Day 55: OHana in Saigon

For the first few days of this trip, Mr Kwek and I have been traveling with my friends Chin Yee and Siew Geok. Here's a picture of us on a bridge with a gorgeous view of the downtown Saigon skyline.
I got to know these 2 wonderful ladies when I was serving in Oldham Hall (OH), a hostel for foreign students studying in Singapore. For the students staying there (we call them boarders), we tried to make OH a home away from home for them- somewhere along the line the term OHana (family) was coined. 

I believe that God has a wonderful plan for each of our boarders and that He brings them through the doors for OH for a reason. It is always amazing to see how they bloom and where God brings each one of them in their journeys through life. It was therefore a joy that we could meet some of the members of our OHana here in Saigon. And they really treated us like family- bringing us to their favorite eating spots, helping us bargain and get the best prices, introducing us to their history and culture. 
On the first night, Minh Viet brought us to a restaurant in a beautiful colonial bungalow for dinner to sample local delights. He also brought us on a walk around town and to visit his home which had a spectacular view of downtown Saigon. 
The next day, this group of lovely young ladies brought us around the city, showing us the war museum, reunification palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, the general post office, indulging in the best pho (beef noodles) in town, and local ice cream, and bargaining through Ben Thanh market. 
At night, we attended Dzung's beautiful wedding. Dzung's was serving along side us in OH and we are so happy to see her take her step into the next phase of life as a wife. By the way, isn't her gown just stunning?

I also managed to catch up with Anna who was part of the first batch of boarders that I was in charge off. I was only 2 years older than that batch of girls so it was both fun, yet challenging. Too bad we didn't get a chance to get a pic together.

It's such a joy to catch up with our OHana again, and I thank God for this extended family :) As each of them moves on to a fresh phase of their lives- to university, the workforce, post grad studies or family life, I hope that their eyes will be opened to recognize the rich blessings that God has given and the wonderful plans He has for them and that their hearts will respond with love and joy.
Outfit of the day: 
Printed patchwork dress from Bangkok
Bag also from Bangkok


Day 54: Good Morning Vietnam

It's the warm and wet season now in Saigon and so I packed accordingly.
Outfit of the day:
Purple dress from Chinatown
Headband from Bangkok 

So far, Saigon has been a noisy, riotous mix of old world charm, impressive new developments, and cool hipster hangouts. I'm liking it already, apart from my rather disappointing hotel room. 

I'm looking forward to our introduction to Saigon tour by a bunch of our former boarders from Ho Chi Minh! 


Day 53: Thrift Shopping in Singapore

I picked a bright and cheery dress on Thursday as I was feeling bright and cheery. It was going to be my last day at work before I head off to my holiday in Ho Chi Minh! So excited! It was also the day that some of my colleagues and I were going thrift shopping. Half priced at at our favourite thrift shop- New2U Thrift shop). Housed in the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO) along Waterloo street, we are told all proceeds from purchases go to support the Star Shelter and the SCWO's various initiatives. Half-priced days are the last 2 weekdays of every month and that's when there are bargain galore. The shop itself is quite a small place, and it gets crowded especially on half priced days, but if you come ready to rummage through racks of clothes there are lots of treasures to be found. There's only 1 fitting room, so don't expect to be able to use it unless you are willing to queue. There's one mirror outside that most people jostle to use in order to check if clothes can fit.
Printed dress from Bangkok
Green pumps from Scholl (I'm an aunty at heart)
Pink leather wallet fr Beijing
This time, I went away with an unexpected buy: a silk batik baju kurung for just $3. The chances of me wearing a baju kurung are slim, but the long batik skirt was so elegant and regal and it fit me perfectly. I just had to get it. I'll probably transform the top into a dress or tunic when I have the time. It's quite a waste though, as the stitching on this outfit is exquisite. I'll show it to you guys when I get around to wearing it.
Racks of clothes of every colour
I've been to other thrift shops around Singapore like the Salvation Army stores but the New2U store wins in terms of price, quality of clothes and friendly volunteers that run the place.

To give you a better sense, I've managed to find other awesome stuff in my previous trips like:
A silk dress from Mango for $4
A long sleeved shirt from CYC for $4
An 80s black velvet gown for $20 which I haven't had a occasion to wear yet
A batik halter top for $2
Lots of pretty dresses for under $5


Old Soul in the Heart of the City

Welcome to Waterloo Centre. Easily overlooked with all the rapid developments just steps away. A place where time seems to have stood still.

I was wandering around the building as I was in the area for lunch and what I saw surprised me. There were a number of old school shops selling motorcycle parts. I thought these shops only existed in industrial estates. I never expected to find them 2 minutes from Orchard Road. What was even more surprising was that these shops were mostly in the original condition! They still had the old dark wood cupboards popular in the old days. 
This shop was particularly intriguing to me. Parked just inside were 2 black antique bicycles. I was instantly in love. Everything in the shop looked like they were in original condition, from the cabinets, to the wooden stools and even the crates that some of the good were stored in. 

I was lovely to find such a place so close to the city. Many of the shops were closed though and the 2nd floor looked almost like a dead town. It would be sad to see all these shops finally close down. Sadly, I haven't been able to find much info on Waterloo Centre on google. Anyone has any insights on the place?


Day 52: Sew Happy

I found this pretty cream corded lace/cotton material at Chinatown when I was shopping for lace for my wedding gown. I'm a real cheapo when it comes to the fabric I buy for my sewing projects, so this was one of the most expensive fabrics that I have ever bought (apart from my wedding gown materials).

I love the way the top turned out- simple and understated. Unfortunately, I don't wear it often as I have to wear a tube top under it and I'm not a fan of wearing many layers. I'm glad this challenge is allowing all my pretty but inconvenient clothes to see the light of day. 

Top from Gan Ann's Sewing Room
Pencil skirt a hand-me-down
Gorgeous suede shoes from Berlin. I always wear these shoes when I feel like adding a touch of glam to my outfits

Day 50 and 51: Stretching the Limits of My Closet

Day 50: Jersey blazer with rolled up sleeves from Bangkok
Brown dress from Primark
Leather belt from my Mom

As I cross the 50 day mark of the different outfit everyday challenge, I'm discovering clothes that I usually don't wear because of their fit or that they are not appropriate for the office, and I'm learning to find innovative ways to wear them.

I've read many articles and blogs talking about how a few pieces of separates can create a multitude of outfits by mixing them up. But when I live mostly in 1 piece dresses, there are limits to mixing it up. So I'm learning to stretch those limits.

Take for example my day 51 outfit. I've had this black dress for awhile but I think I've only worn it twice. I bought it as it was on sale and I really liked the length of it. However, when I wore it, I looked like I had just put on a garbage bag. It was dull, there was no shape and I was missing a waist. I was determined to make it work. 

So I matched it with a bright cardigan and wore a thin belt over it. Instant waist! 
Day 51: Dress from Velocity
Cardigan from Bangkok
Belt from G2000
Bag from Italy
(Pls excuse the blurry pic)

Why was I posing next to a big fan? Because I was so amused that it was part of the measures to prevent the haze from entering the building. Now whenever someone steps through the main entrance of our building, they would be greeted with a blast of air from 2 industrial fans. It results in windswept hair for everyone! Hopefully it works in keeping the foul air out.


Day 49: I'm a Domestic Goddess

I sewed myself an apron on Sunday, making me a full fledged domestic goddess.*Pats myself on the back*

I've seen lots of pretty aprons at the homeware/cooking/lifestyle shops like Pantry Magic and I Wanna Go Home, and I've always thought to myself, I could do that too. The sewing was basic and all I needed was cloth with pretty prints. So I finally got around to making it a reality. I dug out a pretty piece of orange/red/yellow/white striped print cloth left over from a previous project (I made a clutch bag that was selling for $39 in one of those hipster stores). It was getting slightly spotted due to years of being hidden away, but it doesn't matter as it would soon be splattered with more stains as an apron anyway. I also took out the bright pink bias tape that I bought for cheap on a trip to Malacca (I think I got them for about 40cents each!!).

This was probably the easiest sewing project I have ever done. And I didn't even need a pattern. It's all quite intuitive. I even made a little pocket and an elastic band to hold random utensils, recipes, towels etc. Perfect.

Let me know if you would like a tutorial.
Printed dress from Bonn
Apron from Gan Ann's Sewing Room
Pots and rag from Kwek Kampong Kitchen

Day 47: Out of Office

Time out of the office is precious. I had one of those days on Friday. It was the day of the best friend's wedding photoshoot. Unfortunately, the haze broke another record that morning and most of the shoot had to be done indoors. I'm sure they still got lots of lovely shots as the locations they chose were both beautiful and meaningful. The couple was looking ravishing as well :) I'm so looking forward to seeing the photos! Here are some sneak peeks of behind the scenes shots. I don't want to spoil the surprise by showing everyone the full gown now.

The expat wives were amused by the bride and groom with their masks on. They snapped photos of them and promptly proceeded to instagram :)

The live "props"

One of my good friends was back for a short holiday, away from his desert hideout, so a bunch of us met up for dinner at the ever delish New Ubin Seafood. I always love catching up with old friends and meeting new ones along the way. I was too busy enjoying the food and the company that I forgot to take photos. I guess there's always next time.

The day ended with a birthday supper for a lovely lady. 

Good friends, good food, and a good Father in heaven watching over us all. I could not ask for more. 

I was going for comfort in the outfit of the day, in order to survive the stifling heat and haze: pink dress from Bangkok, matching pink mask from Gan Ann's sewing room

I'm a survivor!


Day 48: When I was 17

I've had this t-shirt since I was 17. I got it as a birthday present that year. 
Wearing it brought back bittersweet memories of junior college days. Those were days filled with angst, studying, anticipation, confusion, fun, boredom, wonder, trouble and laughter all jumbled together. The year I turned 17, I flew a plane, wrote poetry, sailed a boat, bought my first digital camera, windsurfed, made fast friends and enlarged my social circle and horizons beyond the little world I was so content with before.

Do you remember what your life was like at 17?  


Day 46: Masked

The latest craze in town this haze season is the mask. With the PSI breaking new records everyday, everyone has been trying to get their hands on the n95 face masks. Unfortunately, by this afternoon, most places were sold out, although according to the news, shops should have been restocked by now. 

In any case, I decided to try my hand at making my own. I googled for designs and found pretty good tutorials which I freestyled my way through. I also added a secret addition to make the mask fit snugly over my noes. Here's the final product:
Today's outfit if my black tent dress from Tangs, plus my new face mask from Gan Ann's sewing room.

If you can get your hands on the N95, please do, as that's what has been recommended by doctors to keep all the hazardous micro-particles out. But I guess, my home made mask is better than nothing in such dire times. 

To keep out the wretched burning scent, a few drops of essential oil or perfume on the mask does wonders. 

Stay safe everyone!


Day 45: not-sew happy

Today has been a day of not sew happy news in Singapore, and lot's of ups and downs. The PSI is UP and haze situation has reached record hazardous levels, the NEL MRT broke DOWN at peak hour, COE is UP, and on a personal note,I was DOWN with food poisoning.

This food poisoning is happening way too often to me. And I seem to always come down with it after long negotiations trips. Clearly taking a toll on my immune system.

Being on medical is not an excuse for appearing in ugly pajamas, so I here's what I chose to wear: 
Upcycled Shirt from day's closet
Shorts I've had since I was 16. Don't remember where I got them from.

Obviously taking the medicine and sleeping the morning away did me some good and I was feeling much better by the time Mr Kwek came home to take my outfit pic for me.

Today's shirt is an upcycle of my day's old shirt. He was giving away some of his old clothes awhile back and I rummaged through the bag and fished out stuff I could work with. I picked this shirt, cut off the sleeves, trimmed down the sides to my size, finished the edges, and sewed it back together. Of course I'm making it sounds much easier than it was but those with some sewing experience may be able to do it much quicker than me.

I love giving new life to old stuff :) let me know if you have cool stuff to give away. My mom always says I'm a karanguni (rag and bone man)


Day 44: Busy Busy

It was a busy busy day. Bright and early, we rushed down to HDB to sign some papers on our new place and decided on the date we will finally get the keys (I can't believe it's actually happening!). After hurrying everyone along, I ran (literally) back to the office for a presentation. Miraculously I made it in time. Thank God. 

During lunch time, it was off to the lawyer's office to sign more papers for our house. I never knew there could be so many papers to sign. The lawyer's office didn't looks very lawyer-ly. In fact this corner with a bunch of books that I'm pretty sure they never refer to was the only thing that made it look remotely like what I imagined a lawyer's office would look like.

Since the lawyer's office was in the neighborhood, I decided to try out the famous Crawford bak chor me for lunch. I had heard all the stories of 45 minute queues! Using google maps, I found my way and I was glad to only wait in line for about 15-20 minutes. My guess is most people were staying in because of this ridiculous haze.

I have to say it was yums, but I'm not sure I would wait in line for 45minutes for that. So maybe this haze season is a good time for you guys to try it out.

I also had a spur of the moment dinner with a great friend whom I haven't met in a long time. It was great catching up over an overload of food. 

Here's today's outfit:

Charcoal dress from City Plaza
Green polka dot cardigan from Bangkok


Day 43: Lost in a Haze

As you may have heard/seen/smelled, in the last 2 days, the haze has descended upon Singapore in horrid levels. There's no escaping it. The thick heavy pungent smell has permeated every part of our landscape. 

Even the underpass was smokey!

You can also see from the outfit pic how hazy it was.

Today's outfit: 
Grey jersey pseuo-blazer from Bangkok
Brown work dress from a flea
Black ballet flats from Far East
Brown leather bag from Italy. I love how the longer I use it, the softer it gets
Hope everyone is dealing with the haze well. 


Day 42: Creating Our Dream Home

Upon arrival in singapore, I got a few hours of sleep and then it was off to meet a contractor for our new place. As there were some furniture warehouses nearby we decided to check them out too. 

The outfit pic was taken outside Galanga Living. Since it opened along Henderson road a few years ago, I have loved this place with its eclectic mix of furniture, with a touch of vintage, the weight of industrial and a hint of rustic. Now that I'm finally looking to furnish my very own home, this is definitely one of the places I'm getting my stuff from.

We've also been thinking that we want our new place to have a simple retro vibe, with lots of DIY. so if you have any nice old furniture you want to give away, or stuff you think we can upcycle, let me know. we just might be able give them a new lease of life.

My outfit today:
Printed top I got from a Robinsons sample sale many years ago
Denim shorts a gift from the Mother in Law
My weekend sandals from Bata

Last Night at the Maritim

We have come to the final night. I'm lying in my bed. My bags are almost all packed. I will be leaving the hotel in less than 8 hours.

All I can think about is how grateful I am.
To have my prayer for sustenance answered
To have been surrounded by awesome people in the trenches of the negotiations
To have been upheld by many prayers
To have had an easier time in the last 2 weeks than expected
To have been able to see a little more of this world
To be able to go home to people who love me

I can't wait! But first, a well deserved sleep.


Day 36 to 39: The Home Stretch

As we entered the last few days of the negotiations, the weather suddenly turned cold again, and much unnecessary drama unfolded. We went into late night negotiations, early morning meetings and coordination through lunch. Hence, meals times were a scarce privilege. I always thank God for a brilliant delegation which engaged in snack/meal delivery services when stomachs were growling in the trenches.

In the same vein, blogging was also impossible, so I'm catching up with our outfit posts for the last few days now.

Day 36: The Return of Winter

We were decked out again in our warmest clothes (by island standards) as winter returned.

My Outfit:
Green cardigan from Bangkok
Cream scarf from mom
Black Pants from G2000
Green Long Sleeved top (hidden by cardi) a hand-me-down

Angelines' Outfit:
Black cardigan from Uniqlo
Dress from Dorothy Perkins
Black tights from H&M
Colourful scarf from mom

Day 37: Long Skirts and Long Days

We happened to both wear long skirts and blazers with similar cuts that day.
My outfit: 
Black blazer with sequin details from Bangkok
Dark blue dress from a shop at Ann Siang Hill
Peranakan metal belt from Sungei Road Theives Market

Angeline's Outfit:
Jacket from Primark
Skirt from AOSIS
Ballet flats from New Look

Day 38: The Final Countdown

We were into our 3rd last day of negotiations and we were elated. This photo was taken just before a crazy night drafting session started and Angeline very charitably had come to deliver a sandwich and some snacks to tide me through the forgone dinner.

Day 39: Mighty Mice! Here they come to save the day!

This was the day of brinkmanship and close saves. Threats of walking away from the table were exchanged, but we were always saved by Mighty Mice who could find compromise language that all could live with. I had a tiring day fighting over last minute textual amendments as we tried to close negotiations on all tracks. The greatest absurdities of the day were 30mins spent over whether to delete the word "the". And that was standing between me and my lunch. 

My outfit:
Red dress from a flea
Grey suit jacket from a flea
Peranakan metal belt from Sungei Road Thieves Market

Angeline's Outfit: 
Top from Banana Republic
Pants from Zara
String of pearls from Bangkok

Day 35: Casual Sunday

I had a workshop to attend on Sunday afternoon (talk about no rest for the weary...), so in the morning, Angeline and I took a trip to the #1 attraction on Bonn according to TripAdvisor: the Museum of Contemporary History. The museum chronicles Germany's history, starting from the post world war 2 period. With free entrance and the key explanation boards in English, it was well worth a visit.

Here are our outfits for the day
Mine: dress with printed crosses dresses from H&M in Bonn (on sale!)
Cream scarf
Bright Pink tights (I've been asked if they glow in the dark)

Angeline's: Top from Loft
Cardigan from Uniqlo
Pants and scarf from her mother's closet
Hair and from Tokyo 


Day 34: Sew Happy

I'm sew happy I got a few hours off yesterday morning and I made the most of it. But I'll talk about that in another post. 

To keep up the weekly Sew Happy segment, I wore a home made skirt.

This was one of the first few sewing experiments I did. I figured making a skirt couldn't be that hard. It's essentially just 2 rectangles with a few darts. Unfortunately, I forgot to include the slit for movement, so this skirt kinda restricts my long strides somewhat, but I love the fit and the length. I've since learnt from my mistake, but I haven't made another pencil skirt since. 

Here are the outfits of the day:

Mine: green cardigan from Bangkok
Green tank top from Chinatown
Dark blue linen pencil skirt from Gan Ann's sewing room

Angeline's: Cardigan from Banana Republic 
Striped dress from Dorothy Perkins
We are clearly running out of ideas for our poses.


Day 33: 40 years in the Wilderness

Someone likened where we are now in the negotiations to the Israelites' 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. That's an absolutely apt description. Although I really hope this does not go on for 40 years... 

Today's photo was taken when Angeline was done for the day, while I had hours more of discussions going around in circles to endure. I'm guessing that explains her look of absolute glee! 

My outfit: 
Grey shift dress from a shop in NEX
Dusty pink lace blazer from a flea market

Angeline's outfit: 
Top from Loft (on sale! I love sales!)
Burgundy cardigan from Uniqlo
Pants from Zara
Shoes from Bangkok

Day 32: Mobile Kitchen

I made my fried rice today. Best meal option in the Maritim Bonn in my opinion.

I firmly believe that decent comfort food is very important for survival in such situations. I always think about setting up an Asian food stall at the conference venue every time I go for negotiations. I am pretty sure I would make more money doing that, with shorter working hours. That is unless the negotiations are held in Bangkok. The food there is fabulous. 

Next on the menu of Gan Ann's kitchen is macaroni soup (hopefully). Anyone wanna place orders?

Anyway, here are our outfits for the day. Ignore the slightly dazed eyes. It was taken at the end of a long day.

Brown dress from Primark
Grey blazer from a flea
Belt free with a pair of pants

Printed dress from Dorothy Perkins
Blazer from Zara
Ballet flats from New Look (5 pounds!!!)


Day 31: a Walk in a Park

With a tiny sliver of free time in the morning, we headed out to get some sun in the nearby park. 

What a glorious day. 

It is just a 5minute walk away from the hotel but it was a different world. The sky was blue, swans were in the pond, kids were running around having fun, families were having picnics. We really should have our negotiations outside instead. Possibly with a picnic basket :)

My outfit:
Black tank top from Mauritius
Black pants from G2000
Sunset scarf
(I had a black blazer on during the negotiations of course)

Angeline's outfit:
White top from Banana Republic (on sale!)
Skirt from Dorothy Perkins
Belt that came free with a pair of pants


Day 30: On the Right Track?

I spent today in meetings where I didn't understand what was happening, while waiting for a meeting that did not happen. Truly the pinnacle of productivity.

Today's outfit picture was taken at the tram tracks right outside our hotel/conference venue.

Red dress from a flea market
Black jacket with sequin details from Bangkok
Cream scarf from my mom
Black tights

Jacket from Primark (We all love Primark!)
Pearls from Bangkok
Pants from Zara

The tram tracks run right through our hotel and my room, is directly above it. Here's the view from my room.
Why anyone would build a hotel directly over tram tracks, or vice versa is beyond me. But thankfully, the hotel has pretty good windows, so instead of a deafening roar from the tram passing by, I just hear a gentle rumbling, which I've so far been able to sleep though. 

Day 29: Two is Better Than One

Meet my friend Angeline.

When I first joined this crazy process, she told me, that the key to surviving it was finding friends you could connect with. Over the last 2 years, she has been one of those who have kept me sane through the insanity that is negotiations. 

During this trip, we are doing the Different Outfit Everyday challenge together :) 
Since it was the first official day of the negotiations, we were all suited up. Here are our outfits:

Grey suit from OAMC from a flea market (one of my best buys! The tag was still on it)
Sunset scarf from a friend
Black leather shoes from Tangs

Black blazer from Zara
Pleated skirt from ASOS
Black leather flats that she bought (in two colors!) online

One of the things we do to keep sane during our long negotiations trips is to cook our comfort food together. It has evolved from the primitive adding hot water to cup noodles, to what we have today:

Instant noodles with eggs, broccoli, mushrooms, bak kua and seaweed. The ultimate.

Day 28: It's a Beautiful Day

Looks like doing daily posts is not going to be an easy thing while at negotiations. Here's yesterday's outfit:
Pink cardigan
Black knitted top, a hand me down
Grey pencil skirt with lace details a hand me down

It was a beautiful day out with the sun shinning through the cold, so we took the lunch hour to head to town. Even though all the shops were closed , we stumbled upon a fire department fair. A whole range of old and new fire engines were on display. I was just pleased to be out in the sun :)


Day 27: Brrrrrr

"In Germany, summer happens only in the calendar"

That pretty much sums up today. I was in Bonn for negotiations in May last year, but I was expecting the weather this time around to be much warmer since it's June. So I packed for 15-20 degree weather, with mostly skirts and dresses. Alas, as usual, this sunny island girl was not sufficiently prepared for the chilly weather here in the pseudo-summer. Thankfully, we are stuck in the building all day (we are staying in the hotel where the conference is happening), so I don't have to brave the cold.

Here's today's outfit:

Orange dress, I can't remember where from
Green cardigan from Bangkok
Cream scarf from my mom's closet
Black leather heels from Tangs Studio