Writing’s been an important part of my life since I was a kid, eight or nine years old, forcing my sister to join me in scribbling out dumb stories in our notebooks. It used to be just pure self-indulgence, but once I started looking critically at stuff I put in written word, writing anything just became really frustrating.

I’ve always struggled with having a messy mind. I’m a chronic overthinker. I regularly confuse myself. I can put things down from one angle, but I’m usually thinking of a hundred others and not even knowing which I believe. And when I try to find a way around this, it usually involves not really thinking at all. Taking things at face value and sweeping them under the rug by distracting myself with triviality. When I want to lay my thoughts down, I usually have to do it in bursts, making bullet-point lists of “sources of anxiety” as a way to release some of that mental tension. (One way I find easy to document experiences, without clouding the memories with all sorts of commentary, is making playlists of songs. I’ve been doing it since 2008 and now have 9 playlists, the one for 2017 still in progress.)

Today’s Sunday, and I have a day off — finally, after a really hectic month. I thought about what I’ve been doing this entire year since the last time I wrote a summary post of things I completed. That was winter break of 2015. Since then I’ve done one round of final year exams, moved flats twice, had summer. In all honesty, I didn’t have much problem adjusting to living alone when I first came to this country, but readjusting to living around my family again in summer was difficult. I was happy to be reunited with them, but it’s quite an energy-sapping thing, living with people. Over summer I travelled to South Korea again. I worked three different part-time jobs, including waitressing, being a guide at an art exhibition, and ad-hoc sports hub events. I got my driving license and helped out at orientation camp. I took classes. Waitressing was probably the worst part of everything, not the job itself, but the bosses and supervisors were pretty damn awful. Dealing with them made me want to shrivel up. Just making sure I got paid the fair amount was a headache. I held out for the good hourly rate, but it was a struggle.

Coming back to London, I forced myself to audition for the uni symphony orchestra, because I knew I wanted to play in a more “serious” orchestra again, but at the same time I really didn’t think I’d make the cut. It had been three, four years since I played with any kind of seriousness? Anyway it was the right decision, because though stressful at first it’s been fun and playing with them, doing concerts and everything brought something I really missed back into my life. In November I went to Iceland, which was just the most amazing place. I want to post pictures, but I have to finish writing this quickly because there’s a long day of semi-adulting ahead. (Living in my own place is so much more tedious than I’d thought it’d be.) The landscape was so vast, so empty, so stunning that it actually moved me, like made me want to cry because of how beautiful it was. Our tour guide took us to some more off-the-beaten-track places, so we’d get the full experience of the scale of the place. Miles and miles of volcanic sand beach with not a single construction, person or even a tree or shrub, giant white waves, Atlantic ocean stretching uninterrupted all the way to the South Pole. Flat grassland as far as the eye can see, to a series of uninhabited mountains overlapping with glaciers. The South Coast was the best part of it, and the glacier hiking was otherworldly. The glacier lagoon was the actual setpiece for Interstellar, for two separate planets featured in it. The northern lights weren’t as vivid as they look in photos, but there was still the sense of magic and wonderment when you first see that wave of green streaking across the pitch black un-light-polluted sky, and see the curtains of light falling from the trails. We did the Golden Circle, and a peninsula on the West Coast including the glacier featured in Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Each landscape was really… poetic, for lack of a better descriptor, and so unique — I never saw anything like it in any other European country I’ve visited. Iceland in general isn’t super developed, but it doesn’t feel backwards at all. Instead, it almost feels future post-apocalyptic, like a small isolated community that survived on its own millions of years past doomsday.

That was before Christmas break. Over Christmas break I moved into my own place, and spent days just cleaning, unpacking, building furniture. Midsessionals came and went, and now we’re well on the way to OSCEs and finals. It’s all happened so fast — five months since last summer, and in another three and a half it’ll be summer again. I’m starting to feel vaguely panicked because I haven’t laid out many firm plans for it, but I’ll get there soon. (Hopefully. If not I’ll probably just apply for a job at Starbucks.) I’ve been so concerned about things like plans for summer, extra things I need to do on top of coursework, projects and etcetera, that I forgot how difficult my course is. I’m not high-functioning enough to be worrying about extraneous programmes, should really just be focusing on trying to pass second year for now.

Glowing Golds: Burberry Beauty Complete Eye Palette in Gold Shimmer No. 28

I ordered one of Burberry’s eyeshadow quads off the Burberry website a few days ago, in the shade Gold Shimmer No. 28. This is part of the Christmas collection, and comes in limited-edition gold packaging (as opposed to the usual gunmetal grey). The palette was £40 and came with complimentary next-day shipping.

I was really impressed with the way my order was packaged. The box was lined with tissue, my bill folded into a gold envelope — everything was very luxe and so much attention was paid to detail. While you do pay a premium for luxury brands like Burberry, in my experience with other beauty brands of similar price points, none of them come close in terms of presentation.

The palette comes in a black dust pouch housing three small applicators — a sponge tip applicator, a small blending brush and a small eyeliner brush. img_0019img_0017L–R: A neutral yellowy gold, a warm champagne gold, a soft light bronze with gold shimmer, and a cool medium bronze with gold shimmer. The shimmer in these colours is very refined and comes across as a glow rather than a sparkle.

I’m very happy with this purchase. On most days, my eye look consists of just swiping one or two neutral shimmers across my lids and lining with a soft brown pencil. This palette is ideal for that — all the shades are extremely, extremely wearable and don’t have any visible sparkle or glitter. They impart a soft glow and some warmth, which is exactly what I love. The pigmentation is medium, comparable to The Legendary Muse by Charlotte Tilbury. A single swipe definitely gives you visible colour and glow, but they aren’t the kind of shadows that go on full-on opaque in one pass. I found the colours to be buildable and they lasted all day on my monolids without transferring around or smudging on my lower eyelid.

I do think that this is a palette better suited to light skin tones, as the shades are all fairly light and might all look similar on a darker skin tone. This is perfect for people who like an all-over wash of colour, but might not be for people who use matte transition shades or need a black liner shade in their palettes. If shades in this are up your alley, I highly recommend it — these apply like a dream and the finish is just gorgeous.

Charlotte Tilbury: The Dreamy Look

A couple weeks ago, I fell in love with the images from Charlotte Tilbury’s Holiday 2016 collection campaign:

mtqwmtq5odyymja0mtg4mtc4Because just how beautiful is that makeup.

I purchased three items from The Dreamy Look: the Legendary Muse luxury eyeshadow palette, the much-raved-about Filmstar Bronze and Glow, and the Hot Lips Matte Revolution lipstick in Secret Salma. I bought the lipstick in Charlotte’s flagship store at Covent Garden, the others I ordered online. My online order came with two samples — of the matte revolution lipsticks in Amazing Grace and Very Victoria (which I think I have to pick up soon, because the name! and it’s such a beautiful, soft taupe-nude shade).

The Legendary Muse palette is completely up my alley: it’s a beautiful collection of subtle warm honeyed shimmers. The absence of a dark shade from this palette was a plus rather than a drawback for me, since having monolids, I don’t wear deeper colours on a day to day basis. Charlotte describes the shades in this as a “dreamy, pretty, flattering combination of champagne golds, Ibizan sunset golds, and pale, angelic, softer bronzes”.

The compact was lighter than I expected. This palette comes in the limited edition packaging that her Fallen Angel palette from last holidays had. Pigmentation was good, but not fantastic. This palette is not suited to fans of bold, cut-crease eye makeup — it’s very subtle. On me, it lasted from morning to evening without fading noticeably.

img_0007

The Filmstar Bronze and Glow is something I’ve wanted in a long time. Just about everybody that’s used this loves it, and I have to agree — it’s a fantastic cheek duo. First off, the packaging is stunning, an embodiment of vintage glamour. The bronzer is not too warm, has a slight sheen but isn’t shimmery by any means, and the highlight is glowy and luminous without being over-the-top. The bronzer is subtle on me, even though I’m fairly light-skinned, and has to be built up for a stronger definition. The highlight goes on quite strong with just one or two swipes. Both powders blend out effortlessly and seamlessly; I don’t think it’s even possible to mess up with this.

img_0008Swatches. L–R: Legendary Muse eyeshadow palette prime, enhance, pop and smoke, Filmstar Bronze and Glow sculpt and highlight.

img_0009Bottom to top: Legendary Muse eyeshadow palette prime, enhance, pop and smoke, Filmstar Bronze and Glow sculpt and highlight.

Charlotte’s Hot Lips Matte Revolution lipstick in Secret Salma is described on her website as a “natural deep-rose plum”, which I think is pretty apt. It’s designed for tanned skintones, but I think it suits my light Asian skintone really well. The packaging is the standard rose-gold bullet, with the squared-off lipstick shape for easy application. The Hot Lips lipsticks also come with a kiss embossed into the bullet.img_0010This lipstick is a flattering rose pink shade. As I’m sure everyone knows, the Matte Revolution formula is incredibly comfortable and long-wearing. This hides rather than enhances my lip lines, making my lips look fuller and healthier. It applies smoothly without tugging or dragging.

Overall, I think this is a beautiful collection and definitely worth checking out in-store if you’re into natural, softly glam makeup looks. Such a collection, I feel, could easily read as dated and old-ladyish, but this collection manages to stay modern and wearable while still conveying elegant, yesteryear glamour. All the products are an absolute joy to use and look at, look seamless worn and last well throughout the day. If you’re after a stronger Instagram-worthy kind of look, though, you might want to pass over this one.

intermezzo

Returning home over winter break, everything seemed awfully subdued. Everything was quiet, warm, a little hollow. Individuals I remembered as fiery and spirited, I now could only see as tired and withdrawn. Retreating from life somehow. Others, ironic and hard-edged, now low-key and distant, a pensieve of memories. My father was nurturing, more expressive than I’d ever seen him.

It was strange. I couldn’t comprehend how everyone could change so completely in such a short period of time.

From two weeks of rushing about I remember most distinctly cloudy late afternoons in the orchard library. Generic ambient music, probably some local artist getting promo, playing in the background. Dull grey light bleeding in from the floor to ceiling windows.

I feel like that’s a pretty succint summary of the entire trip back. It should’ve been calm, sluggish if not comforting, but it wasn’t. It was unsettling, stressful and emotionally overwhelming. I ate at my old favourite burger joint, which closed down at the end of 2015. I went out with my family and old friends, made pancakes, walked around the city, chose random Starbucks joints to have mental breakdowns in. We had a barbecue, and I watched my mother tell stories in an over-enthusiastic way that was completely foreign, but somehow heartwarming. My brother’s eleventh birthday came and went, and my family kept up its unblemished can’t-agree-on-anything record by getting five slices of different cakes — one for each of us. It probably should’ve been an intermezzo, but felt more like a dying breath.

I’m grateful for the chance to live halfway across the world, and I am really fucking glad to be done with high school forever. As long as I remember there’s been that fear haunting the back of my mind — a fear of being trapped by circumstance. I’ve always been afraid of “narrowness” — of never being able to see a bigger picture, of being permanently complacent in a limited, tired perspective. (Abrupt, overpowering sensations of claustrophobia, of being trapped, used to hit me out of nowhere, usually when I was feeling particularly stagnant and settled. There was a need to maintain that state of jitteriness.) There’s a quote from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close that accurately summarises this… mental affliction: “Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” (This is probably why social media gives me anxiety. Something like time anxiety.) Here in a new environment there’s an intense sense of liberation. It might not last, nothing fundamental has changed really, but I like to think that this forward pace will be enough. It gives me reassurance.

Korea trip pt. 2

That same day, we also visited a traditional paper factory & “made” some of our own.IMG_5139 IMG_5140 IMG_5142 copy Jeongseon The resort we stayed at that night was on a mountaintop. It was a convention hotel linked to a ski resort & had extremely strong k-drama vibes. At night it was eerily peaceful in the massive complex. I went for a walk around the grounds, through countless wide empty halls and corridors with muzak playing softly in the background. The bitter dark cold outside, fresh snow falling, fairy lights strung around in the white-blanketed garden, the lack of people — everything contributed to making the place atmospheric and almost dreamlike.IMG_5144 copyThe view from our room + the room itself were both excellent, but I couldn’t photograph it fully even with my wide-angled lens. IMG_5150 copy IMG_5163Samgyeopsal for dinnerIMG_5157The next day before going to Mt Seorak we actually visited a fish market as well. I don’t know what it’s called or where it was, just somewhere on the way I guess. We didn’t stick around for long either.IMG_5171 IMG_5173 Seoraksan National Park The hike at Mt Seorak was really fun despite the cold. The frozen-over landscape was breathtaking. I was kind of blinded by the combination of sunlight reflecting off the snow + the wind. IMG_5194 copy IMG_5195 copy IMG_5208 copy IMG_5198 copyIMG_5203 copy 2IMG_5193 copyIMG_5207 copy Seoul One of the first things my sister insisted we do was get softserve. We had the honeycomb soft serve at Softree and it was amazing. On our first night we had barbecued beef. We also visited a tourist trap that was nonetheless a really cute & picturesque location.IMG_5243 IMG_5251 IMG_5258 IMG_5259 IMG_5256IMG_5265At Gwanghwamun we had a really good tour guide. She took us around the museum & explained everything in great detail. The way she told things made them interesting.IMG_5290The marching band was more in-sync than the flag-bearers.IMG_5293 IMG_5292 IMG_5297 IMG_5302At GwanghwamunIMG_5306 copyIMG_5316IMG_5308 copyThe throne room left my dad & I very confused. “But where’s the seat? Don’t tell me it’s that tiny footstool-thing.”IMG_5322 More intricate decor is indicative of the queen’s private quarters.IMG_5323IMG_5333Strawberry bingsu and sesame-red bean bingsu. This is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted (especially the strawberry one!!). I went searching for this in Singapore but apparently so far there’s only one? authentic place, Nunsongyee, and it’s in Lorong Chuan. I went to try it a few weeks ago. The place is super inaccessible and I had to walk for 20–25 minutes from the MRT. The stuff was also priced unreasonably (close to $20 for one). Hope more joints open soon & provide some competition.IMG_5335 copyFollowing day we went to Lotte, although yes Everland is much better, it was just way too cold & we had to go somewhere that was at least partially indoors. IMG_5344 copyIMG_5362DMZ tour:IMG_5381We walked the 3rd tunnel. The climb back up was intense.IMG_5391 copyIMG_5418Had dinner at a place recommended by our tour guide.IMG_5423 copyInsadong: IMG_5430Moments from the trip, especially the part touring around the country, have imprinted themselves really deeply in my mind. I don’t know how to describe it, but sometimes certain memories just stick and become very resonant, and these are the type of memories that evoke nostalgia. It’s amazing how places can have such vastly different energies / moods, & how experiencing them really thrills and excites (it’s probably what I like best about travelling).

Korea trip pt. 1

My Korea trip was mid to late Dec, the dead of winter. I have higher tolerance for the cold than my family, so I was mostly fine (cold, but fine), but they really struggled, wearing up to 5 layers on top, 3 layers of bottoms, snow boots, scarf, gloves, hat, everything.IMG_4987This is how it began — everyone dozing off on the completely empty airport express. We initially thought we’d boarded the wrong train.

Our hotel in Seoul was the Millenium Seoul Hilton, near Namsan, & we had several other one-night stays in different cities on our land tour.

Namsan
Namsan had a really good atmosphere — it reminded me a bit of the Umeda Floating Garden in Osaka.IMG_5001IMG_4995IMG_5006IMG_5004

Gyeongju
Our land tour started out in Gyeongju. We met up with our tour group & had lunch at a cute vegetarian restaurant in the middle of nowhere. It turned out that the entire tour group was just us and one other family, so we had lots of space in the 40-seater coach. IMG_5036IMG_5018IMG_5027IMG_5026The Bulguksa Temple was truly freezing, so cold my feet hurt for hours after. I think it was around –10°C that day, it apparently got colder on subsequent days but I think I was more appropriately attired after this bad experience. The tour guide told us about all the buildings and monuments that the Japanese destroyed. IMG_5044 copy IMG_5048 IMG_5053 copy IMG_5054 IMG_5061The tour guide told us about the tradition of building stone “pagodas” for good luck so we did one.IMG_5064 copyScenes near the National MuseumIMG_5069 copyTomb of somebody important, an emperor or something. I can’t remember who — probably someone to do with the Silla dynasty.

Daegu
We didn’t spend much time in Daegu, just one evening in the city and one night in the hotel. The ginseng chicken soup & roast chicken we had there was real good.IMG_5077 IMG_5080 copy

Andong
In Andong we visited the beautiful Hahoe Village, a historic clan-based village from the Joseon dynasty. The traditional architecture was really well-preserved & the place was picturesque.IMG_5093 IMG_5099 IMG_5109 IMG_5117 IMG_5120 Swings that girls apparently used to look at the surrounding land, because they weren’t allowed to leave the village.IMG_5123 Our tour guide kept walking far ahead of the group, nagging at everyone to walk faster so he’d be able to get out of the cold. IMG_5125

tbc in Part 2.

Royal Caribbean 2014

Early December my family took a cruise from the new port at Marina Bay. The ship was the Mariner of the Seas (I think it’s the only large cruise ship stationed here?). It was a short trip, 4 or 5 nights, which we took cause we were kind of desperate to get out of the country. We called at 3 ports — Port Klang / KL, Penang and Phuket.

The ship was much bigger than Oceania’s Marina which I took last year from Barcelona. There were many more programmes onboard compared to on the Marina as well e.g. ice skating, performances etc.IMG_4720 Pool deck in daytime. I took many midnight swims to avoid the crowd.IMG_4945The housekeeping staff folded our towels into a different animal every day. IMG_4740 First night we had my mum’s birthday in the onboard steakhouse, Chops Grille. The food was pretty good. It had a more formal setting than Polo Grill which was more like an American country club restaurant.IMG_4763Day 2, we called at Port Klang and they bus-ed us to the city centre. Pavilion is apparently the newest and biggest mall there, & they had some brands I haven’t seen here. We got some stuff from there, including near-identical straw hats for my dad, sis and I. In other news the Starbucks there tasted strange — the milk taste was really heavy.IMG_4774 copyThe next day brought us to Penang. Honestly speaking, there wasn’t much to see, compared to KL — maybe because our port wasn’t near the busiest part of the city. Somehow though I still took a lot of photos. Upon landing at the port we were immediately mobbed by taxi drivers fighting for customers to take around for 4 or 5 hour stints. We ended up going with one driver who sold out the others by agreeing to use a metered fare instead of a flat rate. All the other drivers were cursing him as we left.IMG_4795IMG_4799Stopped by Starbucks again because we were severely WiFi-deprived. It took us quite long to communicate to the driver that we wanted Western coffee, not to be taken to a local coffeeshop. Above: a rather cute sign outside the store ft. my brother’s neon Skecher. Following that we visited a number of temples.IMG_4804IMG_4813IMG_4818IMG_4824 copyIMG_4830Lunch was at a hawker street. It looked and felt very old-time Singapore (not that I would have first-hand knowledge of what that felt like).IMG_4840 IMG_4843 IMG_4845Following that we took a walk along some boardwalk.IMG_4857IMG_4860Day 3, we went to Phuket. The Mariner didn’t dock, just dropped an anchor, and we took a motorboat to shore. IMG_4863 IMG_4865We took a day tour, & the first stop was a temple in a cave. It was dimly lit, eerie, & very impressive. It allowed me to understand what people mean when they say the entrance to a cave “yawns open”. Our tour guide was really good — knowledgeable, interesting and fab. He told us stuff about monkey schools and yelled at a group of Indian ladies in our tour group for being tardy. IMG_4875 IMG_4877 IMG_4884 Our next stop was Phang Nga Bay — sheer, verdant limestone cliffs & sparkling turquoise water. IMG_4913 IMG_4918 IMG_4919IMG_4930 IMG_4936 The last day was open sailing. We spent most of our time playing cards & hanging out in the onboard cafe. At dinner the crew got together to sing some Christmas songs for everyone. IMG_4959IMG_4960IMG_4977All in all, the trip was relaxing and way more enjoyable than any of us had expected.

A recent incident during my overseas trip brought to mind a part of the book Catching Fire, where Katniss is returning to the arena. Before her last TV appearance, her prep team burst into hysterics while doing her up because they couldn’t control their own emotions, and Katniss’s narrative: “The idea of being strong for someone else had never occurred to them.” I saw this manifesting positively and negatively in the people around me. In order to properly care for others, we first need to be able to get over ourselves.

I first heard this song when I saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower in 2012. Heard it again today while having lunch and thought about how well this song and its mood captures my mental state right now.