Gentle Confrontations

Monday, September 26, 2016

Was really lucky and got to go back to Vancouver and Calgary for a couple of weeks each.

First, Van:

A walk with Jeff and Michelle's dog, Jing Jing.

It was so nice to walk in a dense forest and not die of humidity and sweat. 

A little corner of Megan's place.

I experienced so much kindness and generosity on this trip that made me melt with gratefulness. This was one of those moments - a picnic with Will and Sarah.

The main event of the Vancouver trip, going away for the weekend to Gibsons with my most favorite people in the world.

I turned 29. Thank you again everyone for celebrating it with me :)

Then it was off to Calgary:

My parents had moved from Singapore back to Calgary (where my brother also lives). When planning my trip to Canada, I wanted to spend as much time as I could with them, so 2 weeks sounded about right. But when I was in Van, slight feelings of dread and anxiety came back to me when I began to think about it. I wondered if I gave too much time for it and if it was going to drive me nuts. It's a hard place for me, I either have a really good or awful time there. And whether it's one or the other is mostly due to the nature of my thoughts and what I do on each trip. Because of where my parents live (a bit of a drive from the center) and Calgary's sprawling nature, I have the tendency to just hide. And it's especially easy to do when you have amazing parents, a nice place to stay and don't know anyone in the city. But if I peel myself away from that, Calgary is good to me (I guess this attitude really applies to anything in life). I can't tell you enough how good it was this time. So much so that it has made me confront questions that I've been trying so hard to avoid and forget - ones revolving around the direction of my life. After putting these thoughts off for so long out of fear of what my answers would be, it was a relief to finally admit some things, and once I did, weights had been lifted. I've been using Bali as a base for the last couple of years and I've decided that as much as I've loved it (and still do), lately I have just been struggling to make it work and feel sustainable to me. I can't make it work. I don't want to either at this moment time.

And I am excited now for what the next possibilities could be.

Another self.

Monday, June 27, 2016

I was in Europe for a little over a month. I started off in Amsterdam, then went to Portugal, Paris, Stockholm, and back to Amsterdam again.

It was odd, I've been to Europe a couple of times before, and I don't remember experiencing huge adjustment periods or culture shock in past visits (or for that matter in any of my past travels in other parts of the world), but this time around, I did. For the first time in a long time. Which is just so weird because like I said I have been to Europe before and I grew up in the west and even though I spend a lot of time in Bali, my mindset and how I go about my days is still pretty western.

I am going to chalk it up to that I had a very defined expectation for my Europe trip. That it was going to set some things straight. That it was going to give me things I wasn't getting in Bali. That it would make some tired things go away or become new again. That it would make some dull things interesting and inspired. That as per usual with me, it would be the easiest way to a brief moment of fulfillment. I came there with a set idea, one that I didn't think it would let me down in because this idea was formed from memories and lessons learned (both positive and negative) of past visits. I know this is all vague, but basically I was looking for Europe to be a place where I wouldn't have to think and that I would just enjoy. And that this would relax my mind so that I would feel and take on some new things again. I was looking for a certain type of perfection. A perfection that would put my mind with all its questions and doubts to rest in order to give me answers. And in that need for that perfection, I would get anxious because the day would have to be filled and flow in a certain way and order or it wouldn't feel right or at worst, like a waste. Once I recognized I was doing this and let it go, even the smallest (sometimes the most banal, bordering on dumb) moments made me so happy.

Enough of that.


My friends Tiia and Paavo had moved from Bali to Portugal recently. I had always wanted to go and to have nice friends living there, it felt like the right time to pay a visit. Everyone asked me before I went where I was staying in Portugal and I had absolutely no idea and would just answer, I think it's a half an hour away from Lisbon, there's surfing, and it starts with an 'S'.

Well where I stayed was kind of half an hour from Lisbon and it was called Ericeira (there's an 's' sound somewhere in there). It was incredibly quiet, calm and had some pretty spots.

We went to a friend's birthday in the neighbouring town, Sintra. Sintra is beautiful, but man the venue for the birthday was incredible:

Tiia and I went to Lisbon for a weekend. What a place:

Although this shot of food looks pretty, it was actually pretty terrible. But that is in no way an indication of the food in Portugal - I ate some incredible things (octopus salad! deep fried baby mackarels! tomato rice!) We actually stumbled upon this place one night and had an incredible meal (re: delicious, reasonably priced, generous portions, cute, lively atmosphere). Also if you're looking for a cute store where you want to touch and admire every single thing, A Vida Portuguesa is the place.


A beautiful book store in a spot a little bit outside of Lisbon:

Tiia and I went to Sintra for another day and explored a castle:

Then it was off to Paris. Man. Okay so this is where my anxiety and the need for perfect situations came up insanely. A couple of days before I was leaving for Paris, I had read that France was experiencing crazy floods, to the point that the President was calling a state of emergency. The Seine in Paris had risen so high (and look liked it would continue to rise) that the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay were closing for a couple of days to move their artworks as a precaution to protect the work. On top of that there were strikes among the railways, airports, etc. The news just made Paris sound like it was an absolute mess. My mind went nuts and was wondering if I should cancel all my bookings to Paris while I still could and go somewhere else that was familiar and not on the verge of environmental disaster and disorder. But out of cheapness and rationality, I went.

And man, once I got there, I laughed and was so embarrassed over how much I freaked out in my head (but ha, obviously not embarrassed enough to be telling you this). Either the news completely blows things out of proportion or my mind just takes things way too far (this is probably the more likely answer), but things in Paris (at least for a tourist staying there for a little over a week) were completely fine (although definitely other parts of France, from what I read are in terrible states). I was so glad I followed through.

It instantly felt familiar and I don't care that this sounds cheesy - but I felt that magic and romance that I associate with Paris. It was grey and kind of miserable weather when I first arrived, but navigating the metro, hearing the sounds, seeing the signs, buildings, people, it instantly felt right.

Tiniest bathroom I've experienced in a long time (this place also had the most insane price for a cup of tea - 5 euros!)

I forgot about steak tartare. Hello friend, I didn't realize how much I missed you. I had it at this place. It's also a really nice spot in the Marais district to watch people going by. And ha! They serve a surprisingly good chai.

Fondation Louis Vuitton. I don't know how I ended up here or what drove me to come here. Because initially the idea of a museum started by this brand made me cringe in that it seemed like it would just be indulgent, flat art that is trying to give another face to the brand rather than actually trying to cultivate and nurture art. It just seemed like a place for rich people to feel better about themselves. Especially when I saw that the main exhibition on at the time was Chinese artists from their collection - I couldn't help but feel that they were pandering to a market that has the most spending (and profit) potential.

Ha! I don't know if it's because I haven't been in a contemporary art space in a long time and am completely starved for art and am easily swayed. Or that I don't know anything about art (probably yes to all of these) - but I really enjoyed it here. Architecturally the space is beautiful (and I had no idea going into it that it was designed by Frank Gehry). The space was the perfect size, there was a good amount of work in there that you didn't feel inundated and that you could spend as much time as you needed with the ones you enjoyed.

I don't know how I could ever forget this about Paris, but I did - the parks. I forgot how nice it was that they are all over the city and it's a nice way to break up the day by just sitting there and watching people or reading.

This was outside of the Centre Pompidou. These kids (with their missing baby teeth) were going absolutely nuts over this man's bubbles. They would jump, chase at them, scream, and laugh. It went on like this for 10 minutes or so and then one of the kids knocked down the bowl that was holding all the change the man was collecting for making these bubbles. It made a huge clattering noise that totally ruined the moment and signalled the end of the show. I think it's amazing/crazy that a man thought, I'll make money by making bubbles in front of a museum all day.

Really into the bathroom mirrors here

I have to say that even though when I came to Paris and instantly knew it was the right choice, what I completely forgot was how nervous I get when I have to speak in Paris because I know absolutely no French whatsoever. I am so used to being able to communicate and be understood fully (for the most part). It was paralyzing at the worst of times and mildly nerve-wracking the rest of the time. I was worried that everyone was silently judging me when I gave them a confused face and would say, "Parlez-vous anglais?" Which is weird because in every other foreign place that I've been where I don't speak the language, I don't get nearly as nervous. But this is the thing about Paris for me, I am fascinated by everything around me. It's one of the few places where I want to people-watch. Where I can sit and watch everything go around me and feel completely fulfilled. Once I let this curiosity take over, my insecurities and worries would be pushed aside and I didn't care so much if people thought it sucked that I didn't speak French and was staring at them. And then I realized they didn't care either.

Paris made me confront a lot of things in myself (nervousness, anxiety), and they aren't solved permanently, but for the time that I was there, they were put to rest. In addition to eating everything delicious, hanging out in parks, seeing art, walking around, going to this place really cleared things for me and if you're ever in Paris, I really recommend going there. Also, when researching what to do in Paris, as per usual David Lebovitz never led me astray. Nice leads here, here, and here.


This was the main reason that I went to Stockholm and a big reason for me going to Europe - the Yayoi Kusama retrospective at Moderna Museet

When anyone asked me why I was in Stockholm and I told them why, they were like, you came all the way to Stockholm for an exhibition?


I had seen pictures of Kusama's exhibitions before and the works and spaces just seemed completely immersive and moving. And seeing them at certain points just stuck an idea in my head that experiencing her work firsthand would be healing in some way. It's a lot of pressure to put on the work and myself by coming all this way - and in some ways it was disappointing  - I had asked one of the attendants at the gallery if there were more rooms to the Kusama exhibition then the ones I had seen - to which he said no, and then added that this was no small exhibition (couldn't I see that? Was the subtext underneath his words). But I am still really glad that I did because yes, there were moments where it was just, whoa. Like this:

The room is surprisingly small, but once you're in there it feels expansive. Stepping inside, I instantly felt calm.

Oh Sweden, I forgot about your beautiful open faced sandwiches and your insane prices (too insane). I had this pretty plate of food here.


I don't have much to show or to say about here because the weather was pretty miserable for the short period I was there. And I spent a lot of it inside trying to avoid the rain and dry my wet feet. 

I didn't think I would, but I was ready to leave Europe when it was time to. Maybe it's because I am going to try my best to come back again soon, so I knew this wouldn't be the last time we'd see each other.