Scribble scrabble.

Sleeping in airports… Again

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So my friends, I am currently stuck in the Orlando airport because my Delta flight home got canceled due to ~fog~ even though other airlines seem to be jetting off with no problem. I even got to watch the sun set from the plane itself before they disembarked us all and were like tehe we ain’t flying seeya. Anyway, long story short, i went straight to the airport bar and commismerated with all the other stranded passengers (with not even a cent of dinner voucher compensation from the airline, i might add), and am presently settled into a nice little bench with my bags ready for a cozy night in. I’ve had other flights get cancelled on me before, and they’ve always put stranded passengers up in nice airport hotels, but not in America, i guess.

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I thought i’d left this life behind with my pivot from travel blogging to writing! But it’s good to know that old habits die hard. The minute I realized the flight got canceled, all my old broke student backpacking habits kicked in. I figured the best place to sleep (on a bench near a power outlet), rebooked my flight, “showered” in a public toilet lmao, did my skincare, and am camping out for the minute the flight counter opens to see if i can worm my way into an earlier flight. As it stands it looks like I’ll be stuck in the airport for >24 hours. Orlando! You should give me a visa at this point.

In fact, I even tried to weasel my way into a comfortable couch nap earlier at the bar. I befriended another woman on the flight and trauma-bonded at the bar, where the young eavesdropping bartender was like, im so sorry for you ladies. And I said, if you’re really that sorry, you could let us sleep on your bar couch, which looks very nice. And he was like, ha ha ha no.

Kids these days are brutal :’)

Regardless, life goes on. Here’s to hoping i dont get robbed in my sleep — though i pity the person who tries to weasel my bag out from under me, as sleepwalking Jemimah is a confrontational force to reckon with.

x Jem

A fresh start

Well well well if it isn’t me returning to my blog after… let’s see. Four months. Ha. And the last post I did was about how time was passing by way too quickly. Which it is, and somehow after nearly thirty years of being alive, I still find myself being taken by surprise, and then personally offended by the way time moves and acts on me.

Anyway. After EIGHT years, I’ve finally gotten down to rehauling my website. It’s been on my list for a while, especially as my other streams of writing (fiction, the biweekly column I do for No Contact Magazine) meant that I hadn’t been blogging as regularly as I did back in the day. And so the website was less blog than relic. The only thing that was being regularly updated was my About page, with new publication links, but it became increasingly clear that I needed to convert the site from a blog to a writer’s site at some point.

So, cruising on a totally unearned level of confidence given that I DONT KNOW CODE, I tried to do it myself, and BROKE MY SITE.

This happened last Sunday. For a week I was panicking. It was the worst timing possible too, because February is hell month for writers — or maybe just for me, i don’t know — and I had only tinkered with my site because I thought it would be a fun relaxing thing to do in between intense writing deadlines.

Again, I don’t know how to code.

I couldn’t even ctrl+Z that shit, because apparently WordPress doesn’t work that way. I ended up terrified that I’d do something completely irreparable to it, so I put up a temporary maintenance page and then backed away shivering from my website, like, why did you do this, Jemimah. Why. And given my completely neurotic personality I couldn’t stand the fact that my website was down, so I immediately plunged into a rabbit hole of googling + contacting various designers / coders for help.

Trust me when I say I was completely losing my shit the whole of last week. On top of the website, I had three writing deadlines, and one school deadline. Actually, two school deadlines, but I had miscalculated the submission schedule for one of them, so I didn’t realise until the last minute, and had to pull an all-nighter to get my thirty pages out by the next morning. What is this, a 15-year old Jemimah?! Good to know that over a decade later, some things don’t change. I can still work all night then feel like hell the next four days. Good to know.

But with February’s close, life has become easier. It is only March the first, I know, so it’s a little optimistic to declare the month being a turnaround, but again, I was someone who believed I could fix my website without an inch of coding knowledge. Regardless, it is fixed. A bunch of people reached out to me after my desperate SOS on Twitter, and I ended up working with Daniel from Elemental Web Design to rehaul my website over the course of several zoom calls. I had no idea what he was talking about most of the time and asked very stupid questions, which once again affirmed that I was delusional to think I could have ever fixed it myself. Thank God for Daniel.

And I’m so pleased with this new design!!! It’s exactly what I had in mind when I started, and I love that I could incorporate Shane’s illustrations of me over the years because it makes the site feel so personal and intimate even though it’s literally on the world wide web lmao. I suppose I should be all set for the next eight years, so check back again in 2030 for my next scheduled website-related freakout.

 

Abrupt segue.

One of my Feb deadlines was for Phillips Auction House, which commissioned a fiction piece from me in response to Sarah Slappey’s Yellow Touch. You can read it here. It was perhaps the quickest turnaround I’ve ever done for a fiction piece — I wrote, edited, and published it within one week — but hey, see above re: all-nighters. My state of mind is perhaps obvious in that piece, which is titled The Chiropractor. At some point this year, I’m going to need to look into cracking my back.

It’s funny how the body’s problems invade fiction, popping up in prose to be like, remember me, bitch?! Lower back pain has appeared in so much of my work last month, as throwaway lines, character traits, complaints in dialogue, etc. A real line that appeared in a show pitch I did last night: Grandma, now a ghost, and free from all worldly material problems like dementia and lower backache, has all the energy in the world to harass Annabelle until she helps Terry. I kid you not. If that sparked your interest btw, feel free to commission that piece of fiction from me. It’s currently a TV show pitch but I can be persuaded to convert it to prose. I need money.

Ending off with a picture from last night, when I booked it downtown after class for the PEN Awards afterparty. I was in class during the actual PEN Awards ceremony, which was a bit of a bummer, because my old writing professor Divya Victor WON THE PEN OPEN BOOK AWARD THIS YEAR! So, so well deserved. Divya is a blessing, and CURB is a wonder.

With my Azn Writing Wonders: Frances, Grace, Vanessa, Gina. Also, Vanessa just SOLD HER BOOK in the DEAL of the century, which is the biggest cause for celebration this YEAR. Southeast Asian writers blazin through. You should probably follow her if you don’t already.

 

x Jem

 

#2069| Two and a half months

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I’ll be honest time is simply speeding by. I can’t believe it has been over two months since getting here. What have I done in two months? Write, mainly, read, and try to have a life. I think that might be the biggest difference between New York, take one, 2019, and coming back this time round. The first time I was here, I was suffocating from financial anxiety (new york really is bloody expensive); I was panicked, the stakes seemed so high. What if I came all this way, gave up a career, gave up having financial stability, put my entire life on hold, just to pursue this writing dream, only to be proven a TALENTLESS HACK?!?!!?!?!? Any time I had, I wrote, I read, and I gave myself scheduled time to have fun, from say 5:45pm to 8:32 PM Saturday nights with nothing before and nothing after! Strict, I was being strict with myself. Disciplined, even. It was a point of pride. But this time, when I left Singapore, a girlfriend told me: I hope you can be kinder to yourself this time around.

Well, I have perhaps been too kind. I have, my friends, been wining and dining (something I will need to stop quite soon because while a wedding dress can be taken in, it cannot be let out, damn it!), I have been traipsing all over town, vising museums, bookstores, comedy shows, plays, picnics, musicals………. have I come into money, you ask? Not at all! I think it would be more accurate to say that I have come into attitude, more precisely, one the kids call IDGAF, born of complete frustration. It seems I still have much unresolved angst towards the shitshow that was 2020. Angst, what a mild word for the storm churning within me. I hope you can be kinder, my friend said. Kinder.

Here’s another difference, this time round. The pandemic scrambled us all, and I now live with a new set of roommates. Only one of the guys from before stayed, and the other two roommates are new. I’d hoped for a girl, and for a hot minute it seemed we’d get one, but new york real estate sure is an unpredictable beast, and as it happens we ended up with another two boys again. So it’s me and three boys, and my friends, I have not had to take the trash out once. I’m quite loving it. Except, these boys! They pee so much! How much time I’ve spent sitting around waiting for one of them to exit the one bathroom that we all share, I cannot tell you. Do you know what it’s like, waiting for your turn to pee? Absolutely nothing can get done. The walls in new york apartments are thin, I recently learned that they’re not even real brick (yes, living in new york is starting to sound a little bit like being in a flimsy cartoon, doesn’t it?). Is that a flush? Is that the tap? Oh jeez, it’s the shower, starting. The heater, beginning to buzz. Any project I start is doomed, half my attention is turned towards the thin walls, waiting for the exiting footsteps that might cue my own rush towards the bathroom, my attempt to beat out the other boys waiting their turn. Try to write? On this bladder? Please. Read? With this level of distraction? Pfft. Really, all that can be done, I realised today, is to sit at the computer in this ten minute pocket, blow the dust off the blog that’s been waiting all this while, and begin to type.

x
Jem

#2068 | Flying in the pandemic (SG-NYC)

 

Hey guys,

I cannot believe it’s been seventeen months.

I’ve gotten so many questions on the flight process on IG that I thought it’d be easier to just pen it all down into a blog post. This was dashed off quite quickly, mostly on the flight itself, so its not as polished as the usual travel post (but what even is a travel post anymore, hur hur hur):

Flight:

SQ24 Direct SG-NY
Bought it for 1.2k premium economy one way, I think that’s the lowest it went cos I was tracking the flights on Google Flights for months. After that it went up like mad, the highest I saw was 8k. And guess what? PEOPLE MUST HAVE PAID BECAUSE IT’S A FULL FLIGHT.

Luggage configuration:

SQ PE to US gives you 2 x 23KG bags. I got away with having a 25kg one, but they made me repack the other bag cos it hit 28kg. Out came the extra skincare and books!!! :'(

I airtagged my bags which was quite cool cos I could literally see them being loaded. Having had my luggage lost on flights before, I’m always super paranoid that they don’t load my bags on the plane or something.

As for carry on, I packed a duffel INTO a smaller cabin sized luggage. This is because a rolly luggage with wheels is more convenient when on the move in the airport, but a duffel is better for the actual flight. Especially given how the US doesn’t let you use luggage trolleys for free and I refuse to pay 5USD for a dirty trolley. I really hate waiting in line at immigration with a heavy duffel (esp since you hand carry all electronics), so this duffel-into-luggage config was best for me, esp since my girlfriend was coming to pick me with a car. Might rethink that if I were taking public transport out from the airport, but I doubt many people are doing that now anyway thanks to Covid.

Pre flight business:

I strongly suggest calling your airline and making a checklist of whatever you need to actually get on the flight. Entry requirements differ not just based on destination, but airline as well. For example, SG-NY on an SQ flight requires only an ART test, but if you do the SG-NY route on JAL, you need a PCR test, which is more expensive and invasive. Some flights require your negative covid test result to be valid for takeoff only, but some need it to remain valid till you land. So on and so forth. Best to confirm with your airline directly.

This whole process was kind of confusing and unclear for me. SQ told me to take the test within 3 days of my departure, but didn’t specify if it was 3 working days, or 3 x 24 hour days. Anyway, I booked it for two full days before my flight through the SQ clinic partner, Collinsons, but even then there was confusion cos when I went to the clinic they were like no you cannot take the test now you need to wait till the day of your flight because ART results are only valid for 24 hours. But when I came back on the day of my flight to do it, the doctor was like oh shit cannot, you’re too late, you had to take it yesterday, you cannot fly. CUE MILD PANIC ATTACK.

In the end, turns out the doctor also didn’t know what the entry requirements were, and the SQ NYC flight accepts ART results. When I double checked with the nurse and came back to him, he was like, oh, actually I’m not a doctor, I’m cabin crew, this swabbing is my part time job, hehe.*

SO.

Anyway, the ART test will cost you anywhere from 30-40 bucks. PCRs are about 170-200 depending on where you take it. You need a MOH approved slip which the clinic will give you – you CANNOT do it at home yourself even though it looks like the same DIY test kit lol.

I also needed to print and sign a special form at home and give it to the check in counter. This will be provided by your airline. Again, when in doubt, call and check.

*A lot of people DMed me to say they’d be super angry, but actually the guy was super nice, except for the fact that he gave me a panic attack, so I guess I’m fine.

Airport:

My flight departed from T3, Changi airport. Please note that you CANNOT enter the airport building unless you hold a valid flight ticket. Meaning if your parents come and send you off they have to wait at the drop off point. The good thing is, you can go in, check in, and come back out to talk with your fam until it’s time to leave. I really dont envy the poor Cisco security guard though, he kept trying to get all the different families to move their cars because its a no waiting zone, but no one cared about him.

Non travellers cannot pass from Jewel to the terminal. My friend had to cab it from Jewel to the T3 drop off to come see me.

Basically nothing was open in the airport when I left (about midnight). Only the baggage wrapping service from Changi Recommends where the check in counters are. There were trolleys outside, but I didn’t see them once I passed the gate.

ALSO, IMPORTANTLY, the water coolers are all shut down.
I was so thirsty by the time I got to the gate! Theres a water dispenser inside, past the gate check, but that’s really far in. Please note that it’s a water dispenser, not a water cooler. That means you need your own bottle to fill – it’s probably to reduce possible contact points, like everyone’s lips touching the same water cooler mouth, ha.

Half the toilets are blocked off/ closed.
I made the mistake of not going to the first toilet I saw, and the next one was 20 minutes walk away, IN THE PLANE ITSELF AFTER BOARDING. So don’t make the same mistake i did. Lol.

Social Distancing:

Uhhhhh. Basically the chairs are clingwrapped so you cant sit with friends but tbh there wasn’t much enforced social distancing in the airport. Mainly someone comes up to you to ask to see your ticket every ten minutes or so while you’re walking to your gate, to make sure you’re going in the right direction and not mingling with passengers from other flights. Plus, my flight was full. I did call beforehand to ask, but they said they weren’t social distnacing on the plane, because they were social distancing at the airport and it should be enough. Ok, I guess. Wear your mask.

I ended up paying 200 to upgrade to a solo seat. There are 3 seats at the back of the plane where its too narrow to fit 2 seats by the window, so its just one seat + a large storage bin. I HIGHLY recommend this because it’s so convenient + big storage space + doubles as a table when closed + more privacy! I expect these seats will go fast since there are only 3 of them, so get them asap if you’re on a PE flight. You can book it online under the “Manage Your Flight” option on the SQ website.

In Flight Connectivity:

Pleasantly surprised to learn that SQ gave everyone free 3 hour internet on this flight! Plus it was email, not seat linked, so I just used it across devices using different email addresses.

I’m also a Singtel user, so it was $29 for unlimited in-flight internet. Dial *100# after your plane reaches cruising altitude. Pretty fuss free – yes there are some places where you lose internet cos you’re up in the air after all, but guess what? IT ALLOWS HOTSPOTTING! Which more than makes up for it, for me.

In Flight stuff:

Everyone around me was pretty good with the mask thing. Yay! Asians.

SQ provides a little care kit with a mask, sanitizer, and disinfectant surface wipe. They also give you a wrapped pillow and blanket but very few people used it, I think everyone is paranoid. There didn’t seem to be any conceivable difference to the meal service besides Book the Cook no longer being available for premium economy. No comments on in flight entertainment cos those of yalls who followed me from my travel blogging days know that I only read on flights cos watching TV makes me feel sick.

Landing:

This might be the first time I landed in the US without the stewardesses going around offering everyone the arrival cards. Possibly because everyone is already accounted for on the flight, given the covid situation and all.

I speedwalked to the immigrations counter because I’m deathly afraid of long immigration queues. It moved quite fast, but the counter guy told me that immigrations are SUPER busy every day, and the line can go all the way till the end of the hall. I landed early morning, so it wasn’t that bad, but still.

Also, the guy at the counter wasn’t wearing a mask, and halfway through his supervisor came up to him to tell him to put one on because someone at a different counter noticed and complained. Haha. So the first person I saw upon touchdown had questionable mask policies, which is interesting, given that you’d think customs and immigrations would be a high risk place to work.

Ok that’s about it! If you’re on a student visa, please don’t forget to pay your SEVIS fee and report your arrival within 7 days of arrival or you’ll get a nasty email from them like I did. I completely forgot about paying the SEVIS fee because, you know, you need to pay SO MANY fees to get your visa that it’s easy to get them mixed up. Pfft. Moving is rough is all I have to say about it. And if you’re voluntarily choosing to travel during this time, be careful and safe, and mask up!

x
Jem

#2067 | No vibes, just chaos

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Friends, I have returned, if only briefly. Since I last dropped in I have completely lost the plot thanks to an anime rabbit hole I spiraled down. For days? No. Weeks. Maybe a month. I am ashamed, but I suppose, not regretful. How can one be regretful, when much of the last month was spent away from the drabness of reality in the pandemic, and immersed in the world of xianxia and magic?

Life has been eventful in the most chaotic way. On the 2nd of April I wrote the last words of my novel’s first draft and burst into tears, celebrated with beer and fried chicken, and fell sick immediately. A novelist friend of mine said it was the same for her – the first draft being followed immediately with a high fever, raging for days. The body’s reflection of a mind’s truth, burning. Cue the anime days, cue celebrations, cue sweet, sparkling wine.

Soon after, Shane and I (finally!) decided to get married after being engaged for two years. However, turned out the joke was on us, as Singapore basically went into lockdown right after, banning all wedding services. Oh to the well. I did promise chaos. It did deliver.


On a happier note, I’ve also booked my flight ticket back to New York for the Fall. I’ve been tracking prices for ages, it had been hovering around the 3k+++ mark (insane!), but for some reason dropped to 1.2k one Sunday. I booked it immediately, and the next day it went up to 1.7k. Now the going price is 3k. As you can imagine I am all smug and pleased with myself for that bout of spontaneity. Hello again, New York, soon enough. Hello, long-distance?

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har di har. Always track flights y’all! Old habits die hard from my budget travel blogging days.

Anyway. Since booking my flight back, I’ve been asked multiple times if I’m excited to return. I suppose a year ago I would have said yes without hesitation, but return means something different now than it did before. Before, I had not yet accepted nor adjusted to the fact of the pandemic, to me, it was a temporal aberration, and return was proof that I was right, that I could slip back into the life I had carved out for myself there, that all the choices I made thus far had not been for naught. But America has changed and so have I. As I wrote in an essay for No Contact Magazine, the New York I return to eventually may not be one I recognized from before – the challenge, I think, is making peace with that fact. I recognize also, that America is not mine, I am a temporary sojourner, my claim to it is less than a smudge. But my version of America – that is mine and mine alone. And it is this that I fight to preserve.

And so, return, today, means no more or less than return a year before, it is just different. This time, I feel like I am meeting a version of my life there with a sense of inevitability, but without a sense of haste. I do not run, I walk, I arrive, I adjust accordingly. How much difference a year makes. I remember declaring, two years ago, in a fit of naivete, that I was exactly where I was meant to be. That can be true, and this can be, too: I have learnt to unlearn, to soften the fossilized parts of myself, so as to bend and not to break. Where unwavering determination has served me well before, an easy directionlessness benefits me now. And in the future, this will change, too.

I mean, who would have thought that I’d become a hard-core anime girl in 2021? Not I.

In the meanwhile, I am leaning into all of it – time with family, with friends, with fiancé. The months of faux-normality that we have enjoyed in the last couple of months, the gentle clinks of cutlery in restaurants, the rain, the hugs, the movies, the letting go. The biggest change that has come of all this, I think, is that I no longer dream of labour, I now only dream of the work I want to do, and I cannot believe it has taken me this long to know the difference.

x
Jem

#2066| nian nian you yu

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I must admit that I’ve never been *into* Chinese new year per se, probably because the idea of dressing up in tight new clothes and sitting in front of a steaming hotpot in the supremely humid Singapore while long lost relatives grill you on every single life choice you’ve ever made doesn’t quite sound like the ideal long weekend, yes? Try explaining your choice to be a writer, albeit one that’s infrequently, if ever, paid. Besides, the idea of reuniting with family might hold water in a country where you have to geographically traverse mountainous lands to be together once a year, etc, but this is Singapore, where you can get from one end of the island to the other in 30 minutes, flat, 45 if there’s traffic. Any lack of regular contact is, make no mistake, a choice.

All that to say that I thought I knew all that, but time has a funny way of revealing your own naivete to yourself, and it was only after moving across the world and back did i find it in myself to have fun on Chinese new year, to confront inappropriate interrogations head-on with cheeky comebacks and nudges, to harass my deaf grandmother with unnecessarily loud yells which, despite what she says, she enjoys, to unzip my jeans in the car after all the cny eating to my parents’s horror and amusement, to take CNY lightly, which in my books, ends up being to take it seriously, to treasure, to hold.

Ah, a cliche? Yes, yes, and yes. Anyway, I wrote about CNY this year more formally on Curbside. Here it is.

x
J


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I shoot on a Nikon D750 with a 35f/1.8 lens, or on my Samsung Note 20 Ultra. Pictures edited in Lighroom Mobile or VSCO