Wednesday, May 25, 2011


From one of my backpacker friends' albums, she's now in Europe, couch surfing on a shoestring. I need to travel real soon... itchy!!! I thought the heart lock was simply lovely, innit?

I heard a song, a morning as I walked to college. It came to me across the radio playing on a stall I passed. A song from far away, about a lost love. At least so I imagined, I didn’t understand the words, only the melody.

But in the low notes I could hear the loss this man had suffered. And in the high notes I understood too that it was a song about something that could never be.

I had not wept in years. But I did, there and then, on the side of a dusty street, surrounded by strangers. The melody stayed with me for years. This is how it is when you glimpse a woman for the first time, a woman you know you could love. People are wrong when they talk of love at first sight. It is neither love nor lust. No. As she walks away from you, what you feel is loss. A premonition of loss.

-Excerpt from a wonderfully written novel I’m about to read and purchase next.

She has been shortlisted for the Orange Book prize for women novelists 2011.
Aminatta Forna, The Memory of Love.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

no regrets

We don't want to appear clingy or needy because we don't want to be labelled as the clingy/needy one. So we appear insouciant, nonchalant, with a je ne sai quois carefree breezy spirit, but a part of us, deep down, is aching (though we'd rather die to admit it), aching for someone to care, to pat our heads and tell us they love us. In ways more than words.

We always say we live our life without regrets because we like to overpositively subscribe to this positive mentality and leave no room for turning back, only for moving on. But we also know that when we try a bit too hard to live without regrets, or at least embody that in our mindset, we forget to remember that sometimes a little regret can be good, it can be food for thought, a little regret can make us treasure the here and now, the things we should not have room for regret.

As you can tell, I care more than I'd like to admit. The four-minute experiment of gazing into each others' eyes intensely, confidently saying, hey, I'm game if you are, went horribly right.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I imagined myself talking to him like this, when we just had pockets, pockets of time to share about the little things we observe and the funny things we encountered. I find myself stuffing those little things into the furthermost corner of my mind, because talking like that, so freely, so happily, I imagined, that it was somehow wrong. I was so disappointed when I could not meet him due to my bout with tonsillitis and my inability to speak, or eat. (Porridge diet makes me super grumpy.) It has been almost a month since we last met.

Today, wobbly and woozy from the antibiotic dosage - my body must be really overreacting because I haven't taken antibiotics in years - I crawled to work, and we had a conversation that lasted the whole day. In between meetings and phone calls, we exchanged emails. Mostly about food, because I was perpetually hungry from the meagre porridge and cereal sustenance - I told him about my cravings for lamingtons and crumpets, and he asked if I liked flapjacks and oatmeal. Yes to flapjacks and no to oatmeal, said I - oatmeal, he insisted, was called porridge and the original term for porridge instead of the watery rice gruel we have here for meals. He said he loved oatmeal. I found it yucky, perhaps eating too much of it when I was really young.

Although it was only for a meal and practically for work purposes, nothing more, I remember the nuances of our first meeting like it was crystal clear. The funny parts, the rakish way he slung his jacket over his shoulders, a little bit of mushroom soup that lingered on his chin... how strange, I thought to myself, that despite our strange accents, I understood him perfectly, and how strange, and how perfect that little moment was. I've met so many, too many people in these last 6 weeks. And yet, he sticks out, cutting a clear silhouette, a vivid memory. Do we choose who we want to remember, who we want to meet again, unforgettable after a month, and then, what do we do with all these thoughts? It was more than what I'd expected for a simple lunch meeting, it was lovely, nice, and if I could, I would spend more time talking to him- it feels like there is someone in this world who thought the same way as me, traveled the same path and wound up bumping into each other.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

the things we learn from being political

There are three taboo topics that you should never talk about to a potential love interest (apparently makes a bad impression) on the first few meetings - politics, religion and... sex...

I find myself constantly talking about the first topic, to almost all my candidates and newfound friends! And I am constantly surprised by my, and their passion! Honestly, for me, I am in the hotly contested zone, so of course, my area, having made the headlines every day last week and with the now-famous slogan ' and your children'... I would be more passionate about the concerns surrounding my area and the quality of the contesting candidates. But I am pleasantly surprised that many candidates, fine young (and old) men, told me of their support and respect for the various parties, following the events closely. I start to realize that while I am lackadasical about the truly apolitical - who void their vote or don't even turn up or don't even know the names of their candidates in their residence; those, I cannot help but feel sorry for them and thankful that, well, I have some strong thoughts about the matter. I can't help but feel touched that when the newfound friends know that I am being involved in the election on a small, small scale, they all said that it's really good of me and sms-ed and called me to press on!

I was really impressed by a new friend, a really cute foreign talent, who has only been here for a couple of months; and he can tell me before the election that, he hopes that Singapore will change, echoing the thoughts in my heart. And after the election, he told me he was glad that WP can win a GRC. I've seen so many apathetic apolitical locals that I am amazed he knows so much, and knows enough to care. (He wrote a whole paragraph in our email-correspondence, so passionate...I LIKE.) I really like people who speak with passion. Just like the candidate whom I found out lived near me, but just a street away, so he was in a different GRC. He frankly voted for the ruling party for his area as it's best, but he told me of his admiration for the party I voted for, and the various candidates of note. He's a really high flyer in his job for his age and I assumed he would not be concerned about our kind of issues, but he told me his concerns about the soaring housing prices and also made it down to one of our rallies. And when he spoke you could see in his eyes that he really cared. I was touched and impressed at the same time, the kind of choking feeling you have in your throat when you hear someone speak with heart. Plus, we were talking about salary scales and he said sincerely that one day, when he reaches that amount, he will donate part of it to me and my party. You can guess that they've made it into my good books!

I was also amazed to hear the shouts of cheers from the blocks on-going until 4 am when the results were announced... this is something that has to be heard at that moment to really feel the intensity of the joy in it... My regular China lady masseuse who lives in Hougang even declared her support (Told me my friend the Hougang MP is very handsome and all china lady friends love him) and said in Hougang, everyone was cheering happily as well. It's really a great feeling to be living in times like these, to be living amongst people who feel the same way - it's been said that my area had the most concentration of party voters, we were either the rebels - or the ones who dared to embrace change.

And this foreign talent, from the way he mentions about certain things and the way he handles certain other things, I can't help thinking that I'd like to spend a whole lot of time with him. It's strange that despite our different culture and upbringing, we can understand each other perfectly, in some ways, and I do hope that this connection brings something meaningful, at the very least, a penpal? But it's early days yet, the way it is too early to tell what this vote for change means metaphysically.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Modern Love: Even in Real Life, There Were Screens Between Us

As told by Caitlin Dewey,

CURLED up at the foot of my bed, my face inches from the laptop screen, I stared anxiously at the Google chat box. “Will is typing,” the box told me, helpfully.

I forced myself to read e-mail while I waited for his message. Then I refreshed my Twitter feed, scrolled through my blog posts and began brushing my teeth.

Still the box said, “Will is typing.”

“Don’t you dare get hurt by this,” I muttered around my toothpaste. “This was a stupid idea, and you knew that from the start.”

But recognizing the stupidity of falling for someone on the Internet does not prevent you from doing it. My friend Jeanette, a college radio D.J., chats constantly with some music blogger she met on Tumblr. My friend Tuan, who lives in Los Angeles, stays up until after 3 to talk to his London-based girlfriend.

And I had just driven nearly 1,100 miles round trip to visit Will, a guy I met in October at a Web journalism conference and got to know almost entirely on Skype.

I noticed him across the table at a noisy hotel bar. Will owns thick black-frame glasses but no hairbrush or comb, traits that lend him the look of a basement-bound hacker. If you have ever attended an Internet conference, you understand how pale skin, thick glasses and scruffy hair can be attractive; otherwise, I can’t explain it to you.

In either case, I liked Will’s weirdly overconfident smirk and his obsession with WordPress. He regaled me with the merits of plug-ins and PHP until I became tired and went to bed.
“I’ll find you on Twitter,” I joked when I left.

I didn’t expect or even want to see Will again after that weekend. Since he lived three states away, further face time seemed unlikely. I followed his Twitter posts with detached curiosity; in January, he G-chatted me to complain about work. Then he got drunk and messaged me again, sometime near midnight, as I uploaded photos and otherwise wasted bandwidth.

With obvious sarcasm, he wrote, “Do you have that Skype thing kids talk about these days?”
I’ve read that 90 percent of human communication is nonverbal. Skype captures that 90 percent on a low-resolution video camera, compresses it, funnels it to a node computer and reproduces it on a screen anywhere in the world. Skype eliminates distance; that’s why it works.
And that’s exactly what it did for us. With my Skype screen open and my webcam on, I viscerally felt that Will was sitting a foot away on my bed. Ignoring the times the picture froze or his voice cut out, I thought he looked and sounded exactly as he had in person. Sometimes, when he leaned into the computer to read an article I had sent him, I could see the pores of his face.

We started video chatting for hours every night — he from an ascetic all-white bedroom, me from the cupcake-print corner of my studio apartment. I learned that he ate take-out for every meal, slept in a series of identical white V-neck T-shirts and smirked with one side of his mouth when I said something clever. I knew his preferred coding languages, his least favorite content management system, and his general hatred of dancing, small talk and girls in bars.

One night, when we talked too late, I fell asleep with my laptop open and woke up seven hours later, tangled in cords. He was still there, asleep in the light from an open window, pale and young and pixelated.

Eventually he stirred, blinked at the camera and said, “Hey, you.”

“Hey,” I said easily. “How did you sleep?”

As the weeks went on, I told Will about my last boyfriend, a guy I had met in psychology class and dated for almost two years. He listened quietly, his glasses reflecting my image from his computer, and gave good, clear-eyed advice about letting go.

I couldn’t remember the last time I met somebody that smart and talented in ways I certainly wasn’t. He told me about his ex-girlfriend, who never appreciated his work. I texted him from classes when I was frustrated or bored.

In the safety of my apartment, I could see Will, but I couldn’t touch him. I could summon him when I wanted to talk, but I never knew him in any light other than the one from his bedside lamp. This phenomenon worked in my favor as well. I could call him after a few drinks, when I felt sufficiently talkative and social; I could avoid him if I had videos to edit or blog posts to write. I could say whatever I wanted and risk awkwardness, because at the end of the conversation, one click of the mouse would shut him out of my room.

THE irony is that we flock to the Internet for this type of safe, sanitized intimacy, but we want something entirely different. “In real life,” or IRL, is a popular term in online parlance. At Internet conferences like the one where I met Will, Twitter explodes with people celebrating IRL meetings: “So nice to finally see @so-and-so IRL.” “Hey @so-and-so, I can’t believe we hadn’t met IRL yet!”

The Internet brings these people together with hash tags and message boards, but it never satisfies them. No matter how much you love someone’s blog or Twitter feed, it isn’t their posts you actually want.

And so — slowly, cautiously — Will and I began circling the question of what it all meant.

“I really like you,” he said one night, after getting home from the bar.
“I really like you too,” I said. “I don’t know what that means.”

I wanted to find out. So in early March I rented a car, begged my professors to let me out of class a day early, and drove 540 miles to spend a long weekend in the midsize city where Will lives. When I got close, I called my friend Tuan from a rest stop, where I fixed my makeup and chewed gum and generally tried to calm down.

“What if it’s terrible?” I demanded. “What if he’s nothing like I expect?”

In fact, Will was almost exactly as I expected: thin lips, straight nose, small hazel eyes, glasses. He stood waiting at the side of the street while I parked my car — going forward and back, forward and back, until I nervously got within two feet of the curb. We kissed on the cold, blustery sidewalk as the wind whipped my thoughts around. Mostly, I felt relieved. I thought: “This works in real life. This means something.”

But after we kissed and ate pizza and went back to his house, we struggled for things to talk about. In real life, Will stared off at nothing while I talked. In real life, he had no questions about the drive or my work or the stuff that waited for me when I went back to school.

He took me out for dinner and read his e-mail while we waited for our food. He apologized profusely, but still checked his Web site’s traffic stats while we sat in his living room.

He took me to a party at his friend’s house where they proceeded to argue for hours about Web design while I sat on a futon and stared at the ceiling, drunk and bored and terribly concerned that I looked thinner online. At points, he grabbed my hand and gave me small, apologetic smiles. It seemed like a strategy game: a constant dance of reaching for me and pulling back, of intimacy and distance, of real life and Internet make-believe.

On the last day of my visit, Will overslept. He rushed around the apartment with his hair wet and his tie untied, looking for his laptop. According to the plan we made the night before, he would go to work and I would leave when it suited me, dropping his spare keys in the mailbox.
In the front hallway, where I stood rubbing my eyes, Will hugged me goodbye and told me to drive safely. He struggled for a closing statement.

“It was great to see you,” he said at last.

I didn’t leave right away. After I showered and packed and studied the books near his fireplace, I sat for a long time at his kitchen counter, trying to work out what happened. I didn’t like being surrounded by his things. I felt more comfortable in my room, with my things, and with his presence confined to a laptop screen.

I wrote him a note before I left: “Dear Will: Thank you so much for having me this weekend. It meant a lot to me to spend time with you in person.”

I signed my name and left it on the counter. Then, willing myself not to cry, I dropped his keys in the mailbox and gunned it home. In real life, getting there took nine hours.

Caitlin Dewey is a senior at Syracuse University majoring in magazine journalism.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

he'll make me laugh my socks off...

6 questions to ponder in choosing a life partner by Dr Ben Kim

I've long felt that choosing a life partner should be a subject that is thoroughly discussed sometime in high school and perhaps even in university. It amazes me that so little time, if any, is given to considering this topic on a meaningful level in school.

Near as I can tell, it's probably the single most important decision that all of us can make.
My take is that most people who get married in modern society don't have the foresight and life experience needed to make the best possible choice.

I'm sure that some people do think things out to a degree that would make Dr. Phil and Oprah proud, but from my little spot on the planet, it looks like most of us, myself included, rely mainly on our instincts to choose the one person we want to be with forever.

And why wouldn't we? Society teaches us that love is what matters. Love is the only thing that matters. And what is love? Isn't it that special feeling that occupies your thoracic cavity and makes you feel blissfully alive?

Well, here are some thoughts that I would like my loved ones to consider in choosing a life partner:
Do you like him?

To me, it's not about if you love him. It's if you actually like him.

The challenge is in knowing if what you are feeling is genuine like as opposed to fool's like, which I think is really just a symptom of being intoxicated with lust (which I don't have anything against - I just wouldn't recommend choosing a life partner with fool's like being a primary source of fuel to maintain a healthy relationship).

How do you know if you genuinely like and admire him? Ask yourself if you would want your child or future child to marry someone like him. And in answering this question, think about how he consistently behaves, not what he says.

As most of us know, feelings of "being in love" come and go. I wouldn't want to rely on such feelings to keep my life partnership healthy and intact. Much better, I think, to have a foundation of genuine like in place. Because ultimately, we want to spend our time with those we genuinely like.

Why do you like her?

Being drop dead gorgeous, having a trust fund, and taking good care of you are all weak reasons to like someone. They belong in the what she can do for me category, which includes the need-to-have-a-trophy-partner-by-my-side-so-that-I-feel-less-like-the-troll-that-lives-deep-within-me reason. Not a very solid foundation.

She can make you laugh your socks off? You admire the way she treats others, especially in instances when she is unaware that you are aware of what she is doing? She inspires you to strengthen your character? You respect her work ethic? Here and there, she blows you away with her thoughts? Now we're talking about some power fuel to sustain feelings of respect, genuine like, and even adoration for a lifetime.

Do you have the same basic attitudes and beliefs about religion?

Specifically, do both of you have about the same tolerance level for other people's beliefs? If not, think carefully about how this might affect the way that you feel about raising your children together.

Speaking of children...

Do both of you have similar feelings on having or not having children? If both of you want to have children, do you have a good inkling of what type of parent your partner would make?
Are you relatively clear on how much time you would like to spend with parents, siblings, relatives, and friends on both sides of your family?

If you're the type that would absolutely love having your parents in their golden years living next door or at least in the same town, I would suggest making this perfectly clear and asking your potential life partner to give this careful consideration and letting you know how it sits with him or her.

I imagine that very few life experiences can create more sorrow than not being able to spend time with your loved ones or, on the other side of the fence, being forced to spend time with people who make it clear through their behavior that they don't cherish you.

Do you have similar money values?

What do both of you like to spend your money on? Do you spend the bulk of your money on things or experiences? How much do you spend on items and experiences that aren't essential to your survival? How much do you like to save?

Those are the big ones for me. They're the issues that rise above the inevitable squabbles that accompany all life partnerships and float around in potential deal-breaker territory.

To be clear, if you just don't like who the other person is (not as obvious as you'd think or hope in the honeymoon phase), if you don't really laugh together, if you don't have the same basic attitudes about religion, having children, raising children, other family members, close friends, and money, you have one or more deal-breakers staring you in the face.

And people who genuinely care for you won't want to hear "but I love him." Because they'll be able to see what you can't see in the moment; that what you have isn't the kind of love that can sustain a healthy life partnership; it's something else that will probably make you want to punch yourself in the face a few times every day for the rest of your life beginning in the near future.
Okay, I'm getting carried away, but hopefully, my thoughts on this topic are clear. And for sure, they're just my thoughts, things that I hope my loved ones consider before they choose to get married, should they decide that marriage is for them.

Earlier this morning, I asked those who follow our facebook page to share their tips on choosing a life partner. Choose your best friend, choose someone you respect, be super careful - these are the recurring pieces of advice that I see in the many responses. Please feel free to browse through them and even add your own here:

What would you share with your child, grandchild, nephew, or niece about choosing a life partner?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

interestingly enough

I've read a book where one of the chapter emphasizes, interestingly enough, on developing a "sense of self".

The self-help genre book is about how to be interesting and connect with people, one of the books I've picked up for my ... self-help issues! Anyway, I think, unlike most of my peers or Singaporeans in general, I do have some opinions. The point is, having opinions, ie, a strong sense of self, makes one interesting, and hence, likeable. So there are questions to ask ourselves to think about stuff, to have a viewpoint, an opinion. I am not that surprised to realize that most of my peers don't have a strong opinion to vote either way. Of course, I might be like them too, if not for my family who have friends in the party of interest, who turn out to be strong believers, who have garnered our support since 2006. But... I really am disgusted at people who 'void' their vote and proudly state so. I mean, it's our citizen right to vote. Maybe you don't have strong sentiments either way or don't like both parties. Still, I guess this ultimately shows the lack of sense of self, unless you have strong reasons for doing so. (I'm not sure whether 'voiding' the vote, on purpose, is ethical anyway.)

And interestingly enough, in my new company, where being a Singaporean, I am in the minority (currently 2 out of 11 from UK, Wales, Russia, India, Philippines, Australia, etc) it's the foreigners who most encourage my involvement in the election and are most open to hear my/our views. If I were to talk to a Singaporean having the opposite view, I guess they will just criticise and not be open to hear either way. And for those foreigners who have only been on our shores for a few months, I am surprised they know so much about our country, things we do not even bother to be aware of until the past few days - they know how many PRs/visas that have been given out, certain policies, and can make accurate social commentaries on certain hiring FTs, and certain socio-norms that we fail to realize may not be beneficial to our country... most of all, they support the fact that as citizens, we should be entitled to some rights, it is the country we're born in after all.

And seeing the way my friends have labored and are so vocal (with sincerity and hard effort), I feel a stirring in my heart for this nation, at last. I've never "really" felt anything for Singapore, preferring a cooler climate and nature parks over crowded shopping centres... preferring countryside to city living... preferring cultural places to those that are devoid of the traditional heritage and flavor. The least I can do is to write a little cross on a white paper... besides some brain work of compiling some information that hardly took up much time anyway. It's nice to know that so many people care, really care about Singapore. Even the foreigners who love working here.

Interestingly enough, being a 'melting pot' of cultures, we benefit so much from the strangers who call our shores their temporary home.

Interestingly enough, I have new respect for people who 'walk the talk', not just make outstanding comments, but also are prayerful enough to want change. It touches my heart to hear from people calling me, knowing I am involved in the effort, to tell me they are praying for my friend the candidate, and that even their parents are praying too! That so many people are so stirred up that they want to write a 'note' about their motivation and reasons for voting... it just humbles me to realise that I can and am playing a small part in this process.