Gym Tales

GYM MATTERS

Searching for a gym around Bekasi, Indonesia takes a bit of effort and perseverance. To make it less tedious, I go by these criteria: clean, equipped with basic equipment or more, no latching onto my bank account, no aggressive sales personnel, and knowledgeable general instructors and personal trainers.

GIVE ME YOUR BANK ACCOUNT

I was set for a reconnaissance of Celebrity Fitness housed at Metropolitan Mall years ago. I was told it was a good gym, taking it to mean that it was clean and complete in equipment. What I hadn’t counted on, after being held up at the reception area, was the inordinate badgering for my bank account number before they’d allow me to go in for an inspection. I just walked away.

Gold’s Gym was next. I was thrilled that a branch was opening at my area and in a mall, Grand Metropolitan, so I eagerly approached their pop-up booth at the mall to sign up as a future client. Big mistake! People were calling me regularly, harassing me to sign up for a year even though the gym wasn’t ready yet. Their modus operandi of pre-selling and locking in people for a year through credit card payment didn’t go down well with me. I dropped the plan of enrolling altogether at the gym, which opened several months later than their announced opening.

LAX MANAGEMENT

Helios at Cyberpark Bekasi was where I ended up. Although strategically located in an IT mall, Helios was nondescript compared to the first two. However, the space was big then, fitted with an array of equipment, and offered several classes ranging from spinning to Muay Thai. Payment was looser comparatively speaking – you can choose how to pay without being coerced to pay for a year. No problem with freezing your account too for work or personal reasons; you just tell a staff at the reception counter and it is done. Attending more than one spinning class or zumba or modern dance was allowed. Unfortunately, the gym downsized, cutting its space into half, which had minimal impact on one’s workout, but management became lax so cleanliness levels dropped as well as equipment maintenance. Lighting became poor; buckets on the workout floor due to leaky ceilings became almost permanent fixtures; and the cooling system was always conking out. The push factor in leaving the place altogether was when the owner decided to relocate to an area that would extend my usual travel time of 20+ min to get to the gym by more than an hour. “I’d be too tired to work by the time I got there,” I thought. My trainer wasn’t inclined to move either with Helios and transferred to a nearby gym.

My trainer moved to Go Fitness, a much smaller gym catering to the residents of Apartemen Mutiara, but was also opened to the public. It wasn’t in a mall, but it was a stone’s throw away from Metropolitan Mall. The workout space is an eighth of Helios’ but it had the basic weights equipment. Cleanliness was commendable seeing a staff sweep the floor and clean the machines, wiping them down with a wet cloth, almost every time I was working out which was four times a week. Music was not ear-jarring and the ventilation was adequate. But what a difference a year makes for everything had slid down horrendously. For instance, the staff were either sleeping on the sofa at the reception area or smoking outside of the entrance hence the overall dirtiness of the gym. The receptionist was intermittently ill; she was perpetually wearing a disposable surgical mask. Dangdut blasted from the speakers which commingled with a soap opera blaring from the sole TV on the wall. A constant thought that zipped through my mind every time I was working out was, “Was I in a gym or a ramshackle neighbourhood?” It was time to move out.

Go Fitness
workout space at Go Fitness

BONA FIDE GYM

It was a fortuitous event when my desire to move out coincided with my trainer being invited to work at Osbond Gym, an expansive four-month-old gym operating out of Mega Bekasi Mall. The gym floor is wide and divided into areas. There is the general floor – the first floor – fitted with the free weights machineries alongside several treadmills and cross trainers. The side wall is dedicated to barbells, dumbbells, and benches. The second floor is the shared area between the professional bodybuilders and those undergoing personal training which is separated by a railing. Popular tunes make working out a cinch and ventilation is sufficient for you to break into a sweat, but without feeling like your energy is being drained away. Lighting is adequate, naturally and electricity-powered. Water fountains, cleverly housed in red boxes at the sides of the entrances to the men and women’s lockers, help reduce the plastic waste.  Cleanliness is paramount with the janitorial team mopping and wiping regularly, and polishing the machines. And I was fortunate enough to have chanced upon a membership promotion that didn’t burn a hole in my wallet. Off the gym floor, the women’s locker room is a haven with its sauna, and clean shower cubicles, toilets, and floor.

Osbond Gym at Mega Bekasi
Welcome to Osbond Gym

Agus’s smile says it all. He is proud to work at Osbond and eagerly urged his clients, like me, to transfer with him, which I did. He is like a kid in a candy store with all the equipment he can incorporate into my workout: kettle bells, complete range of light dumbbells, slam balls, medicine balls, health club step, battle ropes, BOSU balance trainer, ViPR, and power bags alongside the other machines.

between reception and workout floor at Osbond Gym Bekasi
working out at Osbond Gym in Bekasi
Osbond Gym 2
spacious workout area at Osbond Gym
treadmill area at Osbond Gym  Bekasi
Which treadmill or cross-trainer shall I use?

It has been two weeks plus since my relocation to Osbond Gym, and working out is going swimmingly. I look forward to hitting the gym floor to lift, push, pull, squat, row, swing, and curl. Lesson learnt: choice of gym matters. A well-managed gym filled with a competent staff and motivated personal trainer is a good road to trek when on a fitness journey, both physically and mentally.

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School Days

DRAGON DANCE

the dragon at GPS 2

the dragon at GPS 1

February has left and the time for dragon dances, called barongsai in Indonesia, has passed, but I am still marveling at this year’s barongsai. In general, it is an event that I always look forward to at Global Prestasi School (GPS). Every year, a dragon dance troupe is hired to perform to welcome the new Chinese zodiac animal ruler, which, sadly, pales in comparison to the dance troupes, say, in Singapore that showcase jaw-dropping, superhuman acrobatic feats only executed by troupes imported from Mainland China. Still, I eagerly await the coming of the troupe to the open area of GPS. After all, a barongsai ushers in new hope which is always welcomed especially during trying times.

dragon dance at GPS grounds

This year’s barongsai troupe, fortunately, was much better than last year’s. First, the men looked neat, clean, and exuded a certain gravitas in performance compared to last year’s group who were disheveled and immensely devitalized. Second, the dragon was bright in color unlike last year’s drab dragon. Third, and the most notable difference, was the fluidity in the movements of the dragon that really looked like it was soaring majestically through the sky and poised for a graceful landing. This was made possible with the near synchronization of the performers. One of the men lost his footing and stumbled, making the dragon take a sudden nose dive, but it wasn’t that obvious, and the dragon was back up in the air in no time.

dragon dance 3_GPS 

dragon dance_GPS

The 2019 barongsai at GPS was done splendidly. It gave an elegant send off to the Dog and a grand, vivacious welcome to the Pig.

dragon dance 2_GPS

When the Blues Hit

PLEASURE MINUS THE GUILT

Her friends were excited about the dessert station which they had passed on the way to their reserved table. She, on the other hand, was conflicted, tortured even. She questioned her about her agitation and she revealed that she was on this no-sugar diet for more than month now, but had gone on a pastry binge earlier in the week. She was now trying to get back to her strict no-sugar diet. I then asked her if she was exercising; she said not really. I dropped the subject not wanting to engage in a debate on good food versus bad food. Later in the evening, she was digging into a cup of mousse not caring about her no-sugar diet.

pastries by Asia of The Ritz-Carlton Kuningan

Her predicament struck a chord in me. Decades ago, it wasn’t just dessert that had me conflicted every time I would eat. Even eating regular meals posed a problem with guilt accompanying every bite I took of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Horrors if I even had a snack! It was a vicious cycle of eating meals and dessert, and feeling guilty all throughout that I would rush to the gym the next day and “purge” myself by going on treadmill and doing light weights. Back then, I was not cognizant of the correlation between eating correctly and simply the importance of food in an exercise routine dovetailed with a correct mind set. My mind set then was eating less to the point of starvation to get reed thin. It was such an enervating and unhealthy fitness regime that, on hindsight, makes me wonder to this day how I survived.

halo halo and ube leche flan cake by Bench Cafe

Body shaming was something I had lived and still living with in a culture mired in contradictions. Generally, Filipinos have this frustrating fixation of a Filipino woman’s body being reed thin like an American or European woman. Any curve or jiggle or love handles is completely sacrilegious to this flagpole-structure of a body that should have incongruously a well-endowed chest. Go figure how this is naturally possible. Dovetailed with this obsession with thinness is the downplaying of one’s healthy appetite especially of a woman’s unless you are convalescing. The logic gets all twisted. You see, not plying your family and guests with food despite the polite refusals goes against the cultural edict of plying your family and guests with food because being thin is unacceptable. These contrasts are more than enough to get your fitness regime all tangled up!

Fast forward to now: food is no longer my enemy. It is now a matter of making wise food choices and taking note of my energy expenditure and the calories I consume. I love to lift heavy so I do need to eat right. However, no counting macros for me because I also want to have a healthy mental state. Admittedly, I do overindulge every now, but the guilt level has gone down tremendously. It is all about enjoying the pleasure of dining alone or with friends.

pastries 2 by Asia of The Ritz-Carlton Kuningan

Pastries by Asia, The Ritz-Carlton, Kuningan, Indonesia

Halo-halo and ube leche flan cake by Bench Café

Food Tales

UBE OVERLOAD

It is purple yam to the rest of the world. It is ube (pronounced oo-beh) in its different forms to Filipinos. Growing up, halayang ube (thick ube pudding) was the sole form of ube I knew. It was a special treat hand carried by a relative from my father’s hometown of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro to Manila. My then younger and stronger uncle had the sole responsibility of stirring the mixture by hand for hours until he got the right consistency. Prior to the stirring, he also had the privilege of grinding the ube to bits by hand with the stone grinder. Using a mechanized tool, he felt, to grind and stir was simply blasphemous because it interfered with the taste somehow botching up the chemistry of the ube. My uncle’s homemade ube was not bottled like the commercial ones. It came in a llanera, container for leche flan, and, using a service spoon, we’d scoop a dollop or two on a plate to eat it. I usually ate it straight from the serving spoon, so the next one had to get a new serving spoon.
A meeting with old friend Harriet led me to two forms of ube. One was a reworked version of the traditional Filipino dessert-snack, halo-halo. The second was a fusion of Western and Filipino desserts. Halo-halo is a cold concoction of layered goodness. The first layer of a usual parfait glass is a bed of coconut preserves in its various mutations, sweet red and green beans, and rice krispies at the bottom of the glass followed by shaved ice generously drizzled with evaporated milk. The final layer is a topping of cubed leche flan or a dollop of ube or a scoop of ice cream or all three toppings sitting prettily on a hill of ice. The reworked halo-halo I stumbled upon was at Bench Café. Located on the second level of Greenbelt 3, it is best to turn left at the Green Belt entrance facing Fairmont Hotel and follow the path. Walk a bit slowly once you pass Starbucks while looking to your left – look for a flight of staircase curving up to the second level. Bench Café is an offshoot of the clothing company Bench, a prominent brand of my high school and university years, which has branched out into the food industry. A craving for ube egged me to walk through the café’s heavy wooden doors, and into a space wrapped in white, wood, and glass, and a black-white floor pattern that seemed to play eye tricks.

Bench Café’s halo-halo was an explosion of ube, which was the first noticeable refashioning, in a 16-oz cup. Second, where the halo-halo bits started and ice ended were blurred; the shaved ice had transformed into snow ice much like the snow ice of a Korean patbingsu. The coming together of the ube snow ice with the ube ice cream (or was it halayang ube or both?), after plunging the spoon into the cup and pulling it up, was one smooth, ube tango on the palate sans the imagined cloying sweetness. 

Indulge in ube or purple yam at Bench Cafe

Cranking up our ube overload was a slice of their ube leche flan cake. The combination of ube cake – a Filipino take on the regular cake – and leche flan is one of the two fusion dessert trends taking off in Manila. The other transmogrification is pairing ube with brazo de mercedes as done and popularized by baker Bellefleur by Beatrix with her sought-after frozen ube brazo. She has also come out with her own version of the ube leche flan cake in her bake shop in Greenhills. Bench Café’s ube leche flan cake is smothered in cream cheese icing, swirled with ube flowers, and sprinkled with ube bits with each bite a harmonized blend of sweet and sour as the sour cream cheese taste surfaces immediately after the sweetness of the leche flan. The trick to tasting such harmony is to thoroughly slide the fork from the top to the bottom to get all layers of the cake – ube cake, leche flan, ube cake, and icing – and get the flavors at every bite.

Ube overload is an indulgence that I find myself looking forward to every time I come home. It is a trip down memory lane. It is savoring the happy moments in my childhood. It is a sweet surrender to my craving for my favorite Filipino dessert without the guilt. 

Here & There

DITCHING SINGLE-USE PLASTIC

Open your eyes! To say that there is no problem with plastic waste or that it is isn’t your problem confirms a head-in-the-sand attitude that shouldn’t be tolerated at all. The clogged sewer canals, for instance in Bekasi, Kalimalang, is a stark reminder of the plastic waste and people’s obstinacy in treating their surroundings as a huge rubbish bin. It is simple logic, really. Clogged drains mean roads flooded with canal water that is teeming with bacteria in which people, who need to get from point A to point B, will need to cross thus increasing the chances of them taking ill by succumbing to leptospirosis (rats are the popular residents of canals) as they wade through the dirty water. And, to make matters worse, given the preponderance of people to eschew health concerns as something trivial or to self-diagnose, untreated leptospirosis can lead to something more life-debilitating or, worse, death. Going outside of Bekasi, discarded plastic waste is deleterious to animals. Sea creatures are dying because they mistake the plastic bags for food and eat them. Others get caught in the plastic trash maiming themselves such as that turtle, in a video that went viral, that had a straw stuck up his nostril which was painfully pulled out.

Students at Global Prestasi School (GPS), particularly the students of the Cambridge Preparatory Class, have decided to address this urgent problem. Following their gold medal win at the recently concluded Youth Environmental Summit (YES) 2019 in Singapore, the grade 8A students are making good on their gold medal-winning project of reducing and ultimately eliminating single-use plastic by, first, practicing what they’re preaching. Now, they are bringing their own lunch boxes and tumblers, and ditching the use of plastic straws. Some have taken to using metal straws to sip their drinks with. The habit of bringing their own lunch boxes and tumblers was instilled during YES when every participant was told to bring his or her own lunch box and tumbler for lunch and dinner. The YES organizers provided the sponge and dish detergent for the participants, so the students were also taught how to be responsible especially cleaning up after themselves.

bring your lunch box and cutlery
I’ve got my lunch box, tumbler, and cutlery. [Josh Purba, grade 8A, GPS] (photo by Emmanuella Venni)
bring your own tumbler
“I’ve got my own tumbler, too.” [Hammada Ghazi, grade 8A, GPS] (photo by Emmanuella Venni)
Their English teacher has also joined in by bringing her own lunch box to pack lunch from the canteen which she places in a cloth bag. Her cloth bag totally eliminates having to ask for a new plastic bag in which to carry her packed lunch back to her office. She has taken it further by having her drink poured in a mug or a glass instead of the usual plastic cup when she has a drink at Starbucks or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Likewise, she has made it a point to bring her own shopping bags at the supermarket to put her groceries in.

mug at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
ice-blended drink in a mug [The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Punggol Mall, Singapore]
Starbucks in a glass
caramel pudding matcha latte in a glass [Starbucks, Grand Metropolitan Mall, Bekasi]
The goal of grade 8A is for GPS to go plastic free. They will start with their class then slowly convince the entire grade 8 students then the teachers, and eventually the entire unit. The project is simple, but it is easier said than done. They are aware of the great challenge before them which is altering the school’s population mind-set of convenience over sustainability to vice versa. It is going to be a struggle fraught with indifference, scepticism, and downright apathy, but they’ve immense resolve to make everyone ditch single-use plastic because it is the right thing to do.

 

When the Blues Hit

LIFTING HEAVY

The off- season of the UP Ladies’ Football team was the push factor for my hitting the gym when I was still in university. Being a soccer varsity player was exhilarating. When I tried out for the team, the senior players were sceptical that they even had a wager that we newbies – there were three or four of us – wouldn’t be back for the next training session. They were wrong because we were back for the next session all sore but raring to train. Compared to the senior players, I still had a lot to learn from ball handling to strategies and a lot to develop in terms of stamina and muscular power. So, stoked to succeed as a full-back player, I went to the gym to develop muscular strength so I could kick the ball harder and send it flying across the pitch like the professional football players. My goal was to able to kick it half across the field which would clear our side of the pitch, and make it easier for our forward players – two tall, lean, and nimble ladies – to carry the ball towards the opponent ‘s side.

My soccer days are over, but the habit of lifting weights never left me. There is something about the feeling of power surge through your body as you lift those dumbbells or barbells, and seeing how the weight increases every session. That feeling of strength isn’t that obvious while you are at the gym because you move through the exercises continuously which tire you out. And you certainly are not as poised and graceful as Wonder Woman. I know I look like the world caved in on me! I enter another world when I am at the gym. It is all about being focused and getting the lift right. I lose notion of time, the count of reps, work, the gym itself that I am only pulled back into the gym floor when I feel that extra tug at my resolve to dig deeper for that power to lift the barbell off the ground. At times, my personal trainer, Agus, tells me he had increased the weight because of the look of incredulity I flashed him as I, sprawled on the floor, tried to catch my breath. Or when he whispers to me that some of the men in the gym were remarking to him about how heavy the weight I was lifting which, to their minds, is not usual for women.

improvised barbell row machine
ready for the bent-over barbell row [Go Fitness, Bekasi]
I love lifting heavy although there are days I loathe it because I am either very sore or tired from work. When I lift heavy, I am more aware of my breathing, my body posture, and getting the form and breathing correct to avoid injury. I like my chest and back days – it is so empowering to do push-ups. I am determined to do heavier dumbbell and barbell presses, and to go lower for the push-ups while I enjoy the cable row and the bent over back row. On the other hand, I am not that thrilled about my shoulder and arm sessions, but I know I have to strengthen my weakest parts. I love-hate my leg workout. It takes a lot of determination to get through the arduous squats and lunges, which knock the wind out of me always, but I look forward to doing the leg extension. Admittedly, I brace myself for the Bulgarian lunge because, apart from testing my strength, it tests my balance greatly.

leg extension machine
leg extensions at more than 40 kg [Go Fitness, Bekasi]
dumbbell for goblet squat
all set for goblet squat [Go Fitness, Bekasi]
Lifting heavy is all about establishing a good relationship with one’s self. Along the way, as the weights increased, I have learned to strive for balance between my professional and personal lives, that one cannot simply overwhelm the other. On a personal basis, I have learnt to have a better relationship with food by choosing to eat better but not to be overly stringent that I, feeling deprived, go on a crazy food binge when the stress level or hormones go out of whack. I also have learnt that prioritizing myself is equally important as being considerate of others’ feelings. Professionally, I have become less of an individualist and push myself to be more of a team player, but without compromising my ethics and beliefs. Lastly, lifting heavily is also my fail-safe plan to stay loneliness, eliminate self-doubt, get strong, and face the vicissitudes of life with aplomb.

Food Tales

CRAVING FOR THAI NOODLES

The myriad choices in food is one of the reasons I miss living in Singapore. Every meal becomes an adventure because the choices are different every day unless you are a creature of habit. Thai cuisine is one of my favorites which is, unfortunately, sorely lacking in Bekasi. When a Thai restaurant opened in Grand Metropolitan, my enthusiasm was cranked up a few notches higher, but a mild case of food poisoning after having their phad thai quickly swore me off the restaurant forever. Bye bye Thai food.

Bangkok Jam at Plaza Singapura is one of my go-to restaurants when I am in Singapore. The casual vibe, a plethora of dishes to choose from, affordable prices, and amicable staff are more than enough to make it a habit of mine to dine at Bangkok Jam more than the Vietnamese place a floor below it which, among others, is less inviting. And Vietnamese cuisine is another favorite of mine!

seafood pad thai by Bangkok Jam

This time I had with me my colleague who was equally famished as I was. We gave our students, who we were chaperoning for the Youth Environmental Summit 2019, an hour plus to shop while we had a very late lunch. While Venni tried the tom yum fried rice – she loves spicy food – I had my usual seafood phad thai, a plate of rice vermicelli topped with succulent seafood and bean sprouts. On the side of the plate are mini hills of ground peanuts and sugar. The peanuts I understand – they provide that extra crunch – but I never could wrap my head around the sugar. I have a sweet tooth but not in this manner. The verdict is always the same: craving for Thai noodles checked.

Vignettes

STILLNESS

The world seemed to have come to a halt when I sat on the long, concrete bench one Thursday afternoon in one of Singapore’s heartlands. The sun was out, but it wasn’t beating down my back; it smiled like Elmo’s sun. A gentle breeze dipped and flew in the air in rhythmic synchronicity with the swaying of the trees. A lone cyclist lazily pedalled up the pathway, a chill vibe punctuating each push on the pedal.

Bishan - Ang Mo Kio Park, Singapore
take a “green break” at Bishan – Ang Mio Kio Park

“Ah, yes, this is how peace and quiet feel like,” I quietly said to myself. I had forgotten how the muted sounds, their palpability as thick as caramel sauce, are sweet and relaxing. That feeling banished, eclipsed by the heartaches I went through which I blunted with cacophonous chatter, discordant din, and otiose sounds. It was the same for the inane and prejudiced remarks casually thrown my way by colleagues and alleged friends.

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Singapore view 2
Shall you walk, jog, or bike at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park?

Bishan – Ang Mo Kio Park was a peaceful haven that I stumbled upon on the second day of the Youth Environmental Summit 2019. It was the venue for the Water Experiential Journey with Grace S.Y. Lim, a biologist and owner of CreativeKids Pte Ltd. Alighting at parking lot A, as my students ran to look for their groups, I headed the other way. The path I took led me to an almost empty space except for the two people taking photos near the water. The stillness in the park reminded me of the days when, steeped in papers to finish at university, the sweet placidity in the library soothed my frazzled nerves and calmed the agitations. For a fleeting moment, pain and idiocy vanished, and the world was copacetic again.

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in Singapore
still at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on a Thursday afternoon
Vignettes

T3 AT 4AM

It glowed from afar as the school car trundled along the long entrance pathway. It was enormous and it glowed.  A section within Gate 1 was dimmed but, like a dimmer switch slowly turned, the corridor was well lit at the centre. Gate 3 seemed to be the primary entry point at 4 in the morning. Porters, leaning lazily on the bag trolleys neatly lined up, were oblivious to the passengers alighting from the vehicles in front of them. Traffic was surprisingly smooth, which was a serendipitous occurrence in the traffic-laden streets of Jakarta en route to anywhere hence she was deposited at such an ungodly hour by a blue Avanza near Gate 1. She was too early for the 530 meeting time. But one can never really accurately predict one’s arrival anywhere with certainty in Indonesia. The rule of thumb: leave as early as you can and entertain yourself if you arrive early. What are smartphones for anyway? Millennials and my students swear survival by their snazzy hand phones in times of a long wait for flights.

entrance to T3 Soekarno-Hatta airport
well-lit entrance at Gate 3 at T3 of Soekarno-Hatta airport
local decor 1 at T3 Soekarno-Hatta airport
airport decor reminiscent of Chinese jack stones at T3 of Soekarno-Hatta airport
local decor 2 at T3 Soekarno-Hatta airport
a touch of Bali as airport decor
local decor 3 at T3 Soekarno-Hatta airport
orchids to welcome passengers at T3

Inside the cavernous polished cave that was reminiscent of Singapore’s Changi Airport with the huge, clear directional signs, touch of local decor, and expansive spaces in between check in counters, the new Terminal 3 (T3) of Soekarno-Hatta International airport was slowly pushing away the embrace of sleep. Cleaning ladies were already mopping the toilet floor, their nearly catatonic faces waking up from the night’s interrupted rest. The Food Terminal was alive with the chatter of the service crew of OldTown White Coffee serving teh tarik (tea with milk), toast slathered with kaya jam and butter, and soft boiled egg. Their neighbour Burger King was similarly busy.

An hour later the shuttered restaurants have flicked on their switches. The open kitchen of Paradise Dynasty, maker of xiao long pao dumplings, is lit and its toque-wearing chef is swinging into action. Auntie Anne’s was now bathed in its lights like Maragame Udon which is just next door.

benches near counter 4
the restaurants near counter 4 are getting ready to serve customers
OldTown White Coffee counter
now open at T3 – Old Town White Coffee

It was peaceful as she walked around T3 familiarizing herself with the lay of the land. There was no jostling with fellow passengers or the loud din of well-wishers and travellers. There was this mellifluous silence everywhere gently brushing passed by the few people walking around. An early breakfast while waiting for the rest of her students to arrive – they were attending the Youth Environmental Summit in Singapore – in the quiet of the airport was a good way to start the day.

T3 departure hall Soekarno-Hatta airport
T3 departure hall Soekarno-Hatta airport

OldTown White Coffee, its neon sign standing proud in the airport sky, beckoned with its Classic Combo. It was an apt breakfast, she thought, thinking of the numerous Singapore breakfasts she had had at either Killiney or Ya Kun Kaya, plus she was traveling to Singapore. It was somewhat of an homage to her old favourite breakfast. The Classic Combo didn’t entirely live up previous ones but it was an acceptable substitute. The four pieces of square kaya toast had the right crisp after-toast bite; the kaya toast – butter spread was sweetly balanced, neither sweet nor buttery which was complimented by the sips of the smooth, bitter-sweet-milky iced teh tarik. It was the soft boiled egg that was a let-down in terms of portion – it was one instead of the usual two – and overall appearance. It lacked the boiled egg white fluffiness surrounding the pinkish-white egg yolk which was orange in this case.

Classic Combo packet
Classic combo breakfast by OldTown White Coffee

T3 was clearly stirring from its sleep: the humming of the arrival of more travellers by 5am was more palpable and distinct. A new day was emerging – a new day filled with possibilities, heartaches big and small, smiles bright and wan, and traffic smooth or gnarled.

Vignettes

MORNINGS

Ignore the view in front of the window – that was what I told myself at 4pm after rushing to the window and looking at the view slightly below my hotel room. It was such a disappointment with the laundered shirt and brassiere of the occupant of condo opposite Hangout @ Mount Emily hanging to dry. I quickly pulled the blinds down. The hotel didn’t actually promise a view but still.

Morning was a different case. Looking up and fixing my gaze to the right, at the buildings dotting the landscape from beyond,I was greeted with a beautiful, colorful Singapore morning at 703. There is something about my mornings that I find truly fascinating ineffable as they may seem.

 
(view from Hangout @ Mount Emily, 10A Upper Wilkie Road)