#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

#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.

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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

#2073 | Betrayal!

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My life the past month has been characterised by the identity of the wait-ee, I have, essentially, been living in a bubble of anticipatory exhaustion, waiting for life to sort itself out. Things beyond my control have crash-landed into my life this month, certainly life has been fluctuating on the emotional scale lately via said events beyond the horizon of my control, there have been a lot of such extreme emotions, joy, grief, mourning, elation, excitement, exhaustion.. and then this morning I woke up unable to breathe. Nothing romantic about it, it’s not like i woke up breathless from a scary dream or struck by epiphany. I literally woke up with a blocked nose. Finally my body has betrayed me. The final frontier: the physical. I am sick. Time to pop a panadol and go back to bed, with a bit of sour relief and also, disbelief, because the solidity of a body suggests reliability, and the one thing i can grasp and hold on to has turned around and given up on me as well..

As you can tell, the drama queen in me comes out in full force when sick: feather, furs, heels, and all.

x
Jem

#2068 | yabasic

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Georgina’s 26th

We threw G a super basic birthday party last year to celebrate not just her 25th but also her homecoming after years and years of living in the big apple. One year has passed and she’s still as basic as ever (she brought like, gouda pizza to our christmas party when we asked for pepperoni, and ordered my fried-chicken-lovin best friend an avocado on toast for brunch when he wasnt looking..) and so we thought, same theme, bigger party, more basic.

Rose gold foil balloons, basic bitch catch phrases, matcha dark chocolate cake, cheese and meat platter with wine on one end of the room and fried chicken and nuggets on the other.. of course she loved it. And we love her. Happy twenty sixth, G. Although when she was insisting that she was only 16, we all exchanged looks: who’s going to tell her that pretending to be ten years younger than you are is like, so basic?

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x
Jem