DIY Popiah, Lah! | 13-190818

DIY Popiah. The rules involved in getting an HDB apartment (eligible candidates are married Singaporean couples: you prove your engagement or marriage to the authorities; they provide you with a custom-made apartment), nostalgia around the Mid-Autumn Festival (rich, ornate moon cakes, lanterns glowing in the dark, incense in the streets), how their mums usually make their favourite local foods, how the different families balance and blend English, Singlish, Malay and various types of Chinese, what it’s like to be a student at the LASALLE College of the Arts… As my friend is moving to Auckland this week, she hosts a farewell dinner at her place on Monday, inviting her three friends from Tiong Bahru – a French florist, a Singaporean calligraphy and stationary artist and me. As I enter her neat, clean, mint-and-white-painted HDB highrise on the East Coast, I wonder what it’s like to have grown up in this country… to have childhood memories and rituals from here, to think of this as your point of departure… and my friend and her Singaporean friend hear my thoughts, or have the same, haha, and talk about it all as they spread out our DIY popiah kit across the dining table … tonight’s menu is the Singaporean version of a rice paper pancake, crepe, spring roll, pita bread, calzone pizza, burrito… it’s fun to think how the whole world and so many cultures have some fundamental principles in common… like wrapping bits of food into a thin layer of some sort of dough. Popiah is delicious! Shredded radish and carrot, bean sprouts, fine strings of cucumber, shrimp, ground peanut, fresh coriander, different types of hot and sweet sauces… all wrapped up in a thin, elastic wheat pancake. Such a nice, fun slow way of eating together. So, yeah, the girls tell all these nostalgic stories, we laugh a lot, and we talk about my friend’s mixed feelings about moving to a new country … anxiety, nervousness, excitement, curiosity… she and her husband will be embarking on this adventure and doing a lot of exploring together, creating a new home for themselves, but while he will be working full time at a large company, she, an independent clothing designer, will be hanging out on her own for a large chunk of each week, meandering around, looking for and picking up the courage to approach some sweet creative souls, establishing a social and professional network… The French girl arrives with a bottle of Champagne…. brought here by her family from Champagne.

Early Birthday Gift. Get home after midnight, having shared a Grab with the florist who lives just across from us, and enter the completely dark and quiet flat. Feeling a bit sad as it finally hits me that my friend is actually leaving the country. Think I’ve been so busy reassuring her what an amazing opportunity this is and how her friends are just a phone call away that I didn’t even get to realise how much I’ll miss having her around. Sanoop is fast asleep. I tiptoe to the dining room to charge my phone – we keep our only charger in the far corner of the dining room so no lights or sounds or radiations will disturb us at night. Spot a large paper bag on the dining room table, accompanied by a card glowing white in the dark. The card is full of sweet sentences. The bag is from Our Second Nature. It contains a dress I tried on when he took me to Holland Village to show me the space a few weeks ago. He remembered how much I liked it and got it for me. I (don’t) resist the temptation to give him a big hug and wake him up.

Morning Flow. Monday – refreshing swim and meditation. Tuesday – bicycling in darkness, orange morning light flooding the barre studio. Wednesday – long jog in the warm breeze, doing laps around the tai chi practitioners in the park, at home awaits Sanoop and two cups of his homemade chai. Thursday – snoozing in bed while Sanoop is meditating in the living room. Yoga in the kitchen while he is making chai. Mixing spoonfuls of spirulina into our coconut yoghurt and drizzling the dark green cream with seeds, nuts and slices of banana and nectarine, laughing at each other’s seaweed-coloured teeth. Cycling off to work. Friday – guided meditation (from the world’s 3rd biggest YouTube channel, run by a Dane!) and yoga on our balcony floor, followed by morning coffee and fresh tender coconuts with a friend at Tiann’s. Saturday – reading in bed and superbrain yoga on the living room floor. Sunday – amazing, addictive yin yoga session led by a brilliant teacher, Elaine, at Yoga Inc, followed by coffee with a side of the FT Weekend at Plain Vanilla.

Sea Breezy Evening Walk. If there isn’t a cloud in the sky when I leave the office at 6pm, I always feel like going for a walk or a swim or a picnic to soak in the last bit of the day’s sun… I rarely do it, though; most often, I just go straight home, thinking it will grow dark really soon anyway, feeling hungry or fatigued, having to get ready for some other evening activity. On Thursday night this week, Sanoop sends a photo from his office’s rooftop garden, with Reflections at Keppel Bay poking out impressively in the not-too-far distance, framed by lush greenery. I ask if he wants to meet by the Keppel Bay Marina for an evening walk in 15 minutes. He says yes. As always when we do go there, which happens so infrequently, we wonder why we don’t do it more often, haha. It’s so nice! The freshness, elegant beauty and adventurous associations emanating from a place filled with shiny yachts, wooden jetties and chuckling waves, teamed with the fresh sea breeze and beautiful promenade lined with palm trees, bougainvillaea and luxury apartments… ahh! We spot a Danish flag on one of the really big sailboats and wonder if it came all the way from the north, or if it’s just owned by a Danish couple living here. Walk around Keppel Island as the sun sets behind the thorny tips of Reflections and the canopies of Labrador Park. Pretty romantic! 🙂

Dinner Party. On Friday evening, two of my barre teachers, one of whom is also the founder of the Singapore branch of the company while the other has become a close friend, come over for dinner. The studio’s birthday is coming up next weekend, and as I’ll be out of the country then, I thought that throwing a festive dinner would be a nice gesture. Colourful vegan dishes, partially homemade. Red wine and kombucha. Flowers and candles on the table. A cosy yoga playlist. Sanoop joins as well, and we have a great time, all four talking, listening and laughing deeply… lovely!

B2B Turns 2! Happy 2nd anniversary to Barre 2 Barre Singapore and its amazingly passionate, talented, positive and attentive founders and teachers, each of whom has taught me so much through 292 sweaty, stretchy, super aligned, physically and mentally challenging, relevé-balancing, hamstring-activating, quad-burning, glute-firing, hip-dancing, core-shaking, shoulder-chiselling, arm-quivering, posture-enhancing, mind-and-body-connecting, energising, fun and loving morning, noon and evening classes over the past 2 years – helped me stay fit in multiple senses, made recovering from ACL/meniscus injuries a breezy, enjoyable affair and welcomed me into an inspirational community of health, creativity, friendship and general good vibes. PS: with a combined 6 months out of the country and multiple weeks of post-surgery timeout, 292 is not an insignificant number of times hanging out in Hong Kong Street in the past 2 years, haha! Here, they’re all captured in a few favourite exercises:

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Weekend. Sleep. Read. Write. Swim. Farewell pool party hosted by a friend living at the Interlace. More sleeping, reading, writing, swimming. Phone conversation with friends and family in Europe and America. My friend stops by with a heart-warming gift from Books Actually, Hello! Have you eaten? and a loving note, spontaneously, so sweet.

Flooding. Kerala is currently experiencing the most powerful monsoon in nearly a century, with immense floods leaving more than 320 people dead and more than 220,000 displaced. Thousands of people are still awaiting rescue, thousands of houses are partially submerged, water-borne diseases are spreading, and so the list of sad facts continues. Most sources ascribe it to a combination of dam operators not having released water well enough in advance, when the flood warnings started sounding about a month ago, and rainfalls being exceptionally high this monsoon season. The torrential downpour triggers landslides, one of the main reasons why so many people have died. Wetlands that used to act as natural safeguards against floods have disappeared in favour of urbanisation – i.e. environmentalists blame a lot of the disaster on deforestation. In all of this, we also read heart-warming accounts of people working tirelessly to save those in need…. and we’re grateful that Sanoop’s parents are safe in the US. They’ve been visiting his brother, sister-in-law and the kids for a few months now, and as the family has just sold their house in Atlanta and are moving to New York City in a few days, his parents are gonna go on a roadtrip that will slowly take them to New York to see the new house and visit relatives in the city before finally going back to Kerala mid-September. They were supposed to travel back on 22 August but their flight has been cancelled – in the news, we see planes submerged in brown water on the runways of the Kochi airport! Luckily, their house in Kottayam is still above water, none of their closest are in need and the rains have started subsiding… they’re still worried, though, and understandably so. We’ll see what they get back to in September, and we’ll support them in the best way possible.

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