#2050 | LA Diaries: Airbnb Murder Mysteries / Trips, Experiences

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Taken at The Last Bookstore, Downtown Los Angeles

imagesLos Angeles, America

What are the stories you want to tell?

This is a question that followed me around like a little rain cloud throughout my press trip to Airbnb Open LA 2016. I’ve been working with Airbnb for over a year now, and sometimes it feels like I’ve told most of the stories that can be told. I mean this in the best way possible – I love that people can open up their homes to others, create a micro-economy of their own. That tourists and travellers alike have a way of injecting currency into an economy on a very local level in a way that directly impacts the people who actually offer their homes to you, as opposed to having your virtual money disappear off into the endless loop of commercialised corporations. And host stories are new every trip, of course – each new place I stay in I hope to make friends that give me some sort of insight into their world. But something that I always wonder is – how do our voices evolve – how do we start telling newer, better stories?

And that was one of my small, secret aims of this trip, to try and come away with one good story, one thing that I feel resonates with me and hopefully you guys.

One of the biggest announcements Brian Chesky (CEO of Airbnb) made this Airbnb Open conference was the launch of Airbnb Trips. No longer offering only the opportunity to rent homes, Airbnb is now evolving to become a one-stop travel service. This means booking flights, ordering groceries, making restaurant reservations, all within the app. It means the launch of audio tours, free city e-guidebooks, car rental services. It means the launch of Experiences.

Experiences is without doubt the single biggest thing about Airbnb 2.0, simply because it is so novel, and makes so much sense. Is it a completely new idea to pay a local to bring you around? No. These things exist, and they’re called tours. But is it a new idea to have a local invite you to partake in the intimacies of their lives? Possibly. And now it’s being made so convenient too – to do it all on one app: booking accommodation, food, flights, and having your days planned out for you. This, Chesky announces, to gasps and insane applause, is the future of travel.

As the press con dissolved, I found myself wandering around looking for hosts to talk to, to try and understand what sort of experiences they would actually be offering. I met a dude from Miami who brings guests paddle boarding, diving, and for a boat party, over the span of four days. I met a couple from London who want to teach people to pluck and grow their own organic food. These were all interesting and sounded all kinds of awesome, dont get me wrong. But I kept looking. I was searching for something else.

And then I got a text from Elaine, one of the Airbnb girls.

“Jemma, you here?” she asked, “There’s someone I’d love for you to meet.”

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This is Nicole Biondi from Cape Town, South Africa. She’s an author – she’s penned crime thriller novels for the last five years, with more to come, and has worked in tourism for 17 years as the head of the Cape Town tourism board. Elaine introduced me to her because I also write fiction (albeit less successfully with exactly zero novels to my name lol) so she thought it would be interesting. Well, it was – but not for the reason she might have suspected.

What I wanted to know from Nicole was:

1. Did hosting on Airbnb subsidise her artistic endeavours?
I mean, let’s be real. Unless you’re JK Rowling, writing hardly pays the bills. You run on passion, mostly. And your day job – be it working in a cafe, teaching english, or being a train attendant. Or being an instagrammer, lol. What I wanted to know was if Airbnb hosting could be your day job, a supplementary income that got you by while giving you flexibility of time to work on your creative projects.

PS. the answer for her was not really, because she only decides to host on Airbnb twice a year max. (Hosts as in, in her home, not host a Trips experience)

and

2. What was a crime thriller writer doing hosting an Airbnb Experience, anyway? As an aspiring writer myself I can tell you that any time spent not at your desk writing is frustrating. Why have dinner or watch a movie when you could be working on your writing? As you can tell, my social life has gone out of the window. But I had a strange suspicion about her agenda, which turned out to be more or less true..

Nicole’s experience is called Madame Mystery.

“Tell me about it,” I said. And so she did.

She’s penned a whole story that she’s inviting you into, a mix of fact and fiction, called the Botanist Brigade Murder Mystery legend. You begin with a hike up Table Mountain, one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, and a total bucket list item on every traveller’s list. Halfway up, she brings you into Woodstock Cave for a picnic breakfast, and then introduces you to the name carved into the cave wall – J. W, Lawrence, a man who died on the 15th of May, 1965. Your mission throughout the day is to follow the timeline between 1865 and present day, to figure out why and how he died. It’s a real life Cluedo mystery! And, boy – if you like Escape Room games, you’ll love this.

The Experience consists meals and snacks (starting with breakfast in the cave), a gorgeous hike, an artisanal gin-tasting session that also includes a tour of how gin is made, and ends off with a three course south african meal where you become the characters in the story to try and solve the mystery. All this for 2,000 South African Rand, which translates to about $143. Not bad for an all-inclusive, unique experience.

But that still didn’t answer my question – why is she doing this? So I asked her, again, and she looked at me. Aha, she said, and I knew she knew what I was referring to.

“Because they think they’re having fun, these guests. But I’ve tricked them into coming on a little history lesson with me, on South African history, the black community, and how life has changed for those of us living in Cape Town.”

There it was. She was using Airbnb Experiences as a vehicle for social commentary. I wanted to punch my fist into the air. Yessss! I had solved my own little mystery correctly. She went on.

“Writing is exorcism. There are things you need to get out. This is common to every storyteller..”

And storyteller she is – she told me on the side that she not only wrote stories, she also worked as an emcee, a performance poet, and a voice artist.

I nodded. Go on.

“And when I tell these stories, be they on paper or to unsuspecting Airbnb guests, I want to change the way they see the world. Just a little bit.”

Yes.

Something you need to understand about Nicole – after seventeen long (and I should think, successful) years as the head of tourism, she quit to work in an NGO called Innovation Edge that focuses on developing early learning in children aged 1-6 by funding ideas and initiatives in marginalised communities. It made sense for her, I think, as someone so passionate about social issues, to move from tourism to a non-profit.

“Did it annoy you?” I asked, already knowing the answer. “To have tourists caper up to Cape Town just to look at it as a gorgeous tourist holiday destination without bothering with understanding the social structure or history of the place?”

“Oh my god,” she rolled her eyes. “You have no idea.”

We then spent a good part of the next hour talking about South Africa – mostly her, talking intensely, and me, listening, trying to absorb, and asking the occasional question. Much of this conversation had nothing to do with Airbnb as a platform, therefore potentially majorly irritating the Parisian journalist who was waiting to interview Nicole on Airbnb Experiences. But Airbnb is not a product in and of itself. It is a platform. And this platform you can use to book accommodation, browse listings, read city guides. So why not use the platform to push a social agenda? I totally got Nicole’s rationale behind what she was doing, and loved it. And despite not being technically a part of the official Airbnb Experiences Ethos, it still aligned nicely with Airbnb’s aesthetic of trying to get people to understand each other and cultures, trying to create a more inclusive, loving world (Look at their latest announcement – a mandatory non-discriminatory rule). Just that what Nicole is doing is on a far, far more local level.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post called The Broke Student’s Guide to Being Human. Those of you who remember that will understand why meeting Nicole was so important to me. As someone who comes from a position of privilege (i mean, come on. A chinese woman in Singapore is like being a white person in America), it is easy to forget and important to remember that your privilege often works at another person’s expense. Let’s not play the privilege game – the comparison of who is more, who is less, who is equally privileged. There will always be someone more fortunate. Someone vastly poorer. You are born into a body and social station which is not of your choice, and all you can do is try to be fair, and kind while learning to navigate it.

But in traveling, this is easy to forget. It is so easy to ooh and aah over the gorgeous mountains of cape town while ignoring the incredibly insane income disparity that exists there. So easy to shudder at the gunshots in the middle of the night, that you hear from your rented room in a small town of Medellin, Columbia, thrilled at your authentic local experience. But your holiday experience is another person’s everyday reality. And while it may not be your responsibility to familiarise yourself with the entire social historical context of whatever city you go to, it sure doesn’t hurt.

I wont attempt to explain the social fabric of south africa. Learning about it from Nicole was endlessly interesting to me, but I have no faith in my ability to do it justice, or replicate her words with the same level of conviction that can only come from a lifetime of personal experience. But go. Ask her. Ask any host you stay with, any local you meet on your Airbnb Experience. Ask them for their story. Ask them why they’re doing what they do. If it pans out well, you’ll find yourself enriched, your perspective widened, your capacity for empathy hopefully deeper by the end of it. And if it doesn’t, well. You’ll have a story of your own to tell.


Airbnb Experiences is now available on the updated Airbnb app.

x
♥jem

#2048| just a thought

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Yesterday at a literary panel about Southeast Asian writing appealing to the world, a woman stood up in the audience and said oh well you know you need to listen to what us readers want and if we don’t want to read this because we don’t like it and it is not entertaining to us then we just DONT. And she was shouting and her hand was on the back of my chair and there was some spit that had landed on my lap and I stared at it for too Long and the moment to turn and address her had passed, and anyway, her comment was not aimed at me it was aimed at the panel.

This woman was old (are we still allowed to say that? Or is that now non-inclusive?) and so one might feel compelled to kind of brush it off or not expect her to change her views while at the same time holding on to the knowledge that she would be full of rage about having been dismissed so easily. Before the panel started, earlier in the evening, I overheard her and her friend talking loudly behind me about “books nowadays being too long, just read a bit from the middle and then go to the end and you’ll know if it’s good. Plus now that (she) teaches in school (she) feels like (she) needs to know what the book is, you know, about”. And when she later stood up and addressed the panel this was something she said again: that she bought but didn’t read books, and she said this with something like a sense of pride. This was very strange to me, both the incomprehensible choice to bring that kind of attitude to a literary festival and also the fact that Teachers like that exist. I hope she doesn’t teach English or literature but life doesn’t always follow your hopes. She spoke like someone highly educated and proud of it, and more likely than not she lectures in a higher degree institution somewhere. Or something. And in that vein this is what I wanted to say to her, that I did not, because I was staring at the spit on my lap. That literature is art and art does not exist to follow your desires.

Of course you can choose to only read what appeals to you. It’s your life and your privilege and your eyes and certainly your brain. Nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to try and understand postcolonial literature or infinite jest. One may subsist his/her whole life on a diet of dan brown, and while it is something I personally disagree with, I have to still say that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that. Why? Because it’s your life. But when you stand up in a panel to shout (lets face it that was what she was doing, shouting) this at three very accomplished very hardworking very serious novelists then it becomes a problem because 1. You have started a dialogue which must be then receptive to response and 2. You are being rude.

So since a dialogue, shouty or not, has been started, here is a response. You may of course live your life wrapped in the comfort of easy reads that serve to reassure you and your way of life and hold books that you nod at sagely every few lines, thinking, mm, this book gets me, gets my life, is so good and worthy, etcetera etcetera. But art is not here existing to validate your world view. It is here to unsettle you and poke holes in your brain and make you very very uncomfortable. And in that extreme discomfort it might hopefully help you recognise your privilege and understand what other people and communities go through, and help you understand how to care, and how to empathise in a way that is not burdensome to the people on the receiving end of your empathy. I do not have it figured out. I struggle with understanding/ synthesising both the complications of my status as a woman and my privilege as a young chinese able bodied woman in Singapore. I stumble around looking for the right words when trying to articulate my thoughts to and about these things. But I am trying. And I can say that I probably know to try because of the books I have been very fortunate to have been recommended, or given, or that have somehow fallen like blessings into my lap. Learning to embrace this discomfort while putting your pride aside and understanding that it is not always about you is a good and essential life skill when approaching the arts. And this is my view which I do not forcibly foster upon you or shout about in public panels and certainly not shout until my spit lands on the lap of some poor girl who just happens to be within firing distance. But if you want comfort, you should get a blanket.

x
Jem

#2032| finally!

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Oh will you look at that. It’s been a month since I last showed my sorry face around here. So much for having a bunch of things I want to talk about. But I’m not even sorry because I have been doing this thing called having a life and it’s been GREAT, you guys.

Anyway, after two months of nearly obsessive suitcase living, a month in new york and the subsequent in london, I’m finally back on home ground. This is what happens when your friends keep migrating, okay? You have to go halfway across the world to see them. Why couldnt they have migrated to Bangkok where I can hop over for less than a thousand bucks a pop? But really, it’s been a blast. I came back happier and fatter and the viewers will have a lot to say about that, I know. Speaking of which, new hype hunt episodes upcoming now that summer is over and filming has resumed. We went on set the other day and as life would have it my first shoot after touchdown had to be an outdoor shoot. While I readjusted from the cooler airs of scotland and london. Isn’t life beautiful?

It feels like every single time I land in Singapore I ask the same thing: has it always been this hot, or ..? Global warming? I don’t know. Maybe it’s time to make peace with it. In my younger days I had all these opinions, most of them angry and strong. It seems that as time goes by I find myself considerably less interested in suffering. Perhaps the answer really is learning to let go. These days I have less feelings about whether the bus comes on time, but also less tension in my shoulders, less worries, and I’m generally happier.

Of course, I might take all that back really soon. As part of my scholarship bond, I’m bound to start teaching at the university this week. Tra and la! I spent the better part of my morning wrangling with the office printer and the highlight of my day was finding a stapler powerful enough to bind thirty five pages together in one shot. Perhaps next week I’ll be back on the blog pleading uncle. “This life is not for me!” And then the university will call me in for a talk on what is and isnt appropriate to discuss on social media. Like bitchin about waking up early for school again? Probably not okay. Can they do that? I dont even know.

In other news (and obsessions) I have been addicted to this book: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I feel like I might have said this before but I dont care because it is that good. How can you be addicted to a book, you ask? Like so: I’ve read it five times already, cover to cover, all 750 pages of it. I told you: when I get obsessed with something, I get obsessed hard. I adore this book so much I feel like it gives me life. When I met Tash in London and gushed about it he looked at me and went: you’re one of those who cried through the whole thing, didn’t you? Guilty, and guilty. But not sorry. Read it, you guys. I’ve also been really into this new Netflix original series: Stranger Things – which is fantastic. The storyline isnt anything we havent heard of before, but the set design, the costuming, the film colouring… incredible. It’s as if Stephen King cracked his brain open and draped oodles of brain all over an idea. Too graphic? But so is the show. Lastly! I caught Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime on West End this trip, after a lot of ragging from people around me. It was absolutely, totally, hands down worth the hype. It’s been so long since something has blown me away so thoroughly. We were all in tears by the end of it. Smiling so hard our faces hurt, shiny and taut with tears. So, so good. I expect I’ll be talking more about Curious Incident when I pen my London guides – I was actually in London on campaign with Skyscanner – but for now, just take my word for it: amazing.

And with that – you might have guessed already, but I’m here (as usual) because I’m procrastinating preparing for the semester’s syllabus. And also, the prospectus that I have to present to a board where they’ll decide if I’m worthy of confirmation, etcetera etcetera. It’s all part and parcel of being a masters student, and I might whine my ass off, but I love every bit of it. So far. You know what’s funny? I’m doing this premiere tomorrow evening that requires me to turn up in goth. Right after a lecture in the university. Guess who’s gonna scare the crap out of some fresh faced undergraduates tomorrow?

Bam.

See you guys sooner over later. Ta!

x
♥jem

#2028 | Random thoughts on the Ten Step korean skincare regime

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GPOY one week into trying the ten step skincare routine

Ola friends,

I’m here again instead of working (as I should be) on my masters thesis (a slow, painful journey) because I must have had too much caffeine and my brain is jumping around, JUMPING, I say! In any case it is bad and I know it is bad because I am looking at my hands and they are shaking. I only had a cup this morning so I have no idea what is up with me, perhaps a lack of sleep? But I feel okay, sleep wise. So I guess the conclusion is, I dont know what is up.

Anyway the thing I have been thinking about writing about on the blog is a thing that I don’t quite know how to talk about: it’s the korean skincare regime. Being neither korean nor a skincare expert, I wonder at how accurate anything I have to say about their regimes are. But a combination of k-drama watching (thanks, DOTS) and marketing images (thanks, laneige) have had me obsessed with 1. getting that same kind of dewy glowing skin that they all have and 2. wondering if it’s all photoshop.

But no – I have korean friends, and their skin is ace. So there must be something there. Recently the boyfriend went to Korea on a work trip and came back with a haul of skincare for me (seriously, this boy is A+) and also, sent me a link to the KOREAN TEN STEP SKINCARE ROUTINE which is his way, I suppose, of telling me that he wants me to wash my face properly. At first I was all, don’t tell me what to do with my face! because, you know, feminism. But I really wanted to look like Song Hye Kyo. That woman has stupidly good skin. It’s so irritating. And I must have it.

So I’ve been on the korean ten step skincare routine for 2 weeks now. Do I look like Song Hye Kyo? No. But my skin is markedly better. And there is something strangely soothing about a routine, even if ten steps sounds a bit loca to be doing everyday.

Basically, these are the ten steps:

1. Wipe your make up off with a wipe. (I’m using the face shop brown rice wipes that shane bought me from korea, but i think you can get them here in singapore. Or else the Biore ones are very good.)

2. Wash your face with an foam cleanser. But I don’t like foam cleansers, so I swapped this out for an oil cleanser. I swear by oil products! They have changed my life forever. I used to use only the Erno Laszlo oil + dead sea mud bar, but that one is a little hard to travel with, so I switch it up between that and the the Shu Umeura cleansing beauty oil, in the yellow bottle variant (because it was the cheapest of the lot). I bought it on Roz’s recommendation and it’s really good but it is ridiculously expensive, like over a hundred bucks. But I figure you spend lots on make up, so you better also invest in washing it off! Also it works great for me and for Roz and for a bunch of other people I know, but I think it really depends on your skin because I have another girlfriend who swears that it makes her break out. Plus it’s really a working woman’s cleanser because it’s so damned expensive! If you’re a student I would say get a cheaper version, like the NIVEA mud cleanser (I did a test + review on that here). I’m actually really pleased with the mud cleanser because even now, a year on after that review, I still have people coming up to me on the streets saying that they used the mud cleanser and had it work great on them. Nivea is actually a really great drugstore brand lah, it’s just that after my cleanser finished I wanted to try something new because I was curious. Lol!

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3. Remove your eye makeup and swab your skin once more to make sure all traces of your make up are gone. Technically the Shu umeura cleansing oil does this for you, but I still go once more with a cotton pad soaked in the Micellar water, and sometimes if I didn’t wash my face properly the first time there’ll be some gunk left over. You’ll be surprised how hard it is to get all your make up off thoroughly. Most make up brands have their own version of the micellar water, but the one I’m currently using is from Nivea. Micellar water is nice because it really doesn’t leave your skin feeling oily or sticky, although it is technically made up of oil molecules. What! I told you I swear by oil products. And I did some research on this, and a LOT of people swear that micellar water changed their lives.

To be honest I think steps 2 and 3 are basically very similar, but the koreans do it twice, so ok lor, do it twice. Actually you could just pick one and stick with it.

4. Exfoliate once a week. I’m using a black sugar scrub that (again) the boyfriend bought for me from korea. I think it’s from the face shop. Or innisfree? Something like that. Basically he has a korean friend who brought him to all the places and showed him what products are really popular amongst the korean girls, so it must be the best, etcetera etcetera.

5. Swab your face with toner. So usually I do step 1-4, then shower, then after the shower, do step 5. I use the Son & Park Beauty Water that the boyfriend bought me from korea. Ok, now I’m starting to feel a bit guilty because when writing this post I realised that he bought me most of my skincare, and he really did a lot of research on it because when he presented me with each item he had a long list of instructions on what to do. HAHAHAHA. The Beauty water is apparently always sold out, so I’m quite glad he got it for me lah. It’s a korean miracle product that they use backstage for shows, celebrities use it, etc etc. It’s some multitasker that cleanses, tones, exfoliates, and hydrates. I dont know about exfoliating, because it’s very watery, so it doesn’t really feel like it scrubs the skin. But if you google it, people go batshit bananas over this water, and my skin really feels better, though I’m using so many new products now that I’m not sure what exactly to attribute my new skin to exclusively.

6. Essence. Essence is the cornerstone of korean skincare, but to be absolutely honest I am not really sure what the big difference between essence and serum is. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that they are essentially the same thing, even though most brands will tell you they target different things, and I suspect they’re basically marketing terms. None of my American friends know what an essence is, they all use the word serum for that step in your skincare routine. Besides, I dont think there are any miracle serums/ essences that target EVERYTHING, and each serum is supposed to do something specific (brightening/ peel/ soften skin/ intensely hydrate/ etc etc), so I think you should just pick one that targets whatever youre concerned about.

And for goodness sake, pat on your serum. Because if you rub it all over your face youre just pulling your skin around. I’m using the Laneige ultimate white plus renew serum because SONG HYE KYO, ok? And also because I only started using sunscreen at a very late age, and I’ve been trying to fix all the sunspots I have by using brightening serums, so most of my skincare is geared towards that. But to be honest I switch up my serums and moisturisers a lot. So right now I’m using the laneige, I used to use a different variant of the laneige serum, and even before that I used a Kiehls serum. And once a week I use the Kiehls Nightly refining Micro-peel concentrate, which works like a peel to make your skin softer. But you serum can never be used without a moisturiser, so..

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7. The sheet mask. I cant imagine that anyone uses a mask every single night, but apparently the koreans do. This is my least favourite step so I always skip it, I would say I do a mask once in two weeks if I’m lucky. I hate it because when you stick a mask on it is COLD AS HELL, and then you cant move around or it might fall off, and before I did lasik that meant i had to just lie down for twenty minutes cos i cant wear glasses over a mask, it feels and looks weird, and that means for twenty minutes while doing the mask I cant even read or watch TV cos I can’t see. I don’t really have a favourite mask either, I just use whatever my friends give me or those sample masks you get when you buy stuff at korean skincare shops (they give out samples nonstop!!). Generally I leave the mask on for 20 minutes (no more than that, or it actually works to dehydrate your skin for some reason), then move the mask to my neck for 10 minutes, then rub the remaining serum on the mask into my hands / feet if theres extra.

8. Moisturiser. Doesn’t the sheet mask also moisturise? Koreans, do you have too much time?? But I have committed to following the korean routine and follow it I must. I use different moisturisers depending on what I need. I like the Erno Laszlo Hydra-Therapy Memory Sleep Mask because it’s VERY hydrating with this gel like texture, and when you wake up in the morning you feel AMAZING. Despite the name, it’s a gel moisturiser, not a sheet mask, so it’s more convenient to apply. The only con that I can note about this moisturiser is the price point: it’s pretty expensive, and I have it because a dear friend from NYC gifted it to me. Now that I’m working I could probably buy another one when this one runs out, but if I were younger/ still schooling, it’d be pretty tough. I (and my mom) also love the Laneige water bank, which everybody swears by – it’s cheaper as well. And whenever I travel to foreign countries I bring the samples along to give to friends who all love it too.

9. Eye cream. I only started using this this year because everyone, and I do mean everyone, was yelling at me about it. Apparently you can never go back from wrinkles around your eyes.
I was like: so what? Embrace it! I don’t mind having wrinkles.
And my older girlfriends were like: you are an idiot.
So fine, I started using eye cream too. I use the Laneige white plus renew eye cream, it has a cooling metal applicator so it massages the area around your eye to decrease swelling. I’m not sure if the metal thing really works, but it feels great. After this round of Laneige ends I was thinking of buying a L’oreal eye cream because it’s much cheaper and it’s supposed to be really good, but we’ll see.

10. Sunscreen. I assumed this was for the day use only, but apparently koreans apply sunscreen at night too. Why? Because your computer screen emits UV rays. That is a bit much for me, but ok. I use a Sunplay sunscreen (SPF50++) which is a watery sort of gel as the last step of my skincare in the morning before make up, and then I periodically spray on a layer of sunscreen during the day (the Biore UV perfect SPF50 spray) on top of my makeup.

*And then I use a completely different set of skincare when I travel, skincare that comes in travel sized bottles. That’s a post for a whole other time.

Tada – ten steps!

So after being on it for two weeks I had to sit down and ask myself if I honestly felt it made a huge difference to my skin, and if the time spent on it was worth the difference.

Before going any further, full disclosure: I’ve always had good skin. I don’t mean to be annoying, it’s just that it has been a combination of my mother’s home brewed herbal soups as a kid as well as genes, I suppose. But at thirteen, good skin is a gift. At twenty three, it’s a commitment. The recent years have been pretty sobering for me in coming to terms with the fact that I cant just use and abuse my skin anymore: it started going downhill when I moved out of home to live on campus, and it got worse ever since I started travelling so frequently. Airplane air is the worst, and your skin’s consistent readjustment to new climates and temperatures really messes you up. When I came back from Sydney last year, my skin was at its worst. For all its beauty, Australia’s weather is one of the most messed up I’ve been in – you can experience four seasons in a day, and it’s a total nightmare for skincare.

Ever since there it’s been an uphill climb. One of my greatest regrets as a kid was not being told how important sunscreen is – I dont think anything can reverse the amount of sun damage my skin has been put under, and it’s something I’m just going to have to live with. Do I have bad breakouts? No. But my skin used to have this healthy glow (which now I’m thinking, might have just been the glow of youth. And innocence. Too dark? Ok never mind) which it no longer has, and that’s what koreans somehow have managed to recreate, bottle up, and sell, in both skincare and makeup. I mean, not all the products I use are korean, obviously, but what I tried my best to follow were their steps.

And the difference? It’s there, that’s for sure. My boyfriend asked me if I’d been using the products he gave me.

Yes, I said, whats up?
It’s just, your skin looks great, he said, in a tone that suggested that what he really meant was I told you so.

(Ok I kid, he’s actually very nice and would never say that. Ok, maybe once. Or twice.)

I still don’t look like Song Hye Kyo. And I still dont really know if all ten steps are really necessary. Do you really need to wash your face thrice?! All ten steps take me a combined total of about fifteen to twenty minutes to do, more if I’m using a mask that night, which isn’t bad all things considered. But ten steps: that’s a minimum of ten products, and we all know the beauty industry doesn’t come cheap. It’s an expensive routine.

So why spend the time on it? The answer surprised even me: because I liked spending time on a routine. It’s relaxing, at the end of a long work day, to come back and slowly work on cleansing, toning, and moisturising your face, and feeling the difference every morning when you wake up, combined with the overall difference you feel over the time span of a couple of weeks. I have better skin now than I did before I started my ten step routine. People comment on it regularly. And when you have good skin, as cliche as it sounds, you feel good.

But I wouldn’t swear by it. And I dont think I’d lose any sleep if I cut short a couple of steps each day. At the end of the day it feels like an enjoyable routine with visible skincare benefits, but one that is a luxury. If I had to pick, I would say in order of importance what you HAVE to do would be to 1. clean your make up off really thoroughly, 2. SUNSCREEN and 3. Moisturize. Everything else, to me, is great, but not hardcore essential. And of course there are plenty of really great products out there that double up and do more than one thing: the beauty water, for example, tones, hydrates, and cleanses. Obviously your skin gets better with more layers of skincare (that’s the korean mentality, skincare layering), but it really depends on how important it is to you to have that kind of really translucent, dewy skin. I think a clear complexion is pretty swell already, and the korean glow is another level, a level which you have to pay to access. Obviously.

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Unexpected side effect of the 10step routine: you selfie a lot more because you want to show off your skin..

Ok, that random thought-vomit turned into a really long wordy post. On the plus side, I no longer feel jumpy because of the coffee. I guess that means I know what I should do the next time I cant focus: write a 2,800 word blogpost. What a great adjustment mechanism, am I right. More content all around!!

Actually speaking of content I’m pretty excited lah, because I have a bunch of ideas for things I want to write/talk about in the upcoming posts. I don’t know why I suddenly have so many things to say, it’s like my brain is getting talkative. It must be all the coffee. But it’s been great, things have been great, and it is truly a privilege to say this because to be honest I am coming out of a period of EXTREME UNCREATIVITY and UNPRODUCTIVITY, which is not to say that i hadnt been doing work, but to say that I havent been feeling happy with the writing I’ve been doing. Uninspired, is the term. But a talkative brain is a good sign, it is a sign that things are a-changing. And I welcome it with open arms.

Till the next post ~

x
♥jem

#2018 | Small things

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Was nursing an awful bout of the cold this past week, which meant waking up to feel like absolute rubbish every single day and then going about work in this ridiculous Singaporean humidity. I don’t often fall sick so obviously when I do I feel like it’s the end of the world; I don’t remember what it last felt like when I was sick, and so everything gets blown out of proportion and I convince myself that I’m dying of some rare cousin of the flu.. and so on. Melodramatic, I am.

Tonight. Still sick, although recovering. We were holding the edges of our gowns and running in heels down the USS cobbled road back to the Far Far Away castle after having snuck out of a party to crash a theme park ride. As we were perspiring buckets and cursing the weather, there was an almighty bang and light exploded above our heads. Fireworks. We nearly stopped but didn’t – we were already running late. But just that: the deserted park, the gowns, the fireworks, the friends – and despite feeling like shit the whole week, I suddenly thought to myself, the week has been a good one. And for that I am thankful.

x
♥jem