Friday, 14 April 2017

Artbox Singapore Shines A Torch On Social Entrepreneurs



A Marketplace Of Passionate Craftsmen
If you had been to the original Artbox, the biggest hipster creative market in Bangkok, and spent hours trawling through fascinating finds created by home-grown designers filled with passion for their craft, you will be pleased to know that Artbox Singapore has made its debut this weekend here at Marina Bayfront and would take place from 14-16 April and 21-23 April.   The event, sponsored by DBS Bank, features 300 international creative entrepreneurs selling items from handcrafted bags, handmade cards, jewelry, organic cosmetics, kitchenware, one-of-a-kind decorative items, plants, food and more.  


If you were visiting Artbox Singapore with the intent of taking a stroll through a “glorified pasar malam peddling over-priced ‘toot’” just to kill time before heading to your over-priced dinner somewhere else, you would  not be embracing Artbox Singapore in the right spirit.   First and foremost, do take a step back and remember why Artbox in Bangkok was created in the first place.  It was set up as a market place for talented souls to express their creativity.  Artbox in Singapore would be no different.  The passionate vibes of these creative souls were wafting through the event.  To top it all off, there were several social enterprises participating at Artbox Singapore who braved the torrential rains to showcase how creativity and social entrepreneurship came together to create a more inclusive society.  So please visit Artbox Singapore with an open heart and mind.

When Joel and I decided to pay Artbox Singapore a visit during its opening day, it was raining so heavily and the crowds were dashing across the aisles like ‘Whacky Races’, into the vendors’ tentages to get shelter.  Some of the vendors’ displays were drenched by the rain, and some experienced ponding within their booth space.  However, their spirits were not dampened at all.  I was impressed.  So many I spoke to, were enthusiastically explaining their respective stories behind their craft.

Anything that was handmade and locally designed by homegrown creative talents always got me really excited.  So let me introduce you to some of my favourite participating entrepreneurs 


Flora Woods

How would you like to come  to work each day to a touch of nature on your desk that could add a spark of positivity throughout the entire day as you navigated back to back calls, meetings and a heavy workload?  Isabel Bei of Flora Woods could customize little table gardens in a tin for you that sprinkled so much seeds of positivity.  Her stall was one of the prettiest.  I would be biased because I love nature and greenery.  You could choose your tin colour, choose a plant (she would pick the right one for you if you were unsure), then choose your own little accessories to dress up your table garden.  More positively green ideas can be found at @florawoods

 

Ummuramics

Ummu Nabilah from Ummuramics has the magical hands behind her one-of-a-kind ceramic wares.  I loved that these ceramic pieces were unique, raw and edgy. They did not look too off-the-department-store polished at all.  Do check out more of her work at @ummuramics

 
Troops On Print
These bags have been brandished with whimsical prints that were hand-painted. Within their range of hand-painted accessories, are cards, iron-on patches, pin and more.  Do check out more pretty designs at @troopsonprint

 
Chou Chou Handcraft
Who could resist these cute handmade hats from Chou a Chou Handcraft?  These hats shout "I am fabulously cute!"  Best part about them was that these hats came in different sizes, suitable for both kids and adults.  Some of my friends with young kids who enjoy 'twinning' their clothes with their little ones should not walk past this stall without getting a couple of hats. I made a mental note to alert Susan from @ajugglingmom who might be able to find a couple of hats just right for herself and her little Sophie.  More hat designs can be found at @chouchouhandcraft



OCD
Wow! I was blown away by Olivia from OCD who described herself as the "Comics Destroyer".  All her accessories were made by cut-outs from old comic books.  I could hear the painful groans of some of my friends who collected comics, read them from cover to cover since they were young and preserved them in a pristine state throughout their adulthood.  If I might offer a perspective to my comics-obsessed friends, Olivia, the Comic Destroyer did not quite destroy comics really. She preserved them in a different way by repurposing them into handmade jewelry like rings, pendants, earrings and cufflinks.  The Goddess in me was about to snap up all her Wonder Woman accessories.   Do follow Olivia at @madebyocd




 Red Dot Crafts
Ching from Red Dot Crafts stopped me in my tracks as I was strolling down past her booth.  She pointed out to my hand-sewn patchwork bag which I was carrying then and asked if I loved handcrafted accessories.  Of course I did! She said that her accessories from pouches, purses, satchels, and totes were all handmade, and she ensured that they were made with good, durable materials. I bought a quilted tote which was perfect for carrying my lunch in at work everyday.  More of Ching's beautiful handiwork can be found at @reddotcrafts

 


Candescent Box
Who could resist the delicious scent of  hand-poured candles made from soy wax? I knew avocado had a taste but never knew avocado had a scent suitable to be made into candles!  Do visit aspiring artisan Amira and her Mom at @candescentbox


Social Entrepreneurs
Yes, I loved anything and everything handmade, locally designed and even better if they served a social good.  I met a few social entrepreneurs selling a range of handcrafted accessories that supported a variety of causes.  I would urge you to have a chat with them about what drove that passion behind their respective efforts towards these causes.


 Indie Mama
Li Ying (I hope I got her name right) left an advertising job to pursue her venture, Indie Mama which teaches people from low income families to sew and create these beautiful statement accessories. These skills ensure that they have a sustainable way of making a living and lead productive lives.


Remember these Good Morning hand towels from the days of old which were used in granny's kitchen or at hair salons? Some of these were cleverly used to make clutches, pouches and purses. Vibrant batik material were magically turned into rice dumpling-shaped purses and cushions. Crochet bags and Jewelry that she sold were so unique and vintage-looking, almost like right out of granny's closet.  You can check out more pieces of hand-sewn accessories at @indie_mamashop

 Teddy Thotz
I stopped by Teddy Thotz to hug these Happy Bears, handmade from material with  vibrantly coloured prints and played with some of these cute Amigurumi toys.  I managed to have a chat with socialpreneur George who told me that everything at Teddy Thotz was made by the elderly, the poor and disadvantaged, single women, and indie designers.  He believed that Teddy Thotz was a place where creativity and social enterprise merged to create handmade and homemade quality stuff that represented the true creative passions of the crafter while being socially beneficial. 
More handmade fun and whimsical toys and accessories from Teddy Thotz can be found at @onekind.george

 

Center Pottery
Besides shopping and eating anything fun, creative and hip at the Artbox Singapore, you could also sign up for a pottery workshop with Center Pottery and know that part proceeds would go to helping mental health patients who had been taking up pottery classes as a form of therapy. Former national sailor Joan Huang founded Center Pottery, which worked with psychologists to combine the science of modern psychology with clay art to create a structured therapeutic curriculum for the general public and mental health patients. More information about these workshops could be found at @centerpottery





 There were a lot more social enterprises at the Artbox Singapore but I was not able to visit every one of them.  I would however encourage you to visit some of these social enterprises and support their respective causes because their efforts have contributed to the creation of a more inclusive society by offering commercially sustainable solutions to social issues.  This would ensure that those at society's margins could lead productive and rewarding lives. These social enterprises were championed by DBS Foundation.
*Artbox Singapore would be delighting an expected crowd of 400,000 people with so much creative vibe, at Marina Bayfront, across 2 weekends, between 14-16 April and 21-23 April.  



About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  She is a passionate observer of life bent on inspiring others to live life positively through her writing as she pays tribute to moments worth celebrating every day.   Due to her ardent love for sports especially boxing and MMA, she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing articles to several sports media when time permits.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from 
www.singaporemaven.com.  She enjoys Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Widow Of A Sports Photographer


The Widow of a Sports Photographer

Most weekends when major sports events were happening in Singapore or around Asia, almost always, you would find David unleashing his sports photography magic as Singaporemaven.  Yes, I often felt like a widow during these weekends.  So, I thought it was time for me to recognize the talent and dedication behind the lens within my blog.




Camera First Wife Second

When David found his passion in photography, I was resigned to playing second fiddle to his massive collection of photography equipment and paraphernalia at home.

When the delivery men carted a few “wine fridges” home one day, I was jumping up and down with glee, ecstatic that my man had such a big heart enough to acknowledge my love for red wine and wanted to turn a little corner at home into my personal wine haven by stocking these “wine fridges” with crates of Amarone and Barolo.  I was horrified when he carefully placed all his camera lenses in my wine fridges and learnt then that these boxes were not wine fridges after all.  They were in fact, Dry Cabinets to keep moisture out of his gear.

When we went out for long walks exploring secluded trails and heritage buildings, he would ask me to pose for photos, sometimes against the wall, sometimes under a tree, sometimes by the river.  My heart would swell with pride thinking that my man just wanted to take lots of photos of his beautiful bride, only to feel deflated when he said, “Just testing the light.”

When we traveled on our vacations, he would brandish a few extra bags. That seemed quite thoughtful of him as I often needed extra baggage space to store all that shopping.  However, these extra bags were instead used for different type of camera equipment which he claimed he needed for different type of shots he wanted to capture during our vacation.

It took me years to accept that his love for photography would always come first.  Secretly, I was even proud of him for honing his skills throughout the years to be one of the best in sports photography.  I could not argue with a man with a mission to make the most ordinary looking scenario, like a woman on a running track, into a most extraordinary picture of an athlete’s grit and passion as she crossed the finishing line.





Behind The Photography Work

David had often been jokingly described as the busiest photographer in Asia. Most weekends would be spent covering sports events like MMA events, Track competitions, Swimming meets, Soccer tournaments, and Rugby matches. He enjoyed rubbing shoulders with world class athletes and inspiring men and women who dedicated their lives to sports.  Sometimes, I wished they would rub off their commitment to a life of fitness, on him, so that he would visit the gym more regularly. 

He loved capturing unique shots at these events.  He told me he was not interested in just shooting the athlete performing at the event.  He said, “Anyone with a mobile phone could do that.”  He wanted to capture their emotions. Through his lens, he wanted to interpret their pain, their joy of winning, their sorrow of losing, their anxiety as they waited for the moment they had to “win or die fighting”.   I often looked forward to him coming home to edit his photos so that I could get first glimpse of wonderful shots he had captured.





As his wife, I was proud of him.  It took years of lonely weekends, but I finally understood why he was completely finicky about angles, composition, lighting and anything I would not give a toss about when I used my IPhone to take a photo of a favorite rugby player waving a V sign as he posed for a photo for me.

While many people might have spotted him walking pitch side during various games, what they might not realize was the work that went on after the hours spent on that pitch under the blazing sun or pouring rain. 

Beyond the photography work, he often spent hours at home combing through the thousands of photos taken and editing them.  His editing work might take an entire night, and he would sometimes only get to bed at 5am upon completing the edits.



I remembered how he was the only photographer who waited for hours, for a rugby team to arrive at a hotel as they were preparing for a big match in Singapore that weekend.  I wondered then, if it was because of the lack of patience that the younger or less experienced photographers were not there waiting alongside with him that night.  The rugby team did finally arrive at 1am. After covering that meet and greet session, he then hopped back home and went straight into his photo-editing work till wee hours of the morning.



Maybe, it was not patience. Perhaps it was grit and endurance. I remembered how he covered an MMA event in Bangkok till late Saturday night last week, completed the editing work at 2 am in the morning, slept for 2 hours, showered and prepared to leave for the airport at 5am so that he could catch the 7am flight to arrive back in Singapore at 11am on Sunday.  From the airport, he went straight to  the OCBC Arena to cover a Swimming competition. 



 I was in awe with that energy.  This energy could only be driven by one who had an immense passion for his craft.

As his wife, I was often anxious about whether he was getting enough rest although he told me he was not tired.  However, I finally understood what kept him going, pushing through his exhaustion was his love and pride for his photography work.



There was once, he came back to Singapore with bruises and a swollen knee after covering an MMA event over that weekend.  Apparently, before the stage was lit up in preparation for the fighters to walk out, the entire event venue was pitch black.  In order to get to his position to prepare to capture great shots of the fighters, he missed a step and fell.  When I questioned him about his bruises and swollen knee, he just brushed it away and told me it was nothing.


However, as his wife, I felt the pain, but I knew that that was his style.  His photography work came first.  Nothing else mattered. 




I also remembered him ranting one day about losing a contract for a weekend of sports photography work.  He mentioned that someone in an organization had decided to not hire professional photographers like him, and instead, had made the decision to invite a group of young amateur photographers to take photos for free. He had no issues with that as he too was once an amateur photographer hungry for the opportunity to better his skills and garner experience. 

What annoyed him was the decision of these officials and event organizers to use those photos taken by amateur photographers in subsequent marketing promotions, effectively getting free content to sell multi-million dollar events a few months later.  I was actually flabbergasted by that decision, not because I was his wife.



As a PR professional, I would never allow my team to submit to the press, lesser quality photographic work that had not been professionally taken as it would have been disastrous to my efforts in telling my company’s brand story.   For David, the principle was simple.  That decision, did so much injustice to the sports and the sportsmen and women in that game.

Another pet peeve that made me raving mad as I fiercely guarded the integrity of my husband's photography work was when I might come across social media posts, and press clippings featuring his photos without according him a credit.  

As his wife, I found myself gnashing my teeth and clenching my fists as I  sat behind my PC screen after every sports event, scanning through the web and social media platforms like a hawk, looking for those  who might creatively crop out David's watermark off his photos and post them on their social media feeds or publish them in the press without crediting him.

The wife, PR professional and Team Ash’s unofficial Intellectual Property lawyer and policewoman in me would gamely send messages to these people to take down the photos or face an angry wife’s wrath.





The Photographer’s Wife

I am proud to be a photographer’s wife.  To me, my husband is an artist and a writer too.  He does not just take a photograph of a sportsperson.  With his camera, the Singaporemaven paints a picture and writes his or her story in a way that inspires the rest of us to live our lives to be the best that we can be, the way these sportspeople do.

So when you do meet David with his camera in his hands, do ask for a shot by the Singaporemaven.  That photo of you, would be taken by not just the busiest photographer in Asia, but to me, also the best.

*The sports photography work featured in this blog post have been provided by Singaporemaven Photography.  For more details on his work, please visit singaporemaven.com and follow him on Singaporemaven’s Facebook page and Instagram @singaporemaven

 

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media when time permits.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from 
singaporemaven.com.  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Home Is Where The Heart Is


Coming Home To Family

 

In 2016, I made a conscious effort to stick to my resolution of putting more time aside for family.  That meant that I learnt to prioritize my time, cut down on the number of social engagements and dedicated my weekends and spare time to the family.  It was a year where I spent hours deliberating over conflicting appointments, cancelling and filling entries in my diary just so I could be there for the family

 

Time For Mom

 

I spent a lot of time with Mom, and this was so because Dad had passed on only barely a year ago then.  I shared the pain of her bereavement and wanted to help her create an independent and active life particularly when all she had ever known was a life dedicated to taking care of Dad, my brother and I.  Every phone call we had, and time spent with her at our weekly visit to Mom’s were precious moments worth celebrating.  This culminated in a vacation with her in November when we went for a week-long cruise together, followed by a trip to Hanoi where we spent our time gallivanting along the small alleys looking for good bargains and street food.  We both had fun. 

 


Mom, throughout the year, had made an effort to keep herself busy and moved on with her life without Dad.   I enjoyed watching Mom as she kept herself busy with the things she loved to do.  She loved cooking.  So whenever we went out for a meal, she would come home to experiment in the kitchen, then whip up her own version of it.  My brother, sister-in-law, David, Joel and I became unwitting guinea pigs of her version of the Korean Army Pot, and Vietnamese Banh Mi and Vietnamese Pho.  I made a mental note to not take her to anywhere exotic for the year end vacation in case she whipped up Fish Balls Stewed In Yak’s Milk or something similar. 

 

I also noticed that she made it a point to not revolve her life around my brother and I.  Often, I found myself calling her at home, only to discover that she had been traipsing across town with friends, transporting containers of food that she had cooked to Granny’s, working her magic hands across the mahjong table and generally making friends and influencing people across Singapore.  I was glad because I realized that quality time, and being present had very little to do with being physically there beside her.  She certainly could hold her own.  What was most important was that she knew that I always had her in my heart and mind and would do anything to make her happy.  Even a 2 minute phone call to ask if she had eaten her lunch was enough to fill her with joy.  

 

I only see Mom for lunch every Sunday afternoon and I used to feel guilty about that very little time we had together.  However, coming home, for me, was remembering that the both of us as mother and daughter, had ridden the good times and bad enough to know that we had each other’s back no matter what happened.

 


Time For Joel

 

I also spent a lot of time with Joel, trying to rebuild a mother-son relationship that had been lost to 3 years of misunderstandings, miscommunication, my initial non-acceptance of his girlfriend and all the rough patches that came with a generational divide. In our separate ways, we both grew up together, learning to accept our differences and converging when and where we could to bring back peace and harmony into our home.  At this time, we have never been closer than we are now.

 

In the past year, Joel has been enjoying his national service stint.  I enjoyed listening to the stories he brandished about his time spent outfield and often annoyed him with the question, “So how many plasters and panadols have you dished out this week, medic?” He took his duties in the army very seriously and would get really annoyed when I poked fun at his efforts.  Just barely a year before, we would not even have a proper conversation because Joel would spend his time out of the house just to avoid having a conversation with me.  In the past, any mention of his girlfriend would have erupted into a huge quarrel. In the last 6 months, we even had meaningful discussions about his relationship.  This opened the doors to more opened communication between us.  And whether or not he was home, out on dates, or back in his army camp, it did not matter to me because I knew I was always in his heart. Our whatsapp messages which were once peppered with caustic remarks were now filled with messages from him like, “Have you had dinner?”, “Where is Pops, is he with you?”, and “What are you doing this weekend?”

 

I only see Joel for a few hours over the weekends and I used to feel guilty about using those few hours to nag him about his army fatigues left on the floor around the laundry basket, the unequal amount of time spent between our home and his girlfriend’s home, and his awful diet of biscuits and crisps.  However, coming home, for me, was the knowledge that Joel knew what family values meant, his proactive attempts to bring laughter and harmony into our home, and his awareness that this bond between mother and son was unbreakable.

 

Time For David

 

I spent a lot of time with David too, traveling with him whenever I could when he had a photography assignment overseas.  When we were not traveling, we took to spending our weekends on activities we found a lot of enjoyment doing together, instead of leading our separate lives like we had done before.

 

This was our version of separate lives – he would crash out on the sofa on weekends with the TV blasting and remote control gripped tightly in his hand, while he snored, and I would be playing with my Tarot cards in the room.   Recently, we found a lot of fun in painting together. They called it art-jamming, but the only jamming we were familiar with was either Robertson’s Lemon Curd or plucking the life out of his old guitar with his ex-band mates. This version of jamming did not involve calories, or noise, and was filled with so much more fun and laughter between us.  It was hilarious when I thought about how I used to fail at Art during my school days.  One of my paintings now sit proudly at Mom’s home while David prepares to make a case for a potential lawsuit against him from Kellogg’s for  stealing their brand image of a white chicken.

 


Making time for each other was a huge effort, given his travels, and my multiple commitments.  However, coming home, for me, was knowing that every now and then, when we had time to connect, David and I could always find fun and passion between us, no matter how busy we were and how different our interests could be.  We really need not be in each other’s faces every day.

 

Coming Home To Scotland

 

My 2016 resolution propelled my decision to make a trip back to the UK to visit with David’s family last November too.   We had not been back for almost 10 years, often citing the lack of time.  How could we have let 10 years pass by without setting foot in David’s hometown?  How could we have not found time to connect with his family?  Our conversations were reduced to Facebook comments, an annual phone call and a Christmas card. 

 

So, together with the family, we set out to create memorable moments with each other within the very short time we had together.

 

One of his sisters put together a collage of old family photos during dinner and it drew much laughter and banter as stories of days past were exchanged.  Time seemed to have stood still then. That collage of photos closed the gap of 10 years and that geographical barrier between Singapore and Scotland because the entire family had so much to share about the good old days.   These were memorable moments that David and I cherished.  They were more important than attempting to squeeze time for a quick phone call and a trip to visit the family.

 


On a Sunday morning, I took a walk with his sister around her estate in Dundee before having brunch with the family. We attempted to look for squirrels, and slid across the frosty pathways to much laughter between us.  About 17 years ago, before David and I got married, this was the sister I had a fight with over something silly and unimportant.  Over the years, I have not had time to talk to her apart from the day we got married, and during the couple of  times when David and I visited Scotland after.   That Sunday morning, I felt that my sister-in-law and I had closed that gap once and for all.  We had so much to chat about, and we had fun in each other’s company. It was special for me because we made an effort to make that morning a memorable moment for us as a family.

 

Also, David had the opportunity to rekindle childhood memories as we walked through the town park and attempted to climb Falkland Hill in -2 degrees temperature.  While I felt the wintry cold, my heart was warmed by the many stories that David had shared about his Mom and Dad, his school days, and his sisters. 

 


Another thing that made this trip to Scotland so special was because David secretly arranged for a Minister to preside over the renewal of our marriage vows at the Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh.  When the effort came from someone who could not even match his socks each morning, it was truly special.  Coming home for me, was the realization that my husband made efforts throughout our marriage to create memorable moments with me.  The much talked about “together time” which most people insisted, made a solid marriage, was really overrated. 

 


Throughout our 2-weeks spent in UK, we did not want to just play tourist and create photographs.  We wanted to create special moments that would be etched in our memories for a very long time, and we did.

 

Home Is Where The Heart Is

 

So yes, in 2016, I did make time for my family. I learnt to prioritize and was adept at juggling my commitments, feverishly filling in or cancelling appointments in my calendar so that I could “be present” to my loved ones.

 

As the year 2017 crept by furiously, and a month had already come and gone, I was reminded that coming home, was not about my physical presence at home with the family.  It was the commitment of knowing who and what mattered most. When I know who and what mattered most, my relationship with them would not be defined by my time or physical presence. 

 

My relationship with those who mattered most to me would be defined by :

 

·      My conscious effort to be kind to them instead of brushing their grief, anger, sadness, angst or frustrations off as their “having one of those moments”.

 

·      My needing to listen more with empathy, instead of with the intent to respond.

 

·      The energy I put into having meaningful conversations with them, instead of scrolling my Facebook feeds whilst chatting with them.

 

·      My attempts to strike a compromise and have opened discussions when we have conflicting opinions.

 

·      My effort to not just be present but to create memorable moments with my loved ones

 

This would be a great example to illustrate my point.  This Lunar New Year, my Uncle and Aunt as well as my cousin returned from Canada and Australia respectively to spend some time with Granny.  It was really not about the sacrifice of time and money made to make this trip home happen.  They did not inform anyone of their impending visit.  Instead, they delighted the entire family when they turned up at the annual reunion dinner at Mom’s, and took us by surprise.  Mom was literally in tears and Granny was extremely happy. 

 

Now, that was a memorable moment and definitely, the best way to Come Home.

 


About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from 
www.singaporemaven.com.  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Cruising To A New Sunrise


A Vacation With The Extended Family

 
When Mom broached the subject of an extended family vacation on the Royal Caribbean – Mariner of the Seas for 5 days, I spent 2 weeks mulling about spending my precious leave days from work stuck in a cruise ship.  My thoughts on the first week was focused on the possibility and ease at which I could jump overboard and swim back to shore should the need arise.  The second week was dedicated to research about the facilities and activities on the ship which could allow me to have adequate me time away from the claustrophobia I might feel from being restricted to the space within the ship as well as  the disdain I felt about being immersed in a crowd of tourists queuing at the dining room entrance an hour before meal times, reserving deck chairs with their towels at 5am in the morning,  and stacking their plates with dessert, appetizer and main course all at once.

 
It did not help Mom’s case about this vacation when she sold it in this manner, “I booked you and I on a cruise with the family because if you come along, I get 50% discount on the price as I am a ‘senior citizen’.  So you must come ah!”
 

Obediently, I applied for leave from work and assured my men at home that the only reason I was leaving them behind was that they were not senior citizens.

 


Determined To Enjoy The Cruise

 
I was determined to enjoy my first experience on the cruise.  The friendly crew from the State Room attendant right through to the waiting staff at the restaurants went above and beyond to delight the guests, so it was not difficult to relax into a daily routine of enjoying the copious amount of food served 24 hours a day, and the professionally produced staged shows each night.  Several bars were dotted conveniently at each deck of the ship, in case I was driven to drink while managing conversations as civilly as possible with an uncle who had an EQ of 0. 

 
I was also cognizant of the fact that with an 86 year old grandmother in tow, I had the responsibility of ensuring that she enjoyed every minute of that vacation time with the family.  Mom often whispered to me as she kept me in check when I felt annoyed enough to want to hit that 0-EQ Uncle on the head with my shoe, “How much more time does Granny have with us? Please think twice before you say anything stupid.”

  


Family Time

 As we sailed across the Malacca Straits into the Andaman Sea, I woke up each morning at 5am to capture the Sunrise, and left our dinner table abruptly each evening at 6pm to capture the Sunset. I spent most of the mornings perfecting a selfie against the backdrop of the emerald-green waters of the ocean.  I wheeled Granny into the Casino to watch her operate the jackpot machine like a rabid Pilot on the computer dashboard of the Starship Enterprise.  I strolled with Mom along the jogging path on the deck whilst listening to a lengthy lecture on sun-damaged skin and ageing. I shared jokes with my other 2 favorite uncles who were gifted with higher EQ than the eldest one.
 

I did not have a chance to embark on my daily gym routine although the ship had a huge gym filled with state-of-the-art equipment because I did not fancy spending an hour working out, only to spend another 3 hours trying to hunt down the rest of the family throughout the ship after. I was all kitted up and ready for my sunset rock-wall-climbing experience but Mom was more interested in lining up for a chicken roll and a slice of pizza at the 24-hour cafĂ©.  So I decided that spending time with Mom having a good chat over a cup of tea while she polished several chicken rolls and slices of pizza was more important.   I registered for yoga classes early in the morning but decided  that sitting out on our balcony with Mom to discuss the important topic of what shapes the clouds made, was more fun.  I was prepared to spend my day enjoying a half-empty ship as the rest of the guests disembark for their shore excursion in Phuket one day. As my son aptly put it across Facebook one day, “For Mom, a HAPPY CRUISE IS AN EMPTY CRUISE.”  However, I decided to disembark the ship in the afternoon to take my Mom out for a little shopping trip in Patong Beach, Phuket, and we enjoyed the ubiquitous Thai fare of Pad Thai and Boat Noodles before returning to the ship.

 
Throughout the cruise, I hardly had any Me Time as I tried to “stick with the program” to spend more quality time with my extended family. So when I returned from the cruise, a friend said in surprise, “What? You packed for a vacation with the intention to spend more time in the gym each day to get fitter, do your sprints around the track, attend yoga and pilates classes and get in some massage time but you did none of these! What exactly were you doing for 5 days?”

 




Chasing A New Sunrise

 
I reflected on my experience during the cruise and realized that the reason I had initial doubts and skepticism about this vacation was because I had been chasing my sunrise and sunsets in a wrong way. 

 
I was focused on the superficial aspects of special moments that I was expecting to enjoy, like waking up at 5am to wait for the sunrise. However, I forgot about the miracle behind a sunrise and the fact that the sunrise each day, actually looked very different from each other, beckoning me to see each day as a gift and an opportunity to start anew.
 

This vacation was not about spending more time with an 86 year old Granny who might have so little time left with us.  It was about reconnecting with the grand dame of the family who had planted the roots of piety, familial love, and resilience in the ground for my mother’s generation, my generation and the generation after.  That was an invaluable lesson in committing to celebrate our family’s past, present and future.

 
It was not about having to manage verbal altercations with my eldest Uncle who had very little social aptitude.  It was about the fun and jokes my other uncles and I shared across the dinner table, having a hearty laugh at my eldest uncle’s callous retorts that he had often dished out irrationally.  That was an invaluable lesson in diffusing tension and managing the dynamics of interpersonal relationships.
 

It was not about how much time I spent with Mom throughout the vacation.  It was all about the quality time spent having meaningful conversations with her during the cruise, sharing our thoughts, fears and memories.  This was an invaluable lesson in the need for me to make the effort to continue having more meaningful conversations with her even after the vacation.  Acknowledging that I spent little time with her every week, I was committed to ensure that each moment I spent with her would be one where I was fully present.

 


Coming Home To New Perspectives

 
On the last day of the cruise, as my ship pulled into Singapore waters and the skyline of the central business district came into full view, adorned with a spectacular sunrise, I began to see this wonderfully quirky extended family in a new light. We all came together, whatever differences we had as a family, and whatever expectations we had about the cruise.  What pulled us together was the fact that we celebrated a priceless moment together as a family.  We might sometimes fight, and we might sometimes not speak to each other, or we might each hold stubbornly strong to our respective opinions.  However, nothing could change the fact that we were a closely-knitted family. 

 
How could I ask for anyone within the family to change, including my uncle with 0 EQ? I will always love them for who they are.  Every day, I celebrate a new sunrise, and like a new sunrise, I am grateful for the opportunity to feel the warmth and love within this family.




About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from 
www.singaporemaven.com.  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.