On the Side…

Strangely, I had been asked many times for the past few months if I am a full time freelancer. Everytime it came as a surprise when I replied that I am a cubicle rat. Some of the responses or reactions are rather amusing. The standard faq “you don’t behave or dress like one who works full time” or “how do you manage?” or “aren’t you tired after a long day at work” or “you so free & have so much time?” or “what you actually do?” and the best “why?”

I am fortunate enough to have a day job that allows me to dress down daily (it helps because of the occassional manual labour). Power suit and the whole works will only make an appearance when required. Clothes do not define a person or what he/she does. Its the work ethics and being that count.

Each of us are given the same 24 hours. How we manage and split the time is entirely up to us, there is no magic formula. I admit there are challenging times especially when there are conflicting priorities and commitments. There are days that I totally crashed both physically and mentally. When that happens will have to suck it up and make things work cos I am a firm believer of ‘make time’. There is a time for everything, if one wants to. If I can’t commit I’ll say so upfront. There are times when I had to painfully say no to side projects. A little bit of planning does help but Murphy loves to throw a curve ball every now and then. Being flexible and adaptable are key. And most importantly not to kill myself and over-commit.  I am fortunate that I have quite a number of vacation days that I can play around with.  That helps heaps when I need to recover after weekend events.

Knowledge is best learned when it is shared. It is a gift in its own right. If I could extend my help and share what I know, why not? Sharing is a two way learning. I am still learning.

Why I do what I do? Or what it is exactly that I do? Its easier to explain in person over coffee (desserts are more than welcome). But don’t be surprised if it ends up with us having other conversations.  Simply said “do what you love, love what you do”…

And so, last Wednesday night session wraps up side projects and everything non-work related for 2016. The late nights, wee hours, Garfield eyes, sore muscles, bad ankle acting up, swollen knee, bruises on legs, broken shoes, soaked in the rain, melt under the heat and the occasional brain drain were totally worth it, no complains. It has been an unexpected remarkable journey this year.

It is such a blessing to have the continued trust, faith and the constant opportunities from those I had worked with for years.  To those whom I get to know and worked with this year for the first time, it is such a blessing that I had crossed paths with them.

Now its time to hibernate for a bit and recharge before it begin again early Jan. Looking forward to upcoming & more collaboration, exploration, opportunities, pushing limits and continue asking ‘what did I get myself into’ in 2017…

The Rustic Charm of Batam: 12 – 14 March 2016

I have been to Batam Island many times and this was my first with my family (parents, sister and her two kids).  Explored much more this time and loved the rustic parts of Batam that I had not explored before.

Ferry – Sindo Ferry
Sindo Ferry goes directly to Waterfront Terminal with a stopover at Sekupang Ferry Terminal.  Ferry ride was about 40mins.  We were supposed to depart at 1130hrs from Harbourfront Centre but there was a slight delay.  It was a very busy Saturday morning and start of the one week March school holidays (go figure!).

Total cost of ferry ticket: SGD278 (5 adults, 1 child inclusive of taxes)

Tip: If you are returning from Sekupang Ferry Terminal, best to check at the counter that the ferry is not from Waterfront Ferry Terminal as the ferry will already be crowded and quite tricky for you to look for seats.  Batam Fast do have return ferry that goes directly to/from Sekupang.

Love the design and rustic feel of the terminal
Love the design and rustic feel of the terminal

Accommodation – Harris Resort Waterfront Batam
Unlike Harris Batam Centre which is located next to the Batam Centre Ferry Terminal, Harris Waterfront Batam is located almost at the end (and I can say remote part) of the island.  The hotel provides a complimentary 12-seater shuttle service from the ferry terminal to the hotel.  Will have to be patient as there is no queuing system and there was only one van at a time (loop service).

The hotel have two wings and our rooms were at the Trendy Wing (quite a distance from the reception/main lobby – no complaints).  As all the family suites are fully booked, I requested for a twin bed connecting room.  The rooms were very clean and spacious enough for an extra bed (shared a room with my sister and her two kids).  We had a spectacular view of the swimming pool from our balcony.  The pool is very clean and it is cleaned every morning (saw they clean it while having breakfast two days in a row).

Always loved staying at Harris because of the simple design, decor and also the vibrant colours.  The rooms were comfortable and the bed plus pillows were so comfortable.  The breakfast spread was great and they even catered to various tour groups – Chinese, Korean, Indians, etc.  The mini grocery store selling snacks, drinks, toiletries, etc were not over priced like most hotels do (and you can find Magnum flavours that costs only about SGD3 that are not available in Singapore)

The overall experience staying there was great.  Which was a huge relief for me as the correspondences I had when making the room reservations and the one day car rental for the six of us were very frustrating.  Almost had wanted to give up and change to Holiday Inn but following my gut instincts (which have yet to fail, so far) decided not to.

The resort is definitely suitable for families including families with small children.  There are activities that can keep everyone occupied (minus the gadgets).

Love the location of the resort.  The fact that it is located far away from the city centre (about 30-45 mins drive away) and located near the beach, it was just a perfect place to getaway from the hustle and bustle of a city.

Total cost: IDR4,400,000 (about SGD440 – two rooms inclusive of breakfast and an extra bed inclusive of breakfast).

Harris Waterfront - Low Tide
Harris Waterfront – Low Tide

Transport
It is advisable to book a car for the day if you are travelling in a group.  The hotel do provide scheduled shuttle service to Nagoya Hill shopping centre.  Reservations need to be made and it is on first come first served basis.  The hotel do have a fleet to taxis available if you missed the shuttle service and also able to provide a quote if you want to go to other shopping centres/places of interests.  We did not book any car upon arrival as the plan was just to go to Nagoya Hill for late lunch and walk around the area.  We had to take two taxis as they do not have any available MPVs.  Booked a MPV through the hotel for the next day and had a great driver.  The lady at the counter told me that he is the best driver from their company (could be because of a service recovery after the frustrating correspondences that I had with them).

Important to note that traffic at the city centre is horrendous.  And drivers will try their luck promoting their contacts for Kek Lapis (layer cake).

Total cost: IDR500,000 (about SGD50 ~ two return taxis hotel-Nagoya Hill-hotel). IDR700,000 (about SGD70 for 8hrs MPV rental from 1100hrs – 1800hrs).

Food
Everyone that has been to Batam will agree that you will be spoiled for choice.  The food is good, cheap and fresh especially the seafood.

Shopping
Just like food, Batam is a shopping haven for shoppers (not me).  Not everything is cheap though.  Nagoya Hill is huge (first time there) and you can find practically everything.  The foodcourt is huge and you can find both local and international restaurants.

Went to DC Mall for the first time.  The first floor is catered towards Muslim/traditional wear.  The second floor consists of a mix of factory outlets and small boutique.  The driver also brought us to the Polo factory outlet and a boutique that sells clothes, bags and souvenirs that are made from Batik.

At the end of the day, I find all shopping centres are the same.  I always prefer to go to the local market.  Our driver brought us to the local market, which I think is near the Nagoya area.  As soon as we alight from the car, we were surrounded and followed by beggars and a lady who were holding a file that I saw was a document requesting for donations.  We just walked past them and went straight to a shop to purchase local snacks and preserved fruits.  They waited outside the shop and followed us back to the car.  Our driver was with us throughout and keep a lookout for us.

Always be aware of surroundings especially when shopping.  Personally, it is a good practice to separate the cash into several places just in case the inevitable happens.

The Rustic Charm
Born in a city, I always prefer to explore the suburbs and places that locals go to.  Driving along a route that is not busy, accompanied by stretch of trees that are not groomed, gorgeous blue and cloudy sky, it was so serene and natural.  The drive through the Barelang bridge was my favourite.  Despite the scorching weather, it was nature at its best playing with the different shades of blue on the sky and the sea.  The drive through the suburbs (which was a shortcut and to avoid the city centre traffic) on our way back to the hotel was another favourite.  And like I had mentioned above, the hotel area is just awesome, felt as if I am staying at a kampong.  There is just a rustic charm on this part of Batam that I had fell in love with.

Cupcakes Galore I – Twelve Bakeshop, Julie Bakes & Wheebake

My family and I are picky when it comes to cupcakes (in fact all desserts).  These are my take on the cupcakes that I have tried so far.  Just like art, food is subjective…

Twelve Bakeshop
https://www.facebook.com/thetwelvebakeshop/

Top (L-R): Mocha-Mocha, Chocolate Mint and Choc Chip Bottom (L-R): Cookies & Cream, Double Chocolate and Sea Salt Caramel
Top (L-R): Mocha-Mocha, Chocolate Mint and Choc Chip
Bottom (L-R): Cookies & Cream, Double Chocolate and Sea Salt Caramel

The halal arm of Twelve Cupcakes.  Bought for the first time from the ION Orchard outlet in October 2015.  They had since closed the outlet and moved to Parkway Parade (much to my dismay). These were good! Both the cake and the frosting were not sweet, each frosting were flavourful, cake is moist and most importantly not ‘eggy’.  It is reasonably priced and the more you buy, the cheaper it is per cupcake.  Highly recommended.

Note: As per their Facebook page on 3 March, they have yet to receive their halal certification

Julie Bakes
https://www.facebook.com/JULIEBakes.Cupcakes.Cakes.Delicacies/

Top (L-R): Red Velvet Nutella, Chocolate Infinity, Pisang Bakar (Burnt Banana) Cheese and Maximum Milo Bottom (L-R): Salted Egg Yolk, Salted Caramel and Churros
Top (L-R): Red Velvet Nutella, Chocolate Infinity, Pisang Bakar (Burnt Banana) Cheese and Maximum Milo
Bottom (L-R): Salted Egg Yolk, Salted Caramel and Churros

Muslim-owned. First tried on 9 April 2016. My sis heard of them and been wanting to try their cupcakes.  The cupcakes tasted like it is home-baked, moist and some of the flavours that were available on that day were quite unique.  The Salted Egg Yolk cupcake is the best of the loot.  The churros is just so-so.  They also sell epok-epok (curry puffs) which we did not get to try as they were running out and have to wait for quite a while for the fresh batch.  Will go back to try other flavours and also their epok-epok which have been receiving rave reviews.

Wheebake
http://www.wheebake.com/

Top (L-R): Campfire Smores, Red Velvet and Ferrero Hazelnut Bottom (L-R): Salted Caramel, Cookies & Cream and Salted Caramel
Top (L-R): Campfire Smores, Red Velvet and Ferrero Hazelnut
Bottom (L-R): Salted Caramel, Cookies & Cream and Salted Caramel

Muslim-owned. They are located at Pandan Gardens but stumbled upon their pop up while I was exploring Century Square on 23 April 2016. Have not heard of them, honestly.  It was already early evening and they were left with seven flavours (6 as per listed above, and the other flavour is Ondeh-Ondeh, a flavour which I refuse to try as prefer to have the traditional Ondeh-Ondeh). The chocolate based cupcakes were too dry and the red velvet were dry and dense.  Most were filled with Nutella.  The Salted Caramel is the best from the loot – moist and not so sweet.  Unsure will have the chance to try them again as they are not easily accessible (for me who is staying in the north) and usually have their pop-ups in the east.  Even though they do have online orders and delivery, not a strong pull factor to give another try.

Post Event Blues – Chingay 2016

It has been a good two year run performing at Chingay Parade 2015-2016.  Never have thought that I would ever take part let alone perform at the parade two years in a row.

Last year performed using a Mirwas (a small double-sided hand drum originally from the Middle East), singing and dancing to simple/basic Malay dance and Dikir Barat steps was very easy.  This year was a bit more challenging and I can say physically demanding – performing a combination of Malay dance, Silat movements, singing to the tunes of Dikir Barat while holding and playing the bamboo (originally the bamboo was rather heavy, but somehow they modified it to make it slightly lighter and there were others who had to carry a heavy prop that resembles a kampong house). The performance was a total of 18mins, 3mins per sector (a total of 6 sectors).  As challenging and demanding as it is, it was an enjoyable and satisfying experience.  Especially for the fact that it was my first time performing in the rain wearing a poncho (rained heavily on 19 Feb – first day of the Chingay parade).  If it had rained on the second day, I would definitely forgo the poncho.  One of the reasons that I loved performing – regardless of numerous times you had trained, making sure that everything from costume, make-up, props, etc has been set up to perfection, there will always be situations that is beyond your control.  And performing outdoors is totally a different ball game.   The performance is the same but the environment can make the performance a whole lot different.

The experience of performing alongside a group of talented Malay youths these two years was truly eye opening. The conversations and time spent getting to know new and familiar faces, sharing their aspirations, having great laughs, making the best out of a scorching/bad weather, comparing the type and number of abrasions/bruises each had, made the whole experience truly worthwhile. Really appreciate and great to see that neither experience, age nor educational background matters as we perform as one – a great representation of who we are. Those aspiring conversations made me feel and think that we still have hope.

Will I be back for the third year? I don’t know as there is an urge to know and the itch to be involved behind the scenes of this massive parade.

Being of Service

Friday did not end well at work.  Planned to leave on time as had made plans to run errands for family and had cleared my list of things for the week.  About two hours before official knock off time, received two very last minute requests. First request was simple and straightforward (new hotel reservation) while the other involves a lot of coordination as 1) need to book new flights for Tuesday, new hotel reservations and communication with client on new schedule 2) changes to be made on an issued ticket and that now traveller want to travel out on Monday instead of Tuesday, travel with the new traveller on Tuesday and travel out to a new location on Wednesday plus find a way to return home on Thursday by road (a part of my day job is to support travel arrangements to client/project sites).

Obviously upset with the last minute requests (as this is not the first time from the same traveller), spent about 30 minutes waiting for the traveller to be in touch because of poor phone connections and trying to create miracles on a Friday afternoon is really tough.  Working on a complicated task that requires giving clear instructions plus meticulous eyes when one is emotional is a huge struggle because a single mistake could be costly (tangible in terms of money and intangible in terms of efforts, inefficiency, etc).

And true enough, a mistake was made.  I did not change the dates when I gave the instructions to the travel agent to make the changes.  I did not realise the mistake when I first received and checked the itinerary and even after the traveller said it is a go (forward it to him to check), I did not realised the dates when I did the final check before instructing the travel agent to issue the ticket.  I only realised the mistake after I had left office and checked the issued e-ticket via my mobile (yes, sync work email to phone but on manual push).

“Best of all” this was not the only mistake.  As I left my office building, received a phone call from the travel agent and I was stumped when he said “how is he going to travel on Monday when he does not have his passport with him?”.  His passport was sent to an embassy to be stamped and was scheduled to be returned to him on Monday.  This was for a project that was handled by colleague who is not based in Singapore and I was assisting her with the application. This totally slipped my mind when speaking to the traveller and he informed me that he wants to travel on Monday (and yes, he did not realised about his passport either). Fortunately the agent realised this when he was about to issue the ticket.  Fortunately the passport had been released earlier in the afternoon and fortunately it was him who received it from the visa department and placed it in an envelope.

The agent informed our account manager about the passport and the latter made arrangement to personally return the passport to the traveller at his home.  At that moment I thought all was sorted as that was before I realised the mistake on the dates.  When I informed the account manager about the wrong dates on the newly issued ticket and worried about the additional costs involved, he immediately contacted the agent and assured me that they will sort it out and will try without incurring additional high costs.

I had been working with the account manager and agent for four years and this is not the first time that they had gone beyond the extra mile to support my team and I.  Among all the vendors that I had worked or currently working with, they are the best.  Our working relationship goes beyond client-vendor and both parties always try to help one another (had no qualms to be a referee when they were bidding for another major client last year).  As a client we can choose to be difficult.  But is that necessary? As much as they need us, we need them more especially during crunch times.  The support that they had given me on Friday was a support that I am truly grateful for.  The last minute request did not only have implications on me but on them.  It was very late on Friday afternoon and just like me, they do have plans and we are not their only client.  By the time we had sorted the e-ticket it was already close to 8pm.  The account manager wanted to return the passport earlier but it was raining heavily where he was at and riding a scooter is definitely not safe under such weather (plus he had a bad accident before).  Again, he assured me that he will try to return the passport by Friday evening if the weather permits and will text me when it is done. And again, assured me that it is part of his/their job to provide necessary support when I said my gratitude to him.

Being a client does not give us the right to be a pain and we should never ever take the phrase ‘being of service’ for granted nor misuse it.  The term client in this context applies to both internal and external. I am a firm believer that whatever actions that we do and especially did not do have implications on others.  One should not be living inside his/her own bubble at the expense of others for only the other will know the cost of such expense.

About the mistakes, yes I admit to those.  And the reason why I don’t like to do rushed jobs as mistakes bound to happen.  Not a good excuse, regardless.

Tourist for a Day ~ Colonials

25 Dec 2015 – Out and about with siblings to introduce colonial buildings to nephew and niece.

Former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station
Our first stop.  This former railway station are only open to public on public holidays. Only took a train once when I was very young (hence could not remember much to share my experience).  Went there few years ago to have lunch with colleagues and the stalls there served one of the best selection local foods, and they are quite cheap too.

Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall
This was not in our plan.  But since we had to alight at the bus stop to walk over to the National Gallery and it is open to public on that day, off we go to explore.  Since it reopened, only watched a musical theatre at the revamped theatre hall.  Loved that the facade and iconic clock tower remained intact and loved what they did with the interior.  The sound system and the seats were definitely much better than it was before.

National Gallery of Singapore
First word that came to mind when I stepped in – HUGE.  It is really HUGE that after a day of walking, we were too tired to explore the whole building.  There are two wings – Supreme Court and City Hall.  For historical aspect, explore the Supreme Court wing (my preference) for the collection of arts, explore the City Hall wing.  I will come back here for sure as did not explore every hook and cranny of the building.