#morningslikethese. Monday: walk in the dark → swim in the sunrise → sweat at barre pilates → reset at Ronin. Tuesday: Jewel → barre pilates → Ronin. Wednesday: run → swim → barre pilates. Thursday: run → swim → Perfect Balance. Friday: run → 40 Hands. Saturday: hilly sunrise run from Kent Ridge Park to Mount Faber → coffee from the bakery. Sunday: snooze → Flock. Alone and with friends, a quite well-balanced mix of good starts to the day.
Orchard Eve. I spend the first evening of the week with a friend, just returned from a two-week trip to the US, full of dew fresh stories from election circus central. A few glasses of Malbec at Wine Connection, a pretty little meandering stroll around the Peranakan shophouses on Emerald Hill, a Singapore typical mall dinner at the Paragon-branch of never-failing, romantically designed PS Cafe, a slow walk home along Orchard Road in the hot dark.
The Hive. On Tuesdays there’s free access to the coolest co-working space in town, which handily takes up residence in the same street as my barre pilates studio and favourite coffee shop. After initiating the day at those spots, I enter the quietly buzzing Hive and take a seat and pull out my laptop between a Danish friend, who’s preparing for a job interview tomorrow, and a lovely German girl, who quit her job to start enriching the German e-commerce market with coconut oil and other superfoods. She’s leaving Singapore in October to travel around to potential Southeast Asian suppliers, aiming to base her business on organic, fair-trade production. After we’ve chatted for a while over a befitting lunch of vegan burgers and algae smoothies at Real Food, it turns out that she studied Management of Creative Business Processes in Copenhagen with one of my best Danish friends from London, and that she’s best friends with a friend of my best German friend from London. It’s almost boring to keep pointing out how extremely small the world is – my world, the circles in which I roll around, not necessarily in need of expansion (or are they?) as the movements are enriching and stimulating enough. Oh, and as we’re concluding the lunch with delicious passion fruit sorbet popsicles, the Danish and German girl discover through our chat that they happen to have the same maid. What are the chances!
Art Deco Froth. Wholesome lunch, Ronin coffee breaks and chatting aside, the working day at the Hive is satisfyingly productive. The Danish girl and I leave it well into the evening to zone out a little while sharing a seafood wasabi risotto and a superfood salad in the ’20s styled restaurant at the Ascott, after which we join a group of MBA students for a talk in the NTUC Centre, out of breath when we get there, 5-10 minutes late, because we spontaneously felt like grabbing a Boost juice on the way, got lost, panicked slightly and didn’t realise there’d be an academic quarter of chatting before the thing gets started – everyone else is lingering around outside the lecture hall with fancy fingerfood and glasses of Chardonnay, in no apparent hurry to enter the hall, all very smartly dressed and engaged in equally as smart conversations, while our casual outfits that seemed so fit for the Hive all of the sudden feel slightly inappropriate, a vibe enhanced by the large green foam cups clasped in our sweaty hands. Oh well… an Australian woman in a tiny tailored frock tells us that we look beautiful and that she was a fool to let her beautiful Danish boyfriend slip away 25 years ago. With that compliment, we can all get seated.
Know Your Customer. My friend is an IE Business School alumni, and the cliched titled talk, Is Marketing Dead?, is given by one of her former professors from Madrid. Very energetic guy, who spends an hour highlighting small startups and large corporations that have or haven’t managed to give customers what they (think they) want and need and tying their tales together with notes on crowdsourcing and shared economy, stakeholder collaborations, market segmentation, the importance of processing data analysis and measuring customer satisfaction, how most people in developed countries save less than 5% of their income while almost 60% are anxious about their future and the choices they make, egocentric millennials and time-rather-than-budget-restrained professionals, creating value for money, sustainable value, integrity and mindfulness, local sourcing, instability and shortening product lifecycle span, how to survive the brand clutter, a growing demand for mass customization, the desire to create personal stories with unique statussymbols, brand advocacy and resonance, the holistic approach that companies must take to face liquid modernity, how to think like a CEO and feel like a marketeer, how nothing is as it used to be, yet sometimes a brand or campaign is so genius in seemingly traditional sense that none of the newest learnings appear to apply. What I take away from it all, I think to myself as I walk home to curl up in bed with a late video call, is that … I was well entertained during the whole Spanish-accented presentation.
Jetset. On Wednesday I have a Grain Traders lunch date with a Danish investment banker friend from London who is in town for less than 10 hours – he flew in this morning to attend a meeting and will head back to Changi after our lunch and another meeting to go to KL for meetings on Thursday and Friday, and then he’s spending the weekend in Bali. Glad he could squeeze me in; last time I saw him is more than a year ago at a small balcony barbecue party in Notting Hill.
Girl Power. On Monday Beyonce gives a powerful performance in Copenhagen, on Tuesday Michelle Obama gives her if not entirely convincingly delivered then at least incredibly well written and tear-provoking speech at the Democratic Convention (later in the week, of course, it’s Chelsea’s and Hillary’s turn to spellbind the crowds with their grand words about themselves and the greatest country in the world), and on Wednesday, Singapore’s designated Ladies Night, I assemble my Danish and English girlfriends to attend the open mic challenge preceding the female version of TEDxSingapore. We meet an hour before the event kicks off for a drink at Luxe, and once it’s over we go back to the Aussie restaurant to share six wonderful dishes (sashimi, squid ink burger, steamed barramundi, grilled aubergine, quinoa salad and truffle fries) and a bottle of wine whilst discussing the 12 talks of varying quality, rating their (female-empowerment-focused) message, delivery and presence. There’s a nice jokey atmosphere around the table, all the girls engaging in the conversation, offering interesting observations, even though tonight is the first time they all meet, which for me is the ultimate highlight of the Ladies Night.
Movie Night. On Thursday I have a friend over for Netflix and a cup of tea. A rare pleasure.
Sichuan. On Friday my Vietnamese colleague takes me out for a Sichuan lunch in Chinatown. We share a big pile of garlicky fried chicken and chillies, with a side of black century egg (the Chinese version of the Sønderjyske ‘solæg’ my gran always makes at Christmas), a dish created through the need to preserve food in times of plenty. You soak the eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime and rice hulls for weeks or months, and through this process the yolk takes on a dark grey colour and a creamy consistency while the white transforms into a dark brown, translucent jelly. The resulting strong, salty flavour is enhanced by finely chopped chilli. Yum!
Garden Festival. On Saturday morning I meet a friend in an extraordinary greenhouse where flora of all shapes, sizes and endemic or not species from various parts of the world live together in harmony below the high glass ceiling. We stroll around among Australian grass trees and kangaroo’s paws, African baobabs and ghost trees, Mexican cacti and aloes, Chilean wine palms and monkey puzzle trees, Mediterranean olive trees and cypresses, Californian grape vines and a wide selection of huge prizewinning orchids, amazed that all of this varied beauty thrives in one space. So peaceful. Such lovely aromas. If the plants could speak, or if we could sense what’s going on inside them, what would we gather?
Painting. The therapeutic bliss continues into the afternoon. I meet two other friends in an art supplies shop where we excitedly purchase a wide selection of acrylic paint tubes – so many clear, happy colours! – and a pile of canvasses and brushes. Stars are sparkling in our eyes as we take the treasures to one of the girls’ house and spend a few hours painting away at her dining table, listening to jazz music, drinking mint tea and praising each other’s creative outlets.
Saturday Night Life. From a philosophical chat over a glass of chilled Malbec in the late afternoon golden hour light on the palmy rooftop of Potato Head Folk with one friend to meeting another friend for smoky mezcal/pisco sours and delicious shared dishes (prawn ceviche, meatballs, fried fish and plantain fritters with chilli mayo) at Peruvian Vasco, followed by a dessert drink at a speakeasy a bit further up hip Hong Kong Street (the street that’s also home to the barre pilates studio, Ronin and the Hive), to dancing a tad sleepily but elated into the night at one of the first Singaporean clubs I’ve been to, Cato.
Ridges & Gillman Barracks. At noon on Sunday I go hiking with three of the English girls under a burning sun. We trot through the sequential rainforest from Mount Faber to Labrador Park, stopping at Gillman Barracks, the visual art oasis set in a cluster of former military barracks. Here we explore 4-5 of the exhibitions of exciting works by Asian and European artists. Especially the black and white group-exhibition, In Silence, catches my attention with its rather eerie introspective explorations.
Tanjong Beach Club. Next and final entertainment venue of the week is the classy, carefree club on the hippest of the yellow Sentosa beaches. As I arrive, in an uber, directly from the barracks, the friend I’m meeting is drinking fresh, clear juice straight out of a shaved coconut at a table in the bright, beautiful restaurant with a panorama vista of the pool and palm trees. I get a drink as well, and then we share a spicily marinated chicken dish and a scrumptious açaí bowl before stepping outside to lounge in deck chairs by the pool bar, an aperol spritz/Bloody Mary in hand. Later we stroll down along the beach and lie down in the sand somewhere, stare up at the skies and listen to the waves in front of us, the dj tunes from the bar and the screams of the seagulls above us.
12 Metre. On the way home, I read an email from my gran, who is admirably good at making the most of her time. She and her boyfriend love driving around Denmark seeking out good experiences, taking advantage of what the little villages and islands dotted across the country have to offer in terms of cultural inputs and some fun. This note describes a trip they took earlier in the week, to the small bay where she and my grandad got engaged in 1947 – in the marina they spotted a 12 Metre, and when my gran went over to admire the beautiful yacht, she was invited onboard by the captain, who turned out to be the grandson of the shipowner my grandad’s dad worked for in 1910! The guy is based in Hongkong, home of his shipping company, but spends a decent amount of time – and money – restoring old hotels in charming little spots around Denmark.
Swanfield Street Era End. This weekend my three former flatmates move out of our old house in London; two to start a new life in Copenhagen and New York respectively, and one to move in with her boyfriend who lives around the corner in Shoreditch. Their sentimental snapshots and status updates on social media on Sunday eve make me revisit the emotions I felt three months ago. Sadness and excitement. I miss them (the special humour, gestures and comfort developed from living together and sharing ups and downs for years), and I think about our time in the house with fondness, but I still have them, and as for that time, the memories of it are all I need: it’s not lost; I don’t want to go back; I’m proud of where we all are now and happy about our prospects. To think that it’s been five years since I finished university – five years in the company of Copenhagen friends and Kerouac, Salinger and Auster – and moved to London; and to think what those five years did in terms of preparing me for everything that lies ahead!
Learnings & Reminders of the Week. Change. // Confidence vs. Ego. // Creativity is the child of every moment. // Three months in, I still enjoy Singapore bubble life, keep adding to the inexhaustible list of things to do here – it’s just another place to be; inputs depend as much on my ability to open my eyes, ears, mind and heart as on the level of cultural richness surrounding me – and get increasingly better at focusing on the present rather than losing myself and sight of others around me in speculations about what got me here and where I might be going next, except for occasional moments and Sunday hours allocated to healthy reflection on the week gone by and accumulation of wishes;)