Mother’s Day thoughts

It’s been 2 years since I wrote something here.
In the past 2 weeks, 2 big events occurred and the way I perceive the world has slightly shifted.
My paternal grandmother passed away earlier than expected. She’s been ill with gall bladder and spine issues for a while, but in the end it was stage 4 pancreatic cancer that took her life. I managed to get home to be there for her before we buried her. Although I couldn’t say goodbye in person before she breathed her last breath, I felt at peace after grieving her death with my family members. She passed away on 2 May 2018, at 3:15pm. At that time I was waiting to board my flight back to Singapore in Hong Kong, and I just lost all control to hold back my tears, they just rained down my face. I had to wear sunglasses to stop people from staring. I’ll never forget how I booked my flight that morning in a booth at work, and told my colleagues why I had to go home. And how I forced myself to eat something and bought a bento box that tasted like paper.
Seeing her in the coffin for the first time – no – offering joss sticks at her wake made everything real. Seeing her in the coffin was hard, but the more I glanced at her, the more peaceful she looked, and I hoped that she’d reunite with my grandfather in the afterlife. Friends and relatives came to pay their respects, including my granduncle, grandma’s younger brother, who survived 4 strokes and is still lucid. He brought his family along and the first thing he said (after shedding tears) was, my grandma had a good life. And she did.
During the last session of prayers before we brought her in the coffin to her grave, I saw my uncles and aunts, as well as my mom who’ve been living with her for more than 30 years, sob really hard. It was so final and heartbreaking, but we all were glad she didn’t need to suffer from her illness any longer. I hope you’re watching over us and enjoying as many rounds of mahjong as you want now, 嬷嬷.
The other big thing that happened – Malaysian elections. That morning when I woke up to see the results that Pakatan Harapan (an opposition coalition assembled by Tun Dr Mahathir) won enough seats to form a new government, I almost didn’t believe it, but it really happened. I always doubted that Barisan National would be overcome and I’m glad I was wrong. I saw many posts from fellow Malaysian friends who are elated like I am, and suddenly I am prouder than ever to call myself Malaysian.
This was the first time I voted, and it was not easy getting my vote back home, since I registered as a postal voter and the package came late to Hong Kong. My husband’s friend collected our votes and flew back to KL, and through a Facebook page formed for this purpose, we found another person who flew from KL to JB, where my father collected my vote from Senai airport to drop it into the ballot box.
The way everyone worked together from all around the globe on a Google spreadsheet to crowdsource vote runners really made me realize how much Malaysians love our country and want change, and change we got.
I just hope that the next 5 years would stabilize and clean up the way Malaysia is run, so my country can finally realize its full potential, and that we can enjoy a place alongside the best governed nations in the world and play our part to negotiate and contribute to a better world.
PS: Pakatan Harapan won on 10 May, which incidentally was my grandfather’s death anniversary. According to my Aunt Amanda, he used to love discussing politics with my dad and uncles. Maybe my grandparents decided to celebrate their reunion by making some afterlife magic happen for us. 🙂
Fingers crossed for a better tomorrow for everyone. Peace.

Pit Stop 2016

Hello, old friends. It’s been too long.

In the time I’ve been away, I’ve written a few private posts here and there which I won’t publish publicly (almost like secret diary entries huh). Since end of 2014, much has happened, which distracted me from writing more. I started a new job, got involved with volunteer work for events that encouraged cutting the small talk and sharing big ideas. I travelled to Chiang Mai, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Penang, Melbourne, Suzhou, Nanjing, Tokyo, Kyoto, Bali, Pulau Sibu, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Miri, Lombok, and maybe another one or two places I can’t remember. I also started a couple of relationships and ended one, living more than a year feeling ridiculously blessed and happy. Although it’s been a long time since someone rocked my world as much as this, I wasn’t prepared for all that happened. It was crazy, and several elements allowed it to happen, but eventually, as if by sixth sense, I knew it was time to return to normalcy. Even though I was ridiculously happy. Am I making sense? Sorry for sounding cryptic, but I just needed to make a mention.

I am still ridiculously happy. But for different reasons. 🙂

Someone said to me before, that people in their 30’s (did I mention I turn 31 this year?) will enjoy their lives more and more, because they’d be more sure-footed about their careers and gotten some credibility as an individual, whatever they might want to do. I think I’m starting to sense the wisdom of these words, even though I suffer from the case of Impostor Syndrome from time to time. In the world of digital marketing, I am a newbie, and I’m trying to learn as I go. Hopefully some day I will be able to somehow get a lot of funding to apply my knowledge to bigger, nobler causes… but for now, I shall milk the world of capitalism to explore the big universe of digital content consumption (or so the way I see what I do) the best that I can.

Another important thing that happened in the time I’ve been away: I applied twice for US tourist visa and got rejected the first time. Reflecting on this fact, my life might have turned out very different if it didn’t get rejected at the end of 2014. But finally it was approved earlier this week, so hurray! I have loved the US as a country for very long, and I can’t wait to see it. My flights are booked, I’ve informed my friends, I’ve applied for leave, and I’m saving up for it. It is also the US POTUS elections this year, and I’ve been following Bernie Sanders’ progress closely. I am keeping my fingers crossed for him, not just because he’s a compassionate, humble and sharp person, but because I think it’s time for America to enter a different era of less greed, less selfishness and more sensibility. I won’t go too much into this, just wanted to note that I truly #FeelTheBern! 🙂

Hopefully I’ll be able to spend more time here in the coming months. Stay tuned. Wubbity.

The TED Gift Guide

Love this gift guide from TEDsters! 🙂

TED Blog

tedgiftguideBuying gifts? It is HARD. Especially when so many gift guides offer up ideas for what to get your dad, co-worker or sister without taking into account what actually interests those specific people in your life. A better way to locate the perfect gift? Think about what captures a person’s curiosity, and then seek ideas from people in that field. To get you started, we asked 10 members of the TED community — in a wide variety of fields — to share what they’d love to unwrap this season. Below, their gift-giving recommendations.

Gifts for travelers

Gift-Guide-travelerCurated by travel writer Pico Iyer, whose TED Book The Art of Stillness invites you to slow down, disconnect and reflect.

  1. “I’d love a year’s subscription to Monocle magazine.”
  2. “A bottle of verbena-scented spray to help me feel at home — and fresh — wherever I happen to be.”
  3. “ A…

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A little revelation this year.


Sometimes. Life throws you a “curve ball”, as the American baseball reference goes. It refers to a challenge; a difficult situation. Or it’s meant to be something of an epiphany, perhaps.

I was just diagnosed with the condition of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCO) which means I have will have irregular periods, be prone to weight gain, diabetes, cervical and ovarian cancer, high blood pressure and hypertension in my later years. Also, if I ever get pregnant, I will have risk of getting a miscarriage. While it’s nothing life threatening, this gives me a very good reason to take care of myself and prevent weight gain and maintain a healthy lifestyle, meaning I have to avoid too much fat and sugar in my diet.

I didn’t have much of a reaction to this when the gynecologist told me about it, especially the risk of miscarriage part. I could tell that she was watching my facial expression in case I was alarmed by that news. Well, I’ve always planned on not having kids so this wasn’t a big issue. But the weight gain, diabetes and hypertension part made me slightly worried, because I’m not a sporty person by any standard. And the condition is hereditary. Yes, my paternal grandmother has a slight case of diabetes, but it’s nothing serious considering how her lifestyle is a bit like mine – pleasure advocates, we are. 😉

However, this justifies my decision to have a standing desk at work, despite my colleagues’ teasing and all. Well, at least someone from Fast Company already made an encouraging case on having one. I think it’s time to keep to that short workout in the morning plus yoga and swimming regularly.

I’ve never had any real medical issue before, save for my lazy eye during childhood that led to myopia and finally a LASIK surgery in 2013 that changed my life, plus overcrowded teeth that meant I had to have braces during my teens. So far just standard, run of the mill stuff that can be solved quite easily.

I’m just glad that there’s a way for me to find out about it now than later. And why am I blogging about this? Cuz ‘frankly speaking’, I should let people know about it so they can also get diagnosed and prevent bad stuff from happening. I went to see the doctor because of my irregular period. So yea. Don’t take any chance, just go get checked and have a piece of mind. Prevention is better than cure, I don’t know where this quote came from but I definitely agree.

It’s ok.

If you’ve lived your life doing no wrong to anyone; if you’ve always made decisions that are based on what you don’t want to regret not doing later, then it’s ok.

Maybe life doesn’t serve you the best recipe to do all you’ve wanted to do but you’ve made the best of your circumstances, and you have more than 20 things to be grateful for, then it’s ok.

Since life is finite and you know that maybe a seemingly bad decision at the time of its manifestation doesn’t seem like the most sensible idea but you’re glad you made it anyway and you’re still reading this now, then it’s ok.

The love of your life came and left you and since then life has been a numbing experience of trying to recapture the memories that you’ve had before and you know nothing else will ever come close, then it’s ok.

Your so-called career has been a series of stumbling through challenge after challenge and somehow when you tell people about it in retrospect and they seem impressed enough, then it’s ok.

If it’s ok that your life ends tomorrow because you’re satisfied with your state of being, then you’ve lived well and everything from now will be a bonus to the universe because you know every step you take is a force for good…

It’s ok to face the inevitable with this honesty. Don’t anticipate death. Let it come naturally and inevitably. It’s ok.


Free to embed images from Getty. Loving it!

Although for non-commercial use only, this photo library is great for bloggers like myself who just want to use images to express my stories better. Cheers!

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Calling Bluff.

Cold weather inspires me.

A couple of weeks ago, I walked out of the cinema a little past 12 midnight after watching The Hobbit (Desolution of Smaug) and into the post-rain Orchard Road with the chilly breeze making me shiver while I walked to the taxi stand. The awe I felt from the very epic movie hadn’t left me yet, and the rather empty street left me very pensive. Moments like this make me want to write.

This is an edited version of my initial draft from that night.

Well fret not, for this is not one of those lengthy movie review posts. This was me at home being slightly refreshed after a shower but feeling like my brain was foggy and ready to slip into a coma, yet my thoughts were still running like clockwork and my fingers found their places on the keyboard quite naturally as they spewed the stuff going in my head.

I’d like to address something that’s been on my mind recently. There was one evening not too long ago when I met with a friend who said that someone very experienced in the hotel industry told him that the GM of a hotel should take all the s**t so that everyone else is happy. Well, I’m calling bluff on that statement because it perpetuates the culture of “the customer is always right” and does not take into account the evolution of humankind and society in general. Also, it undermines the level of respect & professionalism people in hospitality so deserve acknowledgement of.

Just a little disclaimer here, I’m discussing a trend that I personally observe through personal experience in the business so far and my reflections are confined to what I see in my work in Singapore and also from what I read in all industry commentaries, blogs, publications etc. I may or may not be accurate in trying to apply the same trend across the entire industry regionally and you are free to point out areas that do not apply in your area.

First, a little background…

When travel exploded and the lodging business became an enormous industry complete with standard rooms and mini bars, finding qualified service professionals became a challenge due to the rapid growth of hotel companies and therefore, just like a factory line, jobs were simplified and it became easier to fill positions that required little or no formal training. Taking the restaurant maître d’ position, these days in most fine dining places I would call them, at most, host or hostesses because they just lack the finesse one would expect of the person who has the power to fill a restaurant properly (and therefore is responsible for how profitable each business day turns out) or not. Instead, we have table management systems that robotically classify and record the customer. Anyone who knows how to operate a PC or tablet can stand in the hostess position. Or maybe some better ones who know what they’re doing will show discretion when doing table planning according to confirmed reservations.

Some places are bit conscientious with customer relationship management (CRM) and make better use of guest history data, and there are some great examples of how digital marketing has helped making personalized communication with individual customers more easily executed. However, when it comes to face to face customer interactions, the service level has become either obligatory with a sense of entitlement in the form of tips, or non-existent where the tipping culture is not common and worst, when service charges are not duly shared with the service team (as seen in many restaurants and hotels in Singapore). But I digress.

Back to the hospitality career, the truth is you won’t need to rise through the ranks over years of training starting from busing tables to earn that position anymore. So, due to the lack in skill and therefore empowerment for people who are supposed to have that skill to make certain decisions, hospitality “professionals” are now more often than not merely a unit in a hierarchy that guests know if they step on to talk to the “higher ups” they might get away with something as long as they make a big enough fuss (or threaten to – my personal favourite – “write to the press”) on something they are unsatisfied about. I don’t blame them for thinking that because they have been getting their way. Hospitality professionals are not being fair to themselves and should give their profession a lot more credibility, to be honest.

I’m especially calling bluff on the mentality that working in hospitality means pleasing the customer by all means. Hospitality these days is so different from before. Taking an example of the luxury hotel industry from the classical origins stemming from primarily providing butler service or stewardship to guests who usually came from privileged backgrounds and therefore expected a certain level of decorum and treatment to what it means now to provide good service, I see now a shift from servitude to transactional exchange in the way service is being provided.

In the past, service means taking care of the guest’s every need in a discrete, professional manner. Now, even though the expectations from both sides are quite different and unpredictable due to the guest being anyone from anywhere who is able to pay and therefore expect different levels of attention and fussing about, the general expectation of hospitality service is still stuck in the old school of thought.

What is lacking though, in my humble opinion, is the respect for people working in hospitality – both coming from the customer who is under the impression that he/she is always right and therefore can and should demand for rules to be bent and favours to be given – as well as front line hospitality professionals who relent (by giving complimentary things or making exceptions) in the face of abuse and spoil the customer. I loved it when one of the hotel managers I used to work for issued an official ban on a club member for being abusive to staff. It sends the right message that customers should learn to be civil if they want to be treated right. Even as I deal with cases of complaints from customers in my work that require more attention, I always address the specific complaint and respond in a polite but fair manner. Sometimes a complaint is not about getting freebies but about sorting out issues that hospitality professionals should very well thank their customers for highlighting them too.

One would normally expect an experienced hospitality professional to be unfazed by amazingly relentless customers who make a mountain out of a molehill in order to get their way, but these days, I find it hard to find someone who truly understands service professionalism to handle these situations adequately.

But of course, service satisfaction goes both ways – the modern customer is more well-travelled, more savvy, more educated and much more well-connected when you consider the developments of affordable travel, technology & social media. A good thing came out of this too – suddenly Asians understood what western / European restaurant is supposed to be like because they travel to Europe or America or Australia for a foodie adventure. And they understand too, that sometimes if service is genuine and sincere, a bit of a mishap is very forgivable indeed. Asian hospitality has also evolved to emulate that kind of international standard of service, while adding their own touch of personal service, with excellent examples, generally speaking, like Peninsula and Mandarin Oriental hotel chains.

What is sorely lacking too, is the (no, not common sense) awareness & acknowledgement that The Customer Is Not Stupid. It’s a simple lesson in communication – address what the customer is sore about and provide a solution. If the customer is trying to be unreasonable, stand your ground and offer the best alternative. That’s all there is to it, really. But I’m time and again amazed at how badly complaints are managed. I’ve seen people try to lie without blinking an eye on what they can or cannot do for the customer. Well it might have worked in the past, but not anymore.

In conclusion, I just want to say, what drove me to complete this post was the pretty lively response I got on my Facebook post that read as following:

“I have this urge to set up a customer service etiquette school especially for the hospitality industry. A bit fed up of how inadequate people in the industry are to handle basic customer complaints. 

Hope to finally bring up the service level in this part of SEA. Will also need English lessons to complement the customer service communication training. Will also need people / trainers from Ritz / Four Seasons / Peninsula / Mandarin Oriental background. Anybody interested to set up shop with me?”

It’s been about over an hour and comments and PMs are still coming in. I say maybe I should start doing something about this! Educate the customer to be civil and reasonable, and train the hospitality professionals to be authentic and sincere. 🙂

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