Saturday, May 31, 2014

Healthy Days!

Hi everyone!

So I've been off the blogosphere for a bit - for a couple of reasons!
1) No time (work has been insaaaaane this week!)
2) I've started working out!
3) I'm focusing on eating right!

Now, whenever I tell people I've started working out, I'm inevitably greeted by eye rolling and 'Pfft, bitch, you don't need it' - that type of a response. I don't need to lose weight, but I realize as the years have rolled around my metabolisme has slowed down. That, and I'm trying to eat a little healthier, and live a bit healthier.

Let me give you an example of a typical day in my life.

If I have a particularly stressful day at work, I inevitably order fried chicken. This is just what happens. Sometimes I don't know how stressed I am till I find myself in front of a KFC. (There's this super delicious chicken franchise called 4 Fingers in Singapore, but they've moved out of the shopping centre that's on my way home from work, so this made me very angry).

Anyway, last Friday I came home and had my own KFC party. I don't just order a snack plate. I ordered a dinner plate, extra mashed potatoes, and I finished off with ice cream.

Then on Sunday, I woke up at 3pm because I was just way too exhausted, so I ordered McD. And i didn't order one meal, I ordered two. A quarter pounder, fries, a large Pepsi, a Filet-o-Fish (or is it Fish O Filet? I always get it upside down), corn in a cup and the most delicious caramel frappe. (OMG, it's soooo good!)

So as you can see, I have a pretty unhealthy lifestyle. I was looking at my tummy on Sunday night, which, after having my KFC and McDonald parties, was resembling the stomach of a four month pregnant woman, when I decided that I really need to start eating healthier.

It's not about losing weight. I mean, partly I do want to tone up (and lose the preggy looking belly) but I think that it's time to stop stuffing my body with so much unhealthy food. I read that a bloated tummy has 3 causes - stress, sugar, sleep.

My main goal for this week was to cut out sugar and sodium (or salt, if I want to be less fancy about it). And when I started making an obvious effort to watch what I eat, I realized how unhealthily and unconsciously I was eating!

This week, I stopped drinking anything with sugar, so no sodas or fizzy drinks. If I drink tea, I drink it unsweetened. But, I decided to give myself a loophole so not to be too extreme about things. I always find that if i'm too extreme, things aren't sustainable. I allow myself a maximum of one drink with sugar in it (Milo / juice) as opposed to the three sweet drinks I used to consume a day. That, and I'm now drinking 2 litres of water a day (which used to be like..maximum 1 cup.)

I've been good, no fast food and no cup noodles for this week! I know it's only a week, but fast food and cup noodles are usually a staple in my diet! I know, terrible right? So, off to a good start, and I went grocery shopping to buy healthier snacks.

Then - the workout. I've been having a blast doing Blogilates! If you haven't heard of this, you should totally Youtube it, or go to her site. I LOVE Cassey Ho. She's so chirpy and fun and she makes working out fun. My goal for the week was to workout every day for a minimum or 20-30 minutes, and spend 3 times a week doing a full 1 hour workout. I managed to keep to this but Thursday and Friday I really didn't exercise because I finished work a bit too late, but I'm going to catch up over the weekend!

It's nice, because when you eat cleaner, your body feels 'cleaner' too, and there's kind of a fresher feeling. I don't feel so sluggish and tired anymore, too!

I swam an hour earlier, and I'm resting now before I start doing an hour of Pilates. Oh, and since I was on a huge roll, I went and bought lots of yoga and Zumba Groupons..hee hee..

Off to do Blogilates now! Later guys!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Is It Wrong to Enjoy Too Much Alone Time?

I spent most of the weekend lying in bed, completely passed out because I caught a cold. It’s probably a combination of factors – the travel, the damned air-conditioning, the schedule, and, ta-dah, it’s flu season!

So living alone does have its downsides – especially when you’re sick. There’s no one to feed you porridge. You have to get up and make your own porridge. I spent about 20 hours in bed on Friday, and by another 15 hours in bed on Saturday. I was feeling a little better on Saturday so I did manage to get out of bed for a quick coffee and dinner with a friend, and now, here I am, Sunday stretching out lazily before me.

Here’s the thing I was wondering, as I was lolling in bed. I’ve been awake for two hours and still haven’t left my bed. Whether it’s because my head genuinely hurts or I’m just being pure lazy, I’m not sure.

I genuinely enjoy being alone. In fact, I’m a little worried I’ve started enjoying being alone a little bit too much. I think this does have something to do with moving to a new environment, quitting Facebook and Instagram, and changing my old number. I’ve effectively turned myself into a hermit, and I’m not sure consciously or subconsciously, am avoiding interaction with people.

Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of people I really like, and I’d make the effort to go out with, especially if they’re in town. Honestly, if you really like people, it won’t be an effort to go out with them. It’s only shitheads that you’re obligated to go out with (although I’ve learned to stop feeling obligated and started saying no very unapologetically) is when you have to make a big old diddly effort.

Am I just tired, in general? Is that why I really prefer spacing out on weekends with my TV and laptop than with people? I just find being with people rather draining, and I seem to be in a very bear-like mode of needing constant hibernation. The girl I was a year ago is very different from the one I am today. I was always out, I had plans for every meal, I was constantly on Facebook and Instagram. Today, I’m always home, I sometimes make specific appointments with myself (yes, myself) so that I can eat alone and I’m no longer hooked on social media.

While being alone and having a quiet time is a refreshing change, I wonder if it is a necessarily good thing. Whilst I think it’s good I don’t have to depend on other people in order to be happy (to a degree), I think that it could possibly enrich my life if I made more effort with people.

I’m always reading Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits, and he talks about spending time to make and discover good, nourishing relationships. The only nourishing relationship I’ve been working on, is with my TV. And with Law and Order SVU, which by the way, is the best show in the planet!

Maybe I’ve had too many negative experiences with people which is what makes me space out and not want to make an effort anymore. Or maybe, I just focus too much on the negative and have let it override the positive.

My family and friends are always telling me I should go out more. This is a bit ironic, since they used to tell me I go out too much. I guess, at the end of the day, life is all just about balance.

But I think I’m going to have one final day of peace and rest, and then attack the social world tomorrow.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Living Within Your Means

           This is a really simple saying that is just filled with common sense – but somehow, most people can’t seem to abide by it. By most people, I’m including myself.

            Before I begin, I’m not in any kind of debt at all, but that’s because I have been lucky enough to have been supported by my parents and not taken any loans. My current commitment that I have is my monthly rent, and maybe a little bit of insurance, but that’s about it.

            See, I used to think if I earned more money, I would be set. I would maintain the same lifestyle I’d always had, and put all the excess money in a savings account.

            In theory, it works, in practice, it really doesn’t. A lot of people have also told me that when your salary increases, so does your lifestyle. I didn’t believe them.
            Silly me.

            I’ve discovered it really is true, your lifestyle increases when your salary does. It’s a very gradual process too, one that you don’t realize is happening. At first, it’s a rush you get, that you can finally afford certain things you used to want, but could never afford. You get used to owning nicer stuff. You start going for nicer dinners, more often. Going to a fancy place isn’t a reserved only for special nights out like birthdays or celebrations, but now it’s just a weekend sort of activity.

            I’m going to be cutting down on my lifestyle, and I came to this realization when I came back to my hometown this weekend.
            I’m from a small town in Malaysia called Taiping – famous for being the wettest spot in Malaysia (cue the downpours), the Zoo and the Lake Gardens. It’s a quiet, sleepy little town, also known as the Pensioner’s Paradise (you can imagine why most of the youngsters scuttle off to Kuala Lumpur as soon as they can).

            For some reason, this trip home was a little bit of a culture shock. Maybe it’s the stark contrast of Singapore and Taiping – one is a bustling, busy, organized city with amaaaazing Internet speed, and the other is a really simple, quiet place with amazingly slow Internet. I think it could have been the change in route, normally when I come home from Singapore, I make a stopover in Kuala Lumpur, then only to Taiping so it’s a bit more of a gradual transition, but this time, I didn’t, because I found an airport nearer my hometown. (Yes, I only found it last month.)

            What’s great about Taiping is that a lot of it has remained unchanged. It’s developing slowly, but the main heart of the town is the same. I remember going to school as a kid, looking outside the window of my father’s car, and as I sat in the car again, I looked at all those same buildings, and it’s a little bit of a strange feeling, knowing that you’ve changed so much, but when you come home, things are the same.

            The nicest hotel in Taiping is called Flemington. I wanted to take my mother for a buffet dinner, so I googled it to get its phone number, and I was a bit amused to find that it was called a ‘budget hotel’ in TripAdvisor. There are no fancy hotels in Taiping. No Shangrila, no JW Mariott. People here move at a slower pace. The air is cleaner, the vibe of things are much slower and calmer. It’s a typical small town, with the typical charm that comes along with it.

            Coming home, and doing the things I loved the best – eating at my favourite food stalls, hanging out with my dog, sleeping, made me realize I really don’t need any of the fancy things in life. I guess none of us do, but we get very caught up in it, especially when we’re in an environment that thrives on material goods.

            Fancy dinners are so unnecessary. As clich├ęd as this sounds, money buys a lot of things but it really doesn’t buy affection. Case in point – my mom has this neighbor and today we were summoned over. She’s a really pretty Indian lady, and she has two sons, around the ages of maybe 10 and 14. I don’t know, I’m bad with ages, and boys all tend to be very short before hitting puberty so they can really be of any age! She takes care of two Chinese kids, one aged about 3 and one about 6.

            We went over, and she had baked a cake for my mom for Mother’s Day. It was really sweet, and all the kids gathered around to watch, giggling as they watched my mother’s reaction. It was quite cute too, they sang ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ in the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’.

            That made me realize a couple of things.

            It’s not about the money. It’s not about getting an expensive, extravagant, rich looking cake.

            Maybe I’ve forgotten a little bit about this in life, but it’s really about family, at the end of the day. It’s about being surrounded by your loved ones, and being rich in relationships and matters of the heart. It’s not about my new Furla handbag. It’s not about wearing Jimmy Choo shoes.

            It’s nice to come home, and remember my roots. To be honest, sometimes I forget my origins, but when I come home, I am so strongly reminded that I really am at heart a small town girl, and I’m proud to be one. I’m proud of my upbringing, of the house I grew up in, of the people who are so nice and caring in my town, and of everything that has made me who I am.

            I think I’m living the life of a typical, corporate climber in her twenties. I live in a studio apartment in a nice condo that has a gym, a Jacuzzi and three swimming pools. I blow a huge chunk of my salary on my rent. I blow another chunk of it on dinners, drinks and birthdays. I go for holidays, and treat myself to massages. I recently bought a new shoe cupboard because I have just too many damn shoes.

            It’s time to stop, and re-evaluate things. I think I could save a lot more money if I didn’t spend so much on unnecessary dinners and clothes and shoes. It’s time to invest more on people, and relationships, rather than on materials.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Perception of Beauty

I have always found the perception of beauty interesting.
Everywhere, there are different ideals of beauty.
Here, we want to be fair. We spend money on whitening creams, slathering ourselves in an effort to make ourselves two tones fairer.
I'll be honest with you, I have been guilty many times of using whitening products. I think I'm a pretty fair Chinese girl, and I don't need whitening creams. But somehow, I find myself sneakily reaching for one...
I've always found fair appealing, and I've never understood girls who got a tan. But recently, I started finding golden brown skin rather attractive. So when I went to the Philippines, I baked myself in the sun and even rubbed tanning oil on my stomach to make sure I was an even shade of brown!
So now, i've come back, and I'm feeling a little confused.
On one hand, I find myself too dark for my liking now. Maybe this idea of 'fair' is just so deeply rooted in me that it's hard to get out of my psyche.
On the other hand, when I see really fair girls on the street, I find them looking rather pasty and un-appealing looking. Tanned people look too brown.
So essentially, I find people either too dark or too fair. Everyone seems to be too yellow, too brown, too white, too pink, too patchy. Am I being very politically incorrect here? I really am talking about skin tone colour here. I'm also a little annoyed because I overdid the sunblock on my face when I was in the Philippines, so when I wear makeup I look like a mini geisha with white skin but with a brown body. It. is. Not. A. Good. Look.

I think my perception of beauty is shifting, but I'm unsure of what to. I do find that a tanned person looks like there's a little more character than a totally pasty white person, as if there's been a little injection of color in the skin.

But, beauty is really more than just a skin color. Dark, tan, fair. I grew up with the ideal that Western beauty was THE beauty. Big eyes, long lashes, nice noses. In that sense I think it's very similar to Indian beauty, because they have such amazing features. In comparison, my slitty eyes and small face seemed so insignificant. You grow up watching these Hindi movies where women are curvaceous, soft, with big, glamorous hair and perfect makeup. I, on the other hand, was a bean pole with glasses perched on my oily nose.

Fast forward now, and again I find my perception of beauty shifting. I now find myself gravitating very much to Chinese faces. I don't know if it's because of relevancy, but I rather like the oriental shape of the eye. Or maybe, this is just my subconscious way of self defense - I've grown up my entire life with people laughing at my small eyes (including Chinese people themselves). Which. Is. Annoying.

What I find great, though, is how diverse beauty and perceptions are. I had this guy friend, and we used to talk about who we found pretty and who we didn't. The people he found pretty, I found totally unappealing. Those that I found pretty, he was scratching his head. I guess males and females have different ideas of what's beautiful too. I found the girls he liked too feminine, too submissive looking. He found the girls i found pretty too outlandish.

Or maybe it's just a choice of preference.

it's interesting how our tastes evolve. I look at pictures of the clothes I used to wear and sometimes I am a little mortified and understand why my boyfriend asked me to change. (I was very angry when asked to back then)

What annoys me most, is people who try and force their perception of beauty (or perception of anything, for that matter) down another person's throat. Just leave it. Sometimes, we just find different things beautiful. Let it go.

To beauty, in all forms!  But most importantly, beauty on the inside, as cliched as that might sound, trumps it all.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Shallow Pools of Water

            I suppose the easier our lives are, the easier it is for us to start turning materialistic and shallow. I was watching BBC for a bit earlier, and they were covering the conflict situation in Rwanda, where refugees were constantly trying to escape. Escape was very difficult, with checkpoints crawling with armed militia.

            This isn’t even a situation happening 50 years ago, it’s happening now. Here, in Singapore, the biggest question I had for the day was whether I should get a 16GB or 32GB iPhone 5s. I think we often forget how lucky our lives are, that we are not in these chaotic situations where the loss of life is a commonplace event. And the easier our lives are, the more complacent we are with our security, we start looking for more things to be dissatisfied about. We covet bigger houses, bigger cards, prettier bags, more expensive shoes. Our phones need to be the latest phones, despite the fact most of us never even use (or maybe know) some of the latest functions and could do with, heavens forbid, not the latest phone.

            The people I can’t stand most in life, are shallow people who judge others on what they wear, especially on brands. Maybe I have a bit of a double standard here – I think it’s okay to judge someone on someone’s style, but not on their brands. I think style expresses individuality. But brands? We’re just hiding behind some fancy names in order to hide our own insecurities.

            No, you may hotly argue. Better brands are better quality. Better leather, better workmanship, better stitching. I agree with you, but let’s call a spade a spade. A lot of the people I know wear the brand name, not because they want better quality, but because they want to be associated with a brand name. That’s why imitation shit exist, folks. All for the brand name.

            It’s very sad when people feel smug over their newly purchased branded stuff, and crow over people who don’t have those things. At the same time, I feel this is the attitude of people who are not truly rich, and who are just sad bags of human skin. Really rich people who don’t need to prove a point buy all their branded stuff but they don’t yell about it. It’s a bit of an old money vs new money kind of behavior, and I find new money behavior extremely disgusting to the max. When all you talk about is your stuff, and not because you derive joy from it, but because you want to rub someone’s nose in it, I think it’s just really sad behavior.

            The point is, we have become more and more materialistic and shallow. Maybe this is a progression that’s natural – I was going to type, that can’t be helped, but I think it can be helped. We human beings are never pleased. We never want to be satisfied, or content. We chase for more!

            Something struck me today, and I’m not sure whether it is true or not but I’d like it to be my truth.

            The highest form of wealth is in the act of charity for others.

            If I judge myself on this scale, I’m very poor as of this moment. I don’t think I go out of my way to help people. I give up my seat on the train when someone older needs it, but that’s about the only act of charity I’ve been doing. I declutter and donate to Salvation Army, but that’s more because I want to get rid of stuff. I did email some volunteer homes in Singapore asking if they needed help, but they didn’t respond to me and in all honesty, I totally forgot I asked them too.

            What do we do, that actually help people?

            No, I’m not planning to do some big life-changing trip to help the poor in Africa or India. Rather, I’d like to make these changes, small changes to begin with, right here in Singapore. I’m going to look for a way to be able to enrich other people’s lives. Probably, not necessarily people I know (because they know me as a cranky old bat and I kind of like this description) but people I don’t know. Things like, being nice to cleaners. Buying a homeless person a meal. That kind of thing.

            I look at the Prada bag I bought 2 years ago, now lying forlornly on the floor of my apartment. It was such a rush of joy when I bought it 2 years ago. Finally, I could join the ‘rich people’ club! Finally, I was ‘cool’! I was ‘exclusive!’. You know what? It’s just a bag, at the end of the day. It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t make me better than anyone else, and it certainly doesn’t enrich my life. It probably works to enrich someone’s status…but why is it that what other people think of us are so important?

            An age-old question, I suppose, one that will probably exist for all time. And even when we understand the reasons behind why affirmation and inclusion is so important to us, we probably still won’t be able to deny the lure of it. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

It's More Fun In The Philippines!

Mabuhay, everyone!
Let me tell you all about my trip to the Philippines! No, it’s not going to be a whole load of self absorbed pictures of myself in some shameless bikini sipping a pina colada (very irritating those girls!) but just more about my trip. That, and my phone conked so I couldn’t take pictures. I can’t even spam you with annoying pictures if I wanted to.

So, I’d already made a couple of big mistakes with Philippines :
1)   Bought a flight to the wrong airport (Brilliant, really brilliant)
2)   Transit time from first flight to second was 8 hours, so my total journey from Singapore to Philippines took 14 hours (I could’ve gone to Germany, honestly!)

Here are a couple more of interesting facts :

We departed Singapore at 12 midnight, and landed in Manila at 4am. I really overestimated how tired we would be, so we took turns sleeping in a little bistro in the airport. The wait was okay, but the boarding gates were the most chaotic I’ve ever been to! Everyone was essentially given 10 minutes to board, where someone would yell ‘Flight XXX, board now! Please board now!’ and everyone would scurry about and board the plane. We were supposed to board at Gate 135 or something like that, but in the end we were told to ‘Board last gate from the left!’ And no kidding, there was a cardboard sign pasted on it saying ‘Last Gate’.

We boarded the plane at 12:30pm, where I promptly fell asleep, but I woke up an hour later feeling very hot and sweaty. I looked outside the window and I thought, ‘Ah! We’ve arrived!’ as I saw the plane rolling the runway. Then, to my surprise, the plane suddenly lifted into the air. I looked at my boyfriend.
“Eh, what’s happening? Why is the plane leaving again?”
“What do you mean leaving?” he stared at me.
“Ya, why are we flying now!”
“The flight has been delayed, we’ve been just sitting in the plane for the past 1 hour!”
No wonder it was so ridiculously hot too.

So our beloved plane was delayed and we only ended up reaching the resort at four in the afternoon. It’s quite cool though, the little airport at Coron. It is a teeny weeny airport, and when planes land they have four people in traditional outfits playing the drums as a welcome. Honestly, it feels extremely welcoming! We were then picked up by the resort transfer, and ‘Gangnam Style’ started blasting through the radio.

I like the Philippines. Everywhere I went, there was fun music! It puts one in such a happy, holiday mood!

The ride to the resort was very bumpy, as there was a dirt road (no proper cement roads) and its surrounded by really untouched scenery. It’s rather rural, with a lot of huts and cows ambling lazily along, and my boyfriend, being from Germany, found this really exciting. I wasn’t half as excited as my hometown slightly resembles this, heh heh, but what I found slightly disturbing was the stark contrast of how luxurious the resort was, when two minutes away there were little huts.

The resort was really nice, I would totally recommend anyone to go there. It’s called Busuanga Bay Lodge, google it! Initially I thought it was a little expensive, but after leaving it, I honestly felt it was worth every penny, because I’d had a really great stay.

I won’t bore you with my stories of snorkeling and tanning (what’s there to tell?) other than the fact when I came back to Singapore I realized I don’t like having a tan and want to be fair. But the flight back was delayed because Obama was in Manila and none of the flights could land! My boyfriend threw a very hissy fit (I was highly embarrassed of him) but then I got very happy when they diverted our flight to Cebu instead so we weren’t affected by the flight delay.

Filipino food is really delicious though, and the people are incredibly helpful and smiley. It’s also great that most of them all speak English so getting around was easy, and I think it’s really in their culture to just be really nice and accommodating. I’m not talking about people at the resort, because I’m sure they’re trained for that, and they really had very exceptional service, but even people you meet in the airport and if you ask passerbys questions.

A sad thing is that my phone got water in it, so I dumped it in a large bowl of rice (Google it if you haven’t heard of this technique before!) but unfortunately it’s still not working. It’s okay though, I’ve had my good ol Iphone 4 for about 4 years now and it’s served me well (plus it’s never failed me despite me dropping it on a daily basis).

I met a lady named Corrie Batchelor on the plane. She owned one of the resorts in Busuanga, and she told us that it was a really good choice that we had come to Busuanga instead of Boracay because Boracay had just become too touristy. I think it’s good for people who are really into nightlife and love crowds, but I’ve turned into some sort of a hermit old lady that really likes seclusion and space. Busuanga was perfect for that! We were the only couple on one of the islands that we went to, that’s how secluded it was. And it was great to snorkel without bumping into another thousand tourists. It felt like the sea was ours!

It’s really more fun in the Philippines! And the food! The food was so yummy! I’m now a firm advocate of Pork Longanisa, which is now my all time favourite breakfast food.  I’d been to Phuket and Bali before, but I really enjoyed my trip to Busuanga the most. It’s probably not a very fair comparison (I think a more fair one would be to compare Boracay vs Phuket and Bali), but I had a great time, and best for me, I came back with lots of inspiration to write!