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From the Fringe

3 minute read

I’ve had more thoughts on the anti-white paper protest since the weekend, I’ll need to write it down into a slightly longer piece. But here’s what I posted on Facebook that got passed around a fair bit.

Point is, Singapore is at an interesting stage in our politics and civil society and it’s going to take a while to smooth out the kinks. Where I stand is, I don’t think, extreme in any way — but the values of race and inclusion are very, very important to me, and sometimes that is perceived to be too pro-immigration.


I was told today that I lacked moral courage for not going to the protest; that I was merely a keyboard warrior. I was also told ‘see? no racist or xenophobic speeches!’

Hmm, let’s see…

  1. I have volunteered for years with the opposition and I have been on the frontline of elections. What have you done for your country except to happily throw it into the dustbin of nativist trope?

  2. The political figures and figures on the political periphery (cannot confuse the two as there were too many political also-rans and wannabes best kept out of Parliament) involved should know what associating with Gilbert Goh means. I am especially heartbroken because some of these figures also purport to be the only party to stand for ‘human rights’; the other because it was inaccurately portrayed to be THE xenophobic party due to the unfortunate former membership and candidacy of said event organizer.

  3. There has been a lot of moral relativism around today’s protest. There should be none. Someone said Gilbert’s stance is a lesser boo boo than the PAP’s bigger boo boos. Or something similarly puerile to that effect.

The only boo boo there is is that there should be any moral relativism at all. The racial profiling of the foreigners among us is vile and must be condemned unequivocally. There is no intellectual or high brow anything to this. It is basic human dignity.

Associating with someone like Gilbert Goh, a mere demagogue and an opportunistic one at that, merely cheapens the cause you and I both care very much for: how we can find an alternative to the White Paper which we believe will spell disaster for Singapore.

  1. Some of you attended and said you needed to be there to (1) express your disagreement against the White Paper (2) shout down the xenophobes. It is regretful we have an impaired democracy in which a citizen finds he or she cannot sufficiently be heard except by gathering in one sanctioned park. It is even more regretful this democracy is so impaired that bright men and women consider the right to assembly and to be heard more valuable than the demagoguery involved.

  2. My allegiance to The Cause has been questioned because I refuse to toe the ‘us vs them’ line of reasoning. I am old enough to remember the extreme political repression of the generation before us, but not old enough or idealistic enough to buy into the ‘anything, anyone but the PAP’ school of thought. I am a patriot first and an opposition supporter second. I am worried by the perception that not buying into the lock stock and barrel of all anti-PAP rhetoric necessarily means one is a traitor, spy, mole or PAP agent (I have been accused of all of the above).

Addendum: the more I do this stuff the more I think we need to grow the opposition not because I hate the ruling party. But because when they stop being the best guys for the job (and they’re starting to seriously show signs of that), I don’t want this country to descend into the mob. It’s capacity and the long game we need to build, not the Tan Jee Say REJECT EVERYTHING model. I will now actively seek out an organization which better fits this worldview.

It Was All New

1 minute read

I have a tattoo on my lower back. It was given to me by the grandson of a tribal village chief. I grimaced for hours on the floor as he used the primitive tools and ingredients that had tattooed his Iban people for centuries, on me, a girl from a big city.

I’d always wanted a tattoo, but didn’t know what; this one crept up on me. Like the girl I was there with (we had a crazy idea: we would visit and live with an Iban community in a longhouse and celebrate Hari Gawai with them), I wasn’t expecting any of this. The girl, the tattoo, or that I would have such a story to tell many years after the fact. I chose a bunch of tribal motifs from an album and told him to make it up. I got lucky: I like my tattoo very much, even if it is what some people would call a tramp stamp. I’m proud of it. There’s a story to tell each time anyone asks about it.

The girl is no more in my life but the tattoo remains, defiantly representing all of the new beginnings I will embrace in life. Tomorrow, I start a new life and more and more I feel as though the year of grieving and floating, which so profoundly altered my path and direction in life as well as my livelihood and future plans, is finally about to draw to a conclusive close.

I am finally ready for another tattoo. This time, I know exactly where it should be, what it should say and what it should look like. I would not have known this without the pain of my first tattoo. It will be a beautiful Sanskrit verse from the Bhagavad Gita and I intend to have it inscribed on my upper left shoulder. This time, I will harbour no plans or illusions about the permanence of anything other than that of the Sanskrit verse on my shoulder; this time, I will learn to love without needing to know the world.

Five of Each

less than 1 minute read

Five Places I Visited and Loved in the Past 12 Months

  1. Helsinki
  2. Copenhagen
  3. San Francisco
  4. New York City
  5. Stockholm

Five Things I Learned in the Past 3 Months

  1. Diving
  2. Swimming*
  3. Git
  4. Ruby
  5. Still looking for the fifth big thing. For now it looks like it’s going to be Fightshape

Note: I could swim, but badly. I took up Shaw Method swim lessons to dramatically improve my technique and confidence.

Five Things I Bought Recently

  1. A 27″ Korean IPS monitor (A Yamakasi Catleap Multi)
  2. Steelcase Leap
  3. A Sony NEX-5 with 16mm lens
  4. Xbox 360 with Kinect and many amazing games (Assassin’s Creed! Borderlands 2! Dishonored! Wow)
  5. Das Keyboard

Five Challenges I Will Soon Tackle

  1. Advanced diving course with many specialties
  2. A job
  3. A hopeful transformation into a real programmer
  4. A massive overhaul/redesign/ renovation of my room in Singapore. It needs to look less like a place that 12 year old me once lived in.
  5. Another tattoo

And at some point, a haircut, too. And a piece of fiction.

Oh shit.

Left & Leaving

4 minute read

in hindsight

Some songs I cannot hear again. Some songs make me think of you. Not of you in the general sense one does of missing one another. Not even in the way one thinks of losing a loved one or saying goodbye.

Worse – far worse? – the songs of dread. The songs of the silence between us gnawing ever more loudly until we could no longer ignore it. The songs that dig deep into your soul and gives it a little twist with every word and chord.

Did you not hear it die? It fell with a little thud.

In your car. In the rain. In the house. In the routine. Your impatience. Leaping out at me from behind the telephone.

Everybody is a different person with different people. It would be a lie to say otherwise.

With you I was young and hot-headed. A boat without a plan. I was perfectly happy to let you captain it. But we never knew where or how to dock.

Sweet Disposition.

I was a person without a home in those lost days. A wanderer without a country. From bus to plane to taxi to your car. To a home which was never ours. And an us I’m growing increasingly unclear of. Is this a dream? Or is this reality?

Seven Wells.

1825 days. Half of them spent on planes. Half of them ten thousand miles apart. If not literally, then as some impenetrable chasm I never learned to cross.

I hate those songs.

You wanted to know how it came so easily to me. How I moved on. I did not. Did you know of all those nights I drank myself to imbecilic stupor to write poetry in languages I don’t speak? It looks like I walked away from our life with scarcely a moment’s thought. But it was a burden I could not bear.

The thought of loving forever a woman who did not want to marry me. The idea that I had to banish all hope for a family. That, when I left you, tethering on the edge of madness, you loved me tremendously but not enough, seemed to be what you were saying. My hopes. My dreams. It was all you. It was madness that made me circumnavigate the globe to win your heart. And it was madness that made me travel the world to lose it. We never wanted to be the people who stayed together from not having a good reason to leave. Better now than at 35, or something like it. In the end I could not bear the thought of not being enough.

I can never go back to that city and not feel quite desperately breathless again. Not for a long time at least. Waiters who want to know why I’ve disappeared. Friends who I haven’t and won’t see. That city, at the start, was all you and all us and all our secret nooks and our very own places and special people and our house and our dog. That city then grew into a nightmare that was all broken dreams as they fell apart and things that could never be and places I could not find and things I could never be. I tried to hide it and blamed your taxi drivers and horrible traffic and the pollution and the inbred circles and the wanky artists but in the end it was all us, falling to pieces and me doing the only thing I knew how to which was run very far away from responsibilities and rent because like I said I was a different person then.

The good thing about falling to pieces and putting yourself back again is you do it so many times you get faster at it, if you remember how. I ran as far away from that city as I could and hurried to build a new life for myself, it was selfish of me to. I ran and I ran and I buried myself in a dozen women’s pillows and I walked home from their darkened kitchens like a zombie every morning mortified that my life as I knew it had ceased to exist and that I had swung a fairly giant axe in its direction.

I never want to have to run again from the woman I love. I never want to turn the other way in silence biting my tongue letting an argument fester until we no longer speak. I never want to hide who I love or have to be hidden.

The seventh well can’t be found.

I’m sorry you loved me I’m sorry you wasted five years I’m sorry you gave up so much I’m sorry I hate KL I’m sorry I’m not a private person at all I’m sorry I moved on so quickly I’m sorry I loved you too damn much I’m sorry my disease made me an emotional basket case I’m sorry I never learned to stop crying I’m sorry you hate crying I’m sorry I wanted my girlfriend to also want me as much as I wanted her I’m sorry I don’t know how to be older and better I’m sorry I wish I’d done a little better


3 minute read

63 random things from the past 3 months (inspired by Michael Ruby’s “Fleeting Memories“)

  1. Arriving in Budapest knowing absolutely nothing about Hungary
  2. Drinking palinka for the first time, feeling the flush
  3. The Hungarian energy drinks I drank while wearing funny hats
  4. Walking with team Photogotchi along the Halászbástya, feeling a little like Ezio Auditore da Firenze
  5. The boys who were carrying giant swans and crocodile paddle boats onto Lake Balaton
  6. Sitting in the yard of old times
  7. Leaving Hungary thinking fröccs is the best idea in the world
  8. Arriving in frosty Helsinki once again
  9. The cute studio in Apila
  10. That Finnish rapper in a Tiki bar
  11. Being miserable, cold and desperately wanting you
  12. More palinka, Timo’s flat, tiny spaces and uncrossable chasms
  13. Red-heads in the rain
  14. Remembering that karaoke in northern Europe is pretty damn weird
  15. Mushroom-picking, mushroom-cooking
  16. Cycling on a Jopo through the rain
  17. Beautiful Finnish brunches on Sunday mornings
  18. A lot of fish
  19. Tactical Nuclear Penguin
  20. American Airlines, truly a terrible way to fly
  21. Arriving in America for the first time
  22. Pacific Heights. Not having change for the bus to Market Street.
  23. Speaking badly in Cantonese.
  24. Father of my future children showing me a iBaby monitor in the Apple Store
  25. Brilliant people all over San Francisco.
  26. Being chased up a flight of stairs by a bouncer in the Castro for not having an ID.
  27. Losing my ID. And my credit cards. And my iPhone. In a bar. In the Tenderloin.
  28. Being stupid.
  29. Being on a work call with Sydney while sitting next to a painting called The Chronological Wall of Dicks and Cunts. Ah, San Francisco.
  30. Staff at the Singapore consulate giving me cup noodles and soya bean milk from their personal stashes.
  31. Buying a bright yellow Fuji Finest on my second day in San Francisco.
  32. Toning my ass, cycling uphill everywhere
  33. Excellent vegetarian Japanese food in Valencia followed by a free meditation class down the road.
  34. Folsom Street Fair. Many things cannot be unseen, once seen.
  35. Ethiopian with Jiten and Family.
  36. Family of four sitting in a hipster coffeeshop in San Jose, each with a parrot on their heads.
  37. Watching The Nationals vs the Phillies at the Nats Stadium.
  38. You never forget your first Shake Shack.
  39. America is so great because you can order beer and hot dogs online, and expect to have them arrive at your seat in a baseball stadium in three minutes.
  40. One day I will understand more of this great nation, the same one that invented SPAM and Chicken in a Biskit. These inventions speak more about a national character than any other great invention.
  41. Rolling my eyes at groupies of ‘famous tech people’.
  42. Walking to the Lincoln Memorial, wishing I had seen it earlier because all I see now in that statue is Abraham Lincoln (Vampire Killer)
  43. Eating fish tacos with Jason Scott Jones, who knows more about Brooklyn than anybody else
  44. Having the cashier ask me why I want to pay US$12 for a can of tuna. Not having a good answer other than ‘it’s very good tuna. Spanish.’
  45. My crazy/beautiful Crown Heights pad.
  46. Being in love with New York, like they all said I would.
  47. Talking to my aunt at JFK for longer than we have ever spoken to each other, all our lives.
  48. My 27th birthday party in Crown Heights.
  49. The Met Museum with Michael Ruby and Dave Gurien.
  50. Leaving New York, loving New York.
  51. New York to Budapest via London, Budapest to Singapore via Doha, 12 hours apart
  52. Those miserable long layovers in Doha.
  53. Wanton mee
  54. Having everything fall into place the moment I got home
  55. The first day Cookie got home
  56. Cooking a delicious spare ribs pasta
  57. IKEA, burgers, Thai supermarkets and Mustafa
  58. Finally getting my diving license
  59. Doing the Gangnam Style at 10m underwater
  60. The corner store in Tioman
  61. Thinking that learning to dive in the middle of the monsoon was probably not too clever
  62. Floating upwards uncontrollably before learning to trust my own buoyancy
  63. I am finally ready, maybe.