a quote for october

posted in: favourites, singapore | 0

Sometimes I think I live in a gap between two worlds, one world that I have to wake up to, be adherent of the rules and live in a place that is dictated by others. A place I sometimes feel the fear of aging and dying before I have figured out what it is I am here to do.

That other world is sweet, fresh and misty, inviting adventure into the unknown, melding ancient wisdom with new discovery; the sunlight turning into moonlight and the spell of eternal life is never broken.

Perhaps in that gap I should repair the forgotten bridge from one side to the other, but truth be told, I don’t want to. I don’t want to because I don’t have the energy to fix what is broken within. I am a wild, wandering nomad, I belong everywhere and nowhere all at the same time, and in that gap between worlds, I am free.

my journey to zero waste

posted in: bali, lifestyle, reflections, singapore | 0

My partner and I have been increasingly eco-conscious. We’ve been adopting some habits to reduce the impact we have on our beautiful earth. I’m recording the small steps I’m taking to leave no trace.

In the kitchen, our goal is healthy, responsible eating and cleaning up.

  • We purchased a second-hand 5L dishwasher. I didn’t grow up with a dishwasher so we’re compromising with a “hybrid” model. 90% of dishes go into the washer if they’re “dirty” (meat, oil, sauce etc) and 10% I hand rinse (for example, knives that were only used on fruits and veggies). This has helped us conserve water and energy
  • When we dine out, we refuse plastic straws, plastic cutlery. We’ve built a new muscle to always bring our 1) reusable metal straws, 2) titanium (or bamboo) cutlery, 3) collapsible silicon bowl or lunch box, 4) collapsible coffee cup
  • When we do grocery shopping, we bring our tote bag. There are studies that show cotton bag’s high carbon footprint so we limited ourselves to only owning 2 and using it for 3+ years to offset the cost to produce the bag
  • For waste, we’re finding it very difficult to compost in Singapore. We temporarily turned to biodegradable waste bags. Next step would be to have a small waste container and empty it directly into trash each night

In the laundry room, we have three goals: 1) reduce electricity usage (10% of a home’s total energy consumption goes to washing and drying clothes), 2) reduce water usage, 3) reduce toxins from grey water.

  • Our washing machine is “high-efficiency” (HE) and also Energy Star compliant
  • We only do 30 min cycles on cold wash as 75-90% of energy required to do a load of laundry actually goes towards heating up the water
  • We don’t use a dryer. Instead, we dry our clothes via the sun
  • Instead of your standard Tide, we’ve been using Earth Choice’s vegan-friendly, mineral-based, cruelty-free, grey water and septic system-safe, 100% recycled plastic laundry liquid. But, we were still not satisfied about consuming plastic at all. We quickly switched to baking soda, before I learned about Magchan (JP version) / TerraWash+Mg (International). Magchan (available at Tokyu Hands) is a small bag of magnesium that leaves zero traces of chemicals and is 100% free of toxic and synthetic chemicals. They also plant 1 tree for every pack you buy. The magnesium-soaked water can also be repurposed to 1) clean your washing machine, 2) grow plants. Learn more on their website

In the closet, I have a few rules for myself as $460 billion of *wearable* clothing is disposed each year (this is equivalent to the GDP of Thailand in 2017)

  1. Variety: I’ve started only buying second hand clothes or renting outfits. I found this to be more economical (financially and space-wise) and also better for the environment. I’ve been buycotting Zara and other fast-fashion brands after reading about the waste they generate. There are great apps like Carousell that gives used clothes a second chance, and companies like Rent the Runway that allow you to be fashionable while also environmentally-friendly
  2. Recycling outfits: all outfits in my closet are classified into 1) frequently worn (75%), 2) sometimes worn (24%), 3) not worn (1%). Every “season change”, I do an assessment and put all of 2) on an app for sale (opportunistically), and donate 3).

In the bathroom, I’ve been beefing up my skincare routine (as my wonderful friends have kindly shared that I won’t be young forever). I’ve recently learned that outside of “face lotion”, there’s a whole world of toners, serums, night cream, day cream, face masks and what not. The problem with a heavier routine means more plastics, more cotton pads and more waste. I’ve switched to the following:

In summary, being conscious of your habits and the impact they have on the environment is a great first step. I’ve found it exceptionally motivating to join Facebook communities like Journey to Zero Waste Life Singapore. They keep me informed, aware and educated.

The journey to zero-waste is difficult and long. This is just the beginning of my and Jack’s journey. There’s lots more we can do like growing our own vegetables, composting, toilets that reuse dirty hand washing water, but I’m happy to report that we took our first step and are (hopefully) on the fast track to doing more, and doing better!


(Sent from Singapore)

things I’ll only say in my dreams

I met you 432 days ago.

We are, what I’d call, an unexpected collision. There was no anticipation, no chase, no beginnings or endings. We are a sudden combustion dictated by the universe. So fast, so vibrant. Just like stars – a second so full of life and energy, and the next, an explosion, into tiny specks, far far away, scattered, thrown, flung fearlessly into the darkness of the evening skies.

Like most sad love stories, this one starts on a late night, things a blur and words a slur. We spent the night with our friends, them talking boisterously, and us, us exchanging furtive glances, here and there, like secret agents on a high-stake mission, like stoic gamblers watching the table’s next move. I grabbed your arm for support. Head thrown back in laughter, heart laughing out so loud. I smile up at you, aware of the effect of a close connection, an electrification.

The evening air blushed pink of a tangy lightness. Slow jazz in the background. A drink, a shot, a slow glass of wine. The night was young and we felt timeless.

I met you in my dream.

It was a different time, a different place. I was thirsty, it was hot. I was perusing a desert landscape, squinting into what resembled the Colosseum. My hair was tied up in an elegant bun, it reminded me of a cocoon, so intricate you’d only be able to find at some another place, in some other time.

I was not here.

The sun glared red and juxtaposed my gown, a beautiful light purple, slow-transitioned from the purest of white. The fabric, so soft, so light, it was a winning the fight against gravity, against the weight of the world.

You stood on higher ground and you, paused time.

In my dream, I loved you. You personified the ultimate escape – a hop, a jump, a run away from the heaviness of this reality. In my dream, I surrendered to you. You brought me a reality where I was free, free from the perils of mundane life. You represented every fantasy of what could have been. Without consequences, without second thoughts.

But alas! The truth is, we are both strangers and we would never meet again. We live in parallel universes, co-existing. Actions mirrored by the opportunities of our insanity. Me here, you there, restricted by a world where choice is a slave, and time is nothing but a guardian of extremes.

I close my eyes to what cannot be. And with all the sinners and all the saints, we laugh.

Like star-crossed loves, fervently lost in the romance of a dream. Forever a dream, forever Forever. In this life, and in next, always chasing, always yearning. Yearning for a connection, yearning for Love.

You’re beautiful and I’m foolish.


(Sent from Singapore)

journey to the southeast

As the end of my year-long sabbatical comes into sight (I can see pretty far!), I’m confronted with real questions like: “where do you want to live?”

Moving out of the US

Being in the US for close to a decade has it perks. I’ve been spoiled by the access to new ideas in technology. When abroad, I realized my tendency (hovering at a 95%) to respond to lifestyle inefficiencies with “there’s an app for this”. Living in Seattle, smack in the middle of Amazon’s home, I was constantly testing out new ways to not checkout my groceries, new ways to have Christmas presents delivered in under an hour, new ways to have said Christmas presents delivered to my own living room. The first time I came back West after traveling for a year, I let out a very happy sigh. US has become a land of familiarity, of unparalleled comfort. There were organic supermarkets, anti-plastic bulk sections, fresh salads with quinoa.

The problem with living in one of the fastest cities in the world is that you get complacent. Isn’t it backwards if $XXXM is going into the next food delivery app when there are scarier and harder problems to solve? A lot of the B2C ideas in the West (cough SF) are focused around making the cushy lives of the wealthy even more comfortable. I am greeted by crypto castles, lifestyle influencers, and all this jargon. People talk ‘disruption’ but the ideas blur into just another raindrop in the middle of a storm.

People who leave say the market’s saturated. I disagree with the phrase for two reasons: 1) there’s plenty of specialized fields that need technology for advancement. The disconnect here is that these fields usually require a PhD unless you’re technical, 2) the market is not saturated as much as there is noise.

So, what’s next?

The question still remains. I want to find the next ‘up-and-coming’, I want to make an impact. There’s almost an altruistic, social good component to the next (job + location = adventure) I want to embark upon.

I settled on Southeast Asia (SeA). The area is diverse in culture and ethnicity, needs and challenges. And more importantly, SeA is a fast-growing developing market that’s hungry and full of untapped talent.

Some stats
  • Collective GDP of SeA is $2.56T (IMF). Growth rate is ~5% (Bloomberg)
  • 50% of SeA is under 30 years old (Accenture)
  • Over 700M of mobile connections (Singtel). This number exceeds the region’s population
  • Over 3.8M new users connected per month (Think with Google)
  • > $323B committed in pipeline towards infrastructure (Seasia), including a Kuala Lumpur-Singapore direct rail
  • 77% of the population in unbanked, and in countries like Cambodia, the figure is as high as 95% (Worldbank)
  • 362% growth in alternative financing (FinTech SG)
  • Chinese tech giants acquisitions and (Fortune)
  • Collaboration of top VCs to capture entire startup life cycle (i.e. Jungle Ventures + Accel = Seedplus)

The data’s all there. Opportunity, people and money.

Communities that are entrenched and highly active on one channel (in this case, mobile) is very valuable. There’s a large testing ground, and it’s easy to scale. It’s also easy to leverage existing successes (internationally) across multiple industries and localize it. By skipping the PC movement, SeA is leapfrogging straight into developing for the Now (all around the world).

And most importantly, there’s appetite. SeA is growing richer, and countries like Philippines are gaining international attention for being one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The sub-30 population is tech-savvy and excited about innovation. They know how to use their phones and are open to new ideas.

The playground

Here are some initial (very scrappy) thoughts based on the research above. Each bullet is worth a mention despite the maturity of the market in SeA.

  1. Mobile-first: more insights of Us, more interconnectivity between applications (across industries), more personalization
    • Payments: shops-customers, banks-customers, governments-citizens, employers-employees, p2p, inter-currency exchange
      • Model/further research: M-Pesa in Kenya (for banking the unbanked)
    • Entertainment: gaming, streaming etc
      • Existing startups: HOOQ (JV with Sony), iFlix, Indie Games accelerator (Google), Goama (games)
    • Healthcare: user-focused applications (not research) so scheduling, symptom matching, lifestyle / diet management, tracking of vitals, better delivery of medication, increased awareness of new medicines. Full stack solutions opportunity
      • Further research: ZocDoc, Oscar, wearables
  2. Increasing disposable income:
    • E-commerce: growth of niche players, dissolvance of physical-virtual, at-home try-ons
      • Like: Bulletin (flexible startup retail space)
    • Lending/Shared platforms: clothing, gadgets, cars
      • Like: Rent the Runway, Turo
  3. Leapfrogging:
    • City planning: “smart cities” focused on IoT, human-centric planning, low environmental impact, autonomous *shared* vehicles
      • Model/further research: SideWalk Labs (Google)
  4. Niche/culture sensitivity:
    • Lots of room for international expansion (i.e. MuslimClothing.com)

Final thoughts

We live in exciting times where ideas are transferable, talent is everywhere and people are passionate about doing good. As our world becomes more inter-connected, I’m excited to see what SeA can contribute. Models that are successful in SeA can easily be scaled internationally in other developing markets like Africa (and vice versa). There’s so much I’m excited to learn.


1 2 3 4 5