Where I’m From

I am from post-it notes

from Elliot-inspired handwritten quotes

and badly thought out, worse than my dad’s jokes


I am from the house always to the right

from glow-in-the-dark stickers in the night

from my sister’s and I petty remote-control fights

and from my thudding pre-debate speech stage frights.


I am from the bark of sandalwood.

the silkworm’s favorite food.


I am from my mom’s Indonesian greetings

and thoughts that are always fleeting, from anxiety that sought freeing, and the meaning of life that I am still seeking.


I am from the lack of expressed love, and the locked up thought dove.


From the belief that hard work yields results and the realization that inequality is the source of humanity’s greatest faults.

I’m from monthly instant-noodles splurge

From a passionate driving urge and a life I try to create for my interests to converge and merge.


From the simmering Singaporean summers under by chubby toddler feet. I am from Shanghai where me and my dreams will hopefully meet.


Insomnia: it’s the world demanding attention

Counting my breath… Breathe in, breathe out. The cool air blowing in from the window washes over me. My body is in the correct sleeping position. My pillow feels just right. I am ready to sleep.

But my head won’t let me.

My senses become more acute than a dog and a fly, I hear the reckless motorbikes zooming across the streets. Are the riders drunk or in a hurry. I hear a slower motorbike and its softer vroom, and is that a chimey laughter of a girl? I hear the steady wind, tickling through the unsteady leaves, and the leaves don’t dance to the beat. They’re off beat. The largo tempo of the wind is far from the allegretto of the leaves. The mismatch is making me uncomfo….

Please please please sleep. I have a test tomorrow, please…

I adjust my pillow a little bit. The wind is getting a bit chilling, and I pull my blankets tighter over myself. I observe the gap in the middle of my curtains, and the dim moonlight leaking through it as it becomes more luminescent by the minute. Shortly after, the moonlight that seemed so harmless before, now seems blinding, but my gaze was fixated upon it and I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

When cars pass by the window, their headlights’ shadow swings across the gap of my curtain. The light makes a little mesmerising ribbon, sometimes gold, sometimes white, but most of the time, colorless. Did you just ask how can you see something colorless? Well, the sore eyes at 1 am are able too. It gets a bit too hot, and I kick my blankets aside.

Come on… sleep… If you don’t, all the study you have done will be wasted… please…

As the night grows deeper, even the furniture falls asleep, snoring slightly along the ticks of the alarm clock on my table. A surge of panic suddenly flows through me, and my heart beats faster and faster, as I imagine my alarm going off. What if it goes off before I fall asleep? With every tick it seems more eager to go off, to tear open the night with its loud and  shrieking screams. It’s going to go off, and ring with so much vigor and energy. And I begin to dread the alarm.

I resist the urge to check my phone, in fear of seeing the time that reads 2:43 am. That will sure despair me even more, and the worrying about the light and the alarm clock now morph into stress about the test I have next  – the test I have studied an entire week for, the test for which I turned down all my friends’ invitation for. What if I …

Nonono, let’s not think about that, let’s go to bed. No seriously, what if I… STOP.

Every cell of my body is tingling with fatigue, and yet something is ordering my brain to run a marathon. Running and running and running in cycles of circular reasoning and thoughts. It is as if the world – completely ignored by me throughout the day – is demanding attention like a haughty 8 year old elementary school child. It wants to be noticed and cared for, despite my pleads to leave me alone, and despite how old it already is. It wants to be the center of all of my attention, and I feel like a bullied 3 year old trying to run away yet being tied by the feet. I want to escape to sleep-dom, but can’t seem to break away from its chains. Have I been too apathetic to it all along? Well, now is certainly not the time to think of that, is it?

Okok, please… last call, go to bed NOW.

And after incessant painful turns and worthless wonderings, I fall asleep, only to be waken up again the dreadful alarm a few minutes later. And I drag myself off to the test.

Wish me luck.



Picture of your soul

While I was at camp in Japan, I remembered curling up every night before I sleep, on a single-person bed, under a dim reading lamp over my head, and slowly flipping through the pages of sophisticated writing by Oscar Wilde.

The room is tiny by my standards, and probably can be considered miniscule by American standards, but nonetheless, it was the place I could call home for the past four weeks.

“The Picture of Dorian Gray”, Wilde’s only novel, is an aesthetic adventure. It is a train ride through a forest of gruesomeness and beauty, exploring the nature of evil and greed. Big picture aside, let’s just take a moment and appreciate the details:

“… and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid jade-faced painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion” (and sometimes Wilde gets philosophical with art)

“The sullen murmurs of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive.” (Describing a lazy afternoon with all senses)

“The dim roar of London was like a distant bourdon note of a distant roar.” 

“‘Oh Harry!’ cried the lad with a ripple of laughter.”  (I have never connected ripples and laughter together, but not it just seems wrong not to)

“the sky was like a monstrous peacock’s tail, starred with myriads golden eyes”

“The moon hung low in the sky like a yellow skull. From time to time a huge misshapen cloud stretched a long arm across and hid it.” (amazing detail that cannot be more fitting to the plot.)

The plot was good, but the takeaway for me was the language. The metaphors were breathtaking as they pull you deeper and deeper into the plot, while at the same time allowing Wilde to whisper his thoughts to you in between the lines.

Not a hard read, but took me a long time because I kept looking over the metaphors and wondering how he came up with them.

And of course, we can talk about the deeper meaning of the plot and how all of our appearances and social media and even daily interactions with people are purposefully deceptive of our true nature, and thus are no different from the picture that Dorian Gray locks up in his attic. If we can maintain a perfect social media, and outward appearance, how much then, do we value our internal developments? (See: In Japan, You Can Hire Fake Friends For Facebook And Instagram Photos <- you don’t have to actually be nice to people to get friends and a good feed now) The theme of superficiality is timeless, with our technology and advertising schemes becoming more and more advance, pressuring people to desire more and more in regards to their appearances. And being influenced by three “face-first” countries (or countries that put a huge emphasis on appearance, especially women – Korea, Japan, China), this book could not have resonated more.

But wow, putting that aside, the language is so … aesthetic (and complicated and unnecessarily winding at times, I have to admit).

So I hope when any of you read this book, please take a moment to appreciate the beauty and elegance flowing out of the lines (as well as the lesson!)


Original Habitat

Harajuku – はらじゅく- 原宿

原宿, the two characters, literally means “Original Habitat”

It is a strawberry milkshake that smoothly blends history and youth, culture and identity, and pink hearts and gothic skulls together. It melts on your tongue, leaving a bittersweet residue, and rides down your throat, stirring tropical sensations throughout your veins.

Continue reading

On Staying Young


(pc to friend)

I leaned into the hard, uncomfortable seat, swinging my feet listlessly, thinking of and looking at nothing specific, not feeling strongly towards any emotion. The soles of my feet hurt from all the walking we did today at Disney.

Scenes of the city swooshed by the window as the subway sped through the rails.

Just right next to me, my friend, Q, is going through a period of hysteria.

Continue reading

Daily Prompt: Calm | beautiful things

We are always rushing to unmeaningful places, always doing unmeaningful things, talking about dreams, dreaming about talks. And after we wake to see the barren reality of our unaccomplished selves, we go back to dreaming and talking and doing and rushing and not-thinking. Never ending.

But when talks run out of topics (and they do) and dreams expire out of date (and they do, too), we then are forced to pull the brakes, to look around, and to find nothing but the ashes of our past, of our youthful ignorance, and the pieces of hazy memories of perhaps the one or two worthy snippets of our life. And that’s about all that is left of us.

Continue reading


I sauntered down the aisle of a supermarket: pass the greens, pass the meats, pass the dairies, and even pass the snacks. I focused on getting to the cashier counter so I can go home and finish today’s work, prepare for tomorrow’s work and maybe anticipate for the day after tomorrow’s work.

Something made me stop in my tracks, and I looked around: I was in the instant food aisle. Strange, I don’t eat instant food anymore, these unhealthy things that were warned to be cancerous and deadly, so why did I stop. I scanned the aisles and found it: right there, in the bright red package, a cheap korean ramen pack.

My mind fell back, and the world seemed to blur, I seem to back in my youthful college years, living in a dorm with the best people.

I tried to remember, and then I saw.
Continue reading

“Red Cooked Meat”

It was that time of the year when women rushed around in the majestic kitchen while men played mahjong and gambled and smoked and talked of big things that will never be carried out. I stood in the middle of the kitchen and my mother, my aunts, my relatives rushed around me, each busy with their own doings. I snuggled tighter in the old, bulky army jacket that my dad grandfather stole from the army when he ran away from the 100% fatality rate battle-front against the Japanese and came home. I can still smell the remnants of his cowardice, but I didn’t care, my blood seemed to be frosting up from the ubiquitous presence of the piercing winds. These winds always find a way to climb up from the legs of my pants, to attack the holes in my knitted sweaters, dive in from my neck and nestle around in my collar bones. My ears.. or do I even have ears? I can’t feel them.

Continue reading