Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Singapore Rochester Starbucks

Made another pilgrimage to a world-famous Starbucks. The Rochester Starbucks in Singapore was designed in traditional colonial architecture, and blends in well with it’s surroundings the condos and shopping centers around it all have similar white facades. I was not impressed with the exterior of this Starbucks as much as I was with its abundant seating. Both upstairs and downstairs offer atmospheric reminiscent of an old library. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

City Meets Sky: Reflections from Singapore

The breeze is cooler in the shade.  Everything seems to take longer than it ought to in this city. It feels like we have to cross a football field just to go anywhere. Walking takes a long time, and in the heat it feels longer. The city’s structure seems to be built along eight-lane roads that weave through constructions cites and jungle. Today is only our second full day in the city. I don’t want to leave. I like the air-conditioning, the cafes, the trains, the food options. I don’t want to give those up for something more rustic again. 

On paper, I should love this place. It’s smack in the middle of Asia, ethnically diverse, conversation flowing in a perfect rhythm between mandarin and English. It has all the city amenities I could ever want. It’s clean and safe. But I don’t love. I'm not in love with it. I find myself constantly comparing it to Taipei.

In Taipei the buildings seem to grow out of the earth. Green vines spring out from even the tiniest cracks of concrete. In Singapore everything is landscaped on an Olympic scale. Trees don’t give shade along the eight-lane city streets. Sidewalks are wide and the sun is wider. Jonason says he doesn’t like the people. He hates crossing eight lanes of traffic to get from one end of the street to another. Singapore on foot is really a tour of pools, parking lots, and condos. Pools, parking lots, and condos.

But my best memory of all took place in the nightly swims in the pool. On our last day there we spent a bit too much time at the Brown Book Café, which is home to my second best memory in Singapore. But we arrived late at the pool, at 9:45 pm. Still, I had a brief fifteen minutes to float on my back and gaze at the hazy moon. Seeing the moon in the muddy purple sky, framed by the half-circle of jagged white condo roofs made me feel closer to myself as a human. 

-Sunday, OCt. 5, 2014 Toby's Estate, Singapore

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Singapore’s Bishan Library

My quest for interesting libraries sometimes takes me to the furthest regions of a city. In Taipei, I have to ride the MRT for nearly an hours form the southern neighborhood of Xindian to the northern district of Beitou to see the Xin Beitou Library, and boy is it worth it.

This journey to Singapore’s Bishan library was much the same, a long ride on the MRT to the northern outskirts of the city, to a interesting library in the middle fo a bustling suburb.

Unfortunately I showed up on Hari Raji Day, a national holiday in Singapore, so the building was closed. I was looking forward to reading in one of the library’s reading pods, but this time I could only photograph them from the outside. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Few Cafes of Singapore

Singapore is known for it’s food, not it’s coffee, but it comes as no surprise that the city has some great cafes. I didn’t have long to sample all of the great cafes in Singapore, so I had to choose wisely.

Toby’s Estate

This chain originates in Australia, but it’s flagship store in Singapore is world-famous. Located alongside the beautiful Singapore River, this café offers indoor and outdoor seating, delicious coffee, exquisites cakes, and a full menu of food. The only downsides are that this places gets busy, so it can be awkward if you sit there on your laptop of too long. Also, the is no counter service, you have a waiter or waitress. They are laid back, but I usually feel uncomfortable making a waiter go through all the trouble just to serve two coffees.

8 Rodyk Street #01-03/04, Singapore 238216

The Book Café

A hop away from Toby’s Estate is my most beloved place in the city. An obvious haven for college students and young artists, The Book Café is open until midnight, with an extensive book and magazine collection and a living room atmosphere. Of all the cafes I had been to thus far on my trip through Indonesia and Singapore, this is the first one where I felt comfortable enough to write.

20 Martin Rd. #01-02 Send Kee Building, Singapore 239070

Saturday, November 15, 2014

NaNoWriMo: Progress Report Chiang Mai

Evening view from my 10th-floor apartment in Chiang Mai

Hello mid-November!

Sadly, the arrival of Nov. 15th  means NaNoWriMo is halfway over and I feel like it has barely begun. I'm not saying  I haven't been busy, but because I'm doing it alone this year, and because I've already been writing like crazy since the month of August, these past fifteen days have not felt particularly special. However, there was one very profound moment that occurred at a cafe in  Mandalay, which inspired me to keep writing. For weeks I had been feeling very overwhelmed at the prospect of completing this book. I nearly finished it during last year's NaNo, but when it approached completion I got scared and stopped writing. Something about actually completing it was terrifying; I felt unworthy of bearing the fruit of my own artistic labor. As long as it remained unfinished, it could remain unread, and thus un-criticized. But that day in Mandalay I re-read many parts of my novel.  I laughed at certain scenes, while others almost made me cry. Some details surprised me, as though I had forgotten what I wrote. I was almost experiencing it as a new reader, and it was a pleasure to read. I realized that the characters have voices of their own, and they want to be heard. Now that I created them, I feel obliged to them. I have to finish this project for their sake. 

Having just spent two weeks in Myanmar, I am now typing this from my apartment in Chiang Mai, the place that will be my home for the next month. This was where I originally intended to start and finish NaNo, but due to the logistics of my 6-month trip across SE Asia, mid-Nov was the earliest I could get here. 


My "writing room"
  1. Sensory Overload: I spent 12 out of these past 15 days in Myanmar. I had no idea how difficult it would be to write there. Myanmar is an amazing experience for the senses, and I found myself writing in my journal for hours each day, but I could not seem to transport myself into the fictional world I created. 
  2. Location: In addition to Myanmar exhausting my mental space with all its dazzling and disorienting scenes, I had a really hard time finding comfortable places to write. Not one of the hotels I stayed in had a desk or chair, and I am not comfortable writing from bed. When I want to "get out of the house", I usually go to cafes, but those were few and far between in Myanmar. Only Yangon had a promising cafe scene, which I took advantage of, but Mandalay and Bagan had little to offer in this regard.  
  3. Movement: This trip through SE Asia has helped me to reclaim my love of travel, but I've learned that a day on the road, whether it be by bus or train or plane, is draining. In the past fifteen days I have bee on two 15-hr train rides, one 9-hr boat ride, one 9-hr bus ride, and one 1.5-hr plane ride.  It is futile to attempt any creative work while in motion, and when I arrive I am usually too drained to work on anything for the remainder of the day. That's five days where I have basically been useless.
  4. Content: Since I am continuing to work one my first novel - the one for which  I wrote over 50,000 words  during NaNo 2013 - I am facing challenges writing new content. Basically, the entire novel has already been written, it just needs some heavy editing and some reworking as I piece it together. LAst year I made a list of scenes that had not been written, so I was able to focus on those during each writing session, but this time I have no such list, and instead I am revisiting certain scenes and reworking them, which results in a lower word count and is more time-consuming. 


1.  I am more or less on track! Although I deeply underestimated how hard it would be to write in Myanmar, I managed to make up for it in a few power-sessions.
2.  I have totally reworked the sequence of events in the novel, which has helped build suspense in certain areas, and been conducive to moving the plot forward.
3.  I redeveloped two main characters to enrich their personalities and lives in the stories. They are not as one-dimensional and stagnant as they once were. 
4. I have learned more about myself as a storyteller and I believe my skills have increased. 

Progress Report

DayDateCommentsGoals WordsActual Words
Sunday2   train to Mandalay10002216
Thursday6Boat to Bagan10000
Monday10bus to Yangon10000
Wednesday12fly to Bangkok00
Thursday13  train to ChiangMai10001318
Friday14Chiang Mai07002
Saturday15Chiang Mai20001520

Goals Word Count: 20,000
Current Word Count: 18,223
Difference: 1,777

The Gambia: Photo Diaries from the City

Although I flew into Banjul, I spent very little time there. Most of my time 'in the city' was actually spent in Banjul's sprawl...