Comfort Cure. On Monday I wake up with a sting of homesickness in my chest. After doing a few yoga exercises I go down to the bakery for my long black and a loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread. Back home I transfer the steaming coffee to the cup I got from friends in London and make myself the breakfast that most reminds me of summer at home: thin slices of strawberry (luckily, these market fresh ones are as flavoursome as the unique seasonal Danish ones) on thick slices of moist bread. My mum will be asleep and unable to chat now, but this spread is certain to keep the tiny traces of unhappiness at bay.
Neighbours Who Lunch. Working from home in order to let my cough die out completely in isolation, I go back down to the bakery at noon to meet the English girl who lives down the road for lunch. Just a quick bite, chat and bit of air to break up the day. She’s always lovely company. Such a nice, uplifting conversation. I have a squid ink smoked salmon sandwich and a freshly squeezed carrot, orange and ginger juice. More coffee. Once that’s washed down, we say goodbye and I wander around the area for a few minutes. Photograph a very harmonious street food mural in one of the alleys.
Hot Hits UK. Working late that evening, I listen to my favourite Spotify-playlist over and over again and wriggle my feet in bed like a maniac: I Took A Pill In Ibiza (Mike Posner/Seeb), Fast Car (Jonas Blue/Dakota), Me, Myself & I (G-Eazy/Bebe Rexha), Faded (Alan Walker), Love Yourself (Justin Bieber), Work (Rihanna/Drake), Catch & Release – Deepend Remix (Matt Simons/Falco Van Den Aker), Pity Party (Melanie Martinez), 7 Years (Lukas Graham), Roses (The Chainsmokers), Work From Home (Fifth Harmony/Ty Dolla $ign), i hate u, i love u (Gnash/Olivia O’Brien), Up&Up (Coldplay)… aaaand repeat.
Solo Traveller. When my music-induced euphoria reaches its climax, I take a break from the emails and do something I’ve been itching to do for ages: Book a long weekend trip to Bali! In July! Actually finally going! Yay! According to my friend who wrote a gorgeously illustrated guidebook to the most hyped of Indonesian islands, it’s a great place to go to on your own. I believe so.
Morning Light. Early in the morning even the lightest sheet can seem very heavy, and the thought of a few more hours in bed extremely tempting. Half-consciously floating in and out of dreams, with your legs entangled in a complex labyrinth of white fabric and a perfectly shaped pillow fixed comfortably between your jawbone and shoulder. A dogeared book, social media on your phone, favourite blogs and all the news in the world within reach. Nothing can get me up… with a few million exceptions. I’m not always super fresh at the crack of dawn, but the interval between the moments when I wake up and when I start to feel an urge to jump out of bed, open a window or a door and breathe in the air of the new day is rarely long. Sensing the awakening of the world. The rising sun casts its rays upon cities and countrysides, offering the new day a fresh start. It brings warmth, enlightenment and a sense of a new chance. Makes me want to write, draw, take pictures. I’ve always risen relatively early, eager to catch the first impressions of the day, have enough time to mull them over, not miss the magic. One thing is the always beautiful, life-affirming sunrise, but that doesn’t always require an early start and isn’t even always visible. What’s more important are the ideas and curiosity related to this particular period: which inputs, experiences, defeats and victories will the coming 24 hours hold? The morning is a clean slate, a new beginning, a space for wondering what lies ahead, my favourite time of day generally. There are 365 mornings a year and millions of ways in which to spend them. In China, the streets are full of life already before sunrise. Regardless of weather, biting frost, heavy rain or strong sun, people of all ages pilgrimage to green spaces to practice tai chi. In the Alps, winter mornings are characterised by snow squeaking below the first pairs of skis and snowboards, while summer mornings see goats waking up in the tall grass, ready to be milked by dirndl-dressed girls. Most of my mornings begin with a walk or a run. All year round, anywhere. I just need to get out. The possibility of a good day – maybe better than the previous – makes me view all types of morning weather in a positive light. Those few mornings in Europe and many mornings in the tropics when the sun is baking the ground already at 7am. Whether it’s snowing, raining or storming. On week days, it’s not paramount to have oceans of time. Routines can be executed quickly – as long as it’s a harmonious, somewhat controlled speed. Rituals, stimulants, exercise. A second to just enjoy. Wake up slowly. No stress. On Tuesday morning I first wake up at 4am, and as I feel wide awake I call a friend in Copenhagen and chat for about an hour, after which I’m able to fall back asleep and stay unconscious until 6:58am (I’ll always wake up a few minutes before my alarm clock rings), when my sheets indeed do feel quite heavy. I get up, splash water on my tired face, jog to the gym in the burning sun, train for a bit in the spacious air-conditioned room, shower while taking my time to enjoy the energising effect of the exercise, brush my teeth, walk down to the office, make myself some porridge with fresh pittaya and strawberries, grind and brew my coffee, and finally settle down at my desk with a story from The New Yorker in the natural light streaming in through the panorama windows – and so the day begins.
Iranian Figs. That afternoon, the pantry auntie stocks the snack wall with one of my favourite little treats: small packs of nine tiny dried figs. Hard on the outside, with only a little bit of soft meat at the core. Light brown and wrinkled. Very subtle taste, sort of nutty and caramel-like, not as sickly sweet as some of the other varieties. I open a pack at 5pm when my blood sugar level is low. Place myself at the window to watch the beautiful golden hour light. The sun has been shining all day and now it’s the grand finale. I chew each of the little fruits carefully to really take advantage of the powerful moment when they crack open and the flavour appears.
Authentic Thai. On Wednesday we have a team lunch outing to the food centre on Amoy Street. We all get Thai food from the ‘Authentic Thai’ stall. Red rice, spicy chicken and seafood concoctions, lime juice, pickled chillies on top. We talk of travel while we eat – anecdotes and dreams. We always talk of travel.
Mad Men Attic Bar. This week’s Ladies Night is set on a rooftop bar between Raffles Place and Boat Quay. I’m here with the girl from last Sunday’s hike. It’s a funny place. A constructed industrialist scenery with modern street art features lining up walls and canvases. Live music, a pretty fun atmosphere and great views across the tiled roofs of the pink shophouses below the bar, the lush green palm trees poking up decoratively between us and the skyscrapers, the beautiful Fullerton Hotel and Singapore Flyer in the background. I have a Singapore Sling in the hot, cloudy night.
A New Train of Thought. Right before falling asleep that night, I watch an episode of Chef’s Table with Alinea’s softly spoken head chef, Grant Achatz. This guy is just so purely creative, innovative and ambitious. Far from being as erratic and excentric as some passionate chefs, he comes across as nothing but a thoughtful, tireless and completely grounded genius. Wanting to deconstruct, challenge and experiment with conventions and perceptions of cooking, taste and presentation of food, he also just plainly loves and respects the produce and the daily work in the kitchen, both in terms of developing wonderful sensory experiences and promoting an outstanding team work atmosphere. It’s clear that his sous chefs and chefs de cuisine love playing with molecules and striving for perfection with him. From the helium balloons made with green apple over the memory-evoking aroma cushions to the edible abstract paintings with tablecloths for canvases, it’s all truly theatrical and impressive. Such a pleasure to watch – very recommendable!
Straits-Style Banana Leaf Seafood Rice. The company provides lunch every Thursday, and on this week’s menu is seabass with white clams, goji berries, kang kong, chestnuts, dried shrimps, ikan billis, chilli padi, plenty of garlic and lime juice on brown rice and banana leaf. I take my portion to a sunny corner of the office, with the view of the bay in front of me and a can of chilled matcha tea on the side. According to the sales material from the caterer, the dish was created to reflect what the founding fathers of modern Singapore ate, no less. The ingredients are described as ‘multi-racial’ and as introducing a ‘fresh take’ on Singaporean cuisine, with a side effect of gastronomical and healthy harmony. It does taste good, for sure.
August Adventure! That evening, my flatmates and I book a trip to Lombok in late August – we’re going to climb a volcano and then recover in a luxury villa by the beach!! Such a nice adventure to look forward to – both in itself, and because I’ll be going with them.
Swimming Pool. On Friday morning I skip jog and gym; do some exercises at home instead, put on a silk dress dotted with seashells and mermaids, get a coffee from the bakery and walk through the awakening Chinatown to work while listening over and over again to Swimming Pool by Hong Kong-born singer-songwriter Emmy the Great. Actually, I keep listening to this track by the slightly less melancholic version of Lana del Rey all day. Her words disappear as I concentrate on my tasks, while the dramatic melody, rhythm and ambience grow increasingly intense in their therapeutic colouring of my office day.
Bring Your Kid To Work Day. It’s that day of year – when people bring their toddlers to the office in the afternoon. The entire place smells of popcorn from the machine that’s been set up in the reception, together with a candyfloss machine, and the floors of the conference rooms have been decked out in multi-coloured foam while all other surfaces have disappeared below piles of McDonald’s menus, cellophane-wrapped sweets and fancy dress accessories. There’s a balloon animal guy. A puppet show. The little ones crawl around speedily and play with plastic king crowns, cardboard masks, crayons, Happy Meals and each other. Stickers on their little chests indicate to whom they belong. Their sticky hands leave greasy marks on the windows. As the sugar goes in the sound level goes up. Circus music accompanies wailing choirs. Parents do their best to keep an eye on their kid and the french fries flying around while chatting cosily with one another. The generally positive attitudes – and many rounds of cheerful clapping – demonstrate that it’s a grand initiative. Those of us who didn’t bring any offspring to work waver between the comfort of our desks and polite/curious participation in the fun and games. Booze is in a ‘secret corner’ behind the chicken nuggets, the Events Team kindly informs us via email. I may have a glass of wine with my team.
Friday Chill. Leaving the office at 6pm, I spend my Friday evening in pleasant solitude, eating a freshly made seared tuna wrap in the park between Telok Ayer and Amoy before taking a detour on the way home in order to pass by the lively bars and restaurants on Duxton Hill, admiring the cute colonial architecture, enjoying the happy sight of nicely dressed wine drinkers at outdoor tables and noting which spots I’d like to take friends and family to. One of my flatmates is celebrating life and summer at the street festival Distortion in Copenhagen, while the other is having dinner with a business partner somewhere here in town. In effect, I get home to a dark and empty flat… and remind myself to be happy about it. Cut a kaki fruit into pieces and pour a glass of almond milk over ice cubes, and crawl into bed with that delicious pudding and my good book. In London, the girls and I had a habit of spending Friday nights with yoga and Netflix. We had each other, but we were still just chilling. It’s been a hefty week at work and I am going out tomorrow: it is kind of amazing to have the opportunity to fully relax tonight.
Marina Bay East. Saturday morning is grey and drizzly – it’s cosy to look out from the balcony and see the world completely covered in steam. I read in bed for quite a while before I get up, put on my new bright red Nike shorts, and my headphones, and start running towards Marina Bay Sands. Downtown is deserted, and so are the lush, impressive gardens behind the iconic hotel. I cross the bridge beyond the flower domes, and stop for a minute to watch the skyline, before I walk down through the equally as beautiful gardens on the opposite side of the bay just as the rain subsides and the sun breaks through the clouds to contribute to making the view across town pretty spectacular.
Beach Break. Jogging through the East Coast Park I turn off my music and enjoy the silence for a while: save the occasional cyclist or skateboarder, I’m all alone on the path among the tall, wet palm trees. So calming, energising and quite exciting. After a few serene kilometres I get to the beach, where I take off my drenched trainers and walk barefoot in the clean sand for a bit, before settling down on a bench at a cafe, thinking, not thinking, wolfing down a large smoked salmon salad.
Koon Seng Road. Putting my headphones back on to talk to a friend in London and then one in Copenhagen, I walk up through the East Coast area to get to the rows of pretty pastel-coloured Peranakan houses on Koon Seng Road.
Freedom to Love. Next stop on my weekend expedition is the Pink Dot festival in the little park in front of the incredible Park Hotel on Pickering. Such a happy bunch of pink-dressed people of all ages – lots of balloons, lots of candyfloss, lots of moving speeches by everyday heroes – who’re changing lives through acts of love, compassion and understanding – and a Justin Timberlake coverband playing. I meet up with the best friend of the boyfriend of one of my friends in London, who’s here with a whole group of very festive friends. They offer me a glass of white wine and kindly tell me their stories of how lonely they felt when they first moved here a few years ago – and, hey, look at us now!
Run for Your Danish Beer. After an hour at the rally, I hurry on to the Singapore branch of a Danish micro brewery, Mikkeller. A Singaporean friend of a friend – that I meet for the first time tonight – knows the owners, and combining her love of everything Danish, beer in particular, and running, she has offered herself as the captain of the tropical counterpart of Mikkeller’s running club in Copenhagen. Tonight’s the first run, and there’s quite a turnout: around 50 people of all ages are milling around the place, buying black logo singlets at the bar and warming up sporadically in the front yard. As tonight is all about getting a sense of people’s speed and moods, we’re taking it easy, making sure to stay together as a group on a nice little 5k round of some downtown sights, an idyllic canal and the least busy roads we can find. Back at the bar, there’s deliciously refreshing free beer for all. Sweaty and happy, we sit on benches outside the bar and chat in the twilight, new and old running buddies. Decide to do this the first Saturday of every month.
Angkor Wat. I mostly talk to my friend’s friend and her Japanese friend, who just moved here from Tokyo. She’s a journalist and he works in marketing, both with a focus on food and travel. They’ve both been to Copenhagen a few times, and I have the biggest, proudest smile on my face as they enthusiastically praise the people they met there, the beauty of the city, the wonderful food… until it gets almost uncomfortable, and I have to turn the conversation to other travel stories. Before long, we agree to run a half marathon in Cambodia together!
LongPlay. She takes us through the lively Arab quarter – colourful markets, crowded plazas, celebration of some dragon boat festival – to her favourite bar, nestled between charming Haji Lane and Arab Street. Very cool interior and a lovely, relaxed atmosphere. We sit at the bar and watch our food being cooked in the open kitchen: yummy stuffed squid, ceviche and small baked falafel with mint leaves and hummus. Spicy sweet potato fries on the side. Negronis to celebrate tonight’s run and the Angkor Wat race. Stories about other races, travels around the world and culinary experiences. His many trips to Europe, and how much we all want to go hiking in the Japanese countryside. Her experience of growing up in the second independent generation, and of leaving home to live in America for 8 years before coming back and viewing her culture in a different light. English is her primary language; her Chinese is very basic. Her mum has been cooking the family Sunday lunch of local dishes since Wednesday. We must come round sometime.
TBB & 40 Hands. On Sunday morning I meet the English girl from the rooftop party last weekend for coffee at the Tiong Bahru Bakery. As with all the sweet and interesting friends of friends I’ve met, I immediately got on with this girl that I just got to talking to randomly at a party where I knew no one. She came here last year with her German boyfriend, whom she met a few years ago when travelling around China on her own, and they both work with FinTech startups. We drink our coffee, go to the market to get flowers, and get a second coffee at 40 Hands, while we chat for a few hours…
Tanjong Beach. We meet again later on the showiest beach on Sentosa, where I go to get a tan and be close to the water, and she goes for the polo. She lets me use her sun cream, and we watch the beautifully polished horses trotting past us to get to the polo part of the beach. As she follows the animals (and players), I settle down on a towel with my Far Eastern Tales below the burning sun.
That Summer Feeling. From the loudspeakers hanging high up in the palm trees around the fancy beach club behind me sounds a breezy mix of house music, which at one point is interrupted by a melancholic Jonathan Richman song. He is longing for the summer that will never come again; I think about the eternal tropical summers vs. the brief European summers that only felt endless when I was a child. When there’s things to do not because you gotta / When you run for love not because you oughta / When you trust your friends with no friends notta / The joy I’ve named shall not be tamed / When the cool of the pond makes you drop down on it / When the smell of the lawn makes you flop down on it / When the teenage car gets the cop down on it / And that summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life. Ahhhh…
Reframing Modernism. Later in the afternoon I meet another new English friend at the monumental National Gallery. The exhibition we’re there for is grand: an extensive collection of bold, exciting and very varied yet comparable modernist pieces from all over Europe and Asia spanning across three bright and spacious galleries. We digest the impressions with a bottle of Chablis at the stunning rooftop bar, nicely overlooking a cricket field and the bay, and once the golden hour has passed we go for a comfy meal in one of the little Italian restaurants back in Tiong Bahru (she lives a few streets from me). Just the ticket to an appropriate end to the week. Mmmm.