London, Nigeria | March, 2019

London

Transformation. I’m really deeply immersed in work all week, with people, interacting, learning, connecting various luminous dots, producing seemingly important stuff … It feels like, after months of studying and grabbling, struggling with imposter syndrome and low confidence, feeling undeserving of my job as well as of Sanoop’s support of us being here in London as well as of our blissful Hampstead home, I now suddenly know the key to turning that around and feeling good about myself, proud of myself, in alignment with everything. The essential mechanism to avoiding the worry I used to carry. I want to hold on to that feeling — but I’m not downright afraid of losing it. I just need to allow myself to dwell on it now that it’s so present and tangible so that, if/when I get sucked back into those concerns and underlying feeling of anxiety, I can relax knowing that the good feeling is possible. It’s intrinsic, but also caused by Sanoop’s guided meditations, doing 5 Tibetans each morning as well as slowly feeling more confident in my role and myself.
Barrecore. I’ve found, or rather, Sanoop found it while I was in New York last week; my new barre place. Just around the corner from our home, a great little studio: nice ambiance, sweet instructors who seem to know their anatomy and physiology, great interpretation of the thigh- and -abs-shaking, glute-burning, balance-testing, triceps-aching, back-stretching, balletic barre method. Sanoop didn’t send me a photo of the idyllic-looking boutique studio facade, which I immediately would have done had it been the other way around, haha; instead, he waited until he could take me there himself, share the experience, see my reaction. I go there for a class on Tuesday  morning at 6:30am, and immediately buy a package, and come back twice more this week. There are a few studios around Hampstead that I’m keen to try out, and either I’ll rotate between them or naturally gravitate towards one in my quest to find the ‘Barre2Barre of London.’ One thing is the workout itself; the social aspect, the way in which that place in Singapore became a second home, obviously takes time. But it did in Singapore too, I have to remember! I didn’t just walk in and know everyone on day 1. The first step is the thrilling feeling of the class and the vibe being the right fit. Check. The second is a smile. After these first few classes at Barrecore, I make sure to smile a lot, thank the teachers for wonderful classes, and chat about the practice….
Staying In. Cook at home; read, Hampstead film.
Going Out. Wine and snacks with my new friend, Alli, sustainable-bag-designer from the Lake District, at Granger and Co, where we talk about passions and managing expectations.
Sanoop & Singapore. Sanoop has his last day at Google Singapore this month, and we both think about all of the love, dedication, thoughtfulness, mindfulness, kindness, creativity, humour and imagination he brought to it… and besides being full of admiration, I feel very grateful and happy I get to keep experiencing those qualities.
Sanoop & London. One night, just before midnight, Sanoop arrives in London, home for good now. Such a deep, intense feeling of gratitude and happiness and calm and excitement 🙂 New in town and curious as ever, Sanoop spends his days roaming around all corners of London, exploring areas and venues to show and share with me later. He also finds a cleaner and takes care of a bunch of other domestic things. I’m conscious not to offload all of that on him; just because I have a 9-5 job and he has chosen to live and work differently, it doesn’t mean we aren’t equal in our responsibilities to build and maintain a cosy base. Cleaning is something I felt ambivalent about. In Singapore, it felt so natural to have a cleaner — “that’s what all expats do” (wow, that sounds spoiled.. and it is!). In London… in Europe… I feel like it’s my duty to do the cleaning myself. And so I did for the first few weeks back here, telling myself that it felt so calming and satisfying. Soon, though, it turned into a matter of stress — I’d much rather spend my morning and evenings and weekends on exercising, cooking, reading, socialising, being outdoors. I had to admit to myself that I don’t enjoy cleaning. Sanoop has been upfront about his aversion to cleaning all along — he’s all for getting a cleaner. That’s what he grew up with in India, and that’s what he kept on having in America and Hong Kong after leaving his parents’ house, in which it was his mum’s chore. Alas, he finds us a cleaner — kind, conscientious, thorough, quick, reliable, perfect. Leaving all of the non-work time for us to have fun. We explore Hampstead — restaurants, jazz club, quaint leafy streets, the Heath, Highgate Cemetery, Primrose Hill…
Office Karaoke.
Heath Morning. On quite a few of these spring mornings, rather than barre, my entire body is aching to go for a walk in the fresh sunshine on the Heath, with all of the energy and promise of a good day ahead that it holds in its luminous rays, chirping birds and fresh green colours. My heart is craving the simplicity of these natural sights, sounds, smells. The freshness, the positivity of a spring morning. Fascinated by physical needs shifting in tune with seasonal changes.
Connecting with Girlfriends at Home and at Cafes across London. And one of the Fridays of this month, I pick up a friend from Copenhagen at London Bridge, just arrived from Gatwick, visiting over the weekend… home, tapas, she tells me she is pregnant, as most other friends in Copenhagen have told me at one point or another over the past two-four years, haha 🙂 Our weekend is as follows: early up, breakfast at home, cloudy and windy all day, walk through Heath, up the beautiful streets of Hampstead, happy to show her everything… coffee at Ginger & White… tube to Camden… walk Primrose Hill, Regents Park, Marylebone High Street, Daunt Books, lunch at Deliciously Ella, meander through Soho, glasses at Ace & Tate, Ham Yard Hotel tea while waiting for glasses to be made, Covent Garden. Hampstead, dinner at Horseshoe… Sunshiny morning. Wake up refreshed with the sun. Sanoop makes us chai. We walk across the Heath — first stop, Parliament Hill, view… muddy puddles.. along Ponds… Kenwood House, coffee, rose garden… meadows, dogs… coffee at Bunny Yawn… overground to Shoreditch High Street Station… Spitalfields Market, dumplings.. walk over to Barbican to watch the documentary about the ponds on Hampstead Heath, followed by a live Q&A with the director. Such a sweet, sweet experience. Our neighbourhood. Our London. Culturally exciting London. Afterwards, our friend gets a taxi to the airport from the cinema. Sanoop and I walk up through a sleepy city, Shoreditch, end up at Mikkeller, where he drinks a pint in a window seat, while I go on a spontaneous 10k run with the running club, feels like the right thing, incredible energy, community, confident, strong, light, Columbia Road, Haggerston park, Broadway, London Fields, further up, round, back, cheerful conversations with new running mates… back, free beer… Sanoop and I walk down to to grab dinner at Boxpark and take the overground home. Long shower. Early to bed.
Spring vibes. Cherry trees and magnolia, fragrances, freshness, people out and about… still light after work, walk with colleague along canal to Primrose Hill, watch lights across the city at dusk … I read Normal People by Sally Rooney in bed, wake up 5:30 with the sun each day… yoga, barre, chai with Sanoop… he walks me to work along the canal.
Office Buddies. At work I have such an amazing team, beyond anything I could ever dream of. 9 women sitting at desks surrounding my desk, with whom I have so much in common — books, culture, positive outlook on life, creativity… they are all funny, quirky, kind, considerate women with EQs as high as their IQs. One day, my manager brings an orchid for each of us, one of my team mates suggests we name them, we all come up with names … one girl suggests a meditation club … we always recommend each other insightful, thought-provoking videos, articles, decks… comfort each other when needed. I am very grateful.
Housewarming. On the next-to-last Saturday of the month, Sanoop and I host a housewarming party at our flat. Lovely evening with all of the people we know and love across our new hometown. Such a sweet feeling to look around our living room and see all of those happy, smiling faces, and people who didn’t know each other before chatting and laughing together. Late that evening, I fly to Lagos, Nigeria for a week-long work trip.

Nigeria

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 00.21.27Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 00.20.51Peaceful red-eye flight. I’m the only non-African onboard. I sit next to a Nigerian woman, who is a lawyer in Lagos and who, after telling me this fact, falls asleep kneeling down on the floor turned towards her seat, with her head and arms leaning across the seat. When she eventually wakes up, she asks me to strap her bra for her. Despite what everyone had been warning me about, the horrors of the airport, the high probability of airport officials holding back my passport and bags and trying to bribe me, the risk I might have to call my company’s security people as they might not show up on time, my arrival goes really smoothly: everyone is so friendly and welcoming, wishing me a great first visit to their beautiful country, and the security guys are there, and the driver, and there’s wifi in their car. The air is hot like in Kerala, and we drive through equal measures of lush greenery and sad slum areas. As we cross the lagoon to Victoria Island, Sanoop calls me. He was born in Nigeria. “Sanuu” means “hello” in the Hausa dialect — his parents added an “s” to this; he was already very social as a kid, and always said hello to everyone he met. My dad calls me as well; he too was once in Lagos — when he as a very young man sailed aboard a freight ship from Denmark to Nigeria. Get to my hotel, and meet my team: 1 PM, 2 engineers, 1 research designer from Seattle and one researcher from Mountain View. Such a friendly, energetic bunch. There’s a good dynamic — everyone is comfortable and eager to talk and share professional as well as personal insights, but also very good listeners and good at just chilling, being. Perfect for an intense research immersion trip. This is not like my work trips to New York, where everyone stays at their own hotel and does their own thing. This is an intense research immersion trip, where we stick together as a group for 6 long days of adrenaline-fuelled work. Only touristy activity: we all head out to check out the Lekki Arts & Crafts Market. Food all week: fried plantains, alobhaji, boiled yams and bean paste for breakfast at the hotel; packed sandwich lunches in the car between meetings; restaurant team dinners to debrief and chill. Work consists of 4 elements: 1) in-home interviews with Lagosians of all socioeconomic backgrounds on how they move around in their vibrant city; 2) co-design workshops at our local office with all sorts of people; 3) riding a Danfo to get a sense of what informal transit in Lagos is like; 4) analysing our insights together, feeling that our souls are on fire and we’re on our way to doing meaningful, impactful work.

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