opening seeing everything they had to offer

Super cute knick knacks based on old-school tidbits 

This photograph is slightly blur but aren't these the cutest socks ever? They are inspired by the wrapping of old school snacks, as can be seen displayed above the socks. I was really tempted to buy a pair, but I didn't want to part with twenty bucks for something that would be hidden under my shoes anyway. 

The crowd was quite lovely, most of the stall owners were friendly and I saw a few familiar faces from the Singapore Writers' Festival

No prizes for guessing why this photo was taken ;-) 

This particular stall holder wanted his photograph to be taken, and that was quite cute 

This particular booth was designed to look like an old-school mini mart, or should I say "Mama Shop", with shelves that I remember seeing when I was younger. There was also a "Tikam Tikam" board which was something I am too young to have experienced, but my mum constantly told me about how my grandma would cut up the tikam tikam pieces as an additional income and this was my first time seeing how the board actually looked like

There were a lot of interesting things and intricate pieces of art on sale but Shermaine and myself decided not to purchase anything, though I was very close to buying a book except that it ran out when I returned to the stall. 

Outside the CCA were several food pop-up booths set up by various cafés and independent food establishments (indeed, the entire fair was pretty much hipster haven, with all the hipster cafés situated in one). It was pouring heavily though when Shermaine and myself decided to grab a bite and when we managed to secure one of the few sheltered seats, we realized we could only eat from a particular stall to sit at those seats and it was Arbite, which we didn't mind getting from.

Here we have Shermaine making the biggest decision of her life (!!!) Will she make a right choice? 

We got (or rather, Shermaine chose to get) fries and a wrap filled with smoked salmon, boiled egg and a whole load of veggies. Just as background information: neither Shermaine and I eat/ enjoy veggies very much and so it was quite a strange choice. Neither of us were huge fans of raw fish as well. What were we left with? The wrap plus boiled egg! We did try to eat everything for the first few bites though, and it was quite nasty (nothing against Arbite, we just ordered something that didn't suit our personal preferences at all) but the fries were probably the best fries I have ever eaten in my life - they were were just out of this world - I would highly recommend it! The accompanying tartar sauce made everything so much better it really warmed my tummy in the cold weather. 

There was also another stall set up by the Ice Cream & Cookie Company and I couldn't stop myself from getting an Ice Cream Sandwiches, probably drawn in by the Earl Grey flavour they were offering, and also the fact that it's pretty aesthetically pleasing!

Packaging was really cute too :-)

Earl Grey ice cream (second favourite ice cream flavour, first being Salted Caramel) sandwiched between two lemon zest cookies - it was quite a joy to eat :-)

We explored a few of the galleries afterwards before taking a couple of self-timer photos with the very intriguing bulls.


Well, we were trying to keep a straight face

And now we're blending innnnnnnnnnnnnnnn :-)

It was a very, very, very good day, and I rarely use three 'very's accompanying a positive adjective to describe my days. The Singapore Art Book Fair 2014 exceeded my expectations tremendously - I was a little hesitant to visit it because I initially pictured a couple of book vendors peddling their wares and I thought it would just be art catalogues for art investors but it was in fact so dynamic, with people selling many other things apart from books. I feel like just the food stalls being there have already make it worthwhile to travel all the way to Gillman Barracks. 

I will definitely be back for next year's installment, unless it clashes with my A Level exams, which will make me very mad.

Also, to those people who are interested in things like that, I recently headed to the red dot design museum at Tanjong Pagar and saw a notice about MAAD, branded as "Singapore's Largest Creative Marketplace" and it's happening on 12 December 2014, from 5pm-12midnight (so exciting!) and it might be similar to this from what I've seen online, though I have never been there myself before and don't really know what to expect. I will probably be making my way there and I strongly encourage anyone else who's interested in supporting independent home grown artists and their works to check it out! I used to be intimidated by seemingly "private" events like these where people all appear to be in the same social circles and know each other but that's really a myth I created in my own head - everyone's really welcoming and the artists are more than willing to share about their own crafts.
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Simple Contentment

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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Sometimes I wonder, is it better to be contended easily or does it pay to have higher standards, for the lack of a better word. For the former, I suppose one will be happy more often but yet, might not be motivated to chase or be made aware of better things that lie ahead. And for the latter, one might feel overly miserable. Then again it seems to me that I enjoy classifying things especially when I write, into black and white, right at the extremes of the spectrum rather than considering the grey areas, which should be a good balance of both. 

On that note, I've come to realize that my parents are both people who are contended easily at attention they receive from their children - in this case, it would be my brother and myself though more so from my brother as he doesn't really talk to them and thus the words he utters are deemed as more valuable and treasured, compared to mine but I've gotten used to that so I'm good. In fact, even I elevate my brother's opinions and thoughts though I'm definitely growing to be more discerning. They also seem to be pretty happy with their lives - perhaps it's because they've reached an age where they realize it's kind of the limit and they've outgrown their prime and thus have moved on into feeling joy for their children's experiences. 

I didn't want to just let my parents support the things I do (financially, most of the time) and wanted them to experience some of the things I enjoyed doing with my friends that I rarely do with my family and so I took the first step by bringing Mama Yap out for a day of tourist-y activities last Friday (14 November 2014) when she took leave from work and I don't know why but she was elated. It was mindblowing to me, how something as simple as this could make her so, so, so happy. I know I'm making it sound like she's been living under a rock or that my family doesn't go out at all but normally all we do is to visit restaurants or go shopping, and they're usually done in a rushed manner, there's no time for proper one-on-one bonding time. My family used to frequent tourist attractions when my brother and myself were still toddlers/ young kids but it's definitely been a while since my mum has been to these places properly. She commented that the last time she visited the museum was actually when she was in primary school. She also secretly enjoys having her photos taken, so I made it a point to bring my camera with us.  

It made me so happy just seeing her face so full of wonder but more so, probably at the thought that her teenage daughter was spending time with her at "hip" locations rather than with her friends. Honestly, it's no big deal to me but in her head, she might have thought it was a huge sacrifice. It's such a simple act on my part, which I should do more often but it was such an important and exciting day from her perspective and that makes it so bittersweet. I feel like the older I get, the more she will treasure these things and that's so heartbreaking. It must be so difficult to be a parent, to nurture someone and watch him/ her become an independent being no longer in need of your help, yet having to feel proud for him/ her at the same time. 

This was the simple route that I planned for the day: First stop - Strictly Pancakes

Second stop - Singapore Art Museum! 

The previous time I was there during the SWF period, majority of the place was cordoned off as they were in the midst of preparing for the new exhibition, which just happened to open on the very day I decided to visit it with Mama Yap. It's the APB Foundation Signature Art Prize 2014 Finalists Exhibition, and it's definitely worth a visit. 

The third stop was supposed to be the National Museum, but she was suffering from museum fatigue so we decided to skip it, which was a good choice since only the temporary Singapura: 700 Years exhibition was up. 

Fourth stop - The Art Science Museum, which we decided to give a miss as well and ended up doing a bit of shopping at The Shoppes at MBS. Also, outside the museum, we took self-timer photographs which I normally did with my friends if I brought my camera along with me and Mama Yap was quite astonished, saying "aiyo, so that's how you normally do it!" (she stalks my Facebook, and calls it 'huh? what stalking? I'm just looking at it') 

Fifth stop - Gardens by the Bay!

Finally, we ended the day at Bugis, which was a nice respite from all the cultural/ touristy locations (though Bugis does have its own cultural and tourist elements, in a very different form may I add) - immersing oneself in all these artsy fartsy things can be rather suffocating and I was glad we had good old hawker food for dinner :-)

It was such a great way to start my holidays and I'm so glad I spent the day with Mama Yap, who was great company.
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Que Será Será

Monday, November 17, 2014

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Rain is beautiful. 

Despite the inconvenience it brings, there is a certain tranquility in hearing droplets splash against the windowpane, and of course, watching drops of rain race against one another, down the glass windows of vehicles, something I've enjoyed doing since I was young. Recently, I found myself captivated by them more and more and would stand at the front of the LRT carriage, eyes completely fixated on the raindrops accumulating more water as they slid down the smooth surface, gaining speed as they go, soon disappearing into nothingness as they reach the bottom, losing itself to the rainwater that has collected at the groove of the window.

It takes my focus away, away from using my phone on public transport or being self-conscious around all the commuters around me. It keeps my mind away from nonsensical and frivolous thoughts, allowing me to engage in that of a more meaningful nature. I love how it has been raining recently - it makes the weather cold and comfy and it makes me reflect more, somehow. Funny how our surroundings can actually serve to impact the way we behave. 

Today, right now at this moment, I am thinking about a particular "quote" I dismissed as ridiculous and superficial at the start of the year. I don't think I considered it a quotable quote, and I saw it merely as a generalized statement. It comes from the person who understands me a lot better than most people (I would like to think vice versa) and says things that resonate with me because of our very glaring similar personalities (though at the point in time when this quote was said, I barely saw its relevance to my own life) and well, he's the (not so) fluffy unicorn who said "If it is meant to be, it will be!" 

Alright, I know, it's so duh, yes? There isn't much depth to it but really, it is a very powerful and useful notion. Truth be told, I never thought about it properly or tried to apply it to my life. If I had always held such a mindset close to my heart as I lived by, perhaps I'll be less inclined to fall prey to feeling regretful and thinking of what-could-have-beens because I'll know that if things are meant to turn out in a certain way, they would, and that there's a reason why they don't. There are lessons to be learnt from unfavourable events that occur, but we should just move on and not look back all the time - they could be blessings in disguise. 

And yes, I'll keep that in mind from now on and hopefully it'll make me feel a lot calmer about the decisions I make and the actions I take. Also, I'm not saying that we should just step back and leave everything to "fate" and not do anything at all since if things are meant to be, they will be. That's not right. Rather, I'm trying to convince myself to place full faith in the actions I have taken or will be taking in due course, as and when I feel it's the correct thing to do. That'll probably help me a whole load in terms of dealing with the emotions I am feeling and right now, I am feeling immensely blessed that I have stumbled upon and revisited this thought because it is definitely adding value in my life. Thanks Ben, you've once again provided me with a bit of wisdom that inspired this late night musing - funny how much faith I seem to have in you that you'll read my blog.

"Que Será Será, 
Whatever will be, 
Will be." 
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Motivations for Service

Saturday, November 15, 2014

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Before this year, I was never a person who was extremely keen on service, on voluntarily offering my help to the people in need in our society. I saw the need to, and while I did take part in community involvement programmes such as volunteering at various organizations like MDAS and MINDS, I must say that I forced myself to do these things. I had to consciously push myself out of my comfort zone to interact with the beneficiaries and it didn't come naturally to me at all. I found myself in mostly awkward and extremely uncomfortable situations and I didn't enjoy most of my time spent.

This year, after joining Interact and Habitat for Humanity, I've grown to love service and to me, it's really meaningful and it makes me so happy. For Interact, I tutor at a children's home weekly and somehow, even though it's after a long day at school, I rarely feel lethargic and it just provides me with such a sense of fulfillment. Those who know me personally will know that I actually do not like children at all, but I do find myself loving the ones I tutor and interact with - not that they are incredibly adorable but perhaps I've formed a bond with several of them and it makes them a lot more endearing.

Habitat for Humanity and other home improvement projects I embark on undeniably takes a lot more work and effort but it does make the experience a lot more satisfying. Entering the homes of the elderly who are too frail to clean up after themselves do break my heart a little - seeing hoarding cases where they cling on to every possession they and see it as a reflection of their own value and wealth, dust gathering on every possible surface, and perhaps the most heart wrenching ones of old photographs of their children who don't even bother visiting them or providing for them financially. I must admit, I've always liked old people more than young kids for that matter - they are (mostly) more mature and have a wealth of experience just waiting to be shared. And it's just so nice to have conversations with them - apparently my mum thinks that my mandarin and dialect linguistic abilities have improved exponentially this year. 

It sounds all fine and dandy on the surface - I seem to be enjoying myself and doing good. Somehow, I don't know, but I question my motivations on service, on why I serve, a lot. Do I truly do it from the goodness of my heart? I somehow feel like that's the case because I don't actually care about CIP hours or recognition and I rarely post things on social media regarding my service unless it's to spread a message and honestly I don't exactly care if people know about the things I volunteer for. However, while I can rule all that out, I recently heard something that got me thinking. 

At a panel called "Heart of Darkness: When 'Do Not Harm' Hurts" which I attended during the Singapore Writers Festival, one of the panelists mentioned that "people who help others actually have a problem that they would want to atone for in their lives". And that since they can't seem to solve the problems/ the sins they have committed, they decide to help and serve others in bid to build up their own good karma and make themselves feel better, to counter balance the evils that they might be committing. It struck me as rather relevant in my own life. While I am confused about this notion, and I am still thinking about whether I'm truly that kind of person, so far, everything's been pointing towards that. 

I've always held the belief that I'm not actually a good person (or not as good as I appear/ make myself out to be) and while I don't think I've committed any great sin or crime, I don't think I've been the best I can be and I've had instances where I clearly display selfishness, lack of management in my own impulsivity, and just not being very nice towards others. I don't actively think about these things and probably do it subconsciously, but I've realized that it's actually so much easier to direct my energy into doing good/ serving others to make myself feel good, rather than trying hard to improve myself. 

And that scares me, to realize that I might be that sort of person. Then again, it leads me to the philosophical issue of intention versus action - I'm doing good anyway, yes? What difference does it make if I'm still benefiting others? It's going to be an uphill task trying to figure myself and all these things out, and I suppose the best case scenario I should be striving for would be trying to improve all my shortcomings and just being a better person and at the same time, helping others because it'll bring others joy. There shouldn't be any contradictions within me and no doubt, it won't be an easy journey trying to understand myself but I somehow feel that this is something worthwhile to spend a moment thinking about and that's exactly what I hope people would take away from this.

On a sidenote, and although this may contradict with some parts of what I wrote above regarding how I don't publicize service, I would like to encourage everyone to use the hashtag #NationofKindness in your social media posts :-) This isn't about superficially trying to prove to others what a kind person you may be but it actually leads to a concrete difference being made in the lives of others. With every hashtag used, an F&N Goodie Bag will be donated to a needy family, in collaboration with the Singapore Kindness Movement, and that's always nice in my opinion.
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Singapore Writers Festival 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

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"The human impulse yearns for development, they would like to transform themselves through immigration or getting wealthy" 

This was one of the main notions put across in a panel I attended during the Singapore Writers Festival 2014. While it is true in a certain sense with people trying to improve their lives constantly, I happen to think that this is unfortunately centered too much around material wants. In terms of emotional needs, I personally feel like having constants in one's life is extremely important. Imagine if you constantly changed the people you leaned on for emotional support - that'd be tiring, and draining. 

The beautiful thing about having events that recur every year would be that it's a tangible way for one to chart one's development, such as birthdays where we'd take stock of the things we've done for the past year and how we've matured and grown. It seems like the Singapore Writers Festival could be a yearly affair for myself and some of the constants in my life to see how much we've grown, and to use it as a platform to get back together and catch up, and if it works out it'll be so wonderful. If the festival continues on for years to come, we might be mature adults (with not-so-mature thoughts) when we meet then. I don't know, but it's such a lovely and beautiful ideal in my head right now. One thing's for sure, we'll be sure to try, to support the festival and to support one another, and we'll take a photo right in front of the festival pavilion. The one above is from this year and the one below's from last year

Seems like we've grown a fair bit visibly in terms of appearance but also there's so many more things encompassed in the span of one year that has happened and it's crazy. The most stark contrast would probably be Swan's disappearance, though we now have Phionna joining us at the festival. 2014 has been a ride, but then again this post is really about the festival itself, although reminder to self: time to start compiling events for my end of the year look-back post :') It's going to be insane. 

Anyway, this year's festival did not disappoint. It was full of great insight, though sometimes it takes a bit of sieving through information to find the gems because it seemed like the moderators weren't entirely sure of the description printed in the programme booklet. Many of the panelists blew me away though, I remember walking out from the Gallery Theatre of the National Museum thinking "oh gosh, how are they so smart?" It made me feel inferior, in a good way if that's even possible, because I was so glad I was given the opportunity to hear from all these brilliant people. 

Last year, I didn't really pay attention to the little musical performances littered throughout the programme but this year, I did and I have no regrets at all. There was a little tent named the "Gazebo" this year dedicated to these, as well as morning coffee readings and one particular one that got my attention was Dennis Lim Kiang, pictured here (with the microphone). I can't really comment on his musical ability because I don't have the ears for that, though the description on him shows that he's really accomplished. But what really struck me was how real his music was - his lyrics are based on bits and pieces of his life, and he gave anecdotes before most of his songs. The lyrics were all very literal as well, no beating about the bush - it was beautiful, to say the least. It brought tears to my eyes listening to him, and I think his age played a part too, as I thought about all the experiences he has encountered in his life and the many things he has had to go through, leading to the very pleasing music. 

One of his songs was about this particular girl who dropped by his bar very regularly back in the day and when he said "I was madly in love with her" so directly to the audience with a look in his eyes full of nostalgia, and memories, I was immediately drawn in and I don't think I've felt anything like that for any musical performance, ever. I don't know, but there was a certain magic to his music, so raw, no frills. 

Look at the lyrics of his songs which he referred to during the performance pictured above, they are in such big font and in capital letters. I would usually frown upon such terrible formatting but there is a certain real-ness to it, as if he didn't really care about making it look pretty. It was functional, and that's all that matters - he could put the emotion and the beauty into the words with his performance. 

This year's festival also featured a café situated within the Festival Pavilion itself. Last year, they had Plain Vanilla cupcakes but there wasn't proper sitting spaces so this year was an improvement and it allowed for everyone to take a break in between panels. Shermaine and I shared cake on two occasions, a chocolate one as can be seen in my previous post and this red velvet one :-)  Service standards can be improved by a lot, but overall it's satisfactory. It doesn't make me want to visit the actual café though. Also, this year they had roaming polaroid photographs giving away free polaroids, and I thought that was a nice touch and might really appeal to the older festival-goers.  

Another annual tradition I'm going to try to uphold would be to visit Fast Food for Thought everytime I attend the Singapore Writers Festival. This was my second time visiting it after I did last year with Sarah during the SWF period and I've been wanting to drink the Earl Grey milkshake ever since my first visit and I finally got it again, exactly a year later. The price increased by $2, which is insane and it wasn't as good as I remembered it to be though I still really liked it. 

And they have the nicest backgrounds outside Fast Food for Thought, of which Shermaine and myself took advantage of :-) 

We even borrowed the flowers from the café HAHA it wasn't my idea

Thank you Shermaine for being one of my constants and really becoming so much closer to me since we were in Waddle House Committee together in Year Two. I remember the first time I met you I thought, "wow this girl has some rad dress sense" because even then at just fourteen you didn't have any awkward pre-puberty dressing style. Little wonder why you're in Raffles Runway now. 

And although the four of us weren't together the entire duration of the festival, which each of us having our own different commitments and interest in various panels, I'm glad we got to come together for the final closing debates, even Phionna who would have been so tired from Council Retreat and all that :') The debates this year weren't as entertaining as last year's and some of the speakers did annoy me a little, but they did put up a good show nonetheless and I'm so thankful for everyone who had a part to play in making this festival a success. 

I think the Festival Director, Paul Tan, who is stepping down - next year's festival will be helmed by another poet - did a fantastic job and his closing speech was a lovely way to end the entire event. I don't know him personally, but by the way he speaks and carries himself, I see him as an unbelievably humble and down-to-earth person and that's just so admirable for all his contributions and effort he put into the arts scene in Singapore. These are truly real life role models and someday, I wish I'd be able to organize events as meaningful and large scale as this, yet remain true to myself and the things I believe. That is really something to work towards. 

After the festival ended, Phionna, Sarah and myself headed to Plaza Singapura for dinner/ supper and we had Four Fingers. It was my first time and it was quite exciting though I don't think it's super worth it. I would come back though, I quite enjoyed it. 

C H I C K E N :-) 

Sarah and Phionna's typical strange poses :-) 

Thank you to everyone involved in making Singapore Writers Festival 2014 such a huge success! I have a feeling I'll have to miss next year's because it usually clashes with the A Level period but I'll definitely be back for the next few years to come. It's always a brilliant experience and I look forward to the great things that'll be in store for all of us. 
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