It was a rainy, stormy, night. A night Snoopy would have immortalised in his novels on top of the doghouse. 

I stepped into the bus, nodding absently at the bus driver and tagged my card against the scanner. 


As I walked towards the back of the bus, I scanned the seats for an empty one, preferably one that I could take up the entire row. 

And then I spotted her. 

A girl, woman, perhaps, snuggled into the crook of a man’s neck. Smiling, she lifted her head and whispered something in his ear and he chuckled softly and kissed her forehead. Satisfied with their little inside joke, she turns her head and our eyes meet. 

She froze. 

I stood there, mouth agape. 

She was not supposed to be here. 

Not here. Not at this present moment. Not now. 

I would ruin everything. 

Her boyfriend/partner/husband/love interest sensed her body stiffen and he turned to look in my direction. 

“Can I help you?” he asked, casually, politely, cautiously. 

I tried to see things from his point of view. A stranger standing, gaping at his wife/girlfriend/whatever, both not saying a word. This would usually be a cause for concern. 

“Uh…I, uh…thought I recognised your um, your, your…”

She gently shook her head, her eyes starting to fill with tears. If this man she was with ever found out what happened…

“My wife.” His reply was curt, clipped. 

Wife. Wife.

That night so many years ago, his wife and I stood in the middle of the cornfields, swearing on our future graves that no one will ever know. No one will ever find out about the boy. Billy. 

She had moved away, last I heard of her. That was 10 years ago. She had bought a one way ticket, “going anywhere!”she had laughed in her lilting, soft voice. She loved Journey. And even with blood on her hands, she could still make me smile. 

“I’ll miss you,” I said as we stood on the train platform. I hugged her tight, trying to remember how she felt in my arms. She was soft and warm. She smelt like fresh, sundried laundry and raspberry shampoo. My cheek was wet from her tears. 

“I never wanted it to be like this.” Her sobs rang in my good ear. I wished that she had spoken in my deaf ear. This was a memory that I did not wish to remember. 

“But I need to do this. I need to go far away. Far, far away,” she stated. Her voice, shaky with emotion, started to firm up with conviction. 

“No one will ever know. No one.”Then, with a flash of the white scary around her neck, she was gone. And the sound of the howling train sounded like Billy’s last scream before we buried him. 

I smiled at the man and his wife. 

“I’m sorry, I thought she looked like someone else,” I apologised, as I hurried to the back of the bus and grabbed a seat. I pulled my hoodie over my head and put on my headphones, wanting a distraction. 

The man and his wife were talking in terse, low voices. His tone, accusing and suspicious. Hers, vehemently denying ever knowing me or knowing what just transpired. She faked a yawn, attempting to excuse the tears. 

No one must ever know. 

The bus stops and I rush out. Leaving that world behind me. 

I light a cigarette and as my body shudders from the nicotine, a nearby busker strums his guitar and starts singing. 

Billy’s leaving today (don’t know where he’s going)

Holds his head in disgrace (he can’t escape the truth) 

~ Copyright @Poet86



I’ve lost myself
In the sea of emotions
Nothing is permanent
Everything changes
Constantly, always swirling
Like koi fish in a pond
Swim, little fishies
Floundering for safety
A plank
Piece of wood
Grasping gasping water fills my lungs
I’m nearly there

Step away from the light
Gaze into darkness
Black as the blood that drips
Down my arm
Caressing my elbow
Dancing across my fingers
To pool into a ruby teardrop
Dancing dancing dancing
As my fingers twitch
And my life spills onto the floor

I search for, no, crave
Wanting more
Wanting that permanence
Needing nothing to change
Something to remain
So I carve a tiger into my shoulders
Claws reaching down my biceps
Bared teeth howling at my prey
Forever across my heart
Until eternity

Remind me of how I am brave
That my scars are fiercer than my heart
I can tear mountains asunder
With my claws, my teeth
Just say the word
And my tiger heart is yours
For the taking
All of it
I hold nothing back
Like the blood that wells in my palms
I leave a chaotic hand in your existence
To fight another day

~ Poet86

Opinion: The Perils of Dating.


Note: This is my own personal view and does not reflect the views of this…oh heck. It’s my personal blog so yeah, it does reflect the views of this blog. This started off as an email to a close friend of mine and when I realised that I’ve been writing for an hour straight, I thought I’d just be lazy and repost it so that the blog gets some activity. Heh. 

Heya *****,

I’m gonna start off by answering your question at the top here, because after I realised I’ve just typed non-stop for the past 40 minutes, I think rather than having you read through the vitriol that is my thoughts on a Sunday morning and then get to the answer, it might be easier to read it here and then skip the rests of the diatribe. Hee. Up to you LOR. 
Having something fun, practical, exciting, and non-threatening is possible in ***** that could go worldwide? Definitely. However, as with the rest of the literary vomit below, it’s all about minimising the risks and the potential want-to-vomit-blood moments that could occur as part of this. 
For e.g. dance could be a part of this. We all know that dance is like this not-so-subtle masquerade mask that everyone kinda puts on while hunting for a potential relationship. All that body contact, all that close proximity, heck, I can’t even put my hand on the small of a stranger’s back without being called out for sexual harassment but hey, in a dance class, it’s legal! And not only that, she’ll enjoy it! As long as I don’t cup her ass, that is…

We get the weirdos, we get the perverts, we get the strange people, we get the dramas when two people hook up and then break up and start infecting other people like viruses. What to do?

Minimise collateral damage, that is. Or prevent it altogether. Somehow. Once we’ve worked out that somehow, call me. I think we’ll have a very successful business plan….

Sorry it took me so long to get back to you on this…this is a HUGE topic, where do I begin?

Re. not finding something that works, maybe I’m going to be all INTJ and judgemental but I feel that there’s a lot that goes into the bias that comes with dating. On one hand…

1) Romantic comedies and media has portrayed dating as going out and finding the “perfect” man or woman. I believe that we both share the same view that there is no such thing as the perfect man or woman. There are many the “ONES” rather than just one sole individual. So is finding a partner about settling for second best? Definitely not but it’s also not about being perfectionist and finding Mr. or Ms. RIGHT on the first try. That said and done, there’s also the potential that people expect things to go a little too easy. For e.g., sleeping with someone on the first date. Hey, might as well get the sex bit done and over with and especially if how prodigiously good someone in bed is going to be a determining factor in the relationship, I guess you might as well. But as we ALL know, how hung someone is doesn’t determine whether you both are going to grow well together into your old age. So for me, it’s treading this really fine line between wanting the perfect person and expecting it to come easy. So are *****ers now becoming more kiasu and expecting top notch partners with little effort?
2) Staying in a relationship? Hm. Of course, an abusive relationship should be something both men and women should get out of if they find that they are in one. Is it fickleness? Or is it, as Vince Vaughn once said the movie “Old School”, (for reference at 1:15) “Let me be the first to say congratulations, then. You get one vagina for the rest of your life.” Coarse, yes. True, I don’t know, is it? Are men the only ones who think that once they settle [whether in marriage or for a steady relationship], they are stuck with the same person for the rest of their lives [sexually or otherwise]? Do women think that? Do women pine for the better man out there that they haven’t dated yet? But I think it is also worth mentioning that if the man/woman you are with is a good man/woman who complements you [not completes you!] and stands next to you and supports you and you love him/her more than just “Oh, he brings home the bacon” or “She does my laundry and makes sure I have clean underwear”, then it’s a start. Isn’t it? On that note, how important do you think passion is regarding staying in a relationship? Should it be a full on, no holds barred, feeling of wanting to ravish a person at all times? That passion does wane, at some point, like the phases of the moon. Is it a lack of passion? Or wanting a change? Something different? If both parties don’t feel the need to communicate or want to work to stay in the relationship, then it’s kind of moot to continue doing so, no? Read an article several years back (I remember this clearly ‘cos I was having fish & chips at the Flying Squid and flipping through a gossip magazine) when I came across a biological fact that men are only “faithful” for the first 18 months of a relationship (doesn’t matter which status) as that’s considered the “honeymoon” period. Why? Biologically, all species live for two purposes – survival, and propagation of their continued survival (passing on genes.) For most creatures, 18 months is more than enough to guarantee that most creatures would have reached adulthood and the male is ready to move on, spreading his genetics elsewhere. The female’s role, then, is to apparently find the next male with superior genetics that would also ensure the survival and genetic viability of her own genes.

I think for the people you know who are struggling to stay in a relationship, the first thing to do is to find out why. Why the struggle? A more honest self-discussion, perhaps, is required to answer these questions. Nothing a good coffee, a notepad/notebook, a pen, and some quiet time in a lonely corner of the Link at Otago Uni won’t solve. +)

3) A platform to meet people? Hm. Maybe it’s the INFP in me that wonders about such a thing. Is there even such an issue? Ye ole’ introverted me thinks that smiling at strangers would constitute meeting people already, what’s more having to talk to them. But what is the issue here, really? Do we not meet enough people in our lives already? Or in the same vein and theme as this email is about, is it about meeting more eligible people that we find date-able? Is it about meeting people that we find attractive, that we want to “share genetics with” as per point no.2 as above? In that case, supposedly, Tinder offers the best experience. I’m probably being harsh, but Tinder is akin to ogling people on the Internet or in real life but the best thing is, that if you express that your interest based on their physical appearance alone and they apparently feel the same way, then you get to meet up/hook up. Huh. Isn’t that what we already do when we go to a bar in hopes of meeting a guy/girl? Tinder is just the mobile app version of meeting in a really really big bar sans the alcohol so I guess the chances of not making a drunken decision is lesser. [that said, we haven’t considered the alcohol factor that may occur when two people DO meet IRL.]
Are we looking to meet people to find love? Of course, that’s not the only reason that we meet people but in the context of this email, I guess that when we do meet people to find love, there is a sudden desperation about the whole thing. Love is such a power emotion, a raw, primal instinct that we all search for, because after survival and passing on our genetics, we all want and long for the need to be wanted and cherished and cared for and to be given another reason to live than to just escape the sabretooth tigers and bears and fuck all the time. The desperation exists because to find LOVE is rare and beautiful and tear-jerking and akin to finding an entire HDB storeroom of gold bars – you JUST GOT TO FIND THE RIGHT HDB FLAT, THAT’S ALL!
I think a search for love and meeting people to find a date-able person is a bad thing. No doubt, people HAVE found love in that way. Shauna & Daniel of Gluten Free Girl fame, as an example. Some of my dance friends have met their partners that way. All power and glory and honour to them, I say. Well done. But I personally feel that when you go to a bar to look for a one night stand or a long term relationship (or go anywhere for that reason), things tend to go wrong. How can we define love or a loving, long term relationship on the basis that we are wild creatures looking for superior genetics wanting to bump uglies to ensure our continuing survival so that little “***s” and “****s” or “****s” or “****s” or “****s” would continue walking the Earth? I feel that speed dating or date my mate or romantic meetups cater to our primitive minds whereas love and loving long term relationships speak to our more higly evolved minds wanting more than a cave and a warm body on the animal hide next to us. We want that guarantee, that seal of approval that the choices we make wanting someone to hold our wrinkled bodies and kiss our toothless mouths in future are the right ones. Tinder/speed-dating/date-my-mate/meetups/whatever-else-is-out-there wants to provide that little bit of security – that we are in control of this dating process, this selection component, that we are not choosing someone based on the fact that they read the same books that we do or that they have broad hunky shoulders and a chiselled jawline or breasts that threaten to spill out of their tops.
We make the choices. So we feel good about ourselves.

And then when things go wrong, we blame the process. We say that speed dating attracts the losers and the desperate. Tinder is just booty-calling strangers on your phone that like the look of your ass. All the weirdos turned up at the meetups. It’s too expensive to meet someone. It’s not safe, there’s no privacy, etc.

Well, what were you expecting? If you lived in the early decades of A.D. in the Middle East/Europe and you rebelled against the Roman Emperor and got throw into the gladiator pit to be devoured by lions and killed by other gladiators, can you say that it’s unfair that other people were trying to kill you and lions wanted to eat you? Hm…not really. You rebelled in the first place. Everyone else probably rebelled too (for the sake of this made up scenario) and now, they’re just fighting for their lives. Or, for a more modern Singapore twist to it, people pay SGD10 for a buffet at some unknown tiny hotel and then complain that the spread isn’t as extensive as Shangri-La’s buffet.

My personal thoughts about this dating process?
I think it’s bad, really. So many physical/emotional/mental/spiritual hurts come out of this. You expose yourself physically/emotionallymentally/spiritually to someone via this process and when they don’t meet your expectations (and/or vice versa), you feel rejected, unwanted, unloved (that word again!) and your primitive needs aren’t met. [Sometimes, even getting a good lay out of it makes you feel even worse. So now, you’re carrying someone’s genetic material which you may or may not want/shared your genetic material with someone and could potentially have to pay child support if they decide NOT to abort]
I believe that meeting people in a rather less threatening environment with no pressure to date or sleep together would be ideal. Personally, I’d rather date someone I’m already friends with. I know you in a non-threatening way, I connect with you (with all my quirks and personality issues), I understand your quirks and personality, I find you attractive (physically/mentally/emotionally/spiritually/whatever-way) which is why I’m still friends with you (let’s be honest, we’re all shallow to some degree), we share common ground (or see eye to eye with certain issues or topics), etc….think about friends and how it would be easier to date them than a total stranger. [Of course, not all friends are date-able] but you get the idea, I’m sure.
Heck, dating a friend is like super slow speed dating. Why the speed? Why the need for microwave-like levels of readiness? 2 minute relationships? Why not turn on the slow cooker and have 8 hour slow braised beef brisket with roasted veges rather than 5 minute Indomee with a fried egg? [That said, I do enjoy the quick and dirty meal from time to time, heh.]
That said, there’s the risk of losing a friend if the relationship doesn’t work out. Maybe just ‘cos I’m immature like that. I’m sure you’ve heard of the popular term ‘friendzone’ where supposedly, when Person A likes Person B but B only sees A as a friend so A has been placed in the ‘friendzone.’ I like to think of this in a slightly different way – A and B both like each other but because they both value their friendship over a potential relationship, they both decide not to pursue the relationship, hence, the “friendzone.” Of course, I guess if I’m more mature, we could probably still be friends even if the relationship didn’t work out. But different people have different levels of physical/emotional/mental/spiritual maturity, no? And I think a friendship post relationship depends heavily on that ability to let go of the past – maybe/probably not forget it – but to accept it as fact and move on.
Huh. That’s an hour on this. What do you think?

Birthday Boy Introspections

2015-06-08 20.49.48

Last year, on the 31st of December, 2014, I was sitting with a group of my close friends and I asked them a few questions to summarize up the year. Namely, questions such as “What was the happiest thing you did for yourself this year?”, “What did you wish you could have done better in?”, “What would you like to see for the new year?”, and “If there was one thing that you would have done this year that would have made all the difference, what would that thing be?”

Now, it’s the middle of the year, and time for a mid-year review.

2015-06-08 20.13.55

400 grams of meaty goodness. Then I got given pretty much another 400g by my dinner mates. Protein, baby!

To be honest, this year, I feel that I haven’t been as productive as I could have been. There are some things that I am not so proud of and some things that I feel have defined who I am this year.

I’ve never been one for a big birthday celebration. A few years ago, I even forgot what day it was until I came home and saw like a dozen notifications on Facebook stating that people are wishing me a happy birthday. But I slowly learnt to appreciate it. Back then, when I was younger, birthdays were all about getting presents and having mum and dad cook you your favourite foods and having cake and eating as much junk as you want and they wouldn’t say a thing. As time went by, it became more about wanting people who would sit down to have a meal beside you, those who choose to go out of their way to wish you a happy day, and those who sincerely and truly care for you.

It was no longer about the presents. As a working adult, presents were something I could choose to buy on a whim. All I needed was my credit card. Junk food? Please, when you’re hungry at work, junk food was what tided you over until lunch time. And in Asia, there’s no such thing as a morning tea break.

2015-06-08 20.14.02

Flippin’ massive pork knuckle. My arteries probably gave up on me tonight.

Man, I’m 29. I’ve always had those issues when I turn a year older. It became a literal countdown of sorts, counting down to the inevitable. The end. But this year, for me, it’s more about gratitude. Appreciation. Not caring about the little things and putting a bit more effort into the bigger things that actually do matter. Taking the high road. Becoming a better person, inside and out.

I read an article by a rather wise man by the name of James Altucher who wrote a post on “What happens when you do not care.” This gentleman has made money by the millions, lost it all, and had gotten to a point where he thought of killing himself so that his family could claim his life insurance policy so that they could buy things like food and diapers for his babies. You know, the basic things. He had written that life was so short and that we are so minute in the grand scheme of things that our lives would be over before the universe blinked. So stop caring. Stop caring about the unimportant things. Stop caring about what people thought of you and just do your best at what you do. Life existed beyond the point of desperation and unless we chose to see past the obstacles in our way to the green pastures beyond, we would be trapped staring at the grey wall in front of us, ignoring the wide open door right beside it.

This year, there have been decisions that I needed to make that would change the course of my future. Scary thoughts, scary things, scary hairy spiders that lurked in the corners of my mind, putting the occasional leg out to test the webs of my sanity. It’s amazing what you can do by just walking through it. It brings to mind the mentality of the soldiers training to become Navy Seals. When the infamous “Hell Week” which consists of drills after drills after exercises which never seemed to end on top of a foundation of 4 hours sleep maximum for a week, they were taught to focus on the next minute. The next hour. The next two hours. And if they were unable to do that, to just focus on the next ten seconds. And build it up from there.

Sometimes, I feel that life passes me by, hour by hour. I wake up in the morning, eat my oatmeal, catch the bus to work. Get to work, take out my headphones, change into my scrubs, plan the day for the team. See patients. 3 slots later, it’s time for lunch. I change out of my scrubs into my casual wear and then walk out  for lunch. Come back, take a nap, whoops, it’s time to see patients again. 3 slots later, I’m done, changed out of my scrubs, signing documents, papers, and then I’m out of there. I get home, have dinner, and after a few hours doing goodness-knows-what, I’m out for the count. Off to bed.

Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

An artist from back in the day called Stacey Orrico once sang, “There’s gotta more to life than chasing down this temporary high to satisfy me.” I’m looking for more these days. For me, I’m wanting more control, more of what I want to do and less of the things I don’t want to do so much of.

I guess some of these things might not be so web-perfect at the moment so one day, maybe one day, I’ll let loose and let my guts spill out for all to see. But for now, there’s got to be a little mystery, right? It just makes things a little more interesting.

So here I am, I’m 29. I was born on the 8th of June, 1986, at 11:30p.m. at night. I was a night fire tiger, as it goes by the Chinese zodiac, and many well-meaning relatives and family friends constantly pestered my mother to put a golden locket charm on a gold bracelet around my ankle to “keep the tiger spirit in check.” She refused. I was supposed to be a wild child, a boy hard to discipline because of the element and year of my birth, and of the time that I was born. Tigers are nocturnal animals, prone to hunting at night, ferocious, independent, alone. I’ve grown up to be independent and very fond of my own company. Ferocious? Cross me and you’ll find out. Heh.

So one year older, hopefully, one year wiser. Let’s see what the rest of this year brings, eh?

Today I spoke…

Today I spoke to a patient who insisted on dying.

“There is no point in life now. I cannot move my hand, I cannot move my leg, I am a cripple sitting in a wheelchair and I feel like dying. The pity that I see in everyone’s eyes when they look at me…what more is there to life than this?”

Asking him to look on the bright side of life didn’t quite seem appropriate.


Today, I spoke to a patient who was so away with the fairies that when I asked her where she was, she said that she was in a taxi and to ask me to drive slower when in fact, she was on her wheelchair gazing out the window.

I asked her what she had for lunch. She said, “I don’t know. The maid just keeps feeding me even when I don’t want to eat anymore.”

I look upon her gaunt face, her blank stare, and her perpetually open mouth, continuously drooling down the front of her shirt. I doubt she keeps the food down.


I spoke to a patient’s wife today, who is his main caregiver. Her kids are busy, she says. They work all day and they cannot take care of their father. They hired a maid. But she is left on her own to care for him. “He doesn’t listen to me,” she rants, angry, teary-eyed. “He just looks away and I try so hard.”

She broke down.

“It’s not like I want to cry but sometimes, it is just so hard and there is no one that is willing to listen.”

She gestures to him. He sits at the table, working putty through his fingers to strengthen his grip.

“I stand behind him when he goes up the stairs. If he loses his balance, I am there to cushion his fall. My bones will break first because I don’t want him to suffer further.”

As his therapy time is up, she shakes my hand and thanks me for listening to her. She turns to him, holds his hand and together, they walk out of the therapy gym.


Sometimes, I wonder whether I have gone in over my head when I decided that I would become a health professional, let alone a physiotherapist.

As a self-professed introvert, hanging out with people is not exactly my idea of “fun.” I always cherish my solitude, my moments of silence, the minutes and hours where I work in silence or I read, study, or contemplate the intricacies and insanity of my own thoughts.

The Sociologist (a very close friend of mine who sometimes understands me better than I understand myself) once said that for an introvert, to be around people is to have my energy battery “drained” and that I recharge when I am left to my own devices. I find that true to the letter.

But as a health professional, I find that there is so much more to my job than what I thought it would be.

Sometimes, it is as straight forward as your average sprained ankle or torn ligament. You ice it or put a heat pack on it. You teach some exercises. And then they go home. End of story. Easy as pie.

But in some cases, you’re more than just a therapist. You play the role of a psychiatrist. A counsellor. An always available listening ear or shoulder to literally cry on. You wear so many hats that sometimes, the original cap that you’ve got on has disappeared under the multitude of head coverings.

I sometimes wonder whether health professionals consider that they might have an unspoken saviour complex. You want to make things better…but sometimes, it is beyond you. It is beyond you to make a dent of a difference. Sure, in some cases, it is that little dent that does make all the difference. It is the listening ear that saves a life or lightens a burdened heart. The touch that says that “I care” or “I don’t understand but I am here for you.”

But when you play this role, it is your curse that you always want to do more. And sometimes, that hunger will always go insatiate.

Been there. Done that.

IMG_1726 Dunners.

It seems decades ago that I walked your streets. The beautifully rare hot summery days. The more perpetually freezing, chilling-to-the-bone weeks that seem to pass by in a blur.

This time round, it feels…different. So…surreal. It is like a dream awoken from. I grasp at the tendrils of Morpheus’s creations and yet, I cannot capture it. So many days. So many nights here.


I remembered when I first walked up this hill. I wanted to see what the city looked like from the hilltops. It was a grey, blustery day. Nothing like the visage that greeted me as I strolled around town.


Dunners is famous for being a port city hemmed in by rolling hills. And being caught in the Antarctic-like winters, houses perch themselves on the hillsides like vultures, greedy for any rays of sunlight that would warm a shivering soul.

Dunners is treating me well this time round.


The acrid, acidic scent of coffee beans permeate the atmosphere, particularly if you wander close to the Gregg’s coffee factory. It is no blue moon to see students clutching takeaway cups of joe during the winter mornings as they attempt to make it alive and awake to a dreary 8a.m. lecture.

The picture above (forgive the blurry iPhone 4 photography) reads “Studio Rooms, Available 2015, From $180.”

Studio rooms were the epitome of student accommodation, back in the day. It boasted complete autonomy and private living in an era where you only had a bedroom to yourself and everything else was shared. Studios had the luxury of their own fridges, en suite bathrooms, and even a tv! If you were really lucky (or rich), you could get a kitchenette in your room. If you were one of those lucky buggers, you had it made. Well, so I thought. I never really liked sharing my space.


The skies were sinfully blue. The beige (?) building on the right is the hospital, where we had a number of our clinical placements.

I’ve been hearing about a decision to downgrade the hospital’s primary services. A petition is going around to try and get the services kept in place. With the Health Sciences being
one of the reasons this University and city continues to survive, service downgrades would be the equivalent of financial suicide. Let’s see.


The Octagon.

Like Orchard Road in Merlion City or Central Park in New York, the Octagon (aptly named for its eight sided city centre) is one of the most iconic landmarks of this city. Mention the Octagon and pretty much every boy and his dog would know where you’re referring to. Students march from their residential halls down the main street to the Octagon for their toga parties. The graduation parade features a Scottish marching band that precedes the graduating students in their gowns and hats that would march towards the Octagon but take a right to the Town Hall where the convocation ceremony would take place. St. Paul’s Cathedral towers in the background whilst a stern statue of Robert Burns, a renown poet maintains a steely vigil over the city and provides an always welcoming latrine for the pigeons.

The New Year’s countdown takes place here at the Octagon. The fireworks explode overhead and the air stinks of booze. More than one act of indecent exposure would occur and people eat each others’ faces as part of the celebrations. The first and last time I attended the festivities, I said my farewells to Dunners.

I’ve never been back to live here since.


This street was known as MacLaggan Street. I walked this street so many times during my first year in Dunners. My high school perched itself up top on the hill to the right. Straight ahead, buried somewhere in the foliage, was my hostmum’s house. It was up this street that I would trudge up, Frank Sinatra playing on my CD player (oh yeah, remember those?), a book in hand, me shivering from the cold (even in summer. Yep, I’m a regular tropical Asian.) It was at that house that my lifelong disdain/dislike/hatred for pets was cemented. My oft-repeated tale of caticide – made legendary. A story for another post, perhaps. Ask me in person if you’re really interested to hear how cats really do have nine lives. Damn buggers.

The Medical building (also known as Hercus) was opened in 1916 by the then Minister of Education. The sunlight hitting it just so this morning made it look pretty spectacular.


I’ve always mentioned to anyone who have ever cooed and said, “Oh, it must be so nice to live there!” when I say that I come from Aotearoa is that the existence there is quite…boring. Idyllic, for sure, but then again, it does get boring. Merlion City offers a whole lot of excitement but hey, the stress comes along with it, right? I mean, just look at the house hidden behind a tree. Doesn’t it make you feel like coming in for afternoon tea and some buttered scones? *mmmm….buttered scones*


This is StudentHealth. First port of call for any student with a sniffle or possibly an STD. I remembered they had a whole basket of condoms and a cheery sign to encourage safe sex. My friends and I would dare each other to grab a handful and go to the counter to ask if the condoms were expired. Mature, much?


And of course, we have the Link. Part of the main library of the university and this week happens to be Orientation Week. Many things happened here. My friend punched the wall and broke his hand right before the high school physics exam. Arguments over theology. Study group sessions. Turning up to study group with a mug of tea from home. Countless pies and sausage rolls consumed with wayy too much coffee. Quick naps in between study periods. The dance studio right across the road where I would grab friends to go and practise dancing.


So many things. So many things have happened here. But it’s all gone. It’s all different. Students walk around and I don’t know them. It has been a decade, after all. It’s been that long.

And to not end the post on a sombre note, I made pizza from scratch yesterday. Dough, and all that good sh|t.

I should have been a chef, come to think of it. Darn.


Paul & Melinda  New Zealand National Salsa Championships 2010

Paul & Melinda – in a world full of linear salsa dancers, we cuban salsa’ed our way to a silver medal.
New Zealand National Salsa Championships 2010

Tonight, I revived a piece of my dance past. Tonight, I cuban salsa’ed on the main street of Merlion City.

I thought that part of me had died.

4 years ago, a dance heartbreak left me swearing off cuban salsa and its contemporaries. I was done, finished. I had left it behind.

But it wasn’t done with me.

The whirling intricacies of a rueda, the dizzy dancing feeling of cuban salsa danced to perfection, the omnipresent clave and son, the silky smooth hip sway, the vigorously hard shakes of the shoulders – it was far from done with me.

…But her shoulders grooved in time with mine and her hips accentuated every heartbeat of our bachata, rapping a rhythm that I won’t forget in a hurry…

Tonight, I danced with a girl who moved like water trailing through my fingers. Her friend that I was dancing with asked her to dance with me. Large vintage spectacles framed her face and her hair was wild, cascading around her face like waterfall. I asked her to forgive my mistakes as it has been years since I danced. She laughed it off and said that it’s been a while since she salsa’ed as well.

When the music started, she melted into my arms. Head buried in the crook of my neck, her shoulders swayed in time with mine and her hips accentuated every heartbeat of our bachata, gently rapping a rhythm that I won’t forget in a hurry.

There is a particular phenomenon that – if you ask me to talk about dance – will be mentioned sooner or later. I call it dance chemistry.

You know how couples who have been together for a while can do funny weird things like resemble each other after a while or knows what the other half is thinking or what s/he wants to order at a restaurant or finish each other’s sentences? And people call it chemistry, etc etc.

Dance chemistry is similar. But the fascinating thing is that in regards to dance, it is basically the ability to dance with someone you have just met in a way that makes people wonder if the two of you have been dancing together for years. It speaks of a synchronicity in movement, in expression, in touch, in tension, of a learned familiarity like a well loved leather jacket or a comfy spot in bed or sofa.

In my decade of dance experience, I have only found two ladies who; after my first dance with them, I have filed away in a spot in my brain under a folder entitled, “Dance Chemistry partners.” Every single dance with said partner thereafter have been richly satisfying for me and I would leave the dance floor, my dance fix fulfilled.

Tonight, I found Lady no.3.

And all I have after the music fades away is a face, a name, and a memory. Pity.


The music was loud and pounded through my ears. Even after an hour and a half of leaving the streets pulsing with dancers, my ears still ring slightly. That does not bode well for my ongoing deafness. But the pounding of my heart and the joy I remembered with every tap, every single clap, every body isolation that I stretched in a shine reminded me of the simple joy of letting go.

That said, I’m a textbook dancer. I am the kind of dancer that back in the day, before smartphones or even phones with camera capabilities, I would bring a small spiral-bound notepad in my back pocket and write down the moves that we learnt at class that night. I would practise hip and shoulder isolations in the morning before work, posing in a mirror and making sure that I get that back right corner of my mid spine stretched out just right. Moves were practised ad nauseum, until I could dance them blindfolded. My poor suffering friends and colleagues who were dragged through my dance practices either developed a love for dancing or an eternal hate of it. But I danced on, with a smile on my face and a grim determination that belied the joy.

I loved dancing, don’t get me wrong. Ever since I started off with ballroom and latin, to the moment that I picked up ceroc, to the 6 meagre months of dancing argentine tango, I had loved it all with a passion that bordered on obsession. 20 hours a week for dancing alone? I was surprised that I got any work done at all.

But when it came to cuban salsa, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with teachers from Cuba – true blue Cubans for whom salsa flowed through their veins. They would tell me tales of how they called a rueda to get to dance with a girl across the room because they were too shy to go up and ask her for a dance personally. They talked about watching their parents dance after a hard day’s work, the music ringing out long into the night. Their first steps, their parents’ smiles and encouraging claps. Entering the prestigious National School of Arts in Havana, the tireless practice sessions. There were forms to learn, patterns to practise.

But at the end of the day, they told me to let go.

“Don’t frown,” they laughed, as I struggled with a move or got my arm tangled behind my back. “Laugh and learn, it’s easier to learn when you’re having fun.”

Having fun led to Salsa Nationals where my dance partner and I placed second. Not bad for only having done cuban for 6 months.

“It is dancing! You’re not being asked to drink vinegar, you know!”

And I slowly learnt to let go. Of all the insecurities, of all the self-consciousness, of the fear of making mistakes. I learnt to laugh and smile with the person I was dancing with, and it shaped me to become the person I am today.

Within the prison of dance patterns and moves, I broke through and found freedom to be me.