Morning Magic. In Singapore, unlike when I’m in any other place, my mind is often elsewhere: places around the world I have yet to experience, or hope I get to experience at some point, or places I miss a lot. It’s not that I don’t appreciate my life in Singapore or that I tend to dwell on things I don’t quite agree with here. Often, however, I’m so used to thinking that I ‘feel at home anywhere’ that I neglect how well I feel here. The happiness I’m feeling now is unlike any happiness I’ve ever felt previously, in myself and for another person. That’s not really tied to any physical place as such, but I do want to be better at remembering how good a lifestyle we have here. When we’re here, I make a point of immersing myself in exploring the country, in working, in socialising, in educating myself through reading and conversations, in exercising, in doing stuff… even focussing on the way I breathe and nothing else for minutes at a time. Even if I’m engaged in all of those actions, I want to also make a special effort to remember where I am and how the surroundings, Singapore, me being in Singapore, affect those moments. I don’t know if that makes sense; maybe it’s about being less mindful, haha: immersing myself in an action or interaction – and at the same time remembering to enjoy it on a more holistic level and ask myself why I do the things I do, how I feel about doing them, how they affect me, what effect they have and what the context is. The moment I wake up in the morning, I always have this urge to get up, get out, feel some nature and culture, see what the weather and vibe is like, run, swim, communicate, read, write, everything at once, haha. I’ve been asleep for 6-7 hours and now I’m ready to feel that I’m alive in the world. That’s all fine and central to who I am and always have been, and in the run of the day, my energy usually takes off and I gradually relax more and do less. I am not restless as such – yet, I’d like to practice integrating some more reflection into the string of actions. This Monday morning, as I opened windows and doors to get some fresh air, I looked out and saw and felt and smelled and heard this beautiful morning symphony: gold-tinted mackerel sky, lush tropical greenery, hazy hot air, early birds chirping from their lookouts on the red roofs of our white buildings, and the other kind of early birds slamming their car doors and running 7am errands at the market. Such a vibrant energy. I sat on the balcony for a bit, surrounded by all of our many lush plants, and just soaked in the impressions. My heart felt so full and excited. And then Sanoop joined me. Haha. We did some breathing exercises, meditation and yoga together, and then went outside, wandered through our neighbourhood, hand in hand, and ended up at charming, tranquil Plain Vanilla with coffee, sourdough toast with marmite and a shared section of the New York Times between us. Leaving the bakery to cycle to work half an hour later, I passed a papaya tree and stopped for a while to first look at it, touch it, and then photograph it. I hope I’ll never stop finding it excitingly exotic to live in the same neighbourhood as that guy.
Little Elephant Thai Bistro. Perfect mix of street kitchen and nice decor vibes… Just what Tiong Bahru needed! Not too local, not too fancy, haha. Checking out the new spot next to Tiong Bahru Bakery on Tuesday night, we agree that it’s some of the freshest and most flavourful Thai food we’ve had in Singapore.
Theatre in the Park with New Friends. Fort Canning Park. Sunset. Antipasti and red wine picnic. Sanoop and a couple of lovely people we met recently. All of these elements go well together as it is – we ought to spend more of these eternal summer nights outside. It does grow dark quite early here, but it’s funny how rarely I spend evenings outside in Singapore compared with Europe! The occasion on this Thursday night – but my point is there needn’t be an occasion – is an ultra-modern interpretation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It’s extremely brilliantly and cleverly executed, but we really have to concentrate to understand the lines… haha. Maybe another lesson from tonight is to start exercising my rhetorical skills more. The comforting thing is that we’re all struggling – and bonding over the struggle – and not at all bored. It’s so nice sitting here under the stars and the moon in the Central Park of Singapore.
Paella & Wine. On Friday night, we go for dinner at a couple of Australian friends’ condo all the way out in Serangoon, the taxi ride reminding me that Singapore is so much bigger than my usual stomping ground: I want to explore the small villages out here, the lush parks. Our friends serve champagne and homemade paella, and we bring them a bottle of red wine which happens to be from a winery 10 minutes from her mum’s house in Victoria… what are the chances! It’s a fun and lovely night, but also slightly emotional: they’ll be leaving Singapore soon – illness in the family is calling them back to Australia. They love their lives in Singapore, but that is life.
1880. Early on Saturday morning, Sanoop leaves for a work offsite in LA. I spend the weekend reading in bed and writing at 1880. I want to go to the beach, but it’s pouring down most of the time, so I stay in – and honestly feel a bit relieved. It’s what I need. Morning runs and evening walks and picking up custard apples and a pineapple at the Tiong Bahru Market, but other than that: physical calm and mental concentration on words. I do wonder now and then why I didn’t go with Sanoop to LA? He, his colleague from New York, who is also his best friend (they met in College), and his friend’s girlfriend, who works for the same company, are all staying with his friend’s mum in Santa Monica. Two of my best friends live in Hermosa Beach and Cardiff-by-the-Sea a bit further south. I could have worked from any one of their offices or from a cafe. And then we could all have hung out – in California!! What was I thinking? I think I was thinking that I’ll be moving around enough as it is over the coming months, and now I just have to respect that I thought that, even if I now feel very up for being there, and just say to myself that I’m here now, it is what it is and that is good too – make the most of it. I’ll see Sanoop in London on Saturday, and until then – it’s me and Singapore, haha.
Summer Reads – I’ve read the first two and have the others to look forward to:
- The Perfume Collector. Gift from a friend in London. Page-turner. Mystery. Female empowerment. Sensual allure of New York, Paris and London of the 20s and 50s.
- Love Detective. My mum lent it to me when I was in Denmark a few weeks ago, in its Danish translation, which translates to ‘Magical Karma.’ It’s a sweet, funny love story set in India, and it’s all about focussing on the positive, enriching and immediate in life, being in the present, being curious and caring about people around you, empathy, patience, love, understanding that we each view the world differently – and sometimes more similarly than we think. Like the 1st person narrator, I travelled to Asia with a broken heart and had it mended by myself, first, and then by an American guy with great affinity for (and roots in) India. Yes, I like reading the book here in Singapore, but I also look forward to going to India on a weekend trip in less than two months to experience some of that magic, haha.
- I’ll Give You the Sun. Recommended by a friend. A tad surprised when, upon my asking about the book’s whereabouts, the bookshop lady took me to the Young Adults section. Oh well, I thought, so many of my favourite books when I was 13-18 are still my favourites, and I usually share this friend’s taste in literature, so… I bought it. The Guardian seems to agree with my friend, ‘Be prepared with more tissues than you needed for The Fault in Our Stars, a chunky notebook to scribble down all the quotes and a handful of witty responses when people ask why you’re chuckling to yourself in the corner.’
- Stream System – which Sanoop brought back from his last trip to Australia, after we both read this Guardian article, Gerald Murnane: one of Australia’s greatest writers you may never have heard of.