Saturday, April 29, 2017

Why living in Brussels was difficult for me and how I adjusted

Brussels is the EU Headquarters and was an interesting place to live in, even though my time there was all too brief. Out of all the countries I've lived in, this place tested me in many ways. I needed to find that happy medium during the periods of adjustment that every expat goes through when moving to a new country. Some places are easier than others. Brussels was difficult for me. 

Some of these reasons are typical of an expat and periods of adjustment but mostly my personal experiences...

1) Language barrier. Brussels is a French speaking city for the most part and there is a small section that borders the flanders section which speaks Dutch. Having a small knowledge of both French and Dutch, I thought I would be fine. It was certainly challenging! Even small things like asking where the eggs, oatmeal, bread, dishwashing liquid are became an adventure. Grocery shopping was like a jigsaw puzzle for me. Knowing some Dutch words and some French words, I managed to find my way around the store. Google maps was my friend and luckily wifi was easy to find. 

2) Safety risk. I was actually fearful of a terrorist attack when I moved to Brussels for an internship and then I heard about safety issues in general that plague the EU headquarters. I was stubborn and still chose to move to Brussels even after there was a lockdown on the city a week after the Paris attacks. Looking at the news from afar was definitely fear-mongering and how much can we trust the sensationalization of the media these days. I minimized my risk by choosing to live near my office outside the city center so I wouldn't have to ride public transport during the morning rush hour and didn't go to crowded places very much. I dislike crowded places and rush hour traffic anyway.

3) Knowing no one. Most of the places I've lived in in the past, there was always someone I knew or an educational institution which made meeting new people and making friends very easy. Brussels was completely foreign to me. I only knew the people that worked within close proximity to me. Eventually, I started to slowly create a routine for myself going to the gym, taking a dance class, and signing up for a Swedish language course which had quite a small eclectic group of International people. When an acquaintance from Singapore moved to Brussels with her husband, I managed to meet up with them for some lovely brunches. Though it was difficult at first, I grew very comfortable with spending a lot of time alone. 

4) Adjusting to desk life.  I have always been very active in the art of the hustle working in performing arts and creative industries. It was quite the adjustment to working in an office with other people sitting nearby typing away on computers doing tasks that contribute to a large company. It was  a glimpse into corporate world for me and quite a different working culture than I was used to. As a creative go-getter that gets a lot of things done with an ability to multi-task. I felt like my previous skills were being put to good use. However, my eyes certainly felt tired at the end of each day. There was even a few days where I would come home and put sliced cold cucumbers over my eyes to let them relax.

5) The weather was unpredictable and gloomy. I moved during winter in Belgium and the winters there can have some very ugly wet days with strong winds. I have lived in New York City for most of my twenties and sometimes the weather in winter can be pretty cold, windy, frigid, wet, and also the appearance of blizzards! I never experienced seasonal depression much as I prefer when the weather is a bit colder and crisp. I think fall is the best season but I didn't dislike winter. I actually like snow and winter sports. BUT... I was certainly not prepared to experience the unpredictable weather of Belgium. In a single day, one can experience, rain, fog, snow, hail, strong winds, and sunny skies. On the rare days that the weather and skies were clear, I would grab the opportunity to go and explore! Those are also the days that I really appreciated the sunny skies.

I had a few more serious problems living in Brussels that I won't divulge here but when I left Brussels, I really began to miss it. I missed it a lot! When I returned a few months later for a few days, I was quite happy to be back and took the opportunity to enjoy what the capital of the EU had to offer in those few days. Perhaps I was adjusting to living there and making a new normal. As a third culture kid who has lived in numerous places around the world since I was a child, it seems every country has its unique challenges. The journey of life and where it takes us is not one to take for granted. Every ups and downs are meant to be lived through and experienced. Like the unpredictable weather, one needs to experience both to appreciate the good that happens. 

J'adore Bruxelles!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Letters to/from Laura and Alaine: Laura's Picasso postcard from Spain

Letters to/from Laura and Alaine: Laura's Picasso postcard from Spain

My dancer Laura sent me a Picasso postcard from Spain. I made a short dance film response to her postcard. Dancing under the Marble Arch in London.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Why I started travel blogging: I'm a third culture kid

A third culture kid (TCK) is a person who has grown up in different countries and cultures therefore developing cultural traditions as a mixed salad of different cultures as opposed to feeling rooted in just one. A hybridity of cultures.

I was born in Singapore, childhood in Jakarta, then pre-teen through teen years in Singapore, University in LA, early to late twenties working and living in New York, back to Singapore, then Graduate school in Switzerland, internship in Brussels, back to Singapore and now Global Nomad writing about my life as a hybrid of cultures and travel. Its quite confusing to tell people "where I'm from?" because I'm a mixed bag. A long story. A complicated background of cultures. I hold a passport that is pretty foreign to me and when going through visa applications and immigration it always baffles people. I have also spent summers living in Sydney, Lake Arrowhead, San Francisco, LA, Durham (NC), Washington DC, Toronto, and Edinburgh either visiting family, summer camps, and performing in festivals.

My accent is American with an international school lilt sometimes, Californian sometimes, and New Yorker sometimes. I have mostly Chinese heritage (my ancestors but my parents are as global and cultural hybrids themselves) but I speak zero Chinese except beyond "Ni Hao" "Xie Xie" with a English accent. English is my native language although Bahasa Indonesian is my first language though I've got the fluency of a 3 year old. I studied Japanese for 8 years in grade school and can only muster up broken Japanese these days. I studied Swedish in University intensively for a year then in recent years have been self studying with books, newspapers, music, tv/film, online courses, speaking to Swedes, and took a brief course while I was in Brussels and I read and understand it pretty well. Briefly studied German (what a hard language!) for 6 months and can still order food or understand basic German alright. I started learning a bit of French because of my love for wine (what a wine geek!)

So that's just a tip of the iceberg on my complicated TCK life... I'm not going to bother you with the rest

Why I started travel blogging

I wanted a little place to tell my stories. I've traveled my entire life and have been to so many places on this small world. It is my rolodex, my portfolio, and to inspire others to become global citizens. The world is not that big. 

My immediate family and extended family members live across world in different countries - there's no such thing as having a family reunion that all of us can make it. We would fill an entire grand ballroom if that ever happened. I have not met my entire extended family. 

Growing up as an expat kid and then later as an expat and world traveler means that I also have friends all over the world. My network continues to grow in geography. Its wonderful! 

Last but not least, I started travel blogging because I want to remember the stories and memories. Memories are my home and I don't want to forget them. 

This is my ever-growing list of Places I've been to

A showcase by Singapore International Foundation artists who have received funding in 2013/2014. My dance production, Habitat, toured to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013.