Majulah Singapura! | 8-140816

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The Pacific Shift. Bringing music and news from ‘everywhere’ from Sydney to Seoul, Monocle’s APAC station is the soundtrack to my mornings this week, with updates from the counter-terrorism summit in Bali and the terror attacks in Thailand constituting the main contrasts to the happy-go-lucky electronic K/J/T-synthpoppy tunes that serve as excellent background noise because they’re upbeat and I can’t decipher any of the phrases.

Sports of the Week. Morning runs around the Marina Bay – such a peaceful place at 6:30am, with just a few other souls out among the palm trees on the 250m long, 6-13m broad timber platform, sleeping, meditating or practicing yoga. Through the Merlion Park and Boat Quay to the gym for Kayla and swimming in the pale morning light on the palmy roof terrace. On Saturday, I meet a friend at 40 Hands for a morning coffee to enjoy in the sun as we walk through Chinatown to Level, where we sweat breathlessly through our Weekend Warrior session – with a comforting panorama view of incredibly flexible yoga masters doing perfectly poised handstand splits in the yard in front of the gym. And speaking of perfection, Joseph Schooling wins Singapore’s first Olympic gold (in 100m butterfly), making his nation proud by beating his childhood idol, Phelps, who was the reason why he started swimming in the first place. Perfect week to pick for it!

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Majulah Singapura. On Tuesday, we celebrate Singapore at the botanic garden of a spectacular rooftop bar, Artemis, drinking chilled riesling and looking across the bay towards the over S$1 worth of red National Day fireworks – comets, mines and airbursts! – exploding from the National Stadium, prepared by no less than 50 contractors and lots of Singapore Armed Forces soldiers. Such a (costly!) show!

Aloha & Açaí. Lunch breaks are spent at Aloha Poké and My Awesome Cafe with a friend who works near me. We sit outside in the busy downtown streets, among greenery and hibiscus flowers, and tuck into our scoops of raw tuna and frozen açaí while catching up.

Home-cooked! One of the evenings I surprise myself and everyone present by cooking (for the first time in Singapore?) – spicily marinated chicken roast and a fresh quinoa salad! It turns out decent, especially as it’s accompanied by a bottle of nice wine and lots of pleasant chitchat… there’s a movie on in Fort Canning Park, such a lovely outdoor event, but we’re too comfy at home to walk over.

Weekend Isolation. Most of Saturday and half of Sunday I spend doing some freelance work from home, comfy with my laptop in bed, talking to almost no one for hours. I cancel the third run with the Mikkeller Running Club (fairly laid back concept – based on beer and occurring just once a month; I went to the first; the second happened when I was in Bali) and a dinner party in Holland Village. I do not cancel Saturday morning training, or drinks and dancing with the girls later. Quite a nice balance.

Flânerie. Closing my laptop at noon on Sunday, I felt as free as a bird as I stroll down to the bakery for a long black and an orange/carrot/ginger juice, past the guy in front of the Monkey God Temple (wrapping hundreds of incense sticks in gold-patterned fabric), through Chinatown and CBD, to the breezy Marina Boulevard, from where I cross the elegant spiralling bridge to the Singapore Flyer and stop at a spot under idyllically bending trees overlooking the Marina East park to chill out a bit.

Curious Palette. Then walk over to have an artfully poured matcha almond latte at a very picture perfect hipster cafe, flooded in natural light from big skylights, full of fashionable greenery (fiddle fig leaf trees and money plants), concrete, white paint, wooden tables, fancy brewing equipment and well-dressed local kids… ah.

The Book Cafe. Then climb the millions of stairs leading up to and down from Fort Canning Park and go to the book cafe in Robertson Quay, where soothingly soft jazz music sounds above another crowd of typing, reading and coffee-drinking hipsters. I pull out my laptop and Skype with friends in the last few hours of daylight pouring in from the panorama windows of the orderly, peaceful space.

Neuroscience of Space. Walking home I think about how many of the public work and recreational spaces in Singapore are very much in thread with points made at a panel discussion I went to last year at We Work in London (invited along by a friend working for an architecture magazine, The Spaces, exploring new ways to live and work) on the impact of neuroscience on the design of physical spaces. One of the speakers, an alluring young female architect/neuroscientist (!) from New York, specialises in lowering anxiety in working environments around the world. She wants people to feel calm, happy and productive when they work, and pointed out that the main challenge in a city like New York is that most people can’t see the horizon from their hermetically sealed, dehumanising skyscraper offices. Humans have an inherent need to be in touch with nature, I think her catchphrase was, and she used Scandinavia as a good example of inspiration for letting light and greenery into office spaces – and beautiful, minimalistic design that engage and stimulate people without stressing them. She went on to talking about flexibility vs. collaboration – the rapid development of co-working spaces – how more and more people work from multiple places – demand freedom – and how do you let people have that sense of freedom while at the same time creating comfort, calm, a space for interaction and other optimal circumstances? She pointed out that anxiety trickers are culturally dependent, but that’s another story… Right now, all I think about is mainly the effect of being surrounded by plants, air and good lighting.

Open Door Policy. My little excursion ends at a TB restaurant where I meet some friends for dinner. A rustically designed, long, slim room, with one wall covered in rows of lush garden herbs (red and green mustard, peas shoots, arugula…) and the other featuring bar stools along the glass-walled open kitchen and the romantic bar. The food is delicious – and 100% gluten and dairy free and organic at that! 🙂

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Organic Malaysia. Right before the week ends, I chat to my brother who spent the weekend relaxing by the pool and partying with a friend visiting from home, after a great first week at work in KL – looking into Penang’s green plans for the future – the possibilities of creating an organic market in Malaysia and exporting the goods to the world. Hot topic!

Happiness. Several times during the week, despite feeling a bit stressed and worried about some things and sad that I’m saying goodbye to a great person at work, I feel sudden pangs of complete, pure, carefree happiness. Like childlike birthday excitement or breathing in the first crisp notions of Autumn in the air…

 

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