the start

March 25, 2017 § Leave a comment

There is

no name
no tune
no thoughts
no destination
no space
no second clock
no colour
no taste

– beginning

The start wears the purest form of Mother’s Nature beauty. The air is crisp and clear. The breath carries an innocent whiff and exhale itself into the atmosphere. Bringing truth to a better light.

The prelude bears clarity and serenity. It is simple to feel. It resonates a silence smile a new born carries. It grows like a seed nurture into a tree.  It brings waves to the ocean. It becomes.

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A few weeks ago, I started a new journey. And like all new beginnings, it came with a closure. I ended my short stay in Yangon. The departure was inevitable. The differences seem to match like puzzles pieces, forming an unforeseen picture. Coming back to the island was only natural, and it seems like another new start after another, yet this time, everything seems to be aligned.

But before returning, the yoga community in Yangon invited us for a retreat at a beach town 6/7 hours away from the city. It took no hesitation for me to say yes. So off I went to another short excursion.

Ngwe Saung lies on the west side of Myanmar and has the front row seat to the Bay of Bengal. Since it is the best view, it would almost be a dishonour to hold our practice anywhere else but.

 
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Every morning, I arrived sheepishly at the open hallway. We start our day with a short meditation and an hour of vinyasa flow. As we meditate in the quiet, flashes of past memories come flooding their way through. Some were hurtful, some were very joyful and between the both, there were collisions of your own thoughts trying to play tug of war. Where should I fall? Where should you place your emotions? What is the outcome of falling into it? Can i get something out of this?

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 “A man’s power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth, and his desire to communicate it without loss.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My perception of truth lies in the depths of how honest I am with myself. It wasn’t so difficult to be at peace with myself anymore. Unlike previous struggles, this was different, it was genuinely rediscovering my own strength and knowing where my limitations lie. With that said, the practise has became somewhat easier with a clearer head space. It’s as if I have decluttered my own brain and made way for some physical strength and serious alignments.The lighter one feels the lighter the body is.

“The body is smarter than your brain.” We often outwit ourselves with pushing the limits. Can we stretch the calves an inch further during a downward dog? Can we hold in a three legged dog half a minute longer? Let’s try to extend the arms a little higher but soften the shoulders deeper on a lunge.

There wasn’t a moment where I didn’t want to just ease into a pose. I want to engage each reflexes with poise yet gain the resilience and flow with my heartbeat. The mat has become a place for comforts and challenges simultaneously. The union is like two friends meeting one another, the twilight moon meeting the sun right before it reaches the horizon. An occurrence we fail to witness yet happens everyday.

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The best part about rediscovering yourself is finding same kindled spirits who share the same perception. While we came from all walks of life, no culture, religion, race and gender differentiate us, one way or another, we meet at the mat and breathe the same air. Evenings were spent at cocktail bars laughing over Yangon life. The little inglorious daily activities that make the city unique to its own. Bad traffic, unhygienic manoeuvres, discrepancies and so on. One that seems so foreign to a life I live this moment.

I’m back in the +65 region again, with a new job, but still hanging out with my crazy kitchen crew and exploring a deeper relationship. Somehow everything seems to work out the way it ought to be just as it should, with time.

My current new boss is quite obsessed with fried shallots(eu chang,葱头油) . An asian delicacy and staple to any meal. Fried shallots on steamed fish, nasi lemak, fried shallots on plain rice, shallot oil is also used very frequently in garnishing any salads or finishing off a simple stew to enhance the flavours and brings a crisp texture. It’s something little but goes a long way.

After this morning’s workout, I bought some kale on my way home and immediately thought of tossing some in for a quick lunch salad.

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Kale, cashew cheese, cherry tomatoes, quinoa and fried shallots. Happy weekend folks

 

 

 

 

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February 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

There is something special about going back to a vicinity you were born in. A connection of past and present colliding, a series of flashbacks, a solemn quietness and a rejoiced smile for realising the miles you’ve clocked. 
A couple of days ago, my mum and I made our way to KL for her company reunion dinner. They were the pioneer crew for an airline company and made their way to the top in the Asia region, by working hard as a team. The diligent long hours in the office, perseverance to be resilient during bad times, occasional disputes followed by forgiving drinks after, setting goals and achieving them have made the bond so closed. Till 20 years down the road later, they still feel like one.
We had arrived at our first Airbnb (That is another story to tell,she was so skeptical! )and walked into the concrete jungle.

  
Remember how i used to wait for you in the office and we head home together?
Oh look, we used to have drinks over there. Oh geez, that new pub looks terrible. 
Mum, remember we always have those little colourful kueh kueh from the macik there? *pointing to the corner near the traffic light*
Those days, were quite gone but memories have a way of capturing our hearts and make us reminisce. 
  
The small reunion dinner felt the same. Everyone spoke of how they were forced to wear suits and coats in the tropical weather, the surbodinates sabotaging one another with corporate politics and of course, the travels. 
At some point through dinner, I realized why I love traveling and how I feel in love with it. Mum was constantly surrounded by travel agents, and I was constantly surround by them. I was the little photocopy girl in the office tipping toes over the machine buttons. She gave me little projects to tie calendars, stickers, notebooks and flyers together. The words such as “outbound”, “inbound”, “via LAX” were imprinted my head. The world map projected widely on the walls of the office, eventually moved to my bedroom wall. 
Our family holidays were rather ad hoc. An 8 hour drive up to Penang, a 13 hours flight to England, occasional last minute getaway to Hong Kong, a few days hiatus to the Eastern Peninsula Malaysia just so we can get childish feet beneath the brown sands. The wanderlust in me seek for adventures, “in-the-moment” instances, put myself out of the box and eventually formed a free spirited soul. 

  
For the last two weeks, we have been on the road, stayed in a tiny hotel, took a plane to KL and stayed in our first Airbnb; then I took a long bus ride up north, she flew in later, we stayed in multiple relative homes, ubered our way through cities; we parted ways again, and I just got off a 6 hour journey from Malaysian to Yangon. 
Our friends have said they can’t catch up with our lives. Sometimes, I cannot too. We are hardly at home but when we are, we become homebodies. The apartment is our little sanctuary of mindfulness and slowing down. We do not get out for days. 

   

   I have spent the last few years, getting to know the world, learning about partners and building communities but I have failed to learn one very important person. Myself. How much we have grown into the person we are because of our up bringing; what we need in a relationship, career, a home or even ourselves come from fundamentally the people we grow up around. 

  
Life has its own ways of giving you things you want but making you fight for it. Have you ever asked for patience but find yourself in a line for donuts? Have you ever asked quiet but all you hear is noise? Well next time, if you want something ask yourself if you can handle the opposite. Chances are, you are already standing right in front of it. 

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February 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

Is it really 12th of Feb already? One would think 43 days is a mere figure but for me this year seems to pass by really quickly. A blink of an eye and I seem to be in a completely different place, phase and head space.

Head space.

A friend of mine said casually to me the other day,

“By the way, I didn’t tell you this but I’m dating someone.”

It might have seem a little out of place to tell me that but he felt the need. Given that we had spent hours talking about relationships, friends and life. I have also seen him get seemingly tipsy with girls and waking up to a dreary morning.

“Well at least we are in the same head space.”

fullsizerenderIt felt good to hear that phrase. They always say, the older one gets, the wiser you are. I am not sure if I am necessary wiser, but I do know that I know myself better. If there is anything more wrong in life is to lie to yourself, if there is anything more than wrong lying to yourself is living in a lie.

The last couple of weeks have been harsh. I spent days deciphering the unhappiness inside me.

“If your core is unhappy, you will draw unhappiness from people; if your core is happy, you will draw joy.”

How true is this? I asked myself again and again what have been missing inside. As you have known, I spent the last year doing odd baking jobs, helping out at various food establishments and travelled, quite a fair amount.

I was just looking for something to put my heart and time into so I could feel contented. So I waited for the potentials, but didn’t happened; jumped into other potentials but didn’t turn out to be right for me. Was I lost? I thought I was. But when I came home this Lunar New Year and hanged out with my old kitchen crew, everything felt so right. Why I pushed school aside for four years, sticked with the restaurant for so long and when I finally gathered the courage to leave, I missed everything about it.

We were drying laundry after service when it suddenly hit me that everything we did, we did it for a reason. We are the sort of people that will fix our own light bulbs, cement our own walls, wipe the glass windows down ourselves and make things from scratch. There goes without saying that our food carries the same philosophy. Handmade pasta, meat burgers, puff pastry, hearty cakes and more. There goes without saying that I share the same sentiments and search for like-minded folks that follow the same passion.

My short stage in a great Hong Kong restaurant had the same vibes. Everyone took turns to check the cleanliness of the toilet through out service. Everyone took turns to fill up the sauces while we wait for family meals. Everyone cared for one another and took care of each other like a family. We caught up while we clean; we sang songs and made jokesTo say that this model, doesn’t work financially is perhaps rather short sighted. They are on to their forth outlet, have their own brewery in Japan and are collaborating with other restaurants, globally.

What is the secret? To find like-minded people who believes in the same philosophy and work hard towards the same goal. For the most part, these people, like me take money rather lightly. It’s not to say we don’t think of it, of course I would love to indulge in the same bottle of champagne every year, a suitor once bought for me on my birthday to match my birth year (thats about almost 3 decades old!) But the sort that thrives in good quality ingredients, understand the length of sheer hard work to achieve finesse in a dish, believe in simplifying the complicated flavours and serve it with some good old fashion warm customer service.

Because that’s the inside, that is the soul of the business and when the inside is beautiful, the outside will take care of itself.

Of course, you need the right marketing tools, the right geography, the right demographics and perhaps even the right time.

fullsizerender-3I realised my large appetite for life. There is this curious innate nature to question about how/why/what things work. At a very young age, there seems to be an adopted nature of dismantling items and putting them together, collecting reads and getting lost in unfamiliar sights.

I realised finding compatible folks in this island is quite exhausting because they truly exist in a different dimension. People here play it safe. People here have their whole education carve out in a singular scope with somewhat narrow peripheral vision. People don’t know what to do when things fall out of plan because they lose their sense of identity. They attached themselves to things and structure that when things don’t go as they think they should. They too, fall out of sorts.

I have been fighting this system all my life. This heart is getting quite weary of following these lines and want to live with less.

“There is so much beauty in the simple.” @beurrenoisette, reminded me; as we rejoice in Society, by Eddie Vedder; a song I have quoted many times in this blog.

You think you have to want
More than you need
Until you have it all you won’t be free 

I have voiced out so much about simplicity over the years and how I see a future. These days I spent more time meditating and running, connecting with people and disconnecting with devices (or I try), devoting time to simple events. This head space.

Simple as it is.

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February 4, 2017 § Leave a comment

Been on the road; been running; been eating (a lot)

Slowing down now and reminding myself to stay grounded with these words:

0721 waking up with the earth, another morning run; everytime I revisit this place I grow a little; I learn how to cherish the present moments, the past mistakes, the people that crossed my paths and the little personal accomplishments in my books; somedays we wait for people who aren’t ready to meet you at the bridge; somedays we yearn for unconditional love because that’s the most beautiful feeling on earth; somedays people fall short because of pride & ego and become complacent; you can not make someone a better person like you can’t make someone be ready; it’s putting everything aside and rejoicing in quiet vulnerable moments together, it’s going to take (perhaps) a lifetime

Sometimes it’s just running in a different direction, and boy does it makes all the differences in the world

2017

January 2, 2017 § 2 Comments

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As the year ends, I can only resort to feeling thankful for everything that had happened or become. Somedays I feel tired of playing the roles. A cook running a small f&b place, a daughter living abroad from her best friend/mother, a food writer with little stories that only a few can appreciate, a plant based eater who constantly have to explain why I am one.

Days in the kitchen get hard, when it starts on a bad note. Rebellious millennials cooking with the lack of passion, mess up the prep and create a playful environment. Customers wanting everything but nothing on the menu. Yes I want your money but the integrity with the land’s produce and cooking with the crew are far more honourable than that. And I hope you honour the same philosophy.

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Somedays moving here and after working in the industry for 10 years make me feel so small like I have not learnt anything at all or people take my word as a joke.  That slaving through kitchens and be on the line with tough cooks or business people were merely grazing through white clouds.

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But here is a small voice inside me that whispers to me before I sleep, that I should stay steadfast in my journey. That when people can’t see the rightness of my actions, I should at least have faith in myself. After all, if you come with good intentions there shouldn’t be anything in between that and the present moment.

Apart from other people’s ego.

Here is to 2017. May your year be filled with simple meanings. Good company. Sincere connections. Honesty.

 

Movember

December 1, 2016 § Leave a comment

For the last 30 days, I’ve been on the move with a crew for a cause; well to be specific, men’s health. While others grow a moustache, host an event, donate or go for a ride; I joined my best workout instructor, Jev, to move for a month. He is known to program bootcamps that leaves us sweating or laying face flat on the floor. Every Saturday for the last 6 months, I joined Kilter Crew at Fort Canning for an hour worth of WOD & stairs. I have never felt so motivated to exercise in my life.

So when I heard that Jev is had started a team for Movember, it didn’t take me a second longer to join. I started the month with a stretch on the mat with my partner. He had promised me to try his very best to join me for this movement, despite being overseas.

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I have done yoga for the last 10 years. Somedays, I go through the motion of doing it without second thoughts; it is almost unkindly to not do a stretch or pose at some point in the day. Somewhere along the way, I did stop practicing yoga mentally. My body could move along the poses easily but my mind/heart were not in sync. I was quick to anger and get frustrated with little things. I pushed people and myself away. Through these little notches, I grew increasingly aware of my emotions. Seeking solace in mediations, new yoga classes, and motivated myself to step outside my comfort zone.

I started running a year ago. The first 500m was extremely difficult. I couldn’t even hold my pace and breathe consistently. My feet always kicked higher than they were meant too, leaving me with knee and hip injuries. My ex-boyfriend would ridicule me with my determination to run because I couldn’t even get the basics right. How could one learn how to run before walking right? Needless to say, I threw all the bad habits out of the window (including the asshole) and invested in taking 500m to 800m to 1km. I threw out the old pair of fancy running shoes and got to know my sole better by consulting the local running store; read up about distance running and motivated myself with personal stories.

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Since then, the morning/evening sun I look forward to waking up early or reserving my energy till the evening for a run. 6km/8km seems like a breeze and I am more determine to do a marathon just to check it off my list in this lifetime.

Half way through Movember, I moved to Yangon, Burma. There was work, but more importantly there is someone. And like all change, there come challenges. I lost my workout community. I lost my running routes. I lost the ability to mediate properly. What was it to sit still, close your eyes and focus on the breath? I became somewhat a monster to others and myself. Throwing tempers, feeling anxious, projecting an unconscious self to the world.

The negative state of mind, is an ego.

The moment you become aware of the ego in you, it is strictly speaking no longer the ego, but just an old, conditioned mind-pattern. Ego implies unawareness. Awareness and ego cannot coexist. – Eckhart Tolle

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It was hard to turn myself into the cell of awareness. It’s a place of vulnerability and truth. No one likes to be told that they are wrong or are something they don’t perceive themselves to be. But at the same time, it is also a place of love and freedom. A place where you dwell your unconsciousness and make sense of your actions. That there is really no where else to be but the present moment; no one else but your own very self that needs to push all the clutter away and make way for pure light.

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I found a local yoga studio, Yangon Yoga House, which became my little sanctuary for quietness. The receptionist and yoga instructors became my little community of joy, vegan foodies and smiles. They have never failed to close a session with great closing lines and encourage me to feel lifted after a tired day.

I have also found a great workout buddy in my partner who keeps me grounded with not pushing myself too much. Our weekly routine to run around kandawgyi lake before a hearty dim sum breakfast meal, has became our thing. I am only hoping that these little steps and habits becomes our lifestyle; also bringing friends together and instilling a sense of well-being for others.

We close Movember at the lake with a short run and 30 pushups, 30 sit ups and 30 burpees.    The Move-mber team came in 7 for the National ranking. We are worlds apart but this has kept us close for the last month. A crew that sweats together, stays together.

 

Here is a lovely quote from my favourite yoga instructor, Jojo, who constantly check in on my practice:

 Give gratitude to this breath and this body, remembering it is the only one we get for this lifetime, so let’s treat it with the love, kindness and care that we would treat any other object we wish to keep for an entire lifetime. Be grateful for these legs and feet for carrying us millions of steps to where you are in this moment, to this breath for carrying us from this lifetime into the next.

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November 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Home is where the heart is. I detest this phrase. Where is the heart? Where is home? Why must it be located in a physical sphere or bound to an emotional space? I’m missing home a lot more than I would imagine. I’m missing our usual Sunday mornings coffee runs and getting into work tired from the whole week and looking forward to a beer session.

I miss working out with my kilter crew/crossfit crew. Even though I haven’t been entirely close to them, the community has always been there to support my workout regime and push my physical strength to a higher level. 

Most of all, I miss my Mother. My anchor to the everyday routine and journey. She is there for the sad times, to hear me yell or laugh about unforgettable moments. For quiet meals when we don’t feel like talking; laughing at stupid jokes; understanding my needs and keeping me grounded to the heart. 

Coming to a new place is difficult. I moved for personal reasons. Reasons, I would think are difficult to find or place an attachment to. Reasons, I think would be unfair to keep them. Sometimes when reasons fail to make one happy, one loses hope in keeping up with this journey.

The culture, the language, the cuisine, the everyday surroundings and faces are all different.

Over the last few days, I have fought with everything unnecessary. The smallest dirt in the kitchen, the unplaced laundry in the basket, the dirty feet marks on our temporary homestay wooden floor etc. The slightest mistakes in the words would hurt me and make me feel like the smallest person on earth. Unable to feel vulnerable because I was told to be strong. To be strong around men, to hold my ground in the military-kitchens and remain steadfast with setbacks.

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness- Brene Brown.

Ironically, I miss the closer love we have had. Perhaps like any new bond, the initial exciting courtship have ended and we are much more like ourselves with distance apart. I got caught up with wanting my rights, ways and usual routines; I got lost in finding a meaning to be here. I voiced my opinions and forced gravity against the flow. I could not see from a  different light. I was only fighting with myself to make life more difficult than it already is.

And at the end of them all, I became someone unrecognisable to my own reflection.

When I look at my own timeline, I didn’t recall myself being so anxious about a move. I remember embracing every wave, and held on to the heart like it was a surfboard.You either ride the way or duck dive there.

What happened to the old self? Did I get so complacent with trying to adapt to a new place that I forgot to bring the embrace-it-all/wabi-sabi attitude towards this new journey?

I never missed home so much more; yet just a year ago, I wanted to leave so desperately and never come back to stay again. How can one be in a same place but have extreme feelings? The disenchantments of a new surrounding, the distance between two hearts, finding a new place and building a business together set in very heavily.

Two weeks have passed. Its getting easier. I’ve realised that home is where you found yourself to be and it will always be there; missing it, is merely just missing yourself. “Come back home”, that’s what I’ve been telling myself. Make the best out of it and even if it fails, at least you gave it your very best.

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So here is the beginning of devoting myself to making  honest food for my crew and building a new community.

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