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Retreating to nature May 1, 2009

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I spent the day off exploring the Singapore Botanic Gardens, getting a chance to escape from the city for a few hours.  When I first entered, it looked like a public park of sorts, with fields dotted with trees and an asphalt path for people to walk, run, or rollerblade along.  Following the path deeper into the grounds took me to Swan Lake, where there were a couple of swans swimming around languidly.  A few were being fed various bread and cracker type substances, surrounded by hungry koi and curious turtles.  It was the cutest thing I’ve seen – three different species all swimming around each other peacefully.  I made my way around the entire pond before continuing along the path.  On the side with the grassy knoll and speckling of trees, dozens of families and friends were having picnics and otherwise enjoying the pleasant day.

Turtle in the top left area, fish in the bottom area, and the swan you can’t miss.

That fish was not shy.

I followed the signs to the Ginger Garden, where there was this cool waterfall with a little cave area behind that people could pass through.  I saw a family taking pictures of themselves behind the waterfall and wanted to do the same, but alas, I didn’t want to elicit outside help.  I also imaged taking a fun jumping shot in front of it, but that’s something I’d do if I was with a friend.  Not everyone can get the timing right and I don’t know how strangers would feel about trying to capture such a shot.  So, in my mind’s eye I took a note of how I would do things if only I had Panda with me and moseyed along.  I then reached the National Orchid Garden, where I got myself a ticket to enter.  I spent the next hour wandering up and down, in an out of their paths.  I don’t know how many species of orchids I saw, but some were curious-looking, some were gorgeous, some had strange patterns, some were plain, some were large, some were small, and all were cool to look at.

Some of the interesting things I saw…

Above is the Margaret Thatcher, I believe.

And so many more!  Look out for a photo album on Facebook.

I took countless photos and rediscovered some things that I want – Venus flytraps (though I couldn’t find any, there were plenty of pitcher plants that reminded me of my desire for a certain carnivorous plant!), tadpoles (I had one once, but dropped it and when I went to pick it up I squished it 😦 – oops), and a water fountain (there was this cool one that looked like a cluster of plants).  On my way out, I wandered around the gift shop, contemplating things I might want to buy and ended up deciding to just get these small little rings.  I can’t figure out what material they are made from, but a lot of Chinese bracelets resemble this.  These, of course, are merely cheap imitations.  I have a bracelet that’s legit though and it’s quite cool – it’s made of some sort of stone and metal.

If only I could find some Venus flytraps too!

I was sooo tempted to try to bring some with me.  😦

Plant?  Nope, water fountain!

And finally, the rings.

From there, is was then power walking for the next two hours, going through the patch of rainforest, Evolution Garden, Eco Garden, checking out Au Jardin (a French restaurant, as it turned out), and heading back to the waaay other end of gardens to exit again.  I got a bit disoriented a few times and made a few detours to some of the other attractions on my way back, including a gazebo, some desert plants, and lily ponds.  It was around 8 PM by then and I was ravenous, so all I could think about was getting to food.  I quickly made my escape and hopped on a bus to Orchard Road, but I tried to find this Din Tai Fung that I could see in my mind’s eye, but for the life of me couldn’t find in real life.  The front desk at Takashimaya shopping center was useless, so I wandered around, through a fashion show and a drummer circle.  Eventually I ended up at the bus stop that would take me back, so I got on and stopped along the way at Holland Village to have dinner at the Crystal Jade there.

What a day out!  I was drained from all the brisk walking, but it was so nice to see so much greenery, so many beautiful flowers, and so many creatures!  I really do love to retreat to nature whenever I can.  It clears my mind and calms me down.


Sheer exhaustion April 29, 2009

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This is the first time that I did not post my entry prior to going to bed, since I began posting every day.  I like to get it out of the way earlier in the wee hours of the day so when I get busy/distracted later on, I won’t have to worry and I would still have the entire rest of the day to do it.  However, yesterday when I got back last night, a wave of exhaustion just took over me and I curled up on the bed with my body pillow.  It was so warm and cozy and Panda was taking a nap on his end, so I just drifted off.  The next thing I knew, I was waking up to find my computer turned off.  Disoriented, I deliriously turned my computer back on to find Panda again, but fell asleep again soon after.  I can’t recall if I ever did sign back on again or what happened from there, but I didn’t wake up again until the morning, as a storm was rolling in.

I’m not sure why I was so tired – perhaps it’s a combination of lack of sleep, long days, and not enough nutrition.  I don’t feel like I have been overworked or underfed though, so I really don’t know.  In fact, there are times where I am doing background reading and research that feels like my typical internet activity.  It has made me want to get more into social media or business psychology consulting, since I love to read article upon article about those topics.  So that’s all well and good, but I guess sometimes everything in your life just catches up with you and your body shuts down.  I think all the things that were bearing down on me just caught up with me.  I’ve been getting a lot of intense piercing pains and headaches this past month; I’ve never suffered through this kind of cranial pain before.  It’s not quite a migraine – the symptoms for that are far more intense – but it’s definitely not a pleasant experience.  I don’t know why I get them or what I can do about them (I’m not one to take painkillers unless I’m desperate, which happens like once every few months).

Emotionally I have been rather drained as of late.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to recover from being away from Panda.  I don’t miss him any less now than I did before.  I spend a lot of time wanting to go back just to see him, but at the same time I really value my time and experience here.  Still, it’s hard to get up and go out on the weekends when I can stay online and talk to him.  I don’t know why it’s so hard for me.  It also hasn’t been easy to find my own way here.  I’ve been trying to do more things on my own, which is good, but I’m doing it all alone.  There isn’t really anyone for me to hang out with or spend time with.  Not that I dislike anyone here, but I’m used to a lot of different social groups, all with different interests and preferences for activities.

And of course, there’s always the feeling that I don’t have a home to go to and crash at.  There is no space here that is exclusively mine, which is something I’m not used to.  It’s the exact opposite of how I grew up – with rooms to myself for most of the day and often the whole house to myself as my parents traveled around.  Even in college, when I shared my room with another girl, half of that room was mine.  I could do whatever I wanted and often had time alone in the room.  Plus, I could always go home home on the weekends.  So maybe it’s just caged bird syndrome that’s got me down.  It seems that I need to stop viewing myself so much as an outsider and guest here.  It’s hard to break away from that though, since most people I speak to outside of the office don’t seem to be able to understand me.  I feel so out of place when I’m not in the office or just alone and it’s a bit disheartening.

Marylin and I talked recently about how I don’t really interact with her parents, which is mostly why I still feel like a guest here.  I’m used to holing up in my room all day, doing my own things, so it doesn’t even occur to me to go out to the living room to talk to them, or something along those lines.  I’ve tried to greet them here and there, but I tend to be quiet when I do that and it gets lost in Marylin’s own greeting and consequent chatting with them.  So, I just keep walking and go to the room to give them time together.  After all, they hardly get to see each other, much less talk and hang out.  But it seems that my policy of "stay out of their way" is just alienating me and making them… not quite uncomfortable, but you get the idea.  It doesn’t help that I am hugely awkward with parents (or anyone I view in an authoritative position).  It took me a good 10-12 years to get myself to even be able to look them in the eye.

So, I need to work on putting myself out there more, even if it terrifies me.  I just don’t like to stand there awkwardly and not know what to do or say.  Before I left, my mom told me to offer to help with household chores, but that is taken care of the maid, so the most I do is clear the table after eating.  Starfish advised that I just ask them how their days were and I don’t know if I’m just not seeing opportunities to, but I feel like I haven’t really had a chance to say anything to them.  Either they’re watching TV or they’re not around.  Marylin’s mom will pop in on the weekends to offer me food, but by the time I go out to eat it, she’s retreated to her room or is out already.  There was one time she left it on the bed for me, so I just ate it in the room.  I usually don’t even see her dad around, but for when he’s watching a game or tournament.

And maybe it’s just me, but if I’m watching something, I don’t want to be disturbed.  On the weekends when Marylin’s going through her CSI Supreme Sunday fix, she tends to switch channels during commercials, which is something I never do.  If I’m watching something, I’m focused on it and I don’t want to miss out on any of it.  If it’s streaming live and I can’t pause it, I don’t do anything to disrupt that.  When it comes down to it, I just don’t know how to handle those situations.  When is it appropriate to say something?  What should I say?  How do I know if they’re talking just because they don’t want to be rude or if they actually don’t mind?  Sigh, I hate being awkward with older generations.  I’m not a "bring her home" type of friend.  I can’t even call them by their first names – the first time I called someone other than my peer by their first name was when I was 19.  Why am I so stiff?

Maybe this chronic exhaustion is due to too much processing for my brain.  From the work I’m doing and all that I’m learning to the struggles I’m undergoing, it’s a lot to handle.  I worry a lot because I think and analyze a lot.  I don’t like to share any of my stress though, so I’m hard-pressed to find an outlet.  I don’t like to complain and I don’t like to ask for help.  Meanwhile, Marylin will let out a sigh or talk about her frustrations with some of the work she’s trying to deal with.  Since I’m not used to expressions like that, it stresses me out to hear and see that too, especially when she taps her fingers impatiently.  For some reason, just hearing that speeds up my heart rate and makes me more anxious.  I tend to notice small details like that, which then makes things that aren’t a big deal out to be much bigger than usual.  I am a people-pleaser, but it seems that my approach in keeping to myself is not pleasing at all.  Then there are all the things I miss and want to do when I get back, but I’m trying to make myself focus on being here now and doing new exciting things.  It’s hard to be here and focused when my heart is not with me.  Whoever knew I could be such a homebody?

Gosh, I’ve got a lot to work on.

The comforts of home April 25, 2009

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I miss the amenities of home – being able to go and buy my own food, make my own food, come and go as I please, and just feel in charge of my life.  I had a dream the other night that my grandma was living here; I was elated to discover this because it meant I could move in with her and take care of myself again.  Staying at Marylin’s is something I wouldn’t say that I’m struggling with per se, but I certainly am having some trouble with it.  There’s a sense of freedom in being responsible for taking care of myself.  I’m used to doing most household chores myself and now and it’s weird to have food cooked for me, my clothes washed for me, and my things cleaned for me.  It makes me feel too much like a guest.

Today was refreshing because I took it upon myself to wash some items, but I still feel strange whenever I’m in the kitchen, so I’m certainly not about to pull out a pan to cook myself something.  Instead, I bought myself some salad and fruit to eat, but since I spend most of my time at the office, I’m keeping them there.  My eating habits don’t match up with any traditional method or what people tend to do (however many meals a day) – I like to snack throughout the day and have one or two larger meals, but mostly just be munching every hour.  That’s a lot harder to do when the food is offered up and then it’s expected to be cleared away after a certain period.

I also like to wander around outside or drive around, which is not exactly an option for me here.  I suppose I could always go downstairs for a stroll or a swim (I wonder if I need a special key for entry?), but I feel bad making someone open the door for me whenever I get back.  It’s difficult to find a good balance between doing what I want to and also not getting in the way or being an inconvenience.  I tend to think everything I do is disruptive except for staying in the room, out of everyone’s way.  And so that is what I do for pretty much 90% of the time that I am here.

It’s an unfortunate combination of factors working here.  For one, it’s not worth it to move to my own place – I’d end up paying to be here and I don’t want to dig into my savings (or my parents’ generosity).  Yet, staying with her poses a myriad of conundrums.  I’m very grateful that Marylin and her family have so generously taken me in, but I feel like I have to tiptoe around everything.  I don’t want to use too much of their resources.  I feel guilty every time her mom so kindly buys me lunch that is ready for me when I wake up on the weekends.  I feel awkward asking their maid to do anything, so I try to do it myself, but then I feel like I’m breaching her territory.  I try to stay away from the living room in case that makes them feel like they can’t use that space.  I don’t talk to her parents very much because I don’t want to disturb them.

All these things are nobody’s fault, but just unfortunate byproducts of the situation.  I’d much rather be on the other end, offering my home and resources to others.  In fact, I often imagine how things could be when I get back and after we’ve found a way to get Marylin over there too (and possibly others!).  Of course, everything else I miss about home doesn’t help things either.  I’ve been getting a lot of invites to events occurring on campus and I wish I could be there to attend, as an alumna now.  This weekend is the Festival of Books and it will be the second year that Livescribe has a booth there.  Last year I was there, working the booth as a campus rep, so I wish them another successful weekend!

I’m going to compile a list of all the things I want/should do in Singapore (and maybe nearby countries, if I can make it) and start figuring out when I’ll have time to get around to doing them all.  That’ll help get me out of the house, see more of Singapore, andkeep me entertained.  I shouldn’t spend my weekends lying around all day, drinking water incessantly and doing who knows what online.  Sometimes I amaze myself with how I distract myself.  I hope that before I know it, I’ll be headed home (though a bit nostalgic and sad to be leaving here).

A future unknown April 23, 2009

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Today, Panda and I discussed our future living situation and it’s a good thing that’s far down the road!  Though everything else we differ in opinion on can be compromised more readily (like the cat I really want I can "adopt" by going to a local shelter to volunteer with the cats there), where to live is something that is much harder to agree on.  Though I think I would like to end up living in LA, I also can’t imagine not finally getting around to living in a few of the places I’ve been thinking about: Houston, Denver, somewhere in England again…  I’ve never lived in any city for longer than 4 years and I can’t stand thinking about being caged up to one city for the rest of my life.  I move a lot, I experience a lot, and I change a lot.  Ironically though, even though I’m used to change, I don’t like the change of having no more change.  Change is what I’m used to and that is what I’m comfortable with.  Ilike a new kind of scenery, a purging of my life here and there, and plenty of chances to learn from a wide demographic!

On the other hand, Panda is born and bred Californian.  Not only has he never left the country, he’s hardly left the state.  He knows LA and he loves LA.  It’s hard for him to imagine living anywhere else, ever.  He grew up with the same people pretty much in the same school district his entire life.  He hasn’t moved since he was just an infant (other than going to college).  Even the college he chose is close to home and right in the middle of LA.  He’s comfortable in that city and doesn’t want to leave.  Though he’s willing to take trips to visit places around the world, he’s just not interested in settling down anywhere else, for any length of time.  His life has been stable, consistent, and reliable.  So why would he want to take a chance and change all that?  It’s far easier to keep on doing what he’s doing and get a job in the area, raise a family there, and grow old there.  Very predictable.

I have known this about him and it has worried me a bit as I imagined our future together.  It’s good that we still have time to change ourselves and perhaps change our minds, but what if we don’t?  How do you reconcile two opposite demands?  Just vacationing is not good enough for me.  I want to immerse myself in a new place, which can only be done with lots of time.  So, I was thinking, maybe I could spend a few months of each year in another city and switch the city every few years.  However, I don’t like being away from him and I certainly would not want to start a family like that.  Panda suggested that we can try to have two houses, one in the greater Los Angeles area, and one in whatever other city I’m interested in.  That’s a good idea in theory, but when would he have the time to join me there?  Being an engineer, I’m sure his work days will be long and hard and the vacation time will be minimal.

Then I was thinking, maybe the company he works for would have offices in the places I’m interested in, so he can request a transfer for a year or two.  After a few of those, we could end up in LA again and settle down then.  Of course, that is banking a lot on the possibility of an office where I want to go and available space.  The type of work I’m doing now seems to (and hopefully is) propelling me towards a life of entrepreneurism and various ventures, which would make my schedule more flexible.  So perhaps I could just wait until he finds a good position and then we relocate.  Granted, this is assuming he’d be willing to go through all that trouble for a couple of years.

As a kid, I got sent on a lot of camps and trips, from annual summer visits to China to swim camps and boot camps (no, I was not a bad child, it was for my JROTC unit and I elected to go).  I like being exposed to different things all the time.  From my upbringing, I tend to get bored of things easily, unless it is always making me see and do things in a different way.  I am afraid that that is going to happen with LA.  I just need some time away, to get out all the dreams I’ve had before I can feel good about settling down in one place.  Unfortunately, that "time away" can take anywhere from 5-15 years.  Who really knows how things will turn out?  I’m trying not to worry about it right now, since it’s still far away, as are deeper commitments with each other.  But, here I am, just about seven and a half weeks into my time in Singapore and I can’t stand a day without him.  And much as I appreciate my experience here, I dream of the day that I get to hold his hand again.  How could I ever leave him in LA again and again for years?

For me, when it gets to the point where I know a city inside and out, it loses a lot of its appeal.  It is no longer mysterious, no longer exciting, but suddenly a solved puzzle.  But for him, Los Angeles is his home.  Literally and figuratively.  He’s familiar with its areas, its weather, its people.  He knows just where to go to get the food he wants to eat or the things he needs to buy.  At the same time, Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis with so much to explore and see!  From the famous landmarks to visit to the beautiful places to see, it offers up a whole bunch of options.  I can totally see him staying there forever and never getting bored.  I admit, there is still plenty for me to go see and do, but I’ve hit up most of the important areas (multiple times) and I’m ready to try something new in a few years.  I still want to go back and establish something there first, but after that… who knows.

As for now, we’ll both just have to see if we can break out of the barriers we grew up learning and find some sort of a compromise down the road.

Sports academy April 11, 2009

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I attended yet another forum today, this time on the topic of whether Singapore is ready to be a sporty nation.  In other words, they don’t have a very strong sports culture at the moment, but it is growing stronger and there are those who are interested in bringing it to the forefront.  They want to develop a following for uni level sports like in the states, where college teams are closely followed, or produce athletes like in Russia, which is a powerhouse for certain sports.  Well, those are just models to look at anyway.  Generally, they just want Singaporeans to embrace an active lifestyle, whether by playing sports themselves or supporting and rooting for those who do (especially if they represent the country in international meets).

First though, people need to realize that excellence in athletics and excellence in academics or other areas of life don’t necessarily have to be a trade-off.  Of course, there will be those who choose to sacrifice all others in the pursuit of elite athleticism, but you don’t need to be that hardcore to still make a living for yourself and be successful in your own right.  It seems that the main concern people have for sports is that it takes away from academics.  This need not be the case.  In fact, in my experience, the better someone is at their sport, the more they tendto excel in school as well.  It’s a matter of the discipline, focus, and dedication they learn from their sport that carries over to other aspects of their lives.  There are a lot of other valuable life skills that can be developed from learning a sport too, whether it’s teamwork, sportsmanship, or self-motivation.  All of these can be directly useful life skills that positively affect the athletes’ lives.

Secondly, I feel that people need a more open mind to what the sports culture is all about.  It’s not always about being the athlete.  Even if you choose to practice the sport yourself, you don’t have to be the best (or even that close) to do well for yourself.  A lot of how well you do and how much money you can earn has to do with how you present yourself.  Personal branding is crucial for creating the right image and smart marketing of yourself to sponsors can earn you a lot.  For those who are world-class, but not quite on the radar for their performance, it then comes down to how you approach things.  At that level, you already have a lot of experience that people are dying to learn from.  You can become a public speaker, start your own club and teach your own classes, write a book, or a number of other things to impart your wisdom.  The top elite athletes are too busy to do that, so you can get into that before they start to slow down and look into those options.

Finally, success is measured differently for everyone and there are so many other paths you can pursue within each sport.  There are a great number of satellite opportunities in the fields of coaching, sports management, sports medicine, physical therapy, sports psychology, etc.  Why limit yourself to the hours upon hours of physical exertion and training?  You can love a sport and be involved in it without being the one setting records and straining your body.  For some, interests and strengths may lie more in promoting those who do perform like none other, protecting their bodies and minds, or in providing them with the tools and resources they need to reach the level they want.  I think that the only universal thing is that people want to be happy and not too financially strapped.  So, in doing something they love, but also finding a way to pay the bills through a steady job, plenty of people can contribute to the sports industry and help it grow.

Talking about the issues that come with this territory, such as changing people’s mindsets so they can see this as a viable career option, reminded my of my own aspiration in this arena.  I even wrote it down when I first created this blog – see goal #2 here.  I came up with this as a concrete idea during one of my random enlightening sessions chatting with Philosopher, one of my closest friends in York.  Together we dreamed up a vocational school for athletes that would not only allow them to train and compete at national and international levels, but would also arm them with the necessary skills to be self-sufficient long after their bodies gave out on them.  The curriculum would involve physiological science, biology, diet and exercise, a history of their sport, sportsmanship, media relations, coaching, negotiation for deals and sponsorships, personal branding, and other such knowledge that would be useful for athletes to know in an academic sense.  Ultimately, graduates would be prepared for years of competitive involvement if they so chose, or they could bypass that and continue on straight to the peripheral jobs.  It’s all about empowering people who are traditionally seen as less intelligent with the ability to take care of themselves.

This plan has been on the backburner for a long time now, since it would take immense resources, connections, and organization to get it all together.  In hearing about a new degree offered at a uni here, I started to think that maybe a way to get started is to start implementing sports management majors, alongside the growing options for degrees in other sports related disciplines.  From there, a set of professors and experts can be drawn to start a new organization that solely focuses on the student athletes.  Even that will take a long, long time though, so for now, I’m just going to sit on it.  Then maybe someday, I can finally make this dream come true.

Singapore Kindness Movement April 4, 2009

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April is, apparently, now deemed Kindness Month and thus the Singapore Kindness Movement was launched today, the first weekend day of the month.  If nothing else, just being at event about kindness really makes you much more aware of it.  I definitely was much more conscious of how my actions could be interpreted and affect others.  I made sure I walked around with a soft expression on my face, if not an outright smile.  I made sure I was courteous to others, saying sorry if I bumped into them and thank you when they were nice to me.  I even asked for some napkins to help clean off some chairs that had gotten stuff on them and made sure the people sitting in them were aware of the gooey drips of cotton candy that had gotten stuck on their seats before they sat down and dirtied their pants.

I was also much more aware of how the people around me were or were not polite to each other.  We all glanced over to hush these old women in the row behind us when they showed up late and loudly greeted their friends as the minister present was giving a speech.  I sighed when the children in the surrounding area were screaming and shouting in the background, oblivious to the racket they were causing those trying to listen to the speeches.  I noted the celebrity there, who graciously and patiently signed autographs for, took pictures with, and chit-chatted and joked with his fans, young and old.

Sometimes it seems that these types of campaigns are worth it if only to bring light to a problem.  I don’t think it is that human nature is bad at all; I think it is just that we just need gentle reminders of things as we get overwhelmed with the details of life.  Or, sometimes is it just the ignorance and lack of exposure we get to certain issues.  After all, we can’t all know about and be experts at everything.  So, every now and then we just need to be informed and other times we just need to be reminded.  Plus, we can get people to look at an old issue a new way and give them the support and encouragement they need to go do something about it.  And that is exactly what this month is all about – reminding everyone how a little positive gesture can go so far, showing them things they may not have considered to be outright kindness before, and encouraging them to go forth and spread the joy.

So go!  Be a nice person, hold a door open, say thank you, smile.  Be humble, be grateful, be KIND!

The business of cards March 25, 2009

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Namecards, or business cards, are one of those things that are really helpful in the business world.  Though you can come up with various creative designs to try to stand out, what ultimately matters is a clean look with key (mostly contact) information.  It’s pretty much a standard to hand someone a business card when you make a contact or find someone interested in learning more about what you or your company can do for them.  While you want to get your name out there and encourage follow-ups, you also don’t want to throw cards at anyone you come across, especially if you haven’t even spent a few minutes to talk to them.

Currently, Marylin and I are anxiously awaiting our business cards that will be printed with the updated address and phone numbers for our new office.  It’s a lot more difficult to network when you need to create makeshift "cards" to hand out to people.  If they can’t read our handwriting or mistake the slip of paper for junk later, we could very easily lose a valuable contact.  Plus, having that sturdy little piece of cardstock makes us look legit and oh so official.  I mean, not that we don’t look like seasoned pros already, what with our lovely attire and attitudes.  😉

We’ve been to two networking events this week and I have noticed that card-trading etiquette is quite different here!  All cards are presented and accepted with two hands and are usually accompanied by a bow or otherwise lowering of the head.  When I received my first two and took them with one hand, I noticed that it wasn’t quite right.  I wonder if other people noticed it and felt offended.  I certainly hope not!  However, it is a ritual that I have duly noted and will be careful to observe from now on.  These are the little cultural nuances that I am going to need to continue to pick up as I learn my way around here and this business world.

So you see, something as basic as trading business cards can be rather different depending on the people you are dealing with.  Nothing’s ever quite so simple, is it?

Doing what feels right March 24, 2009

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My decision to come to Singapore was largely based on feeling.  It seems that I am allowing my intuition to guide me far more than I ever allowed before.  I don’t know if this is my quarter-life crisis, the result of maturing, or just a random epiphany, but it is becoming more pervasive in everything I do.  Perhaps in growing up and learning to open your mind to things, you also learn how to trust your instincts.  Maybe there really is something to your gut instincts.  Whatever the case, I have been paying more attention to what my heart tells me over what my head may want to say.  And you know what?  It feels good.

I’ve always been one to sit and think.  Absorb, analyze, reanalyze, compile, calculate, and then react.  It’s a slow, sometimes excruciating process and I’ve been telling people lately that that is the type of person I am.  Well, it’s true – I will not give you an instant answer and go full steam ahead.  I may have an initial reaction, but that is by no means my actual response in the end (though it will probably be an exaggerated version of it).  Sometimes it can be frustrating for those who are impatient or tend to take the smallest of signals and take that to be the indicator of consent or dissent.

Though I still need time to really think about what to say about things, I am embracing more of the "go do it" attitude, from taking the risk of starting work in a foreign country to buying things because it feels right.  I can’t quite let go of my old tried and true habit of taking the time to consider all the angles of an issue, but I tend to have a gut feeling from the get-go that tells me what I will end up deciding anyway.  Nevertheless, to justify it to myself, I still need to spend the time to think it over and really make sure that what I want is what I should do.

I like to be cautious in the sense that I can defend my decisions.  I don’t like to be rash or irresponsible.  But, I also do like to take certain risks that can be both exciting and door-opening.  You never know if you don’t try, right?  So I might as well give it a go and see where it takes me (with some back-up plans ready, of course).

Pervasive American culture March 18, 2009

Posted by laelene in Uncategorized.
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Talk about a powerhouse.  I am constantly surprised at all the speeches that I hear overseas that include references to America this, America that.  I mean, I know that American culture is infecting other countries, but in every area, from social to political to scientific, I am reminded again and again just how effectively this seems to be occurring.  Ok, so they watch American TV dramas and movies, fair enough.  Hollywood is the mecca for the entertainment industry after all.  But must it also be mentioned when referencing research, political philosophies, or economic analyses?  (I’m not talking about the current economy "crisis" here – I can understand how talk of that can stem from the states.)

This happened yesterday at the 30th Annual Speak Mandarin Campaign that I was given the chance to attend.  The Minister Mentor (aka big shot of Singapore) was there as the guest of honor to deliver a speech encouraging Sinagporeans to continue to embrace the Mandarin language and master it as they have English.  In his speech, he referenced some research done in the states and that got me thinking about how I’ve never gone to an event that didn’t mention something from America.  Likewise, even my lectures in England contained US material!  What a strange phenomenon.  Here I thought I was getting away from all that and had to learn to adjust and relearn.

From my perspective, it’s interesting to hear about these issues and listen to what other nations have to say about my "home" country.  Sometimes (actually, a lot of the times), Americans are contained within their little bubble that it’s shocking and eye-opening to see things from another angle, hear another voice.  Though I generally associate myself with the US and think of myself as American (well, Chinese-American), there are times when I feel rather detached from it all.  In the end though, the country has given me a lot of great opportunities and provided a life for my parents and I that would not have been possible anywhere else (as far as I know, anyway).

Whether good or bad, I like to hear news about the states.  I feel more connected to it when it is talked about by non-residents, possibly because I cannot always identify with how they feel.  Everyone seems to have their opinion on the US, from dumbfounded admiration to unbridled disgust.  For me, it’s a matter of this journey of learning more about how the country I grew up in and the culture I grew up with fits into the world.  I tend to be more on the self-righteous side just because I have a certain level of patriotism for the country that may not have been perfect, but certainly has been good to me.

I think a lot of the viewpoints we hold are due to the way we choose to interpret things.  Some people may be offended by things that others find hilarious or just not a big deal.  Meanwhile, others may be greatly affected by things that others don’t pay attention to.  And though I have faced my own challenges and hardships, I am still so much more lucky than most of this world.  Now I do think it’s kind of cool that so many American references are made, but I hope that that is not corrupting the beauty of other cultures.  After all, how boring would the world be with everyone doing things the same way, believing the same ideas, and liking the same things?

Change at the drop of a dime March 9, 2009

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It never ceases to amaze me how my life has taken some very unexpected turns in the past couple of months.  Somehow I went from my ten year plan to flying out to Singapore to work with one of my closest friends and "British" twin of sorts.  Now I’m in a foreign country in a region of the world that has always been a mystery to me and I’m trying to come to terms with how it at once reminds me very much of my Chinese roots and British immersion, yet still doesn’t resemble either of those countries.

Does that even make sense?  I feel like I’m connecting with Chinese culture through the references and occasional Mandarin spoken here.  Along with that, the British-sounding English accents I hear when I’m conversing in English is reminiscent of my time in York.  Yet, somehow the food is unique though it is similar to what I had in China.  The language is still different and unique to this country.  My mind is all a jumble.  Things are so different, yet so many little things remind me of this or that.

Well, to add to all that sensory excitement, Marylin and I had our first weekly meeting/debriefing with "the bosses" today and some more new exciting opportunities came up.  I’m very open to all the possibilities we have available to us, so I was definitely interested and excited, but I’m also a relatively cautious person, or I at least need to mull things over and really digest it.  I love to analyze things from every angle (so I can usually sympathize with people of all opinions) and it takes time to process things.

So what did we discuss?  A chance to take on a project set to take place in a year in China.  It’s a huge event that will be great experience, exposure, and networking for us.  It will also put our Mandarin skills into practice and teach us more about another Asian country.  Since it will be held in Beijing, I can also be near my parents (if only for a few days) and back in my home country.  So, in theory it sounds great, right?

Well, that was my first impression too.  But later on the analytical filter started to grind and it finally started to hit me – this would mean potentially staying in Singapore for a good year and a half, two years.  Yikes!  With that kind of prolonged stay, Marylin and I would have to look into finding our own place to live, since it would not be nice to impose on her parents for too long.  I’d also have to figure out how to extend my visa, look into getting a bank account, perhaps sign up for a contract phone, etc… you can see there’s a lot of things involved in a semi-permanent relocation.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  There are also so many things to consider first, before I even decide I want to go forth with this!  Marylin and I need to meet with a very important person first, to see if we are suitable for this job and how we get along with him.  I’d need to talk to Panda and my parents to see how they react to the idea.  It’s also rather early on and I don’t know how well I will assimilate into this culture.  The people are great and I’m being fed well, but it’s not stuff I’m used to and I don’t know if I will get homesick once things start to settle down more.

This first week has just been hectic with all the information overload I’ve been experiencing.  Today was the first time that I was sitting there, getting work done and really feeling like part of the team.  Up until now I’ve largely been observing and shadowing, which I will still do a lot of as I try to find my place within this group and carve my own spot.  So really what I’d like to do is work on this project until September, then go back to LA and work from there for a period of time.  After that, I can either return here to continue my work or head over to China to work from there until the event is over.  Of course, that is just ideal, so I’ll be flexible with what I’m willing to do.

One thing I do know is that I won’t deal with being away from Panda as well as Marylin has dealt with being away from her boyfriend.  Currently it’s also more of a strain because there is no internet connected in the new office just yet and with my long days, the only time I can catch Panda online is my afternoons.  I haven’t properly chatted with him since I’ve gotten here and though a week doesn’t sound that long, it has felt like a month.  I’m a bit needy when it comes to talking to him.  It’s too easy to miss him.

So, time and time again I have found myself at these crazy crossroads, with so many paths branching in so many directions I start to get confused.  It will take a little time to sort it all out (and by then the next confusing choice will be upon me, haha).  Such is life.