Whether with or without you

I leave for Ireland tomorrow night (or later today, since it’s past 1am now) and I spent most of today packing and unpacking and packing again – the whole time gripped by anxiety.

I’ll admit it. Despite the many, many flights I’ve taken, I am still a nervous flier. It’s the length of the journey. Thirteen hours is way too long to be up in the air, okay?

I’m just praying for sleep. I can usually sleep for nine to ten hours on a 13-hour flight and I’m hoping this flight will be no different. My seat is at the very back so hopefully I’ll be immune to crying babies. With any luck my seatmate is the non-snorey type too.

Besides the flight, I am also anxious about the time I’ll be over there instead of here. I don’t doubt that this trip, this sabbatical, will be nothing but good for me. I mean, I can’t even imagine how this trip will change me for the better. It’s just that…I’m actually doing it. I’m taking the leap. I know I’ll be fine but I can’t help but be a little nervous for me…

I found your picture today (I put your picture away)

picture

I’ll admit it: it was no accident. I searched for it. Once in a while I type your name in the search bar, deliberately looking for pictures of you. Brings me nothing but heartache but I do it anyway.

This picture is not unlike your pictures these days. You are wrangling your baby daughter while everyone else is looking at the camera. You are frowning in this one, but you are smiling in the rest of them.

After almost three months you’re probably not waiting anymore, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about replying to your messages. For so long I was so adamant about letting things be. No good could come out of us trying to salvage this, I insisted loudly to myself and silently to you. But sometimes I wonder if I had made the right decision.

You told me that you were not happy, that you were just pretending to be happy for your daughter’s sake. I know your story (and you) well enough to know that this was no lie. But I wonder now, looking at pictures of you where you are smiling or mid-laughing, if it still holds true today?

Maybe now you’re not pretending anymore. Maybe now you’ve learned to really love your new life.

And maybe me, finally responding, would be an interruption.

I do not want to interrupt a family.

But…what if your smiles were just a façade today as they were three months ago? What if, maybe, I could make you genuinely happy as I once did?

The thought catches me mid-step and I don’t move.

I don’t wanna fight no more

Friends who forget friends are arseholes. You know the kind that only remember you when they want something from you? And once they don’t need you anymore they dump you like yesterday’s trash? What is UP with friends like that. Also, why on earth would you put up pictures of it on Facebook? Do you not think I would see it? WTF! That’s not to say I’ve never committed a friendship sin but wow, it feels like I’ve been on the receiving end of bullshit much more than the giving end lately. It fucking blows.

Okay, so…the upheaval I mentioned a few posts ago – I’m ready to talk about it. I’ve had a little over a week to analyse it and process the aftermath through hours of discussion with various friends and I think I’m at peace with it now. Not completely; I’m sure I’ll carry a small part of the hurt with me forever, but I’m sure that this too is something I will get over and eventually learn to live with.

A little over a month ago, I gave my resignation at my job. I had been contemplating it for months. It hasn’t been the same since the COO joined. She made too many changes too fast. And because I was on her team (and the only one on her team) the changes affected me the most. Her management style, for one thing, is too different from what I was used to. I was used to autonomy and not adhering to any sort of checklists, whereas law and order is what she lives for. She also commanded respect rather than worked to earn it, not like my CEO who is very likeable and approachable.

Because of our differences in personality and work style, we ran into issues every day about every single thing. However, whenever I did try to adapt to her style, it was still wrong. Right from the beginning she’s had trust issues with me. She never believed me the first time I would say something. I could tell her a fact, like, “My hair is black,” and she would go, “No, it isn’t. What makes you think it’s black? It doesn’t look black to me. Go look in the mirror and tell me if it isn’t red.” I swear, my hair is black. But the arguing back and forth would wear me down until I get tired and concede defeat – “Yes, my hair is flaming red.”

It was very demoralising.

No one in the company likes her. Everyone finds her snobbish and condescending. One girl, whenever she would complain to me about the COO, would intersperse every second sentence with “that bitch”. It felt great knowing I wasn’t being a drama queen. The COO is a bitch. But while it was nice knowing I wasn’t alone and that I had the support of my lovely colleagues, at the end of the day they would all go back to their respective desks and I was still the only one who has to work with her. If she was snobbish and condescending to everyone else, she was a hundred times worse with me.

I tried to speak to my CEO a few times but he would come back with his nowadays-standard line, “She’s your direct manager so I will let her handle it.” I was very shocked by his cavalier attitude. I thought the fact that I’ve been there longer than she has and the fact that I’ve had his back all this time meant something to him. But receiving $7 million in funding changes you. You get greedy, you don’t care about your people. You just want to grow the business bigger and bigger and you don’t care who you mow down in the process.

Even on my second last day when he and I sat down to talk, he was telling me the same thing. He is aware of her terrible attitude. He even said, “I don’t blame you because I wouldn’t want to work under her either.” But…”I need her.” What he didn’t need to say was, “I need her much more than I need you.” He asked me what it would take for me to stay. I was very frank – “Fire her and tomorrow will not be my last day.” Not possible, he said. Alright then. Okay. Then tomorrow is my last day, I said.

I was very emotional during this conversation. Fuck not crying in front of your boss. I was devastated and I was going to cry about it. I wasn’t ready to go. I wasn’t ready for this chapter to end. One year ago when I joined the company I didn’t think I would leave one year later. It felt like I was leaving my family. My colleagues are all so wonderful. I am especially close to this South African guy (platonically). He gave me a cute nickname in my first week and now everyone calls me that instead of my real name. “Who is going to call me xxx now?” I tearfully pleaded with the CEO. He just looked at me with sad eyes.

I understand it from a business perspective, why he needs her. She is good at her job, and she will be able to steer the company in the direction any business owner would want for their company – that is, the direction of success and wealth. But from a personal perspective, it felt like a betrayal. If he himself would never want to work under her, then why is he letting me work under her? This is me we’re talking about. Me. She who he calls his ‘friend’.

On my last day the CEO had to leave early so he came to my desk to say goodbye. I couldn’t even look at him. I was starting to cry. He asked for a hug. I declined. Doing so would have unleashed an endless waterfall of tears. He touched me on my shoulder and said, “Thank you for having my back all this time,” and off he went. Yeah, sure, okay, but so much good that did for me, right?

For days afterwards I was paralysed in bed. I missed my colleagues something awful. Every few hours a different person would text me to say they missed me. I was liked there, goddamit. I was liked. This whole thing is just so, so unfortunate. But with every passing day I begin to realise…there was no other way. The CEO has to grow the company with the COO’s help; I couldn’t work with the COO so I had to go. Simple. This was just another lesson I had to learn.

I began job-searching a few months ago, which resulted in a job offer last week. I declined it though. I was honest with myself: It isn’t what I really want. I have a couple more interviews lined up but mainly I’ve been relaxing. In fact, in true TFC style, I’ve decided that instead of jumping into my next gig immediately, I’m going to take a few months off to do something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while now…

I’m going to work at a B&B via Workaway. It’s unpaid work, but I get full board. When I was in Scotland I stayed at a few B&Bs and I wondered what it would be like to own and operate one. And here is my chance to find out. And no, the B&B is not here, not even on the same continent. Faaar from it. No, it’s on the continent I’ve been steadily visiting every year since 2012. Yes, it’s Europe. Specifically, Ireland. Western Ireland. It was the next faraway country I was going to visit anyway. I’m entering a new decade (!!!) of life in four months. If I don’t do it now, I never will.

God-willing, I depart in a few short weeks. God-willing, I will stay in Ireland for a little over two months. I will spend my time off travelling around the area. Cliffs of Moher is just half an hour from the B&B. Be still my heart!

Before I get to the B&B though, I will be in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for a few days. Hozier – my Hozier – is performing at a music festival on the 24th of August. How could I miss him in his own motherland? And then on the 16th of September, you would not believe it, but Rachael Yamagata is performing in Dublin. I missed her concert in Singapore this year because I was in Glasgow catching Hozier in concert. Turns out I will get to see her this year after all – just far away from Singapore, that’s all. And I get to see Hozier twice this year. What luck!

If it sounds like I’m all chill about this, let it be known that I am PETRIFIED. I’ve got it all pretty much planned out and you know what they say about the best-laid plans. The longest I’ve been away from home is three weeks. Two months is a crazy long time to be away from home. What if I missed home? What if I missed my bed? What if I missed my friends? What if I missed… *cough* my father? I laugh about it now but it’s entirely possible and the thought of it is terrifying.

But I need this. My body needs this. My soul needs this. And maybe I will miss my father. But maybe I need that too.

So…that’s me. How’s your life going?

All I want is

28th Ramadan

Thirty-one years ago on this date, my parents got married. I got teary at work today thinking about it. I hate that my parents never got to have anything beyond 20 years together. It breaks my heart that my father is alone.

I dreamed of my mother last night. She came back. She looked exactly the same. Even in the dream she had been dead, so I was surprised that she was looking exactly the same. I exclaimed, “But it’s been 11 years! How do you look the same?!” She just smiled.

This was the twelfth Ramadan without her. Every year it gets easier/every year it gets worse.

Put the grenade pin in your hand

25th Ramadan

Yesterday I broke out my bottle of fancy olive oil that I bought in Cinque Terre in 2013 to make aglio e olio. Aglio e olio doesn’t need fancy olive oil, but I’d run out of regular olive oil and I really wanted aglio e olio. MM my former Italian teacher/friend type person told me I should use that oil only for salads so I could really taste the fanciness. I’ve yet to crave for a homemade salad since I bought the oil…but I always want pasta…

It’s Sunday night. I have a dull headache. And it’s very, very hot and sticky in here. There is no travel-related post today because I am tired. But there is this.

We move offices tomorrow. I’m already stressed out.

You know what? Crazy Canadian COO wanted to designate seats in the new office. She wanted to control who sits where and most importantly, with whom. I know she hates it that certain people are sitting close together in the current office. She had gone so far as to write everyone’s names on pieces of tape that she pasted on the desks. Because she thinks we are all a bunch of kindergarteners who needed to be told where to sit. Luckily the CTO found the whole thing utterly ridiculous and rejected the idea and ripped out all the tape. It’s nice to see at least one of the founders still has a spine.

I’m counting down till Vietnam. Just three weeks to go. I’ve scheduled for a different kind of massage every day for five of the six days I’m there and I can’t wait for some small Vietnamese women to knead away the stress of the last six months from my body.

What I ate in London

18th Ramadan

As promised – a post about my recent travels! And as usual, we start with the food! This will be torture for me as I am fasting, but a promise is a promise!

Ordinarily I do a single food post for the entire trip, but because I spent a considerably longer time in one place on this trip than I did on my other trips – plus I ate A LOT in the UK (natch) – I will make a separate post for Scotland, otherwise we’re gonna be here for quiiiite a while!

1. Brioche Burger

I read about this burger joint whilst researching halal eateries in London. Even in Singapore there are no exclusive burger joints that are halal (save for fast food places). So I was thrilled to find this and made it our mission to seek it out for dinner on our first day in London.

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I was too excited and hungry to take a more decent photo so this will have to do. I had the Betty Boop, which according to the website consists of “two 3oz beef patties, American cheese, crispy chicken rashers, caramelised onions, gherkin, lettuce, tomato with secret sauce and our super soft brioche”, with a side of Rustic Chips.

It was marvellous. The brioche really was soft. The beef patty was well-seasoned and cooked to medium perfection. I only didn’t like the so-called caramelised onions. I’m a fan of caramelised onions and make them often. These were no caramelised onions. You can see in the photo they’re still dark pink. Proper caramelised onions are brown. Onions take forever to caramelise though so I sort of get it. But still. I was promised caramelised onions and didn’t get any. Womp womp.

The Rustic Chips were nice and crispy. No complaints there. I preferred SK’s Chilli Chips though, which were the same chips I had but with peppers and onions and chilli sauce added to it. I ate more of those than mine. Oops.

My friend SK’s burger was the lamb burger (not pictured) since he’s Hindu and doesn’t eat beef. He was right that it wasn’t seasoned enough but it really wasn’t bad or anything. He didn’t want to finish the bun for some reason and I ate it for him. I’m a monster.

2. Borough Market

If you follow me on Instagram or FB (no chance I’ll link to them here though, ha!) you would have seen multiple posts and mentions of these balls of amazeballs. I’m talking about these doughnuts from a famous bakery called Bread Ahead, located in the legendary Borough Market. I’m not usually a fan of doughnuts as I’ve never had a really good one. But I’d heard so much about these ones that they were #1 on my List of Things To Eat in London. Yes, I had a list. I made a beeline for the stall the second we stepped foot in Borough Market and promptly ordered the lemon curd and the creme caramel & salted honeycomb.

1LI mean, can you blame me?

I bit into the caramel one at the wrong angle on my second bite and it exploded. I had caramel cream dripping down my chin on to my top and I looked ridiculous but I didn’t care. I was in heaven. The doughnut was light and chewy; the custard (both kinds) really filled up the doughnuts and was not so sweet, just perfect. Pure bliss!

They had five flavours on that day and I immediately went to get the other three to take home – the vanilla custard, the regular caramel sans honeycomb, and the chocolate custard with glorious chocolate bits up in it (cacao nibs maybe?). At £2.50 each it meant I had paid a total of £12.50 for five doughnuts – that’s about $26 Singapore dollars! But considering how delicious they were and how happy I was, it was well worth it!

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I’d go to London again just for these doughnuts. They are truly, truly special. Yeah, I guess I like doughnuts now!

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It makes me angry when people call them macaroons instead of macarons. Gah. My belly was full of doughnuts but I couldn’t resist. I had the blue one, which was earl grey, and a salted caramel. Simply splendid.

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SK had a sangria and a duck confit sandwich. I could only stare longingly at it as it wasn’t halal. He said it was heavenly. It sure smelled it!

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I got myself a slab of Rocky Road from this stall, which I didn’t break into until I got home to Singapore. I wish I had tasted it earlier so I could have bought more. I almost finished the entire thing in one sitting!

Suddenly it was lunchtime. We had been roaming around Borough Market since the time it opened at 10am, so about three hours.  We didn’t even realise it. And we were famished as if all the snacks and samples we had weren’t actual food. Haha. So we headed to a fancy chippy called Fish. Their regular fish and chips of course had to be beer-battered, rendering it inedible for me, so I ordered the tuna burger.

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It was sadly nothing to shout about. The bun was a little hard and the tuna fell apart within minutes. The chips were just okay. I wish we had gone and got fish wraps from Applebee’s instead (no, not the American chain). The queue was ridunkulously long which was why we chose to head to Fish. Major regret, I tell you.

After lunch we walked around Borough Market some more, reluctant to leave. After a few minutes admiring the fruit displays and taking eleventy pictures of them, I hovered near the stall selling yummy-looking watermelon and watermelon juice, debating whether or not I wanted to shell out £1 for a slice of watermelon. The guy must have read my mind for he offered me a slice, free of charge! Hahaha. Bless him.

3. Smack Deli

It’s day 3 in London and there is more food to stuff my face with! Huzzah!

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You can tell that this was another of those “omg, I just want to eat this NOW!” photos. Hehe. I had the California, which consisted of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado mayo with lime, and chives. I really wish I had ordered the Mexican. Don’t get me wrong. This tasted really light and fresh, but it lacked a certain kick. Also, the portion is way too small for £9. It finished so fast for me and I promise I ate slowly! I was sad. AND! The courgette fries were limp. Not crispy at all. What was that all about?!

My friend SV – also known as my favourite German – ordered a whole lobster, champion that he is. It took him ages to get all the flesh out but he was so very gleeful. Me, I have no patience for that sort of thing!

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Afterwards it drizzled and we wanted to be inside so we popped into a tea place. No clue where this was. It was tea. I dunno. SV is much more into tea than I am. I had some ice blended berry concoction and there was just too much of it.

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For dinner it was another item on my list to cross off – Moroccan Fish Stall in Portobello. We took the bus here, we walked, we almost got lost. But it was going to be worth it. The photos and description I’ve read of this place…oi. The stall operates from a van on the side of the road. Fuss-free eating. I had read to get there “early”, no time specified. We got there at 5ish. That’s okay, right?

Wrong. “Fish finish,” the dude told me after seeing us eye the menu written on his van. My heart sank. The next day was Sunday and they close on Sundays. I had zero chances to eat here. *sigh* So all I could do was snap a picture of the van for future reference and walk away, dejected. When I come back to London eating here will take precedence over anywhere else.

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Maramia Cafe

SV and I continued our search for dinner along the street and stumbled upon an empty Palestinian restaurant. The emptiness didn’t seem convincing but by now we were desperate and hangry and were willing to give it a try.

15L2To our utmost surprise our respective dishes surpassed all expectations. My grilled chicken was crispy and flavourful. SV’s chicken breast was just as good. And not that I can’t live without rice but seeing rice on my platter perked me up. Haha. Asians, amirite?

4. Pret a Manger picnic in Hyde Park

We’d spent the morning on a walking tour of the touristy places of London and were exhausted by 1pm. We didn’t feel like forking out much money so we eventually decided on grabbing a couple of sandwiches from Pret. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t good either. Oh well. Kept us sated. And it did give us the energy to play with squirrels (SV and SK), do somersaults (SV) and laugh her head off (me).

16LStax Diner

That night SK and I got back on our (my) halal burger trail. Man, I’d be in major trouble if I lived in London!

17LI had hoped that my burger would blow me away, but the beef patty was lacking in salt. The “housemade hot sauce” tasted just like regular BBQ sauce to me, which I haaate. Plus, the beef bacon strips were burned! Not impressed. Brioche Burger is better.

5. Poppies

This is one of my biggest regrets in life. We headed into Poppies for fish and chips when we were mere steps away from Camden Market, aka food haven. I’d been to Camden Market three years ago. I knew they had many, many, many food stalls. Interesting food at not so steep prices, too. Why oh why did that not occur to me until we had stuffed our bellies full of mediocre fish and chips and couldn’t eat anymore WHYYYYYYYYYY???!!!

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20LThis was hardly it. There was so much more food. I think I was too depressed to snap more pics. Haha.

Et voilà! All the things I ate in London! As you can see London is a foodie mecca and I can’t wait until I get to go again!

Idealism sits in prison

11th Ramadan

I’m back.

Maybe.

Though I haven’t really been gone. have I? I’ve popped my head in here and there.

…but mostly to write something really cryptic and post a music video alongside it. Which isn’t really blogging.

I’ve missed writing my trip recaps. I stopped after Bulgaria/Greece/Italy last year and never picked it up again. Since then I’ve gone on a few other trips – Indonesia, Japan, and a few weeks ago I got back from the most fabulous trip to the UK. And even though I’m under no obligation to talk about them, I feel bad that they are not talked about, and that the photos I took are hidden in my hard drive rather than shared with the 3.3 actual readers that I have. :)

So this is a vow to myself, the Universe, and the 3.3 readers – I will strive to get those posts out. On a weekly basis perhaps? Pretty sure I still wouldn’t be done by the time my next trip comes along (Vietnam in August) but at least I’d be trying, right?

This bit right here is a personal update. There’s been an upheaval in these parts lately. I’m not ready to talk about it, but it is very real and very scary. It happened, is happening, and will happen. I am happy about one part of it and beyond devastated about the rest of it. But c’est la vie and until I’m ready, this is all I’ll say about it.

It is Ramadan day 11 and all is going well.