an unexpected encounter

slice of life 2014

I got off the elevator and headed towards my apartment. To my surprise, I saw the door wide open to the apartment next to mine. The door was never wide open, unlike the other neighbor down the hall that leaves their door open quite often. I could peer into the long hallway that led to their open living room and dining table. Right outside the open door, crouched next to their new rectangular white shoe rack outside their door, was the older auntie tidying the shoes.

My apartment door is literally right next to my neighbor’s at a ninety degree angle. I had my key in my right hand and as I walked up to my door, she greeted me with a hello. I said hi back and then proceeded to put my key into the lock.

“Happy new year,” she said quietly and I turned to face her. This was the first time I met my neighbor. It did seem a bit strange, that I never met my neighbors earlier. They had been living there for a little less than a year.  We literally live right next to each other, sharing walls, and a few steps from each other’s front door, but I never see them. I did like how they were a bit festive and put up decorations on their door for Chinese New Year and also for Christmas.

As I started talking to her she asked me where I was from. I guess she could tell from my accent that I wasn’t a local. Then, she had her daughter come over and we started to chat. I found out she was from Malaysia, and I also found out that her daughter enjoys kimchi (after I told her I was Korean). She hospitably told me to come over for tea anytime.

Maybe I’m just not neighborly enough to introduce myself to the neighbors in my hallway (only 3 other apartments on my floor), but I rarely see any of them. It’s funny because growing up on a suburban dead end street, I knew all of my neighbors. I knew their kids. I knew if they gave good Halloween candy. I would often babysit for them.

Yet, here in Singapore, I’ve found it harder to meet and know my neighbors in my apartment building. It’s probably partly my fault. Maybe the next holiday season I can bake them something? Or will they feel obliged to bring me something in return? Or maybe I can just wait and see if I can run into them more casually?

The slice of life challenge is hosted by The Two Writing Teachers. Join us in this month long blogging challenge!


spare time

I found myself with some spare time in between appointments on Saturday. So what does one do? Obviously walk around and take photos. I walked the same streets that I usually walk by, but this time, I paused at the different street corners. I took in all the sites that I’m normally walking too quickly in between to notice. As I started taking some photos, I took in the vibrant colors on buildings, the long window shutters, the tree shadows on buildings and the lush greens that invaded the tight city spaces.

I’m hoping that this month, through this slice of life challenge, I will take a moment to stop, breathe in my surroundings, and reflect on all that is around me through my words and photos. I might need to take more long walks with just my camera and myself. I might need to reflect on my classroom and job as a teacher. Or, I might need to just write and see what takes form.

Here are some photos from my walk by Duxton Hill, Singapore.

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The slice of life challenge is hosted by The Two Writing Teachers. Join us in this month long blogging challenge!

slice of life 2014

weekend are made for…

slice of life 2014

Weekends are made for wandering. Luckily, I have friends that are willing to explore with me. On Saturday, we battled the signature midday Singapore heat for some good photos and outdoor brunch by the marina at Keppel bay. I mean who doesn’t love sitting out in the sun, with the view of fancy yachts, pancakes with bacon, and good company?

Weekends are made for pressing the snooze button. I won’t lie, I do press the snooze button during the week as well. However, I feel less guilty about it during the weekend when you don’t need to be somewhere right away. This morning, I stayed in bed, and simply enjoyed the bliss.

Weekends are made for blogging. I admit it, I’ve been pretty bad with blogging this past year. I haven’t kept up with blogging for my two blogs. And up until an hour ago, I was seriously not sure if I should commit to the slice of life challenge (blogging everyday for the month of March) this month. I went through quite a few reasons to not participate, but I found myself in front of my laptop. After much contemplation, a glass of wine, house of cards playing in the background, and a lot of revisions, here’s my first slice for the month of March.

And of course, some photos from the photo walk! :) singapore15-0305singapore15-0291singapore15-0289singapore15-0295 singapore15-0306singapore15-0286singapore15-0308singapore15-0328singapore15-0330

the expat life: is it worth it?

After a few hours of marinating about 11 kilograms of meat for the Korean bbq we were planning for an unconventional Chinese New Year dinner with my friends, my fingers were getting numb and it was getting pretty late.  Some of the meat was still thawing in bowls, my kitchen counter was a mess (full of marinade) and my hands smelled like frozen meat which wasn’t pleasant. Sometimes, in those rare reflective moments, I wonder, is it worth it? Moving 15,323 miles from NY to a country you’ve never been to with no family, no friends, and no idea what may come. Yet, the decision to move seemed pretty simple to me at the time. Singapore was where I wanted to be and I had just gotten my dream job.

Even though, I was already overseas when I decided to move to Singapore, I can’t really count living in Seoul as getting the full expat experience. I had been to Seoul several times growing up, and I had a lot of extended family plus my younger brother living there as well. During holidays I had family members inviting me their homes, cousins I could meet up with, and the culture was very familiar to me. So moving to Singapore was more of the expat experience in one way, by being completely new to the country and not having the family ties.

Back to marinating loads of thawing meat in my kitchen and feeling a bit anxious about the bbq. Would there be enough food? Would the meat turn out well? Should I taste some of the meat beforehand? How would we keep the meat fresh while being outside for the bbq? Despite all the little questions in my head, I forged ahead and realized that some of the meat I wouldn’t be able to marinate today because it was still rock hard frozen and waiting for it to thaw past midnight did not seem like a logical choice. So I chose to sleep, and would marinate the rest of the remaining meat in the morning.

The next day, I kept seeing loads of people in Singapore uploading Chinese New Year family photos. It was quite a fun phenomenon on my facebook and instagram feed. Everyone with their families, in their new outfits (sometimes matching in red), looking rather cute and loving. I always feel like family photos can tell so much about a family, they way they pose, are dressed, and the expressions they have. I loved seeing a closer glimpse into the lives of my friends here. Later that day, at the Korean bbq dinner, I told my friend Petrina that we need to take our own CNY family photo. And she along with James (our photographer), made it happen. We took quite a few photos, funny, serious, and kind of normal.

As I looked at the photos of our mixed group of friends (expats from literally around the world and Singaporeans), enjoying Korean bbq, and acting silly in group photos, I was reminded of the family I have here. Yeah, we might not be your typical family, and we might keep growing rapidly, but I’ve learned to accept all of them, like real family.

And yes, it’s completely worth it.

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the ultimate singapore food trail

One of the many reasons I was so excited for my brother’s visit was that I knew that he would be down to eat ANYTHING here. Some visitors tend to be a bit pickier than others about new foods they are willing to try. However, with my brother and his wife, I knew that I could take them anywhere. So I got to take them to some of my favorite places along with some of the must eat places for authentic Singaporean food.

Here’s the list of places we tried and some of the must order dishes and foods we had:

  • Jumbo Seafood Restaurant @ Clarke Quay Riverwalk- If you are with a big group, order both the chilli crab & black pepper crab with the fried mantou buns. The salted egg golden prawns are also delicious. This is definitely the go-to touristy place for chilli crab. Make reservations before hand online! jane&brian trip-9005
  • Swee Choon Dim Sum @ 191 Jalan Basar – Considering the cheap prices of the dishes, it’s easy to try a lot of the dishes, especially if you go with a big group. Make sure to try the salted egg yolk buns, xiao long bao,mee suan kuay, sichuan oil chili wanton,egg tarts, and mango-pomelo dessert. Remember, it’s open from 6pm -6am. So go there for dinner or supper!Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
  • Foong Kee Coffee Shop @ 6 Keong Saik Street- This was my first time trying this place thanks to the recommendation by my friend. This place is known for their char siew. At $3.50 for char siew and rice, this was worth every dollar. Their wanton soup was pretty good as well! Next time, I want to try their noodles.IMG_4610
  • Tian Tian @ Maxwell’s food centre- Chicken rice. Apparently the best place in Singapore, which was evident by the long queue. Honestly, I still can’t taste the difference in chicken rice, but I’ll take everyone’s word that this place is the best.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
  • Durian stall @ Balestier – There are a few durian stands along Balestier that are pretty well known. Luckily, even though it’s not durian season, we were able to find some durian. Thanks to Bryce for taking us and eating the majority of the durian!IMG_4616
  • Toastbox- These are everywhere in Singapore,just make sure to try their kaya toast! However, I prefer the peanut thick toast for breakfast.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
  • Mozza @ Marina Bay Sands Shoppes- I had to take my guests to my favorite pizza place in Singapore. I usually go for the prosciutto de parma pizza! Jane even stated that it was quite possibly the BEST pizza she has ever tasted. That’s quite a compliment!IMG_4583
  • Tim Ho Wan @ Plaza Singapura- My brother was very adamant about wanting to try pork buns before leaving, so I had to take him here. Yes, they have the best pork buns, and you can’t forget that they are such an affordable 1-Michelin star restaurant here.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
  • Salad Stop & Cedele- I admit that we needed at least one “healthier” salad and sandwich meal to balance all the unhealthier food we were eating. Plus, a good western style salad and sandwich are hard to come by in Korea.
  • Landing Point @ the Fullerton Bay Hotel- This is definitely one of my favorite afternoon tea places in Singapore! Even though it’s a bit pricey at about $45++ per person, it’s unlimited tea/coffee/hot drinks, scones, and a 3-tier set full of finger sandwiches and other delicious desserts. The view of the Marina Bay Sands and live music help create a lovely ambience. Make sure to make a reservation beforehand! Afternoon tea is only from 3-5:30pm.
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  • Las Ristrettos @ Novena Medical Centre- The cafe culture is huge here in Singapore. There are always new and hipster friendly cafes sprouting everywhere, it’s often hard to keep track. This place has pretty good food and drinks. It’s also on the eighth floor of a huge medical centre, so you kind of need to know about it. It’s not a place you will stumble upon.
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If we had a few more days in Singapore, there’s a few more places I would have loved to taken them to eat roti prata, stingray, satay, char kway teow and more…

introducing grumpy rufus

First there was Boo (the world’s cutest dog), then there was grumpy cat, and now, we’re introducing our favorite dog in Singapore: grumpy rufus. Is he asleep, awake, or just giving you the eye? Don’t be fooled by his grumpy demeanor, because he’s full of love inside.  I had a chance to hang out with this grumpster and I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of him in action, which meant: lying on the floor or napping.

According to his owner, he was even smiling when I was petting him, but I mistook it for a frown. Honestly, it’s hard to tell the difference. So before he reaches instacelebrity status, which could happen any day now, follow him on Instagram (@grumpy_rufus) and see more of his adorable grumpy pictures. Make sure to leave comments, and make grumpy rufus’ day! Maybe he’ll even smile for you.

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family time in singapore

As I reflected on 2014, I realized that my entire family had visited me in Singapore this past year. It was pretty much close to a miracle that they were all able to visit. I ended 2014 with a visit from my brother and sister-in-law. It was fun showing them around all the good eats, touristy and non-touristy spots, and introducing them to my friends. Not only did we get to see Singapore from the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, walk the OCBC Sky Walk, explore the Cloud Forest, but I also equally enjoyed time just hanging out in my apartment and introducing them to episodes of Master Chef Junior.

With all the visitors that come, I do make it a mission to tailor each visit depending on what I know about their travel style, budget, and adding in some of my favorites (of course). It’s always an added bonus when we try out places or food that I’ve never done before. For my brother’s visit, I got to check out the OCBS Sky Walk for the first time. It was a pretty good visit, despite the fact that it was an extra windy night, we timed it perfectly so we could see the light show at Gardens by the Bay, and may or may not have adhered to the “spend only 15minutes” rule. The light shows are daily at 7:45pm and 8:45pm. If you are highly motivated, try to catch the 8pm light/water show at MBS,  then walk over to Gardens by the Bay for the 8:45pm show. All shows are free, but the OCBS Sky Walk does cost $5.

It was also cool having my brother taking the majority of the photos on my camera for the visit. He has a pretty good photographic eye, so the majority of photos I’m sharing are taken from him!

Stay tuned for the next post on some of the spots I took them for FOOD. 

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