#2078 | October?

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How many times have I opened and started a blog post draft then left it half-formed and aborted the whole thing? Too many, I think. I have been in a strange mood w.r.t. public writing and there are reasons why but they are not reasons i can really put a finger on, not coherently or right now anyway. Will this attempt make it to published status? Who knows. It’s just a blogpost, I think to myself, lighten up.

The other day I opened my phone’s twitter app and wanted to express my shock at how fast time was going by, how it was already september, when I realised that it was october. Major, major what the heck moment. At the start of the year there were so many things I had set out for myself to do, in 2018, and it is already rapidly approaching the fourth quarter of the year and what have we? Actually, scrap that. It is already the fourth quarter, I dont know why I pretended otherwise. Weirdly, I have been watching cartoons. That bit seems important to state for the records.

This year has gone by so fast, which is the same thing I said about last year, and the year before that. Etcetera. But this year (or at least, the second half of this year), I have started to feel a bit more hopeful, a bit more optimistic about things. I have made no secret about the fact that I’ve been off my game, creatively, for the last two years, events that threw me off kilter collided into my previously dandy existence and I have more or less been struggling to catch some internal balance ever since. At some point it was bleak. As someone who is naturally pre-disposed towards cheeriness (self-diagnosis, take it as you will), the feeling of constant distress hurt. A lot of forced onward trudging had to be self-implemented, with vague hope that eventually things would change. Life does go on.

Which is why the second half of this year was so important to me: and for the first time, the speeding by of months and days and hours induced less panic than it did a kind of determination, with a sense of challenge and fulfilment. My best friend and I are old school, we write letters, emails to each other, we find it helps gather our thoughts. There is a very solid kind of happiness that one derives from taking stock of the ways we have come, from the ways we were before, not in terms of accomplishments, as one might expect, but in terms of the friendships we have built upon, the deepening of understanding and support and love. All this is to say that I am thankful at the end of the day, I suppose.

Here comes the year end, hurtling towards us, too fast.

x
Jem

#2077 | the broke student’s guide to Wroclaw solo!

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Wroclaw, Poland

Hey guys,

I was in Poland for some work in June and extended my trip to venture off to Wroclaw alone – a place full of promise with a name i couldn’t entirely pronounce. No matter! Adventure called, and I answered. Off to Wroclaw it was!

Getting there

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Hello from the GORGEOUS town of Wroclaw!

I took a 3 hour busride from Krakow to Wroclaw, it stands to reason as usual that the earlier you book the cheaper it is. I booked 2 weeks in advance and paid 5.90Eur per way. This is by far the cheapest and most efficient way of doing it from my research, I used Flixbus and downloaded the app too so I could check in via mobile instead of having to print stuff out and keep it on hand.

The bus departs from MDA bus station which is right next to the main train station in Krakow, as well as a giant mall, so theres lots to do while waiting for your bus to depart. Because i lead a terribly exciting life, I found a cafe with free powerpoints immediately, sat down, and started checking my emails.

*Note – the bus ride actually took 3.5-4hrs although it was advertised as a three hour ride. Traffic, I guess.

Total cost: 5.90 x 2 = 11.80Eur / SGD

Luggage matters

My entire trip was 2 weeks and I was only to spend 3 days in Wroclaw, so I had to find some way of getting rid of my big luggage while travelling solo and therefore, light. Thankfully most main train stations in Europe have a left-luggage system (I also double checked this online) and the one in Krakow is no different. I needed not just a left luggage locker which would limit each storage period to 24 hours, but a left luggage booth. This was located outside Burger King near platform 5 in the Krakow train station, and it cost 6Zlt/day to store big luggages for up to 10 days. That is very well priced, it’s essentially 2SGD. Ive paid up to 30 bucks in other parts of the world for the same service!

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this is what it looks like

Total cost: 6 x 3zlt = 18Zlt / 6SGD. PAY IN CASH UPON PICK UP.

Money matters – Currency, Credit, Cash.

Poland uses their own currency, the zloty. The exchange rate is about 2.74 in our favor. If you change your money literally anywhere besides the airport, you’ll get a pretty decent rate. But it’s worth noting that Poland is super credit card friendly, even random pushcarts selling coffee are likely to have credit card machines, so I’d only change a small amount of zloty (30 euros maybe?) and charge the rest to a miles card if I were you. This is also because the chances of being able to change zloty back to SGD is pretty low, Singapore doesnt even stock the zloty so you’d have to change it to euro then from euro back to SGD.. it’s just a whole hassle. Most places also have paywave enabled, so if you have a paywave card youre basically just tapping as you go, it’s mega convenient and way better than trying to sort out your zloty. The only things I needed cash for were those random toilets that charged entry fees, luggage storage/lockers, and like this one super obscure hot dog stand that only accepted cash.

Connectivity – Data, calls, etcetera

As mentioned in my Broke Student’s Guide to Warsaw, data in Poland is very, very affordable. In fact, the only other city I’ve been to with such sick rates for data is Helsinki, which was 3.99Eur for unlimited 7 day data. For Poland, I paid 7zlt (2.50SGD) for 7GB of data with 30 day validity. The carrier I went with was Orange, one of the biggest carriers in Poland, and I got the SIM card from the Warsaw Chopin Airport.

Accomodation

There are hostels aplenty in Wroclaw, but I booked myself an airbnb because I wanted a private space for myself and the extra cost was worth it to me. I paid 89SGD/2 nights for this gorgeous space. Main considerations I had when looking for a space was that it had to either have an elevator or be on the first floor of the building since I was travelling alone and I’d pulled a muscle in my arm previously from trying to lug a giant suitcase up 8 flights of stairs lol. This airbnb was on the first floor (meaning just one flight of stairs up, they go by Ground, 1, 2, 3, etc) of the building, which was perfect for me!

Link to my airbnb: https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/19632795.
***Kindly sign up for airbnb at airbnb.com/jemma to get 45SGD off your first booking so that I can also get money off my bookings and therefore fund future broke student guides thank you. ***

The average cost of a hostel bed in Wroclaw is about 18-20SGD / night but i wasnt in the mood to share a dorm with 11 other young men and women haha, some trips I dont mind but this time i wanted some quiet time. Either way its good to know the option is there!

Total cost: 89SGD

Getting around

Wroclaw is a very walkable city, otherwise there are trams and citybikes you can pay for. I dont know anything about those because I walked EVERYWHERE. I didn’t even have to uber from the train station to my accommodation, it was a 10 minute walk, and from my apartment, another 10 minute walk into the Old Town.

And Wroclaw is super pretty so walking everywhere is totally enjoyable! Just have to put this out there in case the idea of lots of walking is off-putting to some of you!

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The walk from my airbnb to the city center was super nice too

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Here are the prices for the bikes anyway

Total cost: Free

Food

The cheapest way of feeding yourself is to locate the nearest milk bar and start off your day there. Despite the name, milk bars dont actually sell milk, they’re a kind of Polish canteen that was popularised in the post-war period as an affordable alternative to the more expensive, and therefore, capitalist, restaurants. They were mostly state subsidized as part of the welfare system, and put in place so the poorer people had somewhere to eat. At some point there were milk bars everywhere in Poland, but after the fall of the communist system they started to fold. However, you can usually still find a couple in each polish city – and they serve traditional and often home made polish food, which is awesome!

And they weren’t joking when they said milk bars were cheap. The only thing though, is that they’re catered to Poles and not to tourists haha so everything on the menu is in Polish. I just randomly pointed at something on the board and hoped for the best. Turns out I got a drink, salad, soup with noodles, main course (pork cutlet) and side (potatoes), all for 14.90zlt. That’s 5.40SGD. Amazing. And everything was really yummy too. It’s not only affordable, it’s also mad filling, because there’s just so much food, so if you start your day off eating here you probably won’t get hungry again till much later at night…

The milk bar I visited was right outside Renoma, the biggest shopping mall in Wroclaw.

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Everything is in polish, so.. yolo!

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It really looks more like a nice cafe than a budget milkbar!

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Mystery juice. I still have no idea what this is.

Rozowa Krowa
Świdnicka 38, 11-400 Wrocław

Other than milk bars, there are also plenty of affordable food options around the city. I hit up this pub called Pre-war (Przedwojenna) on my first night there, which was so awesome. All the food and drink options were painted on the wall, and the pricing system was straightforward – 4zlt for drinks, 8zlt for food. That’s SGD1.40 for a beer and SGD2.90 for a main… Again, everything was in polish, so I actually mistook the entire place’s concept and thought they were some kind of tapas bar because of the prices. I accidentally ordered two main courses instead of two tiny side dishes as I expected..

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I feel like I gotta put the prices here just as proof or no one will believe me!

Prewar
Świętego Mikołaja 81, 11-400 Wrocław, Poland
Open 24 Hours

The only ‘expensive’ thing I did was splurge on a 12zlt beer in this nice sports bar, 1450 Smokehouse & Cocktail, because the Poland vs Senegal World Cup match was showing on a big screen and I wanted to catch it. 12zlt is pricey for a beer (to me) because I was comparing it to the 4zlt beer I had the night before.. But it’s still SGD4.30 for a beer, yknw? Haha.

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Fun!

Oh yes, and the day I left, I hit up a pretty great cafe where I had a life changing experience with some focaccia. While that wasn’t expensive, it also cost slightly more than the rest of the food I had on the trip.

Total Cost: I cant remember. Bahaha.

Things to do

Hunt Gnomes!!

This is an actual thing. It’s almost like Wroclaw’s national thing by now, to be honest. You see these gnomes on magnets and stuff! But yes, these little metal sculptures pop up all over the city, and they’re hilarious. As are the random tourists you’ll see chasing them down at most corners! I didn’t go out of my way to look for them but I did follow the trail of a couple of them, and I was pretty amused everytime I came across another. There are apparently over 400 gnomes in the city now!

Beyond being a fun quirk, the gnomes actually have a really interesting back story – they were created as symbol of anti-Soviet resistance group, the Orange Alternative, as a way of protesting freedom of speech amongst other things. Long story short, it made authorities look like fools every time they tried to clamp down on them, because theyre freakin cute gnomes, for goodness sake! Anyway, the gnomes now are so popular amongst locals and tourists alike that they have their own official website with backstories and dwarf gossip, HAHA. Here it is – http://krasnale.pl/en/

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Hello, you

Check out their modern art

I find modern art in Poland fascinating because it is so heavily influenced by their post-war identity. Wroclaw is especially interesting because it used to be part of Germany (Breslau), and so its identity is steeped in the fact that it was actually on *that* side of history. Wroclaw was actually a pretty pro-hitler town before the war, actually, and it’s something they confront regularly in their documentation of history and art. I went to the BWA Wroclaw Galleries of Contemporary Art and loved it! It wasn’t very big but all the exhibits were well thought out and fascinating.

If you have a student card this will cost 4ZLT instead of 8.

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As you can tell, I have been unabashedly abusing my student card

BWA Wroclaw Galleries of Contemporary Art
Wita Stwosza 32, 11-400 Wrocław, Poland

Check out the city museum at their Royal palace

The ex-royal palace has since been remodelled into a museum which houses cultural artefacts from Wroclaw’s history, detailing everything from fashion to furniture, from religious movements to Wroclaw’s involvement in World War II. I was actually really taken by the third level of the museum, which focuses on the post war Soviet occupation. I previously visited the Neon Muzeum in Warsaw which exhibits restored neon signs, relics from the Cold War era in Poland, and this kind of expanded on what I saw there.

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And of course, any history museum in Poland focuses in part on the war..

Entry: free
Website

Royal Palace, Wrocław (City Museum)
Kazimierza Wielkiego 35, 50-077 Wrocław, Poland

Total cost: 4Zlt/ 1.2SGD


Ending off

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Solo in Wroclaw = lots of selfies..

I absolutely loved Wroclaw and I’m so so so glad I decided to make a solo trip here instead of staying in Warsaw for a few more days! Don’t get me wrong, I do love Warsaw, but Wroclaw is very different in terms of character and charm, and a lot of this has to do with its history, I think. As with the rest of Poland, Wroclaw is relatively affordable compared to most of Europe, and if you’re in the area I definitely recommend making a two or three day trip here. Hope this guide was helpful and if you’re headed that way, and if youre not, make plans! x

*This Broke Student Guide was brought to you by me. Everything you see here was paid for on my own coin, in true broke student style. Enjoy!

x
Jem

#2076 | post-post epilasik thoughts, 3 years on

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Perfect vision be perfect

Hey guys,

So it’s been three years since my life 100% changed for the better. If you think I’m exaggerating, you clearly have not familiarised yourself with the crew, the crew being anyone in the world who has had lasik done before. As mentioned on instagram a couple of weeks back, I blogged about my epilasik procedure three years back and till this day, it remains one of the most popular subjects of the email/DMs I get from readers. It seems that getting the procedure done has crossed most myopic people’s minds seriously more than once, and although I raved about the procedure 3 years ago, I thought it was time to add something new.

Everything I said about lasik before still stands, and if you’re someone who’s still kind of on the fence about it, you can read my previous posts on my epi-lasik journey here:

The Accident (Nightmare, part of the reason why I wanted to do Lasik)
The Operation (Nightmare, part of the reason why I wanted to do Lasik)
Pre-epilasik (Finally deciding to do it)
Immediately Post Epilasik (Research, the procedure, and life immediately after)
Three Months On (After some time)

As you can tell I have journaled my epi-lasik story pretty extensively (starting, truly, from the point where I was done with my long history of eye problems and started looking for alternative options). I wrote most extensively on the research that went into my decision making process in my post epilasik blogpost (linked here), so start with that, but I’d suggest you also read the rest of the posts and also look around online on what other people are saying about it!

Anyway, as I was saying, it’s still something I get asked about till this day, so I thought it was high time I write another follow up post on it, three years down the road. Sufficient time has passed and I can now comment on it from a long term perspective, so here goes.

I compiled some questions from readers, and here they are, answered:

What’s the total cost and recovery time?

Before you can do the procedure, you have to do an evaluation, and the prelasik evaluation costs $37.50.

If from there they say you’re ok to do the procedure, then you can continue. Epi-lasik, the procedure I did, costs 3,888SGD for epi-lasik surgery for both eyes, initial set of medications, and post-op reviews for a month. It’s GST inclusive!

Is it covered by insurance?

No, cos its not considered a medical procedure.

Can I pay for my procedure with medisave?

Yes, conditionally. IF your eyes have a power degree difference of 300 and above – eg. Right eye 600 degree and left eye 250 or something – then MOH lets you claim up to SGD1250 per eye from your medisave! This is because it’s considered a medical condition, a degree difference so big is an imbalance of power, which is quite funny and totally useful for money purposes. It’s still subject to approval though, as with every thing in singapore. The clinic will submit the claim for you, it sounds like a relatively fuss free process.

Did your myopia come back?

Nope. I’ve never had a problem with my eyes since then, and I actually dont do anything special to take care of my eyes anymore haha. When I first did my procedure, I was so paranoid that I wore shades whenever I went into the sun, I didnt watch TV late into the night, and I didnt use my phone in bed at night. Now, although I dont purposely do those things extensively, I definitely dont take as much care as I used to, but my eyes are still fine. I should probably practice better eye care habits though.

What was your degree before and after?

My degree was 450/500 (L/R), and now I have practically perfect vision. I say practically cos I havent been to an eye shop to test it in a year, but I still see everything perfectly, so for all intents and purposes my eyesight is ace.

Is there any post-op warding?

Nope, it’s a day surgery and you’re in and out in about three hours. You have to stay home for the next few days while your eyes are recovering, but you dont actually stay overnight in the hospital at all.

Is there any post-op medication?

Yes – I got a bunch of different medicated eye drops to be used in three/four hour intervals. You mainly use it in the first week or so, after that you can switch to using normal eyedrops whenever needed.

What are the follow ups like?

For my clinic (ClearVision Singapore), they did three follow up sessions several months apart, with the last one being one year after the op.

How did you choose the clinic that you ended up doing the surgery at?

I did a lot of research on my own for about half a year before deciding – Everything is detailed in my blogpost here.

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G and I accompanied freddy for his epilasik procedure yesterday (G also did her epilasik with Clear Vision some months ago and is now in the awesome eyesight club).

Clear Vision Singapore
6 Nutmeg Road
Nutmeg Court
Singapore, 228337

How much time should you set aside for yourself to recover after the surgery?

I would say minimum 4 days at home, after one week you should be more or less functional, but you should be careful for the next few months. Dont go swimmin in the sea or anything for at least a month, obviously. But I think my life basically went back to normal after a month, and I didn’t have to take super extraordinary care of my eyes or anything like that after.

Did you experience dry eyes whilst wearing contact lenses, and do you experience dry eyes after lasik?

I dont know if I had dry eyes per se, but I definitely used a lot of eye drops when I was on contact lenses, especially during long days in air conditioned environments, or when I was on shoot. On top of that, I also experienced a lot of red eyes and discomfort whenever I had alcohol at night. All that went away after my epilasik procedure, and I hardly use eyedrops now, so no dry eyes for me! Of course this is my own experience and everyone else’s might differ, so I’d say check with your doctor before doing it to see if your eyes are suitable.

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I would be in a lot of pain normally by this point in the night if I had contacts still on haha

Does it make a difference to your recovery if you have a pet at home?

Well I didnt go hug my cat or rub my face in her fur or anything like that, but living in the same house as her seemed ok and didnt affect my recovery much.

Does epilasik make a difference if you’re looking at a computer all day for work?

Yes! I used to get these nasty migraines, especially towards the end of the work day, when I was wearing contact lenses. Now I dont get those anymore, and my eyes dont feel as tired as they would be if I were filtering computer work through the film of contact lenses.

Can you drink alcohol while recovering from surgery?

YES! Hahahahhaha

Additional benefits of Epi-lasik in the past three years:

– Not having to touch my eyeball ALL THE TIME, trying to peel a contact lens off my dry eyeball after a long day or stick it into bloodshot eyes early in the morning is incredible. I have gotten zero eye infections in the last three years. ZERO. I really believe this is because I am no longer introducing foreign bodies (aka my finger and whatever dust/dirt its picked up over the course of, yknw, being alive) into my eye every single day. This is really incredible because I used to get eye infections all the time and it was the worst!

– If youre a spectacle, not contact lens, wearer, you can FINALLY wear fun shades! haha.

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With my bbf who JUST got epilasik done yesterday at Clear Vision as well!

I can swim without fear that chlorinated water is going to get into my contact lens and induce an eye infection!! I never got around to ever buying swimming goggles with prescription, so I was basically always swimming half blind since I swam with contact lenses once and my eyes were down for 2 weeks after.

Travelling is just a dream when you dont have to worry about dried out eyeballs on the plane, leaving your specs behind in the plane or Airbnb, forgetting contact lens solution… just generally, it makes everything so much easier. There was once in Seoul when I was walking around and my contact lens fell out of my eye. That was it for the rest of the day and I had to cancel the next two hours of plans so I could rush back to the hostel to get another pair of contact lenses from my bag because theres no way your day can continue when youre half blind – it’s a very dizzying experience to have clear vision in one eye and blur vision in the other. It happened to me overseas, but I imagine even in Singapore if you lost a contact lens or something, you’d still have to go home in the middle of the day. Bah.

– Also travel related – I dont get as sea or car sick as much anymore!

No more stumbling half blind when you have to wake up in the middle of the night to pee. Or post-shower. Omg for some reason I was always losing my glasses in the evenings, and after the shower I would be panicking trying to find my stupid glasses so I could see when I also needed the damn things to help me see so I could look for them.

Extreme sports like diving and snowboarding become way, way better.

The gang's all here 😍☺️ #seabugged

A post shared by Jemimah James Wei (@jemmawei) on

I wrote The Broke Student’s Guide on getting your Padi Open Water Diver’s License a couple of years back, and since then I’ve dived on maybe six different occasions, including one week-long liveaboard in the Maldives and a recent clean up dive in Singapore waters as part of FRANK by OCBC’s sustainability efforts. I cant imagine what it would have been like with contact lenses on now that I’ve dived with clear vision – the thought of sea water getting on my contact lenses while underwater makes me shudder because damn, that stuff is a breeding ground for bacteria.

A post shared by Jemimah James Wei (@jemmawei) on

I recently went on a snowboarding trip which I wrote about here, and again, the benefits of perfect vision made themselves so apparent.

I fully recognise that diving and snow sports are extreme sports and so not everyone will be interested in them, so maybe this isn’t the most relevant across the board. But it’s one of those cases that I didn’t take into account when considering the epilasik procedure, and so a pleasant surprise!


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So yes, three years later and here we are..

I’m super super glad I did epilasik 3 years ago and it’s truly been one of the best decisions of my life. I think you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who’s done the procedure and doesnt agree. Epilasik is basically magic – being given back the gift of sight is really a thing to behold. I cant imagine why someone wouldnt want to do it given how amazing it is – the only thing I can think of is cost, and to be fair, it’s a big upfront cost. But as I mentioned in some of my previous posts, if youre paying regularly for contact lenses, the math works out. You do save money in the long run, and its not just that – it’s like owning your vision instead of simply renting it. My only regret is not doing it earlier.

If you have any more questions about the epilasik procedure, you can always call or drop ClearVision an email and they’d be better suited to reply questions on the more technical aspects of the procedure. And I hope this post was helpful for those of you considering doing epilasik! But man – it really comes down to this. Perfect vision is awesome.

x
Jem

#2075 | We can handle the Crazy Rich Asian wars. Bring it.

Crazy-Rich-Asians-Hair-Makeup-Interview

Hey guys,

So I thought for a long time before writing this post, but here I am regardless.

I don’t know Henry (who plays the main character of Nick Young) personally but he’s appeared on Click before, and I know his wife, Liv, from yoga and etcetera. I absolutely adore Kheng Hua (she plays Rachel’s mother), who I’ve watched onscreen and also met on set for a shoot last year. I also work with Singapore Tourism Board regularly and I assume they are obviously thrilled at the front and center visual representation of Singapore (and to be sure, we do have pretty crazy ass things here). When I produced the Laneige film last year, my art director was from the art department of the Crazy Rich Asians set. Anyway all this is to say that I have very personal and compelling reasons to support the movie and it is all the more frustrating that I am hesitating to do so. And everyone is so, so excited about the CRA movie that I almost feel as though to say something against the movie would be a betrayal of my own community, many of whom are understandably excited to see things about their home that they recognise in a glitzy Hollywood movie.

I am hesitating for the same reasons everyone who is hesitating is. The movie is fun but not perfect. The gap of its imperfections are unavoidable (for nothing is perfect) but still important to acknowledge. When I was thinking about writing this post I asked myself: what can I honestly bring to the table, is it necessary for me to add my voice to an already noisy conversation, is there anything new I can say that would not be completely superfluous?

And the truth is, I actually think the movie was really well done in terms of entertainment. Narratively I wish there were some beats it hit properly, but still it’s fun, dramatic, and over the top in the super extra way chinese families can get. Constance Wu is one of my favorite actresses (fresh off the boat is basically the only show I ever watch on flights) and you cant even tell that it’s Golding’s first acting role. I have zero problems with Golding’s British-Malaysian mixed heritage, which has gained some flak online, because the truth is there are many mixed blood people in Singapore and so what if he’s half white? Being Singaporean is a nationality not a race, and you can be from wherever and still be authentically Singaporean if you were born and raised here. (He’s half-Malaysian but the point stands.) The movie doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not – it doesnt pretend to be a socio-economic documentary on Singaporean culture, and yes, it’s satirical, it’s supposed to be a fluffy rom com anyway.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the phenomenon of Crazy Rich Asians has created a giant international conversation that has reached far beyond its intended genre, and so hiding behind the “it’s all for fun anyway” dismissal doesn’t hold water. The discussion has to be had.

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The movie’s production was energised by an overwhelming desire for Asian-Americans to see themselves onscreen after a long history of being underrepresented and stereotyped, and a friend pointed out that the casting of an Asian-American director in itself should have set our expectations: the movie is for Asian Americans, not for us. And in that aspect, it is a huge win for that community. But you cannot include a side character (in this case, the whole country of Singapore) and then expect that side character to hold her tongue about how she has been portrayed. I found myself laughing and genuinely enjoying moments in the film but also feeling great discomfort at other points. The particularly problematic scene that aimed for humour by leveraging the bodies of two Sikh guards, for example, becomes especially ironic when you consider the fact that this is a film trying to fight for the representation of a marginalised culture, and it has come to a country that similarly struggles with ethnic tensions only to visually reinforce the class privilege of the Singaporean equivalent of white people. I also didn’t like how the movie’s story was basically an Asian American protagonist coming to Asia to tell us how our Asian cultures and values were wrong. Things like clanship and the idea of family before self are big things in Trad-asian culture, but they were exaggerated and villainized in the movie as a foil to the protagonist’s love story. Not saying that they are perfect practices and ideas, but for an AsAm director to use it as the main villain in his story is kind of like going to your friends house and saying their mother’s cooking is not nice, you know?

So yes, I like things about the film, but I also have issues with it. That is fine because we can hold more than one opinion at a time, we live in a nuanced world. But one cannot just criticize, one must provide solutions or direction, or the whole conversation goes nowhere. I ask myself: with all the totally valid wins and criticisms the movie is facing right now, what could the director feasibly have done differently?

Perhaps the sassy best friend character could have been played by a non-Chinese actor (Singapore has plenty of excellent ones, and in Southeast asia? More.), and given proper character development. Perhaps there could have been a bit more self awareness when it came to portraying the class politics onscreen. Perhaps, like, just don’t use dark Asians as a prop or joke.

With that said, I recognise the limitations of the movie – there is only so much it can do when based off an even trashier book that parades an ensemble cast of walking stereotypes and caricatures. And I also recognize that a film’s priority is in the storytelling / entertainment value, not in social commentary, especially since it’s a rom-com. If there is no way they could have responsibly navigated the politics of SEA representation, part of me does think it’s better that they don’t attempt it than that they do it in a damaging manner. Personally I think the best thing the movie’s team could have done would have been to apportion a significant part of their marketing budget to work with major news outlets to use the movie as an opening for a larger conversation on representation in all its nuances, not just AsAm w.r.t. Hollywood, instead of marketing the movie as a straight up representation win. These things can and have been done, and if the movie’s campaigning (separate from the actual film content) was to be so focused on the concept of representation then it absolutely should have been on the list to do this. The supporting media to any pop culture article is very important because it creates a subconscious guideline that the general public takes cues from in forming their own impressions of the movie, so there needs to be some handling of this responsibility in a, well, responsible manner.

Western media outlets would also have benefited greatly from a perfunctory dissection of what the Asian experience is internally to inform their movie coverage – one gets the sense when reading articles produced from the USA that there is a major problem trying to differentiate Asians in Asia from Asians in America. Look, someone who grew up in Southeast asia does not share the same experience as someone who grew up in East Asia. Someone who grew up as a child of immigrants in America does not share the same experience as someone who was born in Asia then moved to America for work or school. I have so many friends who are Asian Americans who struggle with issues that are real and complex. Those issues are significantly different from my Asian (by heritage) friends who were born and raised in parts of Europe. Both of these experiences are also different from the experience of an ethnically Chinese person vs an ethnically Malay person vs an ethnically Indian person vs our famously labelled ‘Other’ person who grew up in Singapore. Yes, there are commonalities in all these experiences – the tiger Mom stereotype, the expression of love through food, the idea of familial currency that consists pressure and expectation. But they also differ in many other ways. Lets have some responsible reporting is what I am saying. And it wouldnt have been a far stretch to expect Crazy Rich Asians to use some of their marketing budget to enable this.

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Hi tiger mom

Also, Western Media, stop calling CRA the asian black panther! The comparison to Black Panther is problematic. Black Panther was based in the fictional state of Wakanda, and the implications of representation become more meaningful and impactful when you map the Wakandian experience onto black culture, much like re-writing a narrative symbolically. Whereas Crazy Rich Asians is based on the culture of an actual, real place, which has been flattened into a singular idea of the rich, chinese, asian. And then this idea, which represents only a fraction of Singapore (a multiracial/cultural country that, while having equality built into its national ethos and pledge, still struggles with limited inclusivity), is taken and flattened further into a backdrop for an Asian American girl’s Cinderella story.. I wont go so far as to say that it is a win for Asian Americans at the expense of actual Singaporeans. But likening it to Black Panther is a bit much.

Where does this leave us? I dont expect Crazy Rich Asians to answer all the questions for us. I dont think the burden should be on the movie to represent one million different types of Asians, and it is not the job of the director or the author (who I understand is from a crazy rich family himself and therefore writes from his own experience, okay, fine) to represent everything about singapore. It is a romcom, not a politically charged film. Yes, it is a huge accomplishment. But it is also a conditional accomplishment, for some people by ignoring other people. This has led to a lot of fired up arguments and online wars between people who think we should just let AsAms have their moment and stop being butthurt about a watershed moment in Hollywood history, and people who think CRA is the worst thing to have happened to Singapore. Let the wars happen, I say. The fact that the conversation is happening is important and good. We are ready for the war. We can take it. Bring it.

Representation is starting to feel like an end-all term rather than an element that can vary in comprehensiveness. There is space to celebrate the win for asian american onscreen representation, hollywood’s slow movement towards diversity, and still acknowledge that there are ways to go in creating nuanced representations of cultures residing outside the Americas, especially if you are leveraging that specific culture to give your piece a unique spin. There needs to be more acknowledgement that diversity is not the same thing as representation. There are ways to do this that can be uplifting as well, ways to commend the movie for what it has done while using the opportunity to shed light on the cultural nuance of the country that didn’t make it into the film. There needs to be more stories – Crazy Rich Asians cannot be the only story about Singapore, about Asians, about Asian Americans – and we need to enable storytellers, be they filmmakers or writers, to come forward and tell these stories so that one day we will have a tapestry of multicolored and textured stories from Singapore, et al, and not just this one story that is expected to do everything. We need to encourage, fund, and make possible the production of these stories, while not dismissing the progress each step has made. Because, yes: Crazy Rich Asians is the first step. But we have a hell of a way to go.

x
Jem

#2074 | Skincare Sundays: The Broke Student’s Guide to Skincare

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Hey guys!

Back again with yet another broke student’s guide, this time about skincare. As mentioned many times, I was relatively late to the skincare game, and a big part of this was lack of awareness (social media has kind of, shoved the whole skincare thing in our faces these days hasnt it?) and lack of money (my impression of skincare my entire life? Expensive.) But recent years have led me to recognise the importance of skincare, and also love the routine, and I kind of wish I had started earlier if only I’d known the budget skincare options available to me back then!

I really believe that preventive is way better (and cheaper) than remedial when it comes to skincare, which is why you should start young. You dont even need that much stuff in your sub/early-twenties. It’s totally possible to have a sustained skincare routine on a budget. The most important steps are cleansing, moisturising, and sunscreen. I currently follow a more comprehensive 10 step routine, but I think if youre a student getting started on skincare, you only really have to stick to the three steps of cleaning, moisturising, and sunscreen.

Disclaimer: I am not paid via cash or product to write anything in this post, and I dont earn from any clicks or referrals, etc. Photos here which dont have my face are grabbed off Google’s Image Search.

Okay! Lets get started:

BASIC SKINCARE: Cleansing


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Micellar waters are really great for cleansing thoroughly and gently without leaving gunk on your face. I use them as a first step in double cleansing, before a dedicated face wash, but many people just use them on their own. They normally go for pretty decent prices and in big bottles – Loreal does a giant 400ml bottle of its Biphase Micellar water for $20, Garnier and Simple does it for $15, and most brands have their own variation of the Micellar water too. Those are retail prices but drugstores frequently run promotions and you can often get them for much cheaper – I just checked the Watsons site and the Simple Micellar water is on sale for ten bucks. And if you’re willing to pay a bit more, I have heard very good things about the Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Solution ($41.90). The greatest advantage of Micellar waters is how it removes waterproof makeup while still being really gentle, and one bottle can technically last you a pretty long time because it depends on how often you wear make up etc. Most Micellar waters also come with some additional skincare benefits, and you will be able to find micellar waters that are suitable for specific skin concerns too.


I did an ad for the Loreal BiPhase Micellar water in March, it’s August now and Im not even halfway through the bottle yet

Garnier has a series of multitasking face washes. Garnier is actually an excellent drugstore brand for cleansing, and their latest Micellar gel face wash is great for removing make up and cleansing the skin in one wash while not tugging at the skin. It’s just been released but their UK Amazon page already has over 300 really good reviews.

– If you have sensitive skin, you can check out the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which is something I grew up with and used whenever I had onsets of heat rash. It’s so gentle that you definitely need to use a make up remover prior to this because it wont cut through heavy make up, but it’s perfect for people who dont wear make up or who have sensitive skin/acne/eczema. Ten bucks from iHerb! Cetaphil in general is a great basic skincare brand for younger people because of its budget and specific catering to gentle skincare, but when you get older you might want something with active ingredients in it for that extra oomph.

BASIC SKINCARE: Moisturiser

– I would spend some time in the Muji Skincare dept, which is really a very underrated section in Muji. Their cleansing oil is a pretty decent dupe for anyone who cant bear to shell out more than a hundred bucks for the Shu Umeura cleansing oils, and their toning water is light and very hydrating, supposedly also doubling as a day moisturiser. Really nice for Singapore’s weather too, when you dont necessarily wanna be slathering oils or creams on your face before heading outdoors. (I tend to favor gel, water, or jelly textures for day moisturisers in SG)

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Hada Labo is another really underrated brand that does great skincare for awesome prices. They have a day cream and night cream. I’m particularly inclined towards the Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid Water Gel, 50g for $25.90 – one of the more affordable Hyaluronic Acid products – and great for combination skin. It’s also a good dupe for the Belif Aqua Bomb. Often on sale at Guardian online, now it’s going for $17.35!

– If you have sensitive skin or heat rash issues, look at Curel, which is a Japanese derm brand and focuses on ceramide care. I’m using the Curel Face Lotion 2 which goes for $28.80, and their Moisture Milk which goes for $32, both of which are lightweight textures catered for southeast asian weather. I also gave a Curel moisture cream and face lotion to a friend who had perpetually red cheeks because I suspected it was due to a low level allergy to his skincare (he insisted it was just his skin), and it cleared right up, so he’s a Curel Convert now. Haha.
You can find it in Watsons or Lazada.

A post shared by Jemimah James Wei (@jemmawei) on

I have also endorsed Curel several times before, as well as interviewed a dermatologist for the brand

– You can get the Vaseline Petroleum Jelly Original for $4, and it’s great for both wound care and lip care.

BASIC SKINCARE: Sunscreen

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– Sun damage is the worst, so sunscreen is super important! In Singapore’s humid weather I personally favor watery textures, so Biore’s UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50+ PA++++ 50g ($18.90 for 50ml) or Sunplay Skin Aqua UV Watery Gel Daily Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++ ($18.90 for 80g) are my favorites. They are also very affordable options, compared to the skincare brands that do their own sunscreen.
PS. I actually featured in an ad for the Biore product last year! So you can see how it lasts through the day, video wise.

Look at the online stores for discounts. Watsons Online often has bundles that make your purchases cheaper, like right now I think if you spend $50 you get a $10 coupon off your next purchase. Guardian Online has 10% off your first order, and also runs sales – now the Sunplay sunscreen is going for $13.90 instead of 18.90 – AND free next day shipping for orders above $40.

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– Another way to save money is to get sunscreen that also doubles as a primer or sheer base. L’oreal actually does a pretty decent one, it’s the L’Oréal Paris UV Perfect Even Complexion SPF 50 PA++++, and it goes for $20.90 ($16.70 at Guardian now on sale). For a more high end option, there’s Supergoop’s mineral matte sunscreen, which has zero white cast and is really nice! They’re not going to replace your foundations, but they’re good for just evening out skin tones and giving sheer coverage.

PS. My friend who works as a makeup artist doesn’t recommend Banana Boat, because he says it doesnt absorb properly into the skin.

BONUS SKINCARE ADD-ONS

– If you’re into Korean Skincare, online retailer Hermo often has slashed prices for Korean beauty brands, and it has free shipping for orders above $25, which isnt hard to hit at all! EG. I just did a check and the Cosrx pimple patches are going for $4 from the original price of $10. The only thing is, you have to wait for shipping times, and popular products sell out really quickly, especially when Hermo puts them on sale. Hermo also has products from non-korean brands but the prices arent as attractive.

– The Loreal clay mask series is very affordable, as is the Innisfree ones (but I’ve not tried those yet). If you dont mind waiting for shipping to arrive, I’ve also recently heard about the Aztec Secret — Indian Healing Clay which you can get on iHerb, an online health retail website which carries a lot of discounted or affordable items, for TEN BUCKS per nearly 500g.


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Tea Tree Oil works wonders for drying out acne as long as the surface of the skin is unbroken. It’s one of those products that works super good as long as you know what youre doing – it’s a very powerful spot treatment, so do not spread it all over your face or mix it into your moisturiser. And DONT use it with skincare that has active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, retinols or Retin-A, salicylic acid! I use it on occasional pimples, mosquito bites. You can also use it on fungal infections like ringworm or nail fungal infections (dunno what its called). My house has always had at least one bottle of the Thursday Plantation brand oils around, but The Body Shop does a potent one as well for $15-20 depending on your online retailer.

If you’re travelling soon or have friends who dont mind helping you purchase stuff on their travels, look out for the following products:


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The Ordinary, a UK based brand, produces really great little bottles of skincare for super affordable prices. Just do your research though – it’s formulated for mainly european weather, and some of the products have ingredients that arent as effective in Singaporean humidity. I personally like the Caffeine eye solution for periods of late night work, but the value of The Ordinary really kicks in when buying their acids and oils, which can be pretty pricey from most other brands. The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 retails for £5.90, the Kim Kardashian endorsed Advance Retinoid 2% goes for £8, and the 100% Plant-Derived Squalane which can be used for face or hair goes for £5.50.

– You can get many things cheaper just across the border – including Biore make up removing wipes, which I bought for a third of the retail price in Singapore. Watsons Malaysia truly is a wonder to behold.

– Brands are normally cheaper in their home country, which means La Roche Posay and Avene are cheaper in Europe, Biore is cheaper in Japan, etcetera. Just take note if you’re headed to those places!

– Korea has lots of great drugstore cult brands that go for great prices, and Cosrx is a popular one. Their Cosrx Snail Mucin is said to be a dupe for the SK II facial treatment essence (as is the Missha Time Revolution Essence). Korea is such a skincare-obsessed place that if youre headed that way, definitely do a search online beforehand of the brands and products to look out for so you dont get overwhelmed while in town!

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You can start shopping the minute you touch down too, at the Lotte Duty Free store. I was in Seoul in March filming for Lotte and they have a pretty good, upmarket range. Brands like Laniege, Sulwhasoo, Mamonde, all go for significantly cheaper there.

– Glossier only ships within the US and canada, so if you’re headed there, take the chance to check out their pH balanced Milky Jelly Cleanser that goes for US $18.00/177ml. I’ve tried it while staying at a friend’s place and it leaves your skin feeling great, and even works to remove make up – though only non-waterproof ones. For waterproof make up you still need a proper makeup remover!

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Fin:

Aight guys, hope that was a helpful boost to get you started on your skincare routine – and I hope it also proved that you dont need to wait till youre earning big bucks to get started on a decent skincare routine! Although there are many premium products on the market that do amazing things to your skin, there are also many drugstore products that will get you on an effective and sustainable skincare routine. Remember, good skin is awesome, but so is not being bankrupt. All the best, guys! x

x
Jem