#LockdownLearning

I learned something new today.

I discovered that turning or changing lanes without signalling is an offence in Singapore, and has been for quite some time already!

So I post a lot of random polls and nonsense on my IG Stories (feel free to hop over and join in whenever you want! Handle is @lydialeoh) [#SelfPlug], and I was thinking whether I should tag Khaw Boon Wan, our transport minister, in an IG Story asking him to criminalize the non-use of signal light when I decided that it’s a bit strange that with so many people doing it so openly, surely the government would at least impose a fine?

I Googled and found an article from 2014 saying it is already an offence in Singapore but not many know it, and many still do it.

I’m shocked because I had absolutely NO idea HAHAHAHA. Is it because so many drivers do it anyway that it’s become so normalized? Apparently the fine was $70 for light vehicles and $100 for heavy ones, at least back in 2014. I have no idea whether the amounts have been revised but they ought to have been. $70 is way too little.

I suggest at least $150 for first timers, $250 for second offence. Go easy on you all ah, I know it’s hard to break a habit of several years. Third time is $500, 5 demerit points and you must paste a big, bright bumper sticker that reads “I am an idiot that does not know how to signal” for a minimum of 6 months.

Oh, then submit dashcam footage can split, like, 10% of the fine? $15 also not bad leh, go eat food court then buy bubble tea after that– swee la.

Being Asian In The Time of Covid-19

With the rise of this pandemic, there has also been a rise in racist and/or xenophobic incidents across the world.

As an Asian flight attendant who flies to various countries regularly, I thought I would share my experiences here.

I am a Singaporean Chinese, and for the uninitiated, Singapore is not part of China or Malaysia. We are an independent city-state with our own currency, passport and government, and most of us (or all of the younger generation) are effectively bilingual (and that’s excluding dialects). We are educated in British English, and have classes for what we call “Mother Tongue”, so the ethnic Chinese will have Chinese lessons, the ethnic Malays Malay lessons, the ethnic Indians Tamil lessons.

Now that you’ve had your mini crash course in History (just joking, don’t flame me pls hahaha), back to the point at hand. I don’t look Chinese in the way many foreigners like to stereotype us as, you know; tiny eyes being the biggest point. Even some Asians themselves don’t really think that I’m Chinese, or they will ask me if I’m mixed-race.

Obviously back home in Singapore I don’t have problems like this. Although there was a case of a man hurling racist remarks at a minimart, but he was allegedly provoked because the minimart supervisor refused to sell him what he wanted as he was not wearing a mask. Mask-wearing in public had been made compulsory in Singapore since 14 April, about a week before this incident.

So, for the past few years I have been flying, or have traveled solo. When I fly overseas for work, sometimes I click really well with my colleagues and sometimes I don’t (as you do), or sometimes the colleagues I fly with aren’t keen on going out in this particular country. It doesn’t bother me coz when this happens, I usually head out on my own. I actually prefer going out on my own than having to deal with someone I can’t really communicate with.

For all the times that I went overseas on my own, or went out overseas on my own, never once did I feel threatened or afraid to go out. Lazy, yes. Not sure where to go and end up not going anywhere, yes, many times. But never have I been afraid or too worried to go somewhere on my own, not even in New York where some of my colleagues have experienced people making racist remarks to them.

But in my last trip to NYC in mid-March, I was considering going to the Barnes & Noble just a block away from my hotel and.. I actually felt worried.

By that time, the spread was getting worse and more and more people were being affected. But as we all know, many people including Americans took awhile to get used to the idea of wearing masks. Most of the people wearing masks at that point of time were Asians. I knew I had to wear my mask if I wanted to go out, there was no question about it. But I was actually worried about how people, Americans in particular, would react. And that shocked me, because it was the first time I have ever felt anything like that.

In the end, I went to the store with my mask. It was only a 2 minutes walk away, and on that short walk, I noticed a man who was walking in the same direction staring at me the entire time. It was disconcerting, to say the least, and when I wanted to enter the bookstore (he was walking past), I ducked behind him from his right side at the last second and he had a bit of a shock. He took a quick step away and swiveled both sides to see where I went.

Read into that encounter what you will. But it only went to show that as an Asian, stepping out on the streets of places like America, while masked.. is reason for hesitation.

Covid-19: Bubble Tea and Migrant Workers

Singapore has been in “Circuit Breaker” mode (which most of us are just referring to as an informal, non-official lockdown) since 7 April. Many businesses were shuttered but essential services were allowed to operate.

A couple of days ago, our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made an announcement that these measures would be further extended and tightened. Several businesses that were “less essential” would be shuttered for the next two weeks at least.

And to most people’s dismay, bubble (boba?) tea shops were on that list. The official announcement came out in the evening, and bubble tea shops all over the island were slammed with people wanting to buy their “last cup of bubble tea”.

Disclaimer: Even though I love milk tea (I don’t really call it bubble tea because I don’t actually like the bubbles..) I did NOT go and queue for my last cup. Because I can get milk tea from other vendors that remained unaffected by the tightening measures.

So, back to topic.

It turns out the stores that have been required to close two days ago MIGHT be able to reopen on 5 May, which is the original date this Circuit Breaker was supposed to have ended on, before the extension.

A lot of people started making noise about why bubble tea shops get to reopen earlier, “bbt is essential meh???” and some pet groomers have expressed their displeasure, wanting to know why bubble tea is allowed to reopen and they are not.

While I understand the importance of grooming (I used to own dogs as well and I took them to the groomers all the time instead of doing it myself), I should think the answer here is very simple: Bubble tea falls under the F&B category, and F&B will always have priority of reopening.

Moving on to our case count.

As some of you would know, Singapore appeared to have done an okay job of managing the outbreak in our country before it suddenly exploded. And why did it explode? The massive surge of cases is due to the living conditions in dorms, where our migrant workers live.

I don’t know what bullshit international mass media is feeding you all, but firstly; not every dorm is crawling with filth and infection, and secondly; there are many people in Singapore stepping up to help our migrant workers. There have been an outpouring of cash, food, chargers, SIM card donations etc. People have come out of retirement to help out, whether in a paying role or as a volunteer. These local news don’t make it to the international news websites, do they?

Many people say the authorities should have seen this coming, but isn’t hindsight 20/20? After all, out of all these thousands of people insisting that the authorities ought to have anticipated this and headed this off at the start, how many actually raised the alarm? According to news reports, only one or two minority rights groups in Singapore had raised the issue at all. In fact, I will be the first to admit that I didn’t see this coming as well.

Throughout this Circuit Breaker, when the daily case count is reported, there will always be a mention of how many Singaporeans/PRs in outside communities have been infected. The number has progressively declined and is now hovering around 20 plus cases every day. Some people have asked why the need to segregate case count?

First off, you are right. There is no prize to be won whether the case count is high or low. Secondly, and most importantly, the reason for highlighting that is to let you know that the Circuit Breaker measures ARE working. You staying home, working from home and listening to instructions is working, so please don’t be discouraged by the rising numbers and give up.

This will end somehow, some way, but until then may everyone stay safe. Please follow instructions and stay home. If you have to go out, please wear a mask. And when this is over, may we never go back to our old ways.

CoronaPrivilege

Lately it seems that the hot topic on everyone’s lips is Covid-19, and everything that it has caused. The various cities, states, countries under lockdown. The rising infection rate and death toll. The impact of the virus across industries. The impending collapse of airlines. The rising amount of vitriol and racist sentiments against Asians, or basically anyone that looks Chinese at all.

It’s all so much to handle, so I hope everyone has been taking steps to keep themselves healthy and also to look out for each other.

There are several things I would like to touch on regarding the virus but today I decided to talk a bit about privilege.

If you don’t already know, I come from Singapore. And no, it isn’t part of China. We are an independent, sovereign country. I am also a flight attendant for an international airline.

A couple of the places we fly to the most is Tokyo and New York City.

On 15 March 2020, Singapore’s government released a statement mandating all travelers returning from all ASEAN countries, Japan, UK and Switzerland to serve a 14-day Stay Home Notice (SHN). That means you are not allowed to leave your place of residence at all times, not even to buy food or other essentials. You are, of course, allowed to enlist help from others or use delivery services.

It is one level down from a Quarantine Order (QO) under which you are required to stay in just one room, preferably with a dedicated ensuite bathroom, for the entire 14 days. Under SHN you are allowed to move around your house although it is advised to minimize contact with your family. If you were overseas then, you were given up till 2359 hrs on 17 March to return to Singapore to avoid the SHN. All Singaporeans basically had a little over 24 hrs to get their Singaporean asses back within borders, where they should have been.

At that point of time when the news broke, I was in NYC and I would need to return to Japan for one night before flying back to Singapore. This effectively meant that I fell outside the deadline.

When I came back and began serving my SHN, I contacted several authorities as the information was unclear regarding cabin crew. All measures and advisories implemented and released in Singapore are generally clear and they apply to everyone. However as cabin crew, flying is an essential part of our job and therein lies the grey area.

One of the questions I raised was from a humanitarian aspect: is it humane to continue sending crew to affected areas, especially severely impacted areas, when planes are practically empty and people should not be travelling at this time anyway?

For non-crew, please rest assured that most of us do not want to fly. A lot of us have elderly parents and/or young children at home and we do not wish to unknowingly bring the virus back and spread it to others. That is actually my biggest fear of all, and it has been giving me anxiety attacks lately.

As such, I have been pushing for my airline to put us on unpaid leave, whether optional or not. It makes no sense for us to be operating flights at.. 3-10% capacity? All that fuel wasted, all those empty seats but most frustratingly of all, all the wasted food!! Most of the drinks can be offloaded and kept for the next flight as they are in bottles or cartons but the food, obviously, cannot be reused.

But it got me thinking about privilege. I’m confident about being put on unpaid leave because I am privileged. My parents don’t rely on me for income, and all glory to God they are still reasonably active and healthy so I don’t have to pay for medical bills etc. Everything I earn is mine to do what I please with.

I am fortunate enough to have been exposed to personal finance principles from a young age, and thank God I took to them easily enough. It stuck with me all my life and as I grew older I began reading more about personal finance.

As a result, I have been sitting on a comfortable fk-off fund for a while, on top of additional savings. I also have hospitalization insurance. All this means that one; I do not have to worry if my airline puts us on unpaid leave or even closes down, and two; I do not have to panic sell whatever I have invested in the market right now.

But I realised that not everyone will be as privileged as I am. Not everyone will have healthy parents with their own income, nor will they have been exposed to sensible money habits from young. Not everyone is as lucky as I am.

Many people still need their jobs and if it puts them in harm’s way, then.. they have no choice.

Honestly I don’t know how to help such people, other than raise awareness for them and pray that the government will not forget about them.

In these times when belts are being tightened (with good reason), I hope we can all help to look out for each other.

In Order To Live

I recently finished In Order To Live, by Park Yeonmi. I picked it up in a bookstore in London but decided to get it on BookDepository instead as I had already purchased a number of books and didn’t want to carry so many books back to Singapore.

At the top of the cover, there is a quote from the Guardian calling it “epic, harrowing and heartbreaking”.I usually disregard such reviews in the sense that they don’t play an integral part in deciding whether I purchase or borrow the book, and that’s what happened with this book too.

However, after reading it, I couldn’t agree more with what the Guardian said, especially the harrowing and heartbreaking parts.

In the first half of the book, Park Yeonmi gives insights about life in North Korea and eloquently explains how it is possible for North Koreans born under the regime to be so brainwashed into loyalty to the Kims. I always thought that they were only putting on a show of loyalty, just to escape trouble.

As she goes on to detail her escape into China and her run-ins with traffickers, my heart broke. It was indeed harrowing to simply read her matter-of-fact account of what she endured. What made it even more jarring for me was that, Park Yeonmi is only a year younger than I am but our lives were so different.

In early 2007 she made her escape into China. That same year, my mum brought my younger brother and I to Beijing and Shanghai for a holiday – I was 15 that year. My memories of our time in the metropolis gearing up for the 2008 Olympics were jumping on the bed with my brother, clambering up the steps of the Great Wall of China, giggling at poorly-worded signs and just enjoying the novelty of a new city.

It was completely beyond the realms of my imagination at that point of time that somewhere in the same country was a girl just a year younger than me, leading a completely different life. Someone who, up till then, had no idea what the Internet or the mobile phone was. By the time I was 15, I had already lost 2-3 mobile phones my parents had bought me (all completely unintentionally, I swear, they mostly slipped out of my pocket on public transport).

All in all, In Order To Live is really an interesting book to read. It puts your (privileged) life into perspective and I think a lot of us could do with that these days.

Hello 2020

It’s been a while since I wrote here.

It’s a little sad because I used to love writing (I think I still do) and I never thought that one day I would struggle to keep up with it. Perhaps not writing regularly has become a habit…. let’s try and change that this year 🤔

Anyway it’s 0122 hrs in Tokyo and I’m awake and sitting at my hotel desk because I’m hungry and my stomach is growling. Flying exhausts my body so much that it craves a lot of energy (in the form of carbs) all the time. I don’t know how some crew can be like “I’m so tired I don’t wanna eat”. #TeachMePls

Happy Chinese New Year to everyone who celebrates it and enjoy the public holiday for those who don’t!!🥳🍊

Amazon

“Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has. It’s not stupidity, or weakness; it’s just human nature.” – World War Z

The Amazon burning down is a thought that probably never crossed any of our minds, which is strange, considering how familiar we are with deforestation and forest fires.

Until now.

Whether these fires were started accidentally or intentionally is no longer important. Every second that it rampages on, it takes away vital life and a part of the world that we will never see again, a part that we should have protected and kept safe.

Many of us are angry but helpless. We want to help but we don’t know how.

In lieu of this, I’ve seen an upsurge in businesses professing to plant a tree when you purchase XXX.

I’m not going to comment on the ethics of such actions but I sincerely hope that every single one of these businesses will hold true to their word and are not capitalizing on the news to earn money from soft-hearted people.

I’ve been sucked in by such things before– who wouldn’t want to feel that their money is actually helping to do some good?

So let’s say the trees are really planted. This is a good idea btw, I’m not saying that planting trees is a useless idea. But these trees will take decades to reach maturity and produce any significant contribution.

What’s gonna happen in the meantime?

The situation will continue deteriorating and by the time the tress mature, they will no longer be enough.

The best way right now to really make some sort of difference to this Earth that we have been violently abusing is to reduce our carbon emissions (I know, I know– that’s pretty damn rich coming from someone whose livelihood depends on those great big planes emitting truckloads of carbon and shitting tons of fuel into the oceans).

That being said, since it is unlikely that all of us can be in Brazil helping to fight the fire (although if there was some way that every single person who cares could be there to actually help, the fire could definitely be stopped), there are several other ways which we can help:

Eating less meat. I know, some of you are probably going O GAWD NO right now, and some of you (like me) would be wondering how does less meat actually affect climate change? It turns out that “growing food”, you know, rearing livestock, transporting them etc actually turns out to emit quite a huge amount of greenhouse gases.

Also, #cowfarts.

Besides, you don’t have to cut out meat completely, you can just eat a little lesser.

Drive lesser. This is a pretty big DUH,  but yet there are still so many cars on the road. Carpool if you must, but driving lesser (or not having a car at all) saves you plenty of money as well.

Reusable bags are the bomb!

Stop buying clothes that we will throw in our closet and forget about.

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. And when those clothes finally see the light of day, they would probably be consigned to the bin, from where they will make the journey to a landfill and take ages to decompose. Not to mention it probably already came to you via plane.

Less air-conditioning. This is a killer, especially for my fellow Singaporeans. But trust me, get a good standing fan (kdk is a good option) for your room and most of you will be fine. I used to sleep through the night with the aircon on even though I would wake up with a blocked nose.

Sometime in secondary school after learning that air-conditioning produces a lot of carbon, I would only switch it on a couple of hours and then switch it off before I go to bed, cooling down the room enough for me to fall asleep. Our electricity bill went down noticeably and my parents started doing the same (btw, there were some nights I actually woke up shivering from my kdk fan).

There are also plenty of other ways; changing light bulbs, switching stuff off, reducing food waste, avoiding air travel as much as possible, recycling etc.

It’s very easy for us to feel helpless when confronted with certain situations but I think some proactiveness, actually going to do something about it, would help a lot.

Egg Shop NYC

I’ve been wanting to visit Egg Shop and finally got the chance to a couple of weeks ago.

I didn’t take any photos so had to resort to lifting this from my Instastory archives 🤣 Plus the photo wasn’t even taken by me (Blurred out her handle for privacy reasons).

I plumbed for the Fish Out of Water while my friend had the Sausage Egg & Cheese and an Americano, and we ordered a side of truffle hash browns.

Verdict?

I wouldn’t mind going back again but she would not 🙊 The Sausage Egg & Cheese is really just a pricier and slightly bigger version of something you can get from Macs.

The Fish Out of Water was good though; 4/5. The bread was a little too hard but the portion of salmon was generous.

Truffle hash browns deserve a 5/5! But I could be biased, because I do like truffle in general. And potatoes in any form. #CarbMonster It’s USD 7 for 2 pieces but it was money well-spent for me!

*

Egg Shop

151 Elizabeth St, New York 10012, USA

Day Trip to Jogashima

When I stayed in Tokyo for training and after I started officially flying, I was pretty game to go out, especially venturing into the outskirts.

But after some time, I started going out lesser to save money and it kind of became a habit. Instead of Japan being a place to explore, it became my second home where I either went to climb, to the nearby malls or just stayed in. Going to town filled me with dread.

Now, faced with the possibility of leaving my job, I decided to take advantage of this ‘unicorn turn’ (so named coz it’s very rare we have an extra clear day in the middle of a turn) to explore again. After some intense Googling, I settled on Jogashima.

I fell sick the night before and felt so awful I considered bailing (even though the whole trip was my idea!!!) but I think I would have slapped myself if I let this rare chance slip by. Thankfully I flew with two other crew who were just awesome ❤

Getting There

We took a train from our hotel to Shinagawa Station, where we transferred to the Keikyu Line for the Misakiguchi-bound train. From Shinagawa to Misakiguchi it’s about 1.5 hours. There’s only one exit at the station, the bus stop is a little on the left when you come out. We basically followed the crowd but make sure the bus you get on says “Jogashima” on the back. There’s another bus that goes to Misaki Port.

I wanted to take pictures so I can explain clearer but I was starting to feel sick again by then so, sorry 😦

First proper view of the sea and first proper breath of fresh sea air. I swear breathing in all that air really made me feel better.

After leaving the lighthouse, we decided to wander out on to the rocks and that’s when my friend spotted Umanose-domon from afar, so we started to excitedly pick our way across the rocks to it.

This is basically the kind of ground we had to cross, it’s fine with sneakers, but there’s actually a proper route on firm ground that leads there as well.

馬の背 Umanose-domon.

I LOVE ROCKS. The shape is naturally formed through erosion from the waves, and I think eventually it might be gone altogether. Grateful I got the chance to see it before that happens!

Please don’t hog the place to take a whole solo photoshoot, because that’s what happened when we were there. Two tourists happily took their own sweet time taking photos and a queue had formed behind us.

From one of the observation decks at the Kenritsu Jogashima Park.

Btw, they have this pass called Misaki Maguro ticket/kippu (which we didn’t get that day, and it actually turned out to be a good thing). It covers bus fare, a meal at 30+ participating restaurants and access to a leisure facility. You can get more info here.

If you don’t already know, maguro is Japanese for tuna, which this place is famous for. A majority of the restaurants sell raw tuna, and might not have any cooked food so please take note if you are not a fan of raw food or just cannot eat raw food.

We stopped at this restaurant called 三崎館支店 香花(Misakikanshiten) mainly because we were so enchanted by the little grandma standing outside waving us in (it’s a damn clever marketing ploy la). But the food was GOOD. They are one of the participating restaurants for the Misaki Maguro ticket I assume, coz she asked us if we had it.

They did have this dish though, without anything raw.

They actually wrote on their menu that the children’s meal is only for those 12 years old and below.. but my friend told the man who took our order that I’m sick and just want a small portion and he relented and said “ok, if anyone asks just say you are a child” HAHAHA 😂

I could only stomach two pieces of the fried tuna, and half the miso soup because I was afraid if I ate too much it would all come back up. But the tuna, miso soup and mugi cha was DAMN BOMB.

I paid ¥864 for my kiddy meal, but please expect to pay at least ¥2,000 for a full set meal. I don’t know but I’m pretty sure the Misaki Maguro ticket will not include a full set meal.

The waves ❤️

Anyway, why I said it was a good thing we didn’t get the ticket is because out of the 3 of us that day, I was sick and didn’t dare to eat anything raw, another one of us isn’t a fan of raw food and we actually spent so much time wandering around the island that I think we wouldn’t have had enough time to check out their leisure facilities.

By the time we finished our late lunch/early dinner, it was 5+pm but the town was already pretty quiet and deserted.

But if you eat raw food and plan your trip well, you could consider getting the ticket!

Ok I did not expect this to be such a long post.

She’s so Lucky

(Backdate: it was meant to be published on 27th December 2018 but somehow it wasn’t).

It’s been 4 days since you left me. Four days and a lifetime.

It was the hardest and most adult decision I had ever had to make in my life. It is some comfort to know that you are now healthy and pain-free. I like to think of you gamboling around the Lord’s feet.

The past 15 years flew by so quickly. You would have been 16 in March.

Before we first got you, my brothers and I really wanted a dog. I don’t know where we got that desire from– is it a rite of passage for all parents to suffer through demands for a pet from their children?

I remember I wanted one so bad I secretly posted my mother’s mobile number on a forum, pretending to be her looking for a puppy for her children (LOLOL). This, despite the fact that I had somehow developed a fear of dogs since we gave up our first dog due to the raging sinus problems she gave me.

One day we piled into the car and drove to a residential estate. And there you were, in a brown basket with one of your brothers while your breeder (home breeding wasn’t really an issue then) stood over the both of you. I don’t remember much from that day, where that estate was or how long we spent there.

But I remember squatting down to gaze at the both of you. I remember tentatively stroking your fur. I remember spotting a couple of neighbourhood cats nearby and wondering if you would know to defend yourself against a mean street cat. I remember thinking how innocent you were. I remember shuffling closer to the basket protectively– as if a skinny 11 year old girl could have been an efficient shield against two street cats. I remember sitting in the backseat of our car with you, and your breeder leaning down to wave goodbye and telling you “You so lucky ah, you!”

And we laughed and said, “Eh! That is what we are going to call him!”

*

I was still a little scared around dogs, having largely avoided them for many years before that. I remember hopping up on a small rectangle of space on my kitchen counter as you raced around exploring your new home. I remember you skidding to a stop below me and looking up at me– how I must have looked like to you, a human curled up on a ledge above you and eyeing you with some wariness. I remember you cocked your head and we maintained eye contact for a few seconds before you raced off again.

I remember my dad locked you on the balcony that first night. I remember my younger brother and I sitting at the sliding doors and watching you as you scratched the door, wanting to come back in.

There were nights when I would sleep right at the edge of my bed, dropping half of my blanket on the floor so you could sleep on it until my mother eventually made me stop.

I loved watching you walk, if you could even call it that! It was more of a canter? I don’t know.. it was hilarious and I loved watching your ears flop up and down.

When we brought London home 3 years later and he became the baby, you never cried or whined for attention. You never acted up– never shat where you weren’t supposed to or chewed our stuff up. The mature older brother, except for the times when London would piss you off.

There was the time I stepped into the pet shop to collect London and you, and was pleasantly surprised to see you and the groomer chasing each other around the store. You were already getting on by then, and it soothed my heart to see you energetic and loved.

There were all the times you made me angry, although for the life of me I cannot recall now.

There were also the times you scared me. The first time I remember is you having some sort of a stroke and just lying there while we frantically called a car. Someone came to knock at the door and the next thing we knew, you got up and ran to the door, right as rain again leaving all of us stunned and bemused.

You were the same that last day.

You were too weak to move, while I cradled you in your towel and suddenly you started moving and looking more awake. There were times throughout the years I thought I was gonna lose you but ended up going home with you still.

But that last day I think I knew deep down that I would be walking out of the clinic with empty arms.

I wonder if you knew at the end and whether you welcomed it. I like to think you did– if only just to console myself.

Your things are still lying untouched around the kitchen. It’s painful to see even two food bowls but it’s way too early to even think of clearing your things. I know that even after I clear them you will still be in my heart. The memories won’t fade but maybe with your things around I can still cheat myself into believing, even for just a second, that you are still here with me.

I was so Lucky to have you.