Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My travel essentials

Hi Everyone! Just a short post about the essential items that I like to travel with.

1) Laptop
2) iPad - I read my magazine subscriptions digitally loaded onto my iPad
3) Ziplock bag of medicines
4) Travel pillow - I always bring my own because it smells like me and its comforting :-)
5) Sample size beauty products and I also fill small bottles with my regular facial products, hair care, and body products.
6) Wet tissue and portable tissue packets - I prefer wet wipes over hand sanitiser because my hands don't feel any cleaner if I just spritz some sanitiser on my hands. At least with wet wipes, I wipe it then toss the used wipe away.
7) Lots of underwear - I like to change my underwear a lot so I bring lots of underwear with me wherever I go.
8) Sunglasses - I am never without my sunglasses under the sun. My eyes feel very sensitive to light and I've gotten used to always having sunglasses on me to prevent this sensitivity from hurting my eyes.
9) iPhone and camera - I like to take pictures as mementos and to post on my blog, instagram, Facebook, etc.
10) Passport - this is obvious.

The big blue luggage is mine :-)

Beautiful Prague

Friday, June 12, 2015

Summer is here!

At the first sign of temperatures rising we know that summer is coming. That means for students all around the world, that long summer nights and lazy days are coming. For working people, it means leaving the coat at home and letting loose in the evenings because the weather is beautiful with the sun shining for longer hours.

For me, summer means my brain gets to relax a little bit and I get to be my hyper-creative self. Up until last year, summer also meant I get to perform in festivals and theaters. I spent most of my summers performing and teaching in different locations and environments. Some of my memories are spending more time in the studio rehearsing then changing and going to dinner at one of the various amazing restaurants in New York. A lot of administrative work was done before the festivals. With every festival tour I arranged, I became more efficient at working on what needs to get done. Press releases, fundraising campaigns, marketing material, personal invitations to presenters in the area, costumes, hiring lighting designers/technical directors, planning technical and dress rehearsals, videography, grant writing, and then the logistics as a tour manager as well. Some of these included: booking and reserving transportation, housing, and scheduling of all the rehearsals and performances.

Some pictures from Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013:

Summer brings back nostalgic moments but it is also a time to create new memories. Last summer, I went traveling to Milan, Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Seville, Lisbon, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Malmö. It was an epic summer of travel for about a month with friends and also part of it was solo travel as well. When I returned, my friend and mentor from New York came to visit Singapore so I showed her around town and even got to take her dance classes. It felt like an extended vacation and taking her class was like a homecoming to my previous life in New York. As I look at how different my life is now from a couple years ago, I probably could write a book!

Lisbon, Portugal

Milan, Italy

A year later and I'm living in a different continent. Living a different life as a postgraduate student. Many new friends. I'm spending this summer with a little bit of travel and going back to Singapore to visit my family and friends as well as teach my students a bit of dance as well.

Swiss campus grounds

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Global citizenship as a TCK

Global citizenship is a buzzword that we are constantly throwing around these days as it has become paramount that today's citizen be aware of current events, politics, business, economic, and cultural awareness. So much of our society runs globally but this can and will cause quite a bit of misunderstandings as well.

On a personal level as a TCK, I still feel like there is so much to experience and see in the world. My biggest pet peeve with some TCKs is the "greater than thou" attitude just because they grew up globally. We never stop learning. Also one has to learn about other cultures and look from the outside in to analyze where the other is coming from.

I'm currently enrolled in a postgraduate program in an International Hospitality Management school and the experience has its ups and downs. Last weekend, we had a 'Cultural Night' event that showcased the numerous amount of cultures that embody the student population here. I grew up with United Nations days and International Food fairs from all the International schools, even when I was guest teaching for International schools and even the immigrant heavy populations in the public schools have this celebration in their school curriculum. It is wonderful. My dance students performed at the performance and I'm so proud of them.

I chuckle whenever someone asks what country I was representing. I was representing myself, so I replied "Alaine world". hehehe.... Because I am a global citizen and each global citizen is unique. A melting pot of different cultures. A proud Adult Third Culture Kid.

(The following video is about an hour long, if you want to watch my students fast forward to about 53 minutes)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gruss aus Schweiz!

Greetings from Switzerland!

I have been living here since the end of January in the mountains. Life has been a hectic whirlwind of many classes, assignments, adjustment, stress management, tests, and I am looking forward to a little bit of a break.

Before coming to the Alps, I was traveling in Finland a bit. I wanted to see the Northern Lights and Santa Village.

Museum of Silence in Helsinki

Museum of Silence in Helsinki

Santa Village 
Breathtaking Sunset

Freezing in -20C 
A little skiing :-)

Igloo in Santa Village

Sunrise from the train traveling to Northern Finland

These images of Finland in Winter is really incredible. I have never been in -20c weather in my life so it was quite a shock to my physical body! I had a great time for a week before starting school. 

Sometimes we just need a little break now and then. 

Winter has been a welcome experience again for me in Switzerland, I arrived and it was really snowy for the first few weeks. It was really beautiful to wake up to soft fluffy snow falling. Getting ready in a suit plus winter gear on top of the suit to walk to school is another story (hah!)

On the train up to town
Skiing in the Alps is breathtaking

Eating breakfast in the dining hall
I go to an International Hotel school and there are so many different cultures and nationalities here. I have met tons of TCKs as well. Its nice to not always have to explain my mixed up cultural background to everyone (still have to do it on occasion but its not too unusual). 

A lot of adjustment to being back in school though. I am having a hard time concentrating due to my ADHD tendencies especially when it comes to doing homework or studying on my own. After being in the working world for a decade. I am a bit challenged when it comes to sitting in a classroom and taking notes. It is also really difficult to study for tests as I can no longer survive long hours of study. 

I am still dancing and have been asked to choreograph and dance for a few projects in school. I am also feeling a bit creative these days and working on some material that may materialise as a solo or a duet. Will see what happens. 

Definitely helps when I am stressed to go outside and take a walk or go to the gym or dance outside (I have done this on many occasions). It is really beautiful. 

Adjustment isn't easy but I don't really have any expectations so its been easier to adjust to mountain village living than to living in Singapore. I find it rather funny. Perhaps when we have lived in a place before we have these preconceived notions of what its like and how life should be. When it doesn't work out in your favor then we get frustrated. When everything is new, we just learn everything instead of having an idea of what it should be like. This is probably why repatriation is so hard. I was a bit homesick for a familiar place for a short bit in February while in the middle of studying for some tests but it seems the feeling has passed. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Another birthday and I have had the most interesting year (s).

Last year was my 30th birthday and it felt a little bit like a milestone and a relief. I dealt with quite a lot of crap the past couple years so when I turned 30, I was going to make it about me. I really went through a lot of change the past year. Its really incredible how much has changed. Emotionally, physically, mentally, and life in general.

Feeling on top of the world in Milan, June 2014

I did quite a lot of traveling. :-) From July 2012- Dec 2014: A move from NYC to Singapore. Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Malacca, Chiang Mai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, London, Edinburgh, Zermatt, Berlin, Copenhagen, Lund, Amsterdam, Amsterdam (again), Milan, Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Seville, Lisbon, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Malmö, Lund, Stockholm (again).
As I sit here remembering all those times... I am reminded how truly lucky I am to feel like this world is small. I am lucky to be a global citizen and really enjoy making new friends around the world. I got to practice speaking in Swedish (I read short news articles every day now), learned a few key phrases in Spanish, and German (still struggling through on this one), and try to speak Bahasa as well. Seen and experienced different things and adapted myself to take everything in stride.

Gallerie in Milan, June 2014

What a year of change it has been! I have been thinking very introspectively lately and have shifted some goals around in life that will free me. Funny how people tell you that turning 30 is not that big a deal. I think it has been a big deal.

APAP 2010 Showcase, NYC, Jan 2010. Photo Credit: William Hebert

Two years ago, my life crumbled. I had to move out of NYC. I don't want to get into a big whining boohoo TCK... blah blah blah. So skipping that.
I moved back in with my family in Singapore. Started teaching in Singapore, A LOT! Loved all of my students! They really make my day, even when there were days where I just shut down and wanted to cry. I put on a face and braved it through the dance in the studio. From very young students to older adults - they are truly inspirational to me. Each one coming from different backgrounds and living here all that the present time.

Ironically, in teaching a lot more. I lost my creative mojo. I had no time to recuperate and get inspired. I looked around me and people looked drained. Sapped of energy, I had to force the creativity when making a dance for myself and my group of project-based dancers. I applied to participate in the Edinburgh Fringe. Giving myself a deadline and the unfinished work I had started prior to the move. Through emails, video skype, more emails, more video exchanges, some studio time, adding another dancer, more emails... somehow we came together in Scotland and all that hard work came together on the stage for a two week run (everyday). The work became second nature and it became better than I anticipated although there are quite a lot of challenges and tweaks I would love to make if I ever revisit this work again. (maybe)

Performing Habitat, C Venues, Edinburgh Fringe July-Aug 2013. Photo: Kevin Tadge

Oh what a challenge those few months leading up to the festival was! Balancing 48++ hours of teaching dance classes, rehearsing, dealing with adjusting my crazy schedule, a break up, reverse culture shock on a daily basis, and living with my family again. I was stressed out! Wasn't easy.

Somehow I came back from the UK a lot stronger and ready for a fresh start.

September through December was a daily and weekly grind - slowed down a little because I just couldn't handle the crazy schedule. Was still teaching quite a significant amount. I even made a solo for myself and performed it for a studio charity show benefiting relief efforts for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Planned a solo Euro trip for myself that winter to celebrate turning 30.

Christmas Market in Berlin, Dec 2013

What an incredible trip that was. I fell in love with the places I went to and myself for being able to do that. I was for the first time in a long time, at peace. No inner demon dialogues. Second-guessing. I was just living in the present.

I have always loved traveling growing up as a TCK and love going to experience and meet new people.

I want to have more of a balanced life. Physically and emotionally I was tired. 

A few months passed and I went away again to see tulips in Holland for Spring. I spent a week in an airbnb and loved just being able to chill out for that week. Met up with some old friends in The Hague and a dancer friend in Amsterdam. I also had fun conversations with locals at cafes.

Keukenhoff gardens, April 2014

The following couple of months after my Spring jaunt in Holland were crazy busy. I was choreographing a school musical, teaching classses, students had to prepare for their dance exams, and a student dance recital. May was such a blur. I thought June would be quieter but it was just as busy teaching. Then summer vacation with my girl friends. Started the trip with a solo couple days in Milan. Then a planned trip through Spain and Portugal with my big 'sis'. I ended the trip with a solo week in Copenhagen and Sweden.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. July 2014

The summer trip really just turned me around and my heart spoke to my brain.

Make travel, helping people, being happy, creative, free spirited - a daily part of your life.

I had been contemplating on going back to school at this point and wanted to study something really different. I knew I wanted to do something international travel related in the tourism/hospitality industry but then wasn't sure up until this trip. When I returned, I became serious about it and kept it a big secret b/c I didn't want to get my hopes up if I didn't get into the school I wanted. I will keep dance in my life and have an idea for a solo dance project brewing in my brain. Started working on some basic phrases to kickstart it but nothing solid yet. ;-) Stay tuned for that.

So once again folks, in Third Culture Kid fashion.

I am preparing to move and uproot my life again. This time it is also to change gears a bit and focus on some new skills and experiences. I am at once scared, excited, anxious, and a bit worried. Next few weeks will be preparing for this move.

To turning 31! Skål! Prost! Salud!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Looking back.... Neither Here Nor There film

Throwback to when Director and Documentary Filmmaker, Ema Ryan Yamazaki interviewed me and 5 other New York City based third culture kids (at that time) for her documentary thesis film at NYU film school.

Neither Here Nor There film is now available for $1.99 (USD) for internet streaming through Amazon.
"Neither Here Nor There" is a 35 minute documentary that explores cultural identity for people who have grown up in places other than their home culture, known as Third Culture Kids. Through the stories of six subjects, the film investigates the often overlooked effects on adults who had international upbringings, their struggles to fit in and an eternal search to belong.

I have a funny relationship with seeing images and videos of myself from times past. Part vanity, part reminders, part memory, but most of all it captures a moment and time from my life. A documentation. I am grateful that we have the technology to take instant pictures and loads of videos to capture precious moments in our lives. Often times I forget to take pictures and going to vow to try and take a picture to remember the places, people, events, and who I was and am today. Its always interesting to make comparisons with our past lives. How much have we grown? How different have we become? Who are you in the past? Who are you in the present? Because we cannot predict the future, we only have our past to learn from and our present to experience.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

#TCKCHAT chronicles: The TCK & Dating

I have been volunteering my time to co-host #TCKCHAT on Twitter with some fabulous TCK folks. There is one every two weeks. The next one is on Oct 2nd and it will be at 10 am EST or 10 pm EST. The topics have ranged from being the new kid to dating to mentoring TCKs to transitions. If you are on twitter join in or follow the #tckchat conversations.

I wasn't available for the #tckchats in July so I started in August. I was looking through an old archive and found this gem:

TCK Chat #2: The TCK & Dating storify highlights

Some difficult questions asked. Inspired to answer some of these difficult and I will try and be a bit brutally honest about it.

Q1.How has your TCK upbringing influenced your dating relationships?

I like interesting people that I can have a conversation with on a multitude of subjects and depth of conversation but also someone who can make me feel at ease, laugh, comfortable, safe, etc. This is not just in dating but also how I make friends and connect with people in general. When you find a connection someone it can often be a turn on! On the negative side of things, I get very restless. I don't know how to stop that often nagging feeling and not knowing how to think about the future in terms of dating relationships. Perhaps my biggest obstacle. I am a little bit skeptical about planning too far ahead in the future. In terms of TCK upbringing, its tough to think about where to settle down to find a partner and maybe have children. Who knows what the future will bring. Dating is like playing roulette. You just never know who you will meet, when you meet, how you meet, etc. If timing is everything then you could possibly meet your match at the most wrong time of your life. And then, if you are in a steady relationship, when and if you two will marry and/or start a family together and where in the world. Its just all a lot of stress to think about if you ask me! hahahaha. A bit of a commitment-phobia is common among TCKs and those tough questions are common among TCKs in relationships. I'd say on a personal level, I have a bit of this phobia because I don't know how long I will stay in one place or what forever means.

The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen, Denmark

Q2. In a relationship with a non-TCK, have you anticipated miscommunication because of your TCK upbringing?

Oh my... this is going to bring up a can of worms but I will spare you of the details.
I think whether a TCK or non-TCK miscommunication is the biggest obstacles everyone faces. With TCKs and Non-TCKs relationships, I think perhaps the TCK could be misunderstood that leaving or planning to live in different countries and cities as leaving the relationship. Someone in the #tckchat mentioned this: @DipKidAmber "A2 I applied for a job in China once. My partner took it to mean that I wanted to get away from him when really I just wanted the experience"
Also some TCKs have a bit of a loner streak in them when they grow older to become adults because they spent their youth packing up and moving without much say in where and when they are moving. They may become adults who want to be in control of where, when, how they move (that is IF they move) without much thought on another person. They just assume that other person will move with them and adjust. This can lead to loads of miscommunication that could ultimately make or break a partnership up.

View from Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

Q3. A TCK and non-TCK come from diff backgrounds. What challenges have you faced to make it work? What pleasantly surprised you?

Challenges in my previous relationships include long distance, commitment-phobia, not knowing what the future will hold, communication, and wanting different things in life. With that said, I was in a 7 year long relationship in my twenties. He wasn't a TCK and he tried very hard to understand my TCK restlessness. What surprised me was how much I liked stability in that relationship. It was a solid one and I thank him for giving me that at a time in my life that was hectic and stressful due to being an artist in New York City.

From the #tckchat:
@dp_saxon writes "A3: Some non-TCKs seek out relationships w/ TCKs b/c they've always had the spirit to travel but not the opportunity."
My response will always be the fact that the world is small and time is short. Time and health is the most important currency of all so what you do with your time on this earth should reflect that.

@danautanu: "A3. Challenge:Them not getting why I'm not grounded and why it's hard."
Its not that TCKs are not grounded. TCKs have a different grounding where grounding is interchangeable and adaptable. Just like seasons, our life isn't static. I don't think life should ever be static. We are in constant motion. Learning, discovering, and evolving.

Winter in Central Park, New York City

Q4.Does the idea of “settling down” with a partner scare you? Or do you relish the idea of stability after the constant change?

I used to be scared about this. I like the idea of stability but I don't want my future partner to "shackle" me down or want to do the same to him. "Settling down" with a partner means to me more about a partnership of going through life together with its twists, turns, ups and downs, adventures, stability, and difficulties.

@TweetingAuthor wrote: "A4: The concept of settling down is terrifying. From marriage to children, the idea that moving could stop scares me to death."
I don't think marriage or children should ever cause a cessation in moving. What causes the move in the first place? If the answer is to run away from responsibilities then yes, that needs some growth. But if the answer is a career adventure, then why the hell would you not take the opportunity and bring along the person you love and if there are children and pets involved. Bring them along too!

@unsettledtck wrote: "A4: Admittedly the prospect of marriage or something super permanent makes me hyperventilate a little"
This is quite common among many TCKs. I am still scared of permanence and the idea of forever but decided that in the traditional societal contexts we live understand of it - yes, I am terrified of that. But in my own sense and thinking - no, I am not scared. Nothing is permanent in this life. Marriage is a scary concept but so many couplings are choosing not to buy into the construct of traditional marriages with a huge proportion of marriages ending in divorce - who wouldn't be skeptical.

Then we have these responses from the #TCKCHAT:
@marilyngard "But can I go back to Q4 - we got married and embarked on a life raising TCKs - would do it again in a heart beat"
@dp_saxon "A4: I hope to "settle down" with someone who's open to thoughtful and regular change."
@TayoRockson "Yes and sometimes I wonder if my future kids and wife will like to move as well."

Homemade Pandan triple chocolate cookies, New York City

Q5.Change is part of TCK life & can lead to unresolved relationship probs. Do you struggle w/ this now? How do you address this?

Absolutely! I am hyper cautious these days because I do not want misunderstandings, miscommunications, and ultimately break anyone's or my own heart. But to err on this side of things, it can absolutely backfire on me. I let relationships flow naturally whether its dating or friendships because when over-thinking we lose sight of what really matters most. Enjoying another person's company whether its a friendship or a dating situation. Life is short, time is precious, health is not guaranteed. Live a balanced life that makes you content.