Naiise, Sustainable Living

Searching For Inspiration And Finding It

I’d already decided what I was going to begin this post with – I normally do a lot of mental composing before actually writing – and it was going to start like this: “So this is fatigue.”

But, this got to me so a little reminder to myself, and everybody else: Life is short, it’s time to start living.

So back to the story:

So this is fatigue. Not the sort borne out of sitting at the desk staring into a monitor, but the sort that comes from driving up and down Singapore, meeting suppliers and collecting goods, hauling wooden pellets all over the place, arranging and re-arranging the store, endless writing product tags, sweeping the floor, hanging fairy lights, hanging industrial lights, endless photoshopping, hammering nails and blah, blah, blah.

Well, of course I exaggerated – all of the above was split between D and myself, but that’s still a mighty lot to do and, in between, we also managed to learn several things about organic farming, plus grow our own peppermint.

The culmination of all this: our first ever pop up store, held in collaboration with Edible Gardens, a local movement that aims to turn Singapore’s dense urban spaces into farms, and their community outreach arm, NONG, which aims to promote growing your own food. We (Naiise) come in as a retail partner for the event, alongside workshops and a gallery by Haystakt, and are retailing a pretty cool bunch of sustainably made/sourced, upcycled, recycled and locally designed products that encourage meaningful and sustainable living with design.

Check out our retail centrepiece – a beautiful D-I-Y table laid with real Norwegian Reindeer Moss placemats and vibrant kitchenware that brings to life the concept of farm-to-table, thus tying in together Edible Garden’s farms, and our retail offering. It was a stroke of genius by D (yes, I was impressed!), I guess I am better off hauling wooden pellets or doing something equally mundane.

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To us, collaborating is a meeting of two minds that share a similar vision. Like the dreamers that we are, we instinctively connect with people that want to make the world a better place, who believe in outreach, education, and solidarity with the community to effect change.

NONG pop-up store will run until end-March on the 6th floor rooftop car park of People’s Park Complex (access by residential lift near KFC on the ground floor) and you can find more information about the event itself (including workshops) here.

It’s a great location – a surprising little quiet spot above the urban sprawl of Chinatown, with grand views of the surrounding CBD, an endless supply of fresh wind created by pressure that flows between the buildings. When night falls, it’s magical – it’s like being on one of those rooftop patios in shanty houses you see in Korean dramas (the kind the poor chick normally stays in) with beautiful views of N Seoul Tower.

Best of all, it’s the people that stream in and out – clearly convention breakers in their own right. Lots of ex Ivy League farmers, regular farmers (without the Ivy League), social entrepreneurs, artists, designers, architects, baristas, home growers, housewives, retirees, students, bloggers, scientists, yoga teachers and your everyday person. The conversations are always enriching, and I’ve learned so much by standing beside various people and learning all sorts of things across all sorts of genres. It’s very stimulating, and I love it.

The long retail hours are really tiring though, hats off to people who work in this line. Especially when we bring our snow dogs out to man the store (like today), we almost died lugging those two around with us all the time.

Come by and say hi if you’re feeling hippie, in need of inspiration or some fresh basil! Food recommendation when you’re in the area: mala xiang guo at the food centre (look for the stall that has the laminated newspaper article in front of it) – it’s sooo good; D and I have been eating it almost everyday, to the extent of me getting a sore throat from all that chilli!

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Art, Viewpoint

The Incredible Lightness Of Being

Tucked in bed and tapping away at my laptop, it’s all rather unusual. I’m normally a desk type of person. I like sitting at a proper desk to write and to work, preferably with a mug of coffee (before noon), a bottle of water (past noon) or a cup of hot Chinese tea (post dinner). There’s something about siting upright that makes you more productive, and gives you a better posture too.

Today was a day filled with two different sorts of art venues – The U Factory, and Aliwal Arts Centre.

I’ve heard about The U Factory for a while, it sounded cool – mostly because of that cute little underline below the “U”, the offbeat location and maybe even because I didn’t have a clear idea of what it was actually. So because it’s ending soon (31 Jan), we decided to check it out before it closed its doors for good.

I imagined: a large, interactive space filled with workshops, exhibitions, retail and F&B, all coming together to engage people with craftsmanship and art. I found: two small galleries filled with rather inaccessible art, a ramen burger van that took ages to churn out a burger (clearly not made for crowds), a small coffee joint, and a retail/cafe thing with a most awkward layout.

I guess we both didn’t like it much, for it felt like everything – the space, the names, the labels, and the atmosphere seemed to be conspiring to make art inaccessible, keeping it elitist, only for the people that understand it. Because, honestly, I really didn’t get the double-paged leaflet I was handed which was supposed to explain what each artwork meant. Because the works weren’t labelled and the descriptions didn’t quite match what the gallery floor map depicted. It was an exercise in futility.

We bailed after a bewildering hour and skipped over to the Aliwal Urban Arts Festival at Aliwal Arts Centre and found a much more comforting scene there, with street graffiti artists, lots of bands and a really, really cool event poster. Love it.

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I even got to check out some works from Malay artists which I never got to see before, and I particularly liked one called “In A Male-Dominated Society”. In a somewhat ironic way, when people talk about supporting local design in Singapore, they usually are thinking about the majority ethnic group – Chinese artists and designers, Chinese cultural references and even Chinese dialects. Don’t see much going on with the others.

Backtracking slightly, what I loved most about the event was the location – being in Arab Street during that magical hour of day-to-night, when everything is bathed in incredible 6pm light and prayer calls sounding in the background. And that incredible fresh wind! In those moments, walking hand-in-hand with D and exploring the surrounding streets, we felt content, peaceful and in love with our country. Mostly because it felt like Bali 😉

I am IN LOVE with the weather these days. The air is always so fresh, cool and always on the move, it creates an invigorating sort of energy. We’ve even taken to driving around with the windows down, because it feels so great to have fresh air against our cheeks instead of A/C. Great weather really does make people happy, and I hope it stays this way for a while.

Peace out, it’s time to sleep. I had a lovely Saturday and look forward to an even better Sunday. You too! xx

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Musings

Offline Panic Triggers

Sometimes, I think we live in the online world a little too much, that offline becomes a real challenge.

In banking: regular days = emailing boss, colleagues and clients to/fro; irregular days: client events. Panic: triggers: where are the name cards, the champagne, the corporate gifts. Omg, omg, omg.

At ZALORA: regular days = gmailing and skyping everyone under the sky; irregular days: real-life press launches. Panic triggers: will people come, where’s the DJ, where’s the photographer, where’s the canapés, where’s the emcee. Omg, omg, omg.

At today: regular days: gmailing and sitting in the car making COD deliveries; irregular days: pop-up stores. Panic triggers: where’s the marketing collateral, who has the POS, where are the display tags, hang tags!! Omg, omg, omg.

Then again, panic and rush can be euphoric.

D is going to shake his head and say, this isn’t euphoric. Music is euphoric.

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Kira, Pets

Anal Glands

Good afternoon world.

It’s been non-stop work since we got home from the vet, and I thought I’d take a little break to write a little. It’s a fabulous thing to be able to open up WordPress on my browser and not fear anyone reading behind my back. Or worse, drafting blog posts in Microsoft Word, which is exactly what I used to do back in those banking days.

So a trip to the vet was in order because Kira’s ass was just smelling absolutely foul. For days, weeks and months, we lived with the rotting fish smell, thinking it was an issue of her ass fur not drying properly after her showers. Oftentimes, I showered her up to 2-3 times a week, doubly soaping her ass, in a fervent bid to banish the stench.

For some reason, I decided to consult Google and it turned out to be i) the best decision of my life in recent memory, and ii) something about anal gland fluids being trapped, the same way pus is trapped in a gigantic pimple. The vet squeezed a whole bunch of  yellowish fluid out, and she’s back to smelling regular. Not perfect, but at least not like the wet market.

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Hong Kong

Of Urban Fires And Ghosts

Flipped open the papers today and saw coverage of a Singaporean heroine in a coma after a fire in HK. My heart goes out to her and I pray she gets well soon. I also hope the city starts some serious fire planning soon because majority of the buildings are really not built to facilitate evacuations, not by any stretch of imagination.

If you’ve ever had a chance to visit Pearl City Mansion in Causeway Bay (the skyscraper block of apartments above the mega Wellcome supermarket beside Ikea), all you’ll see on each floor is a long, dank, never-ending corridor, flanked by shoebox apartments on both sides. Just viewing apartments there gave me a massive case of the chills: imagine a time where everyone is trying to get out at the same time. 

Pearl City Mansion is not alone in its coffin-esque structure. For some reason, corridors in HK are typically built inside the building, along its spine, compared to say – our HDBs where the corridors can be as breezy as sailing out in the open sea.

So I chose never to stay in apartment buildings with more than 4 units on each floor, and I personally viewed all the stairwells of all the apartments I viewed. Blocked stairwells were an absolute no-go. As you can imagine, I was a very difficult prospective tenant. I remember viewing my last (and favourite) apartment on Star Street, and thinking that Kira and myself can easily run down 8 flights of stairs – done deal! Now all I had to worry about were ghosts!

My fears aren’t unfounded. In my two years there, I saw two fires, compared to none in Singapore. The first was at a construction site in Causeway Bay, and it was HUGE. The firefighters must have spent an entire day dousing the site because traffic was a snail for an entire day.

The second, I was in it. The fuse box at an animal hospital in Mongkok blew, and sparked off a little fire, albeit contained in the basement. We were trapped in the visiting room with an electronically-controlled door that stopped working as soon as the fuse box blew. As the smell of smoke intensified, so did the combined panic levels of everyone trapped together with me, and it was awful until someone smashed the door to get us out. Lesson: avoid confined spaces with electronically-controlled anything.

If you’re in a gory kind of mood, you might also want to read a list of great fires around the world here. I did a Ctrl-F and found 30 Hong Kong references alone. Jesus.

I guess I gained awareness of some fire-planning after living there, an unexpected lesson. I also became perennially afraid of coming home by myself during the seventh month because the apartment I lived in was 40+ years and home to lots of old people who had red prayer boxes outside their homes (and everywhere other spot they can find along the corridor). And the floor number was painted in calligraphy characters in red paint on each floor. And the elevators were creaky and had little windows which meant I could see every passing creepy corridor until I reached mine, which was renovated and clean but still had 八搂 written in red paint.

It was always a relief to get into my bright apartment, with Kira sniffing around her latest pile of poop, and Andrea Bocelli soothing me from the stereo.

I’ve heard as well, from local friends, that there is this website that collects all suicides and unnatural deaths in various buildings and apartment units so that you can run a ghost background check before renting/purchasing a place. I never did find this website though!

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Cool online stuff, Design, Life, Naiise

Laughter, Satisfaction, Discovery & Adventure

Hello everybody, and happy 2014!

May the year brings you lots of laughter, satisfaction, contentment and new adventures. At least, that’s what I want 🙂

It’s been really nice so far running in and out of meetings, meeting designers, brands and partners, designing and sending out newsletters (please subscribe!) and maintaining the Naiise.com space which I’ve come to love so much.

Because this is a show run double-handedly by D and I, every little progress we make is a cause for celebration. Like our revamped drop down menu, which allows us to feature more great brands that we bring in; our Top 10 Ways blog post where we penned down our dreams and aspirations for ourselves, and the business; and our upcoming projects, which I’ll talk more about at a later date. I also especially love designing tile banners that flow in a colour scheme, and having lots of friendly, inspirational guest curators to work with!

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It’s definitely a far cry from having 200 addressable employees to respond to emails I send out, often with an impatient tone. In fact, I didn’t even realise that I had become impatient, and that I was starting to speak to D like he was one of my “kids at work”.

It, of course, led to an argument which left me mad – mostly because I knew I was in the wrong.

I generally hate being wrong, but on the bright side, it’s pretty cool to have a “correct” boyfriend right?

The world is an amazing place, and sometimes even right in our backyard. Some of the coolest (I need to refrain from using the world “naiisest”) things I’ve come across this week:

I’ll try to remember more of these cool things to share, vice versa too?

On another note, really tired of the over-hipster-ed and artisanal-ed scene. It was kind of hilarious today at United Square when we passed by a laundromat with a Hipster Logo, and a pizza place serving artisanal coffee. I mean, really!?

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Life, Reflection

Happy New Year

Good day, on the last day of 2013.

Did I like the year? I’m not quite sure, but it was definitely a great step towards carving out that life I want, and dream of.

I stepped up through the rungs of a start-up, learning how to collaborate, cooperate, define and execute, the way bankers never ever needed to.

I learned how to lead a team of 30+ people. Yes, I made wrong hiring calls, but I also learned how to fix them, painfully albeit, and address a multitude of resource and motivational issues.

With the help of D, I cleaned up a MASSIVE chunk of credit card debt that has been sitting around my life ever since I started working. (I know right?!) It was a very painful lesson in life, and if there’s a few lessons to be learned, they are: 1) Never spend more than you can, duh. 2) If you have to date a rich guy, make sure he pays for you to keep up with his lifestyle, not the other way around 3) Learn to quit while you’re ahead.

I left (yet another) very comfortable job to venture into the unknown. I’ll update on the outcome of that on 31 December 2014 😉

I scaled a mountain for the first time in my life, and made some pretty beautiful memories with D. Mostly consisting of big, juicy, beautiful stars 1,600m above sea level, steamy shit in makeshift toilets, and seemingly endless trails of sand, stone and forest ground. Beautiful.

I crystallised what constitutes my idea of happiness and fulfilment, and in 2014, we’ll pursue them closely. 1) Natural light, lots of it. 2) Fresh air, and wide open spaces. 3) Adventures. 4) Celebrating occasions. 5) Family, and Kira. 6) Hard boiled eggs. 7) Feeling strong, and healthy. 8) A growing, and profitable business.

For 2014: looking forward to growing Naiise even faster, further, and better, to our secret hideaway vacation in Feb without phone and internet connection, and…. Mongolia in September!! 2 weeks of hiking!!! *hands up in the air*

Happy new year all, and a good little NYE read for you 🙂

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Life, Reflection

What If, Our Retrospective Lens Were Always On?

Year-end brings home to me friends that I made in HK. It’s really nice to meet up after a while, and it always brings back good memories of a time spent there, unfettered and free. Well, at least the memories seem unfettered and free 😉

While living alone and working the ungodly hours of banking was undeniably tough, and I don’t profess it to be exactly the happiest times of my life, my two years there efinitely did create a whole bunch of good memories revolving around drunken nights out at LKF, “Singaporean dinners”, visits to Shenzhen’s “health clubs”, personal protests against pet shops on Victory Avenue, the mild, pleasant HK winters, and of course, my beloved apartment on Star Street.

Life’s like that right? Or maybe me so more than others? It’s actually really beautiful in its ups, downs and even the mundane moments, but it always look terribly extra beautiful in retrospect. What if, we had our retrospective perspective on during those times? We might have lived it fuller 🙂

For 2014, I promise to be grumpy less, to try to look on the brighter side of things. And I think I’ll need D a lot for that 🙂

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Perspective, Singapore

From Freedom to Tunnels

As the world steamrolls ahead into a better year (future), and I swear my bout of festive blues have upped and left the stadium, I’m a little sad over the soon-demise of my favourite expressway in Singpore – the ECP, particularly the stretch that connects to AYE via the Benjamin Sheares bridge, taking you past some of our most iconic buildings and cityscape vistas.

I loved especially that sense of freedom you get when you’re cruising along the expressway, slightly elevated above the rest of the world, flanked on both sides by sea and trees. I’ve seen some of the most spectacular cloud formations and sunsets here on the ECP, this good trusty road that has been taking me home for decades.

And soon, as of this morning actually actually, it will be replaced by the MCE which apparently opened this morning to everyone’s surprise. My favourite stretch of the expressway suddenly turned into a road, with traffic lights and an unexpected cross junction. Not to mention a hell lot of  traffic confusion as everyone converged suddenly at that junction.

I hear the MCE is a tunnel. Tunnels are the opposite of freedom. Tunnels make you anticipate the end of the tunnel. I’m sorry to see you go, and again it’s a mark of how my favourite things are disappearing 😦 Adieu.

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