December 5, 2018 § Leave a comment

I wrote something for an assignment which I thought finally made sense to me in all these years studying history.

It’s not the most coherent or cogent of all things I have written in all my years doing history at a higher level; but the writing of it was both very difficult and cathartic at the same time. I thought I’d immortalize it here, if anyone’s interested, of course:

Under One Roof with the Authoritarian Leviathan: A Gendered Reflection of the PAP and My Father



October 23, 2018 § Leave a comment

I learned to make bubble tea yesterday.

After years of trying (and failing) to make decent tea, i finally managed to make a decent cup. It’s so difficult to get the exact proportions especially when milk is involved. But the secret isn’t in the milk or sugar — but the amount of leaves used in each brew. I mean quality matters, but i’m pretty sure our bubble tea chains in Singapore don’t focus that much on it. Also, i’ve never been able to crack the code behind good bubble tea, and i now know why the Western boba bullshit tastes like that — it’s the Chinese tea that changes the equation yo. In any case, i’ve been very enthusiastic reading up on tea and its history and how to make different brews, and i wish this enthusiasm could be reflected elsewhere in my work.

I also left home in a fit of anger last Thursday in the middle of the night. Literally nothing happened and nobody at home realised i wasn’t at home until some 18 hours later. In any case, i was suddenly overcome with a heavy bout of loneliness and resentment and in the heat of the moment, i decided i needed to leave to compose myself. Suddenly not having a room in school is so difficult because there were no friends whose rooms i could escape to to seek refuge. Divya’s mom also came back, so that meant that her place — which i probably would have gone to immediately — was out. The only other person left was Bun, and so i went. I reached unannounced, and as i accurately guessed, he was fast asleep, probably trying to compensate for the lack of sleep from rushing to submit assignments the day before or something.

I’m not sure why either, but there were no questions asked when he took me in — almost like he’d expected it; maybe he was just too sleepy to question it. In any case, it was cathartic reliving the borderline-claustrophobic experience of being in the same small space together. It was nice that this sanctity of our safe space still was preserved even when the whole of my room was not in the equation anymore. And in this safe space there’s a lot of unloading of misery and angst and sadness as a result of conversations which were all too serious. But last Thursday was nice — Bun and I spoke about nothing of significance; and at some point we sat next to each other without finding the need to fill the space with conversation. And i think when he first told me that he could find a safe space in the silence between he and i, the whole notion seemed all too dramatic and idealized. But i now realise that it’s true — we could find solace in each other for now.

It’s strange because i usually talk about my problems to dissect and understand it to feel better. Maybe age has caught up with me and i now find myself discarding these  concerns far more quickly than before. It was like as if i could find resolution without proper resolution now, and I’d honestly find such a behaviour lazy and cowardly last time, but it’s true it’s easier to cast all worries aside. It’s what some people would call selfish, but i don’t think i really care to think about these mundane issues now.


May 28, 2018 § Leave a comment

Wow the last time i wrote anything on this platform was six months ago.

Six months feels like a long time and it almost feels like something cosmic from within me has changed. But again, i get reminded of the continuities that i perpetuate as a being.

I was in Europe some six months ago, alone. To-date, it’s hardly believable that i trudged around countries i’ve never been before for a whole month by myself. On most days, i get reminded of the wonder i had for this world, but on some other days — like today, i feel a whole lot of regret for not maximising my time and Vienna, choosing, instead, to like in bed. I feel, also, sorry for the the resentment and hate and negativity i inflicted on the people who have shown the most care for me. And for the people I have constantly taken for granted.

Earlier today, i met QP for dinner, and as usual, his wisdom was very much welcome.

It was cathartic for me that i got to share — that i could freely talk about the conflict i feel from within wrt to a boy. I care very deeply for a boy and there is no doubt i have strong feelings for him. I don’t doubt that he has feelings for me either. But this is life — and people aren’t like puzzle pieces. Just because he and i have feelings for each other, the puzzle pieces which are essentially manifestations of us won’t necessarily click perfectly to fit each other. Maybe it isn’t the right time; maybe we aren’t ready for each other; or maybe he isn’t ready for me. At this point in time, the possibilities are endless and i remain conflicted and puzzled, throwing my hands up in the air in defeat.

What is going on? I do not know.

I don’t know many things, but i know this: I care for him and i don’t doubt his sincerity in caring for me; and it’s enough. What can i say? I am so so so thankful to have him. I constantly wonder if this is real life and if giving myself a tight slap in the face will awaken me from what can only be a sweet dream, and then i realise… it doesn’t matter. If this is a dream then so be it — let this be my reality then.


December 20, 2017 § Leave a comment

I’m in my hotel room right now.

But this room must be more of an attic than anything else. I’m sitting on my bed as i’m writing this, not because it’s more comfortable, but because there is no desk. I’m just done with my shower after I’d been out the whole day. And here i am – it’s just me.

I can’t help but question myself: Is this what i want? What do i even want?

Yesterday i was midway through my Eastern Europe leg, and according to the calendar, it says that i have been on the road for ten days already. For the first time ever, i felt like i had time to myself to think about what i was doing. Previously, for the most part, my inner historian and photographer were busy in competition with each other – i wanted to learn more, but i want to shoot more too. But i was early to the airport yesterday, and it was quiet. I was watching this little Korean girl, who cannot be more than ten, play like she’s been playing for at least three decades. And, out of the blue, i couldn’t help but ask myself: What am i doing? I think i was texting Jiong when this thought suddenly hit me, and i couldn’t help but to externalize this thought in a text message to him.

It must be silly, what i just asked. It’s like as if i’m regretting all of this.

But i don’t.

I wouldn’t be surprised if people thought that this is it – i am living my dreams right now. It’s not completely untrue – i am! I finally got to visit London (after all the Hong Kong dramas i had watched tearfully)! And for a while, because i’d been so consumed with trying to juggle my exams and having to plan this whole trip, i think – for a moment – i thought this would be it too. But when i think back to July when the tickets to London were booked, i realised that what i wanted was not just to visit these cities for the photos or the history. I think, in all the hustle, i forgot that what truly compelled me was – the unknown.

I’d become so paranoid on this trip that i was planning things way ahead of myself, and arranging flight after train ride after flight to these different cities. I can see why people venture to city after city all the time – it must be quite exciting for some people to be able to boast about having visited so many new countries. I’d initially just wanted to stay in the UK for the month; but speaking to my friends about Europe got me so excited that i decided to go to Eastern Europe and let Nigel pick which cities i’d go. It was only midway through texting Jiong that it suddenly occurred to me: To what end? Why the fuck am i even traveling and wasting so much money on it?

What do i want? What am i doing? 

I asked these questions before it was time for boarding, and he couldn’t reply me in time because his back “FUCKING PAIN” – just as well, not like i could find these answers in anyone else right? And in the same moment, my head also fucking pain la wtf. No big deal, because i’m always armed with painkillers everywhere i go. I popped two and hopped on the plane. And while my mind was consumed by the opiate-induced fog, the plane began to take off and the sun’s rays hit the inside of the cabin. We were quite literally flying into the sunset. At that moment, i was half asleep and high on painkillers and a realisation, clear as day, came to me – i have been to so many places in my life, but i have yet to find somewhere i feel like completely belong. I mean, everyone who knows me would know that i like to think of myself as “damn Singaporean.” And yes i do possess all the characteristics of what you’d call a Singaporean (e.g. competently order food at a hawker centre in four different languages and possibly two different dialects all in the same breath), but… i don’t even feel completely myself when i’m at home.

And ok it’s not like i’m traveling to so many different places because i want to find somewhere where i think i truly belong, because i know for a thing that Singapore is as close to belonging as i can ever be.

Okay, so we’re back to square one: WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING?!

To be honest, i’m not sure, but i think i will need to talk about my day. So today, i met a Singaporean family while i was touring Prague, and we even went for a boat ride together. They even invited me for dinner, and then it hit me that today is the first time in Eastern Europe that i met another Singaporean. And… it was nice y’know, to be able to speak in rapid singlish to someone else without having to slow down, explain, or repeat myself while i was speaking. I also met the most candid and funny guide i’ve come across in ages – she’s an old lady who’s lived through the Prague Spring, and when i asked her about the religious composition in Prague, she replied, “Czechs have to work on Friday, so we can’t be Muslim; we have to work on Saturday, so we can’t be Jewish; we have to work on Sunday, so we can’t be Christian. We have no time for religion!” Meeting her was nice too, i learned so much from her. And then after dinner, i went to the Town Square where the Christmas market was set up to try and take some pictures. I didn’t get many good ones, but when i was in front of the huge ass tree, it began to snow. My weather app said “light snow” but “light” is such an understatement. At an instant, everyone’s faces softened and there was no negativity and everywhere everyone was smiling to whoever they came to the market with. This man who was carrying doves, trying to make some money off people who wanted to take photos with them suddenly came up to me and made me carry his doves and took my phone from me and started to snap photos of me. He couldn’t speak English and i couldn’t speak Czech, but we shared a lot of laughter. In conclusion: The whole of today was so nice it made my heart swell.

I’m still really fuzzy about this, but i guess it’s this feeling i’ve constantly been trying to recapture over and over and over and over again in life. And i think all of the decisions i’d made so far which has culminated in this trip is the result of my attempts, which are sometimes valiant, to get just a bit closer to feeling this way. I thought actually seeing London would make me feel this way – but it didn’t. I don’t know la, this is not me trying to “find myself” (wtf damn hippie) or me trying to find a connection with someone. I think, this is just me – finding.

After a lot of thought, i conclude that the answer to “WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING?” probably lies in this trip itself. It’s a little meta la, but this trip is me trying to find out what the fuck i’m doing. I’m searching for something, but i really don’t know what it is.


December 18, 2017 § Leave a comment

Today spent some time walking around Warsaw by myself.

I mean, i kind of did the same thing yesterday too. But i didn’t write yesterday haha.

Before i carry on, i need to write about how wonderful the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews was. I mean, i’ve been around a little bit, and i think i’ve seen quite a number of museums i’ve had the fortune to visit across the globe. Most of them are good – they are informative and very nicely decorated. Good number of items on display as well. But this museum that i’d went to today was just out of the world. Extremely immersive and impressive – and if you know me, you’d know i rarely get impressed. I have never gone to another museum that was so well-integrated. I mean, everything was there for a reason and the layout was fantastic; the colours were great. If a wall was built slanted, it was done so for a good reason; if the floors felt like they were going to cave through, it was done so intentionally; and if you had to climb even one flight of stairs, you were doing so because it meant something. If you saw my instastory (if not you should go have a look at it now!), you’d see that i took a video of a section that was meant to look like a coffee shop in Poland in the 19th century. And my goodness, the whole area smelled like coffee and the clinking of coffee cups and white noise of people speaking were played from concealed speakers through the walls. If you were there personally, you’d know that it was a really small section of the museum; and yet, so much thought was put into the creation of this. I mean this is a prime example to show that people can achieve anything you desire, as long as we put our minds to it. The audio guides too! They were paced so well and were so instructive and informative. Yknow one thing dangerous about having these audio guides is the fact that it might make the exhibits irrelevant – but there was no overlap and everything was complementary.

I went into it not expecting much, because i had a really great day earlier, and the museum looked too fancy and nicely decorated to have any depth to it – yknow… some more “contemporary” ones only focus on the aesthetic, right? But the curator behind this museum must have had PhDs (yes plural) in the study of the history of Polish Jews and in museum studies. I don’t know how, but the interior designer of that place must also be very very well versed in Polish history for everything to gel so nicely together. Aiya i can’t even master the political history of the 20th century post-War Singapore history, so i really cannot imagine how much the people behind this museum must have studied and researched to create such a… masterpiece. Don’t get me wrong, i’m still Singaporean, but as a critically objective historian, Singapore has such shitty curators and museum designers. We are always striving for excellence, but this is an area that we are completely lacking in. Singapore’s museums are just “ok let’s put this here and this there and some lights here – ok liao,” either that or: “MORE WORDS MORE WORDS THE DESIGN OF IT DOESN’T MATTER – JUST PUT WORDS.” I know we lack the space, but clearly Singaporeans aren’t stupid, so i don’t know why we can’t channel it into something more worthy of praise? I think one excuse that the Singaporeans in this field use is the lack of space – and it is very compelling – but Singaporeans are very creative with space (case in point: Old Ford Factory Museum and Gardens by the Bay). It all boils down to how willing we are to invest in this field, and clearly the state hasn’t seen the significance of how much prestige this can yield (since are always about face, right?), there’s not enough money invested to hire truly qualified people (tbh, they don’t need to be Singaporeans if they can do the job better than us) to create something good.

Ok i took too long to type all of it out, as usual. But the museum was soooooooo good. Okay but the thing’s that a lot of the museum was underground and there was no signal, so i just lost track of time and i was supposed to meet this dude i met for dinner, but i just… forgot about it. Sorry la, learning over men ok.

I wanted to write about how wonderful my day was at the park and at the science centre (because the sun was insane in the afternoon), but i think nothing can compare with what i’d experienced at this museum. Oh i went to the Warsaw Uprising Museum which somehow seems more popular than this one and thought it was amazing, but this just managed to top it. Polish history museum curators are out of this world man – Singapore pls faster pay them a lot of money and poach them over!

Anw, i said that i’ll upload pictures right? No surprises there, but everyday by like 5pm i am so exhausted (read: lazy) and too tired to edit photos and upload them. I’ll do it though – one day!


September 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

Everything exhausts me these days.

I have fewer than 12 hours of sleep and i’m so tired i can barely wake for the next day. But who the fuck has the time to spend 12 hours sleeping?

I hate to admit this, but coming home exhausts me. I’m so afraid to come home because i’m afraid of being answerable to people – people whom i care deeply for. How will i ever answer all the questions they have for me if i don’t have these answers myself?


September 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

Today my friend threw a hypothetical question to the floor.

It’s kind-of-sort-of controversial. My stand on it was very clear, and i could express my views on it very clearly. Some of them spent some time thinking about it and struggled with it. But i think we all could form our own conclusions of what we wanted to do in the hypothetical situation. One thing was clear from it – i have crossed a line and made decisions that put me in the position of a minority. And it was not something i could elucidate. I don’t regret what i’ve done wrt to this situation (mostly), but i guess i couldn’t help wishing i were more. And that i could feel better about myself in general.

To be fair though, i feel like this semester has seen me become more forgiving of myself in general. I have come to accept some things in life, and a general acceptance of what will become of me has significantly contributed to lowering my expectations of myself. I think that’s good if that means i’m more forgiving of myself, right? I can’t finish all 12 readings for this module for this week – oh that’s ok; i don’t want to commit myself to joining other people for a night’s out because i don’t feel like it – yep that’s fine; i make decisions and stay accountable for it even when people think poorly of my decision – i think that these are standards we should hold ourselves to.

I guess this is also, in general, me becoming more principled. I see myself walking away from situations that i don’t feel comfortable in. Or actually speaking out and standing up for the things that i think are wrong. Not everyone takes well to candour, but i can deal with people who want to stop hanging out with me if they feel like my direct telling them of what i feel about them is unacceptable compared to if i were to talk about them poorly behind their backs. I’m not necessarily right in this, but these are my principles. What’s the point if we were to spend all our precious hours sitting around and talking bad about someone else if that only makes us angrier right? And how can we justify claiming to be better than others if we’re merely badmouthing people behind their backs, right? Conclusion: we have to accept who we are and maybe stop pretending we are actually better.

of belonging – some photos