Pet Euthanasia – Cherishing the Moments of Joy

It was a decision that had me soaking through reams of tissue paper. One so hard to make, it drained the life of me. I knew this day is inevitable, but acceptance didn’t make letting go any less suffocating.

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Thank you for being a great Joy in our lives for the past 18 years. A part of my heart is in the shape of you.

From the beginning of this year, her old age began making its presence felt. Cataract had blinded both her eyes by then but Joy had always been feisty. Despite losing her sight, she still roamed around the house as usual, constantly walking into walls and things. Like a pinball, she bumped from one obstacle to another until she reached her destination, which was usually the kitchen to have her meals and do her toileting. Even though she couldn’t see, she never misses going to the designated spot to pee and poop. After that, she would wipe her paws on a rug we placed at the kitchen’s entrance. She was that kind of dog. Clean, smart, persistent, obedient.

Then sometime in May, her limbs grew feeble. She could no longer walk for very long during our weekly stroll along a park connector downstairs. A couple of months later, she could no longer stand up properly and her front legs would slide and spread until she laid helplessly on the floor. She could no longer make it to the kitchen and urinated and defecated where she was. Sometimes when she relieved herself in the middle of the night or when we weren’t looking, she would wrestle in her own filth till we cleaned her up. I knew she must be miserable lying in her own waste because she had always liked cleanliness. So we got diapers for her, the ones for pre-term babies, to keep her from soaking in her own urine.

Losing her ability to walk didn’t stop her from having the will to move around. She would still prop herself up like a sphinx whenever someone left the house or came home and swept with her skinny front legs frantically as if she still wanted to see us out or welcome us back like she used to do. My heart hurts every time I see her struggling to stand up.

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You are the Flo-Jo of dogs, fast, nimble and athletic. To see you like this puts daggers in my heart. Limb weakness is typical of miniature pinscher in old age. You could also no longer chew the hard pellets of the dry food and we had to soak them in hot water to soften before hand feeding you. It’s a lot of work taking care of you but don’t you worry, we won’t abandon you because we love you.

That’s when the reality that we are counting down to Joy’s final day hit me. The state she was in pained me but her appetite continued to be good, still eating two meals a day, and other than the infirmities of old age, she didn’t seem to be in physical pain. Palliative care takes a lot of effort, even for a small dog. But it is in these difficult times that love is tested.

It would’ve been easier to discard her somewhere instead of having to clean up after her constantly, hand feed her, massage her and all the works that go into caring for her. True love is like this, it is measured by willing sacrifice, a sticking with to the end and not abandoning the one you love, especially in their time of need. It is not easy, the pain and inconveniences are very real, but I guess the purpose of life is this… to be there for the people and other beings that helped us feel love, and loved.

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Like the hands of a clock ticking down to the final moment. Of our time together, I always felt I could’ve done better for you.

One day, after showering her, I would call it spa because she gets an all-over massage and I would sing to her, I realised how sunken she had become. All skin and bones with protruding rib cage even though we’d feed her the same amount of food. That’s in late August.

Her body continued to shrivel. As she laid curled up on her sleeping mat, brown as she is, she reminded me of a croissant, half moon with raised ridges on the side. It wasn’t a pretty sight. From then on, her deterioration was swift. On 6 October, I left for a short weekend trip to Johor Bahru and upon my return, the very next day, she stopped eating and drinking completely.

My mum told me that she had eaten and drank very little in the three days of my absence. Joy must have been just eating enough to stay alive and waited for me to come home before she was ready to go.

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You seem to have collapsed into yourself. I’m broken into pieces seeing you like this. Oh the anguish of helplessly watching you fade away and there’s nothing I can do!

My family agreed that when Joy stops eating and drinking totally, that’s her signal. Her breathing had also become laborious, every breath looked strenuous. Is she in pain? She had a very low threshold for pain and would yelp and whine at the littlest tap on her buttocks in the very rare occasion when we disciplined her or cutting her nails. But for months now, she had not made a sound. Even when I grabbed on one of her front paws which would usually turn her into a siren. Now, there was only silence.

I can’t adequately describe the kind of pain my heart was in. Uncontrollable tears were my way to express how heartbroken I was as I went about making the decision to euthanise her and arrangements for her transition.

This blog post is a digital memorial of Joy as a remembrance for this treasured member of my family lest my own old age robs me of this exquisite memory, and also in the hope that it could help someone cope by knowing that you are not alone in having to make the excruciating decision when it is time to let go. Let tears be the healing. I recommend getting the 3-ply tissues, very strong and absorbent.

The First Times…

After booking a 7pm appointment with the vet, it was the last afternoon I had with Joy. Memories of the day I brought her home from the pet shop in Geylang were still so fresh in my mind.

I was looking for a chihuahua but the kennel didn’t have any. I was about to walk away but the owner led me to a play pen and showed me this lively ball of brown fur amongst a litter of puppies. She was the only miniature pinscher there. As I reached down, the brown dog came towards me and wanted to be carried. So I lifted her into my arms and I could tell she’s one to hardly stay still as she fidgeted here and there in my embrace. So full of life.

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First time I brought you to the beach at Sentosa. That’s when I realised that although you can swim, you don’t like water. I remember that I was in the lagoon and you were on the beach. You wanted to get to me. So you crossed the water between us and swam to me.

“No,” I thought. “I want a chihuahua. I don’t think this dog is right for me.” Mom and I left the shop. But there’s something about that brown dog that tugged at me. I broke out in itchy hives after that brief encounter. I didn’t know I was allergic to dog fur as I’ve had other dogs before but never kept them till their end. So before reaching the car, for reasons unknown, I decided to turn back and take a second look at the female puppy. Other than not being the breed I wanted, it also wasn’t the right gender as I had wanted a male dog. My perception back then was that a male dog would be able to rough it out with me.

The return to the kennel sealed our fate. S$700 later, the red-coated minature pinscher was on my lap, in the car, on our way home. I wondered why mom decided to get me a dog out of no reason. It wasn’t my birthday or Christmas and she didn’t even dare to touch this brown dog at all in the first place.

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In the early days before “wefie” was a thing and my chin was still not indistinguishable from my neck, do you remember, you had your first menses and stained my bedsheets and I wanted to document your coming age? Hence this photo?

We contemplated for a name for her but her name sort of found me. Seeing that she’s such a perky, zesty and active dog with a radiant coat of red fur, an exuberance of positive life force, such a joy to have around; so I named her Joy. She was what happiness would look like if it breathed and had a body.

Once home, Joy was initiated into our 3-room HDB flat unit at Kim Keat Avenue. Space was tight and I wanted to be close to her so I placed her cage in my room. She didn’t liked being enclosed as she whined throughout the night. I learnt my lesson quickly and two nights later, she shared my bed. It was nice watching her sleep. Which meant I couldn’t get much sleep with this new occupier of my small, single bed. I was afraid I would crush her. I was cautious not to disturb or wake her as she slumbered.

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Your bed is your bed. My bed is your bed too… Never mind, as long as I can provide,

Ten days on, she was vomiting and having constant diahorrea. A visit to the vet confirmed that she contracted Parvo Virus, possibly at the pet shop. Parvo virus is a canine infection with an incubation period of up to 14 days and can be life threatening. I could still remember that I was in the office when mom called to tell me the diagnosis. “Joy may not survive the infection and she could die. She is not fated to be with us,” my mom wailed over the phone. For someone who didn’t want to touch Joy at all, I was surprised that she was so devastated by the news.

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Family photo during CNY of 2015, Year of the Goat. Your constant kaypohness of things around you is so evident in this photo. I wish I’ve taken more photos of you, of our adventures together.

I didn’t do any better. As soon as I put down the phone, tears streamed a river on my face. I was the only guy in the marketing department of Nu Skin Singapore and I had every intention to be the man by not “throwing face” in front of the ladies.

I broke down in the office as quietly as possible. No one needs to see my raw emotions. So quiet was I that my colleague sitting at the next table knew my newly added family member could be dying. I was very discreet about my crying. So discreet that only my department learnt of what happened less than five minutes after I got off the phone.

Thankfully, Joy survived and made a full recovery. She was fated to be with us after all. For the next 18 years.

The Last Times…

Time really has wings. No, not wings, but turbo engines. You feel it but you don’t know where it has gone. Everything felt like yesterday, then we are facing today, and thinking how to make it through tomorrow.

These are my last four hours with Joy after making all the final preparations. We went for a final walk along the park connector, a last spa, a desperate attempt to feed, hoping that if she still ate, we could call of the euthanasia, and a last embrace. Except that she no longer fidgeted in my arms.

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One last slow walk around the neighbourhood like we used to. Except that in the past, you were the one who pulled me along on the leash. Now you can no longer stand up on your own or walk. The smell of the grass seemed to trigger the functions of your bladder as you let go a big yellow torrent of pee all over me. It used to be that I dread cleaning after you. But now, I’m glad to be made into a mess by you. Perhaps this is a last “souvenir” from you.

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Can you see me through the cataract? I pray you can. This is the last time you ever looked me in the eyes before the moment yours closed forever. My baby, my Joy, I don’t think I have the strength to say goodbye after sharing my life with you all these years. But I know I cannot be selfish and let you suffer any longer. I LOVE YOU so much. I hope you know that.

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It’s shower time after our walk. Like we used to. One last time. You always go maniac whenever I say “walk walk”. And in the shower afterwards, you never stood still. But now, you could only lie there. So still. But no worries my love. I will spa you one last time and I won’t use the plastic scrubber. It will be my hands and an all-over massage like you always liked at the end of every scrubbing session. And I’ll sing to you, which seems to soothe you during spa time. You must be tone deaf to tolerate my off-key crooning. I will sing an uplifting song this time… about stars and blessings. Because you have been both to me and whenever I think of you, it will be a Joy.

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A last blow dry after that spa session which mom observed took much longer than usual. It’s the last time I touched every inch of your body. Of course I wanted to take my time to relish and cherish. You used to go crazy as the hairdryer hummed and raced around my bed. Not now. You’ve grown so frail, no matter how much we fed you. This is your last time on my bed. Do you remember the small cosy single bed we used to share before I changed to this queen sized one? As I watched you breathe, I realised how difficult and uncomfortable your breathing had become. Every breath felt like a struggle for you. With each inhalation and exhale, an unknown force tightened its grip around my throat.

The Final Journey…

Can time please stop?

Of course it wouldn’t. And it would take more than just my dog.

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If I could turn back time, I wish I never would’ve met you. Because you made saying goodbye so heart-wrenching. The universe must’ve felt our unwillingness to let go because it made getting a Grab driver who would transport dogs rather difficult.

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We finally got a Grab car but the driver was cold as a cadaver and rude as hell. Perhaps his lack of humanity was preparation for the rough emotional ride of watching you leave. This is it. We are here. At the gate of your final departure.

After some research, I decided on Mount Pleasant (Whitley) Animal Medical Centre for Joy’s euthanasia as we’ve brought her here for treatments previously and it is one of the more affordable ones. Our final expenses for Joy came up to S$380. The centre takes care of both the euthanasia and cremation.

There are 3 cremation options available:

  1. Communal – where the deceased pet is cremated together with other pets and their ashes scattered around a garden at Mandai Crematorium
  2. Partitioned – where the pet is cremated separately although it shares a cremation chamber with other pets and the ashes are not mixed and the ashes returned to you
  3. Private – where the pet is placed in the cremation chamber alone and the ashes returned to you

The cremation options range in price from S$180 to S$500. Euthanasia fee is separate from the cremation cost. Depending on the size of the dog, prices can vary. We opted for communal cremation for Joy as we wanted her to “run free” in a garden with other pets. Even when the time come for ourselves, my family prefers to go without holding anyone to the responsibility of ritual remembrance.

We want our ashes scattered to the sea to free the earth of resources to house our remains and relatives / friends from needing to do anything special to remember us. If we have made such a big impact or contribution in their lives, their positive change and good works in this world as a result of our influence are tributes enough.

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A last family portrait. Rainbow seems to sense something is wrong as she started to twist and looked at you.

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As I laid you on the table, you were calm at first but as I arranged the white chrysenthemums around you, you started to kick. I can feel that you are panicking. I leaned over your ear and started talking to you and you immediately calmed down. I couldn’t believe it, but you calmed down. Which confirmed that our connection was never broken despite the state you are in. So if you are sending your pet on its last journey, be around and talk to your pet the whole time. Don’t leave them dying in a strange room alone.

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Rainbow was unusually still and looked like tears came out of her eyes. I think she had a sense of what’s coming. Mum was brawling. To think that she didn’t even want to touch Joy when we first got her to this point where she couldn’t let go. Mom’s fondest memory was Joy placing her chin on her lap as she watched TV on the sofa nightly. The comfort of having a warm body who just wants to be with you.

Her send-off came rather suddenly as her deterioration was overnight. We needed to end her suffering and not prolong it further. Although we wished she could stay with us longer. I was at a loss about what to do. After some Googling, I emailed Mobile Pet Cremation to ask for advice. I received a reply but it wasn’t in time as Joy was suffering.  I appreciate that Jinn from Mobile Pet Cremation took the time to reply and console me every though I didn’t use their services. I have another furkid, Rainbow. Perhaps I will engage their services when it is her turn to be returned.

Having to fight tears while making the final arrangements was one of the toughest things I had to do. It wasn’t much, but careful thoughts have been given to every item.

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The light blue towel is my wish of freedom and peace for you as you return to heaven. Because you are an angel. The 3 candles symbolised that you have lit up the lives of my parents and me. The white chrysenthemum represent the purity of love, while the multi-coloured gerberas are the colours you’ve helped blossom in our hearts. Because flowers are like the enlightenment of a plant, you have enlightened our hearts about love. They are our simple gifts to accompany you in your crossover.

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A last family photo together. The five of us.

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We were so caught up with saying our goodbyes and touching you, I forget to stop and think if you felt comfortable. If you needed a moment of silence to process and be at peace with what is going to happen.

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One of my pet peeves were to hold your tiny paw in my hand and stroke it. You would always shrink your paw away in the past. But today, you were too weak to withdraw. And I was too weak to let go.

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My Joy, my baby, thank you for loving this family and brightening our lives with your intelligence, loyalty and royalty. Let’s admit it, you’ve always been something of a prissy princess. But that’s alright, because you are the queen of my heart. I pray that the absolute best is waiting for you on the other side.

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Be brave my love, have no fear. I can not go where you are going, but you know that my heart is with you. You are not alone. I am so blessed and privileged to have loved you. I will cherish the memory of you.

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Goodbye my furry angel. Rest in eternal peace. You are loved.

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Let Romance Pop-Up with a Handmade Card

It was my first time making a birthday card, a pop-up one. I wanted to make it really special because love has the power to make you do things like that. And when the relationship is over, it’s the crazy things you have done or done together that will become a warm memory of this person you were once in love with.

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The recipient of the card has an artistic streak and has created several pieces of abstract and sometimes profound digital artworks. Since it is for a birthday, I picked this piece that was inspired by the recipient’s trip to Sydney and was enthralled by the fireworks at Darling Harbour, resembling angels of light bringing something good with them.

I spent a couple of sleepless nights thinking about how to make the birthday special and a few more getting excited about the idea of making a pop-up card, but more on thinking about how to do it. Thankfully, there are Youtube tutorials around.

So after an online crash course and picking the image, I set about conceptualising a pop-up card using elements in the image to form the layered effect and it’s off to Bras Basah to buy materials. Although it is a simple card, quite a bit of brain cells died to anticipate the number of cards and the combination of different types needed to provide a nice finish.

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I settled on 2 pieces of black construction paper, one to for the pop-up structure to hold the pieces of graphics, and another to form a backing so that when you look through the holes cut out from the top piece, you don’t see through them. I also got a thicker gold card to form the outer skin of the card.

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Side view of the pop-up card with 2 layers of black construction paper. The first layer if for cutting folded strips to hold the graphics and the back layer is complete the illusion of a night sky for the fireworks, else you will see through the cut strips.

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I’ve thought through and done the measurements but unfortunately, I didn’t take into account the fact that the full height of the centre graphic is taller than the height of the card when folded close, resulting in it jutting out of the card. *Panic!* To rectify the problem, I went back to the stationery shop to buy a bigger piece of gold outer skin as the first one I got was the same size as the black construction papers and extended the size of the card to fit everything in.

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Ta-da! The completed card. Not something exceptionally beautiful but it came from the heart. The envelope says “Celebrate”, the front of the card states the recipient’s name, and inside says “Happy Birthday” so they form sort of a 3-part greeting before the message. I know, the message I wrote is lame. LOL.

So that’s my little adventure into arts and crafts. I think there’s nothing more romantic than a handmade something because it says that that person is thinking about you through the conceptualisation, planning, and execution stages. It’s time consuming and a lot of work.

But when you see the person’s eyes really light up, it’s all worth it.

The Future of Us Exhibition : An Insider Guide

Launched on 1 December 2015, The Future of Us exhibition is a multi-sensory and experiential showcase of the ideas and possibilities for our little red dot by the year 2030 and beyond.

I have the privilege of working on this national exhibition as a producer for a number of items within it and hope that this blog post can offer an insight into the invisible intent behind some of the exhibits as well as the challenges we faced to make your visit to the exhibition more flavourful.

I will also share tips so that you get the most out of your experience at the exhibition.

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Vertical panoramic shot of the Symphony of the City dome at The Future of Us exhibition. Share your photos with the hashtags #FutureSG #SGfuture #TheFutureOfUs!

When I first heard the brief for The Future of Us, my eyes widened at how forward thinking the creative direction is. Then my eyes rolled to the back of my head thinking about how challenging it would be to achieve what the client envisioned.

The creative direction, first of all, called for the exhibition to be innovative and panel-less where visitors are not swallowed by a labyrinth of panelled information and things to read, but an experiential journey into the future.

Secondly, this exhibition is to be all-inclusive. From the exhibition’s spatial design that applies barrier-free access principles to include families with prams and visitors on wheelchairs to content elements that included people of all races, ages, languages, and profiles. By profiles, the client meant people with tattoos, single parents, same-sex coupling, underprivileged persons, and citizens with a disability. The Future of Us aims to leave no one unrepresented. This spirit of inclusiveness forms the foundation on which to truly appreciate the exhibition with.

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The Future of Us exhibition is located within the compound of Gardens by the Bay (access via Bayfront MRT Station Exit B). It is open daily from 1 Dec 2015 to 8 Mar 2016, 9am – 9pm. Admission is free but ticket reservation is encouraged. Reserve your ticket at http://www.thefutureofus.sg.

The premise for the exhibition to be innovative, panel-less and all-inclusive guided the exhibition’s design as well as drove many of us who worked on the project to the asylum.

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Kee seow (‘up crazy’) at The Future of Us project site.

Pico Singapore is the chief designer, consultant and builder for The Future of Us exhibition in collaboration with an ensemble of award-winning film, light and sound directors as well as creative agencies.

The Architecture – 4 Domes, 7 Zones

From conceptualisation to design to build to opening, the realisation of The Future of Us exhibition took about a year and involved over 100 governmental agencies, private entities, non-profit establishments, schools and public contributions. The exhibition structure consists of 4 massive domes that anchor an exhibitory experience that spans 7 zones.

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A lattice roof designed by students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) forms a porous skin that wraps around the domes.

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Doesn’t it feel like Star Wars?

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As the sun shines through the lattice, a patterned shadow that shifts with the sun’s position dresses up the domes and ground.

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Visit The Future of Us exhibition in the late afternoon and you just might catch the setting sun peeping through the lattice.

The Experience

As mentioned, the exhibition consists of 7 seamless zones and here’s a quick summary of what they are :

1 – The Future Express… welcome and holding area

2 – Theatre of Generations (Dome 1)… massive projection film

3 – Symphony of the City (Dome 2)… immersive LED show

4 – Home Tomorrow (Dome 3)… interactive exhibits showcase

5 – Blue Skies (Dome 4)… contribution of wishes and hopes

6 – The Lion… playground with all-inclusive equipment

7 – The Marketplace… future products and conversation space

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After admission at the Arrival Plaza area, you will come to The Future Express at the exhibition’s entrance. You’ll spend about half an hour here before entering Dome 1. There are no toilets in this holding area so my advise is to go before coming here if it is urgent. Else, it will be quite a walk to toilet facilities located near the SG50 car park. After entering Dome 1, there are toilet facilities within the exhibition space.

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The photos in this blog post were taken prior to the exhibition’s opening so some of the spaces, such as this welcome area, look different after finishing touches were added.

The Future Express

Connecting the past to the future, The Future Express takes the approach of imagined local newspaper headlines that pay tribute to 3 different time periods – 1965, 2015 and 2030.

Presented as 3 installations that correspond with each time period, the simulated front pages of The Future Express newspaper lets you get a glimpse of lifestyles in the 1960s, feel the Singapore spirit through spontaneous events that happened in 2015, and anticipate the possibilities of 2030.

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The Future Express simulates a printing press with imagined headlining topics that capture our past, encapsulate our present and captivate our future.

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Front page news that come with “moving” headline images that are essentially video clips about where we were, what makes us, us, and where are we heading. Watch the clips at the exhibition for some really uplifting moments.

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After exploring The Future Express area, you will be guided to pass through this corridor to enter the first dome that houses the Theatre of Generations.

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Better hold on to your jaw as you enter the Theatre of Generations for the massive 360-degree half dome projection is bound to leave you awestruck.

Theatre of Generations explores the underlying values that power our strive for success through 4 characters in the year 2030 and how their aspirations are linked to their grandparents’ generation from 1965. The dreams and struggles of these characters are first mooted in this 5-minute film and as you move from zone to zone, if you look closely, you’ll notice that what the characters set out to achieve slowly takes shape along the way.

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The 4 main characters in the Theatre of Generations film are (from left to right) – Joseph, a Eurasian social worker; Yi Xin, a wheel-chair bound Chinese designer; Faizal, a Malay cycling enthusiast and entrepreneur; and Ravina, an Indian horticulturist.

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The film begins in the year 2030 with the 4 characters seeking a breakthrough to realize their dreams and goes on a reverse time-lapse to 1965 to draw a parallel with the aspirations and challenges their grandparents faced. And it is through values such as working together regardless of our race, language or religion; openness; having a stake in our communities and home; and the can-do spirit that have Singapore made… and will continue to be our pillars of success into the future.

What are the challenges faced by the different generations of Singapore citizens? Find out at the Theatre of Generations.

While you can’t miss what’s going on in the film with such a huge screen, there is a sweet spot to stand to best enjoy this larger-than-life experience and that is to the sides near the entrance of the theatre.

Symphony of the City

This immersive dome is where you get transported into the possible living environments of the future through a 4-minute show unfolding across a huge 270-degree wraparound LED screen that is 35 metres long! Another visual spectacle in this dome is a model with projection mapping that allows elements from the show to spill over into 3D form.

The Symphony of the City explores exciting ideas and developmental possibilities on a macro level in future Singapore. Some of these ideas are far-fetched and may or may not materialise, some are already at the stage of test-bedding for potential mass adoption (eg. autonomous vehicles), while some are already in the process of being realised (eg. expanded MRT network, enhanced greenery, round-island cycling network, advanced water quality testing robots in the shape of a swan, etc).

The show provides a glimpse of what life could be like as future infrastructural developments open up more choices for us to set our desired pace of life.

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Look out for these intro boards at the beginning of various exhibition zones for a synopsis of what you’re about to experience.

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As you walk through the different zones, you’ll notice a thread of text that weaves through the exhibition. This is the Thread of Us and it is made up of hopes and wishes contributed by Singapore citizens from all walks of life in 4 languages. In the Symphony of the City dome, the thread takes the form of a techno wave that undulates across the LED screens.

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The show follows Ravina, Yi Xin, Faizal and Joseph as they went about their daily lives in the year 2030.

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The storytelling takes a 3D form when designs of future public housing are mapped onto objects on the projection model. Producing the Symphony of the City show has been very challenging because of the huge screen size and the need to coordinate the show and projection sequences.

Contents are very rich at the Symphony of the City and it can be a lot to digest. The best place to take it all in is to stand just behind the row of cushion seats. Standing provides a better experience as you can see more of what’s going on at the projection model as compared to sitting down.

Home Tomorrow

While Symphony of the City looks at the possible macro developments in Singapore, Home Tomorrow offers you a peep into the micro level technological innovations and evolution in ideologies that could impact the way we live, learn, work, care and defend in the future.

There are a number of interactive exhibits in this zone which you can explore to find out more about the future of learning and different pathways to success, how smart homes can potentially enable us to better care for our love ones, possible concepts in creating a more sustainable living environment, urban farming, multi-tiered living, and many more.

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Does this look like a computer generated graphic? Well, it’s not. It is actually a photo!

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The graphic wall encircling the Home Tomorrow dome often gets neglected but take a closer look and discover the little nuggets of future living.

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Peep into possible future lifestyles through the windows of the tower blocks.

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Get your eyes and hands busy at Home Tomorrow with a bevy of interactive multimedia exhibits.

Blue Skies

This is the 4th domed experience and you can share your hopes, dreams and wishes for Singapore digitally here. Whatever your aspirations are, you are not alone in your dreams.

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The sky’s the limit for our aspirations for Singapore.

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You can select a category and write or draw your message.

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Your completed message is cast onto the circular screen above. There are viewers at the side of the dome where you can see what other contributors have written.

The Lion

Dreams will remain as dreams without action. At The Lion playground, you can go on a swing or move fitness equipments in the zone to generate kinetic energy that powers the roar of the lion.

The Lion playground is a metaphor that the success of Singapore depends on every citizen playing a part and taking lead to collectively power our achievements in all aspects for the future.

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If you notice, the design of The Lion sculpture is done by the 2030 character Yi Xin, who is a wheelchair bound designer. From having a dream about creating an inclusive playground in Theatre of Generations to working on her dream in Symphony of the City to the realisation of her design in The Lion, subtle plotlines are planted throughout the exhibition as part of an overarching storyline. Try identifying the underlying stories for the other 3 characters – Faizal, Joseph and Ravina.

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Look out for a surprise at The Lion zone. Hint : It floats.

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Swingapore galore!

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A unique feature of The Lion playground is the inclusion of swing seats that allow people with disabilities to enjoy a fun ride.

After having some fun swinging at The Lion, head on over to The Marketplace for a glimpse of future products that could appear on our shelves. Conversations with various agencies about future ideas, demonstrations and talks are also held there.

Stay for the Night

At sundown, The Future of Us reveals a different side as the lattice and domes get painted with a splash of colourful lights.

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White and steely during the day…

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… all ready to party at night.

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Light confetti on the lattice.

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The future has landed.

The Future of Us is not a governmental masterplan exhibition but a consolidation of visions that the various ministries as well as everyday Singaporeans have for the days ahead. The future is not only about our built environment, the hardware, but more importantly, the software, the human element behind every improvement and transformation.

I have read several Facebook feedback that some of the ideas presented in the exhibition are impossible and that compassion is lacking in our future aspirations. Yes, some of the ideas are far-fetched, just as putting man on the moon or in the sky was seemingly impossible before 1969. As for the missing human quotient, they are there but not very apparent. During the production of contents in the various domes, our client constantly reminded us to not neglect the ‘soul’ that drives our progress. It is something that the client cannot force, but hope for, that graciousness and empathy can be as much a part of our social fabric as it is in the acquisition of prosperity.

If you look closely at the Theatre of Generations and Symphony of the City shows, you will see an abled citizen helping a blind person, someone giving up a seat to another who needs it more, urban farming for community benefit, social work that can reach more needy persons, and other socially empathetic aspects that will hopefully be the heart that our future is built around.

It is great that the Facebook feedbacks mentioned that because it showed that that’s what people care about and want. And if we all want a more caring society, we can get there :o)

Behind-the-Scene

During our production of the exhibition, the epic exhibitory techniques that presented unprecedented challenges aside, the dilemma was always how not to over promise while delivering real possibilities for the future. Although this is not a government masterplan / blueprint kind of exhibition but a presentation of collective dreams, we were cautious not to produce a fantasy.

So after tossing around several ideas to find the right pitch of future-ness for the exhibition, the creative consensus agreed on a style between the fantastical Tomorrowland and the local realism of 2025, a Mediacorp Channel 5 TV drama series that everybody didn’t watch.

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Green screen video shoots were our blank pages to create future scenes for almost 70% of show contents in The Future of Us exhibition.

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From green screens to green-scapes, the future of Singapore is going to be very green. We endured the outdoor burn but alas, this scene of us using various personal mobility devices at Marina Bay East was cut from the Symphony of the City show and there goes my dream to be Singapore’s next uncle idol.

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My skulls and bones polo-tee probably wasn’t very auspicious to be worn on site while the exhibition was still undergoing construction but I was eager to see the progress of Home Tomorrow because it was the dome that gave the team the most headaches.

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We survived the hard work of yesterday to bring you The Future of Us! We are only the tip of the iceberg that made the exhibition happen. I hope you would, or had, enjoyed the exhibition and may we continue to build our magnificent city into an endearing home that is affordable, gracious, caring and inclusive for all!

A Unique Do-It-Yourself Christmas Hamper

Hampers make great gifts but they’re usually rather costly and there’s no control over what items to include in the package. So this yuletide, I decided to assemble my own hamper to gift families of close friends and conceived what I call the Christmas Hat-per!

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Goodbye impersonal gift hampers… hello Christmas Hat-per!

The Christmas Hat-per is very easy to put together and this post will share how it is done. It took me only about 15 minutes to wrap the Hat-per but a lot more time thinking and shopping for the items to be included within.

To assemble the Christmas Hat-per, you will need 3 things – a Santa hat, a container, and streamers.

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Streamers for decoration, plastic containers to serve as a base and Santa hat to conceal the gifts within.

I got all the above items from Daiso Singapore at S$2.00 each (streamer, hat and container) but you can get them anywhere as long as you can find a container with a rim that fits the circumference of a Santa hat. The container acts as a solid base to stabilise and hold the gifts in place.

I put together 2 hat-pers according to what I know about the people I created the them for. One is gold and the other red.

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GoldHealth Hat-per… this hat-per was put together for a family who is very health conscious. It consists of a box of green tea, a pack of Nasi Lemak (yup, you read it right… nasi lemak!) tea, a small packs of nuts and a bottle of organic honey-vinegar.

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A tip about selecting items in the hat-per is that a tall bottle is a must to serve as the central pillar to hold up the Santa hat.

Start the assembly process by first securing the bottle with a lot of scotch tape to the base of the container in the middle. The other gifts need to be smaller and fit around the bottle. Scotch tape is used to stick the items to the bottle to secure their placements.

I then wound the streamer around the ensemble to fill up the gaps and twirled it around the bottle to the top (the streamer is secured with scotch tape at the top). This creates a visual surprise when the recipient pulls off the hat and see the sparkles inside.

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Red Adventure Hat-per… for a lively personality who has a penchant for pink / red (that’s why the gifts are almost all in those hues) and cute animal things. The curation of gifts includes a vanity set (from my mum), nasi lemak tea (I’m so enthralled by this exotic flavor that I bought 2), koala biscuits, lemon biscuits (gift from another friend), mocha almonds, and a bottle of bubbly.

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Because of the tight space, the items are held together easily with a little scotch tape at the back of each item. The great thing about assembling a personalised hamper is that you choose the items to include and control cost.

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After assembling the gift items and adding the streamers inside, slip the Santa hat over the packaged gifts and pull the hat’s brim over the containers rim. The container is a little larger that the hat’s rim so it forms a secure seal when the fabric stretches over the rim. No need for scotch tape or any other fasteners to hold the hat to the container. As a finishing touch, I stuck pieces of scotch tape rolled to form double-sded tapes at close intervals at the base and wrapped the excess streamers around it to add some bling. I avoided using double-sided tapes as they are hard to remove from the containers surface later.

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Ta-da! Specially made personal Christmas Hat-pers ready to bring on good tidings. Best thing is, the hat can be worn and the container used for other purposes so there is minimal wastage and a second life for the packaging materials.

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Wishing you and your love ones a blessed yuletide. Happy gifting!

Fangtastic Halloween at Singapore Turf Club

Halloween is a golden opportunity to horse around and I got a chance to literally do just that at Singapore Turf Club to celebrate this year’s hallow’s night. What an unusual venue for a heart-pounding Halloween party!

A good time up for grabs.

I’ve never stepped foot on Singapore Turf Club before this visit. Neither at its former racecourse located at Bukit Timah built in 1933 nor its current home at Kranji from 1999. The old race track has since been transformed into a dining and lifestyle venue known as The Grandstand while the Kranji club evolved to be more than just a horse-racing club but an exotic haunt for major events such as Singapore Symphony Orchestra concerts, lawn parties, ringside entertainment and holding private functions.

With the bubbly Fadilah who invited me to the Fangtastic Halloween party held in one of the Corporate Boxes with a 180-degree view of the race track.

马到功成,一马当先!Although I didn’t place any bets, it was quite a rush watching the horses and their jockeys try to out gallop each other.

Creative eats at the event… coffin-shaped salmon wiches that brings the carbo crave to the grave, crawlie sweets and spooktato mousse in beef stew.

The party’s theme was Halloween Glam and I don’t know how to mix glam and gore together, I was thankful make-up artists were on hand to add that spook factor.

Let me in!

Part of our night’s activities included a tour of the race arena and getting a close-up of the riders and stallions. I thought the ring would whiff of horse manure and wastes like most places that offer horse-drawn carriage or pony rides but it was thankfully stench-free.

Horse power on parade.

I’ve read that jockeys have a small stature so as to minimise load on the horses and maximise speed. It’s true!

一见发财!Looks like there’s an audition for sugar daddies going on. LOL.

We became the unofficial half-time entertainment for guests at the turf with our personas.

Halloween is the only time you can say that a horrific party is actually the best ever.

Having a fangtastic and ghoul time with new and old friends.

The thoughtful party was a cozy and intimate catching up session away from crowded clubs downtown and transportation was convenient as Singapore Turf Club is a short walk to Kranji MRT Station.

On the train, I finally revealed what had been hidden throughout the party…

Everyone can see the make-up outside, but only we know the devil within. Don’t let it eat you alive.

Happy Halloween!

Adoration

In the wood for love.

爱慕带酸甜苦涩。

甜于期盼,苦于被判;

酸于梦焚,涩于自恨。

爱木比较简单。

Location of shoot : Toa Payoh Central Block 192.

Camera : Samsung Galaxy S3.

Processing : Snapseed (Black & White mode) + LINE Camera.

Total Defence 30 : An Experiential Showcase

Total Defence celebrates its 30th anniversary with a experiential exhibition at National Museum Singapore where the stories of unlikely social vigilantes take center stage. Titled “Because You played a Part”, the exhibition draws on personal accounts as well as hot topics to lead visitors on a trail of discovery spanning all 3 levels of the museum.

National Museum was temporarily transformed into a defence base with a military rover (not in photo), marine cruiser and fire-fighting vehicles stationed at the entrance.

Having as much interest in militaristic stuff as Anton Casey has in our “poor people” transport system, I wasn’t expecting much from the Total Defence 30 : An Experiential Showcase exhibition but I was pleasantly surprised.

The defenders (our people) and the defended (our home).

Although the story threading through the entire exhibition was quite hard to follow, I found the narrative idea and highly interactive exhibits to be refreshing and earn top marks for balls and creativity in distilling Total Defence ideologies into palatable bits.

And one of the best things, apart from really friendly and cheery helpers at all stations of the exhibition, was the feat of fusing something as dry as Total Defence with artistic endeavours. While some aspects of the presentation can be improved further provided that budget and museum restrictions permit, the exhibition delivers its promise as a truly experiential showcase that breathed life into the 5 tenets of Total Defence :

1. Military Defence

2. Civil Defence

3. Economic Defence

4. Social Defence

5. Psychological Defence

The journey starts with how you feel and the thoughts of 5 Singaporeans about what Total Defence means to them across the various demographics of Singaporeans (employee, entrepreneur, student, retiree, and homemaker). You can choose which character to follow and uncover more stories (the related characters are colour coded) on all 3 levels of the museum or explore every exhibit at each designated exhibition space.
I chose to follow the path of the entrepreneur (Abdul Hadi) because who doesn’t want to be boss right? LOL!

Immersive staging at the introduction zone lets you walk into the concerns and stories of different Singaporeans on Total Defence.

The lifestyle sets have scenes fashioned to correspond with the characters and it was really fun to just sit at the different chairs and watch talking heads relay thoughts.

Tried as I may to pretend I’ve not seen the retro phone and thus acknowledge my age, I can’t help but shimmy in the “awwww” of nostalgia.

After the lifestyle zone, my trail led to a cool minimalist exhibition chamber that featured a varied collection of information presentation methods. From simple touchscreen modules to reveal positive and negative media messages…

… to a hall of mirrors to reflect upon your community role through expanding social situations, to social media reactions and advocacies. I like it that the exhibition incorporated some of the hot social media topics such as “Chope Food for the Needy” and how the exhibits embraced the conversations of real Singaporeans… with the inclusion of Singlish! My blog got “Lah” so you know how much I love Singlish 🙂

Big questions that need reflection.

My Total Defence journey brought me to the basement of the museum. I couldn’t find the next personality in my blue trail (Pat Law) but was delighted with this camou version of the Churning of the Sea of Milk from the Mahabharata epic by Cambodian artist, Svay Sareth.

Part of the Singapore Biennale 2013 “If the World Changed” exhibition, this quirky interpretation of the mural found at Angkor Wat into a stuffed toy served as the artist’s mock at the “illusion of cooperation within exploitative hierarchies”. I understand the artist’s angst but I’m more taken with the lovable appeal of this physical moniker to the sculpture found at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

From basement one, I was brought to level 2 of the National Museum on my Total Defence journey where I’d learn by now that we have the power for social change especially in the era of social media. This zone of the exhibition featured classic information panels but instead of using pre-fabricated exhibition frame systems, the panel structures were customized with relevant media features such as a playback of Dick Lee’s culturally-harvested musical tracks.

National security is a collaboration amongst citizens as well as with government agencies. This message of teamwork was creatively transferred to players of this simple game where one party fingered the Braille impressions on one side and described them to a partner on the other. The partner then deciphers the letters to reveal the Braille word. Brilliant!

2-in-1 photo wall where photographic works are projected on…

… and converts into a simple frame for visitors to be Singaporean of the Day. It’s achieved easily by covering the projector with a card.

When kids saw this Lego replica of the 2004 Nicoll Highway collapse, they rushed over and started banging the vehicles and plucking at the ‘debris’ pieces. Alarmed, the parents immediately chided the kids to not break the display (which was already broken).
Then came the clever part of bringing the message across… The student helper assured the parents that it’s ok for the children to dismantle the exhibit because this shows how fragile our society can be. One wrong move and everything can come apart. Then the kids were encouraged to rebuild the bridge instead. Which they did.

At a space outside the permanent gallery that traces the history of Singapore’s food, this partially immersive set was staged to share the story of Ya Kun, one of the pioneer coffee stallholders who is now a household brand in Singapore with countless outlets all over the island.
When Ya Kun started his coffee stall, he only had 2 tables, hence the display, and he slept on top of the tables so that he can wake up at 5am every morning to start his business. A fine example of the early 刻苦耐劳 spirit that has been replaced by the call to work smart instead of hard nowadays.

This Reflection Wall allows visitors to leave messages after they toured the exhibits to family and friends or feedback on the showcase. It’s a low cost solution to engage visitors but I like how the old-school pencils invokes a sense of nostalgia. Well, at least for me coz my primary school days were spent sharpening pencils instead of clicking those mechanical ones.

Riding on hopes for peace in Singapore on Red Scorpion, a fire-fighting bike that is the first response vehicle to all fires in Singapore.

Producing contents, messages and exhibits for events and exhibitions (mostly involving governmental or related agencies) for close to 5 years, I must say that the Total Defence showcase was a daring departure from most stat boards’ preference to cram as much information as possible into every inch of communication real estate.

While this approach has certain pitfalls as most messages are inferred rather than blatant, I enjoyed the ample mental breathing space as a result of knowledge de-cluttering and the focus of a single idea for each tactile interactive. And the exhibits’ design while not jaw-dropping, blended tastefully with the museum environment.

My only grouse was that some of the characters along a story path was hard to track down (I never found the character Pat Law in the Entrepreneur path that I followed) and the Total Defence exhibits had to compete with other exhibitions going on at the museum. I was waylaid many times to check out installations of Biennale 2013 and other themed galleries that joining the dots of the Total Defence narrative became sporadic.

Nonetheless, with some patience and determination to complete the story trail, I got the gist of how entrepreneurship contributes to Economic Defence while discovering other Total Defence concepts along the way.

Then again, I think that’s kinda cool because I learnt more as I was motivated to make sense of the modular personality-based accounts. Not that I’m an expert just because I’m in the events and exhibitions industry, but I feel that the Total Defence 30 : An Experiential Showcase was gutsy in its creative direction and something of a breakthrough to artify national policies.

And it’s free for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents to visit!

“Because You Played a Part” Total Defence 30 : An Experiential Showcase is on from 15 – 23 Feb 2014 at National Museum Singapore.

SAFRA Dance-a-thon 2014

SAFRA Singapore rocked *SCAPE with its inaugural Dance-a-thon where participants get to shake their bon bons for a good cause. With a slew of grooves ranging from Zumba Fitness to Hip Hop to Jazz and more, the 8-hour dance mania is cure for two-left-feeters and all in the spirit of charity… to raise funds for Society for the Physically Disabled.

Enticed by the opportunity to burn off Chinese New Year calories and do good, I signed up for the Dance-a-thon. Never mind that my eyes-to-limbs coordination is as present as Aston Casey’s ability to be humble.

From 10am – 6pm on 15 Feb 2014, The Ground Theatre at *SCAPE throbbed with hot beats and nimble footwork. Dance-a-thon is a lead up to the annual SAFRA Dance Fiesta where dance enthusiasts pit their moves against each other in a celebration of showmanship, creativity and stamina.

RFID anklets were issued to monitor the dance duration of each participant in a bid to clock a total of 4,000 dance hours.

Fitness and dance instructors from various gyms and studios led the adrenaline sets to raise heart rates and improve cardiovascular health. And memory to string the steps and movements together.

The event reminded me of the very popular afternoon tea dances during the late 1980s where teenagers can club without alcohol. I felt like a daddy figure to all the youngsters on the dancefloor!

So you think you can dance? Or couldn’t. It doesn’t matter. Dance-a-thon was all about having a good time and burning fat the fun way!

My right knee made itself felt after about 2 hours into the dance segments and decided to make room for more dancers as they streamed in throughout the 8-hour session.

Any participant who has clocked at least 1 hour of dancing received one of these commemorative medals. It’s a nice keepsake to complement the pounds sweated out!
To keep in step with SAFRA’s latest happenings and exciting events such as the Dance-a-thon (which will happen again next year), visit safra.sg to find out the latest activities and promotions for NSmen and your family!

 

Art Stage Singapore 2014

I’ve always held on to my primitive definition of art as something beautiful; an intentional creation for the purpose of delighting and entertaining the senses. But I’m not so sure after visiting Art Stage Singapore 2014.

Having about as much art education as Homer Simpson can do math, I’m never the arty-farty sort. I can neither call out artists by name (except those very famous dead ang moh ones like Leonardo Da Vinci, Monet, Manet, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Shakespeare… you get the drift) nor identify their works. If I’m found at an art event, it’s usually for the free champagne.

No free booze at Art Stage 2014 but I did get a complimentary ticket (which costs S$30) from a friend who knew I’d have fun photographing the installations and works of art.

Entrance to Art Stage 2014 held at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre from 17 – 19 Jan 14.

I wasn’t so sure I would enjoy the exhibition initially as I know nothing about art and don’t want to look stupid by not knowing why that name on a label is such a big deal, but I actually had fun.

The 4th edition of the annual art event attracted more than 40,500 visitors, 600 artists and 130 galleries from 28 countries.

In terms of photo opportunities, I didn’t find that many as taking photos of paintings felt like rip-offs while snapping pics of installations and sculptures required thick skin to saunter into the space of a participating art gallery, take the photos and walk off without making eye contact with the dealers in case they think I have a fat wallet.

Art above as it is below.

Art Stage is Asia’s global art gathering where artists and collectors are brought together.

My aging Samsung Galaxy S3 also ran out of juice quickly so I missed capturing some of the impressive pieces later into my visit. So here’s a glimpse of Art Stage 2014 and some of the pieces that had me amused or allowed me to create photographic ‘art’ out of art…

This huge goldfish sculpture with bulging eyes by Yan Ma-Lin greeted visitors entering the exhibition hall. To me, the goldfish looks like a wide-eyed idealist who has swam out of its painted pond (the painting behind) from this angle.

This scene with a huge seashell in front of a photo of a crowd gave me an epiphany about people who came out of their shells to join the world.

Nightmares can be beautiful… Artist Damien Hirst painted with insects in this visually extravagant piece that is one of my favourites.

Close up of the ingenious bugs mandala featuring jewel beetles, scorpions, atlas moths, leaf insects, Goliath beetles, and many specimens from the forests of South America as well as Asia. It’s a masterpiece from the masterpieces of nature!

Boomz! Deepavali just got kinky?

Bat you love to get some S&M action.

My, what a big mouth you have.

Yue Minjun’s Contemporary Terracotta Warrior No. 10’s laugh is infectious. I can’t help but smile looking at him.

Freedom is letting it all hang out.

她真的看得很开。。。Absolutely hilarious comment by one of my Facebook friends!

Two eras of China.

Consumerism is the new communism?

This oil on canvas by Akiko Kinugawa is Untitled but I think a fitting name would be Sourpuss. LOL.

A slice of eroticart… an interesting piece composed by many layers of print on plastic sheets laid in sequence to achieve a fantasy effect of the nude torso. The effect doesn’t quite show in photo and best seen in person.

Looks like a simple installation but getting each piece of acrylic sheet to be at the same precise height must be backbreaking work.

Hello, Kitty… We decided to create art of our own.

Sometimes in life, we just have to bend over and take it from behind.

人与人的杂乱关系。

Show your true colours.

Life imitating art.

Toshio’s sister found! Toshio is the ghost child from Jap horror movie, The Grudge.

This lonely and cold painting sure could use some fire to keep warm.

Is this art?

Many of the art pieces had been eye-opening in their creative techniques and executions. While the definition of art is subjective, some of the pieces were rather trashy to my commoner eye. Yet, their unartistry provoked a response as much as the stunning works made the heart gasp.

Transcending beauty, my Art Stage foray reminded me that art and the appreciation of it should go beyond the realm of sensory pleasure and embrace the provocative emotional dialogue brought on by art that makes one uneasy.

If I have to explain what is art to someone now, I would say it is the language of the soul.

Orchard Road Christmas Decor 2013

Some of this year’s happy lights along Orchard Road shot entirely with my aging Samsung Galaxy S3…

Plaza Singapura’s outdoor decoration looked anorexic this year.

One of the oldest shopping icon in Singapore, Plaza Singapura used to have such elaborate dress up that turned its main entrance into a playground. Now it’s just a small tree behind its acrylic version of the United Colours of Benetton. Money no enough?

Orchard Central usually have some statement pieces in its Christmas décor and this year, it puts the green into the yuletide season with decorations made by recycling the bottom of plastic bottles. Quite a neat idea.

Saw a narcissistic tree outside Orchard Central. The saying about narcissists is that they seldom have a good ending. Point proven with this photo? LOL.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree. Here’s the partridge. But where’s my true love? 😦

Louis Vuitton’s Christmas window display took a light-hearted ride on the wild side with geese pulling a sleigh of LV gift-things. But I suddenly have the craving to eat Lou (卤) 鸭.

It’s an unusual sight… Malays singing Christian hymns and Christmas carols. Singapore is so progressive!

ION Orchard erects a giant Christmas tree (yet again) to herald the festivities. Combined with huge screens flashing advertisements and a massive LED skin wrapped around its outer visage, the décor gave the illusion that there is a lot going on when there’s really not much. It has what I call the ‘Chinese Ghost Story effect’… a pretty maiden by night and a grave during the day.

Bring on the bling and celebratION!

The HIGHlight (no pun intended) is staring high up at the tower of lights inside ION Orchard’s gigantic tree. It makes the eyes dizzy.

When seen in focus, the inside looks like a Star Wars set.

Another spin shot of the lights created by simply turning the mobile phone while shooting. The lights change colours so each ‘vortex’ photo can look different.

Wheelock Place had Christmas decals in the shape of gingerbread men, snowflakes and poinsettias on its glass doors. We decided to turn gingerbread dude into a lass. Hahaha…

A peep into Wheelock Place’s Christmas decorations.

It’s an astrological Christmas with a constellation of lights.

Turning the Christmas cones into planets.

Forum Galleria had a novel idea to bring in the safari for Christmas with birds and beasts of the topics and savannah.

The concept was unusual but the zoo theme felt salah.

Let it snow, let it snow! Tanglin Mall always draw the crowd with its faux snow.

Better have fun and enjoy it as this could very well be the last year that Tanglin Mall brings ‘winter’ to Singapore.

Didn’t get to cover all the mall decors as I started shooting the lights this year pretty late.

But with this shots, I wish you and your love ones a Christmas filled with affection, happiness and good health! 🙂

How S$100 Can Improve My Life

Do you feel that the value of money is getting smaller? With inflation and the rising cost of living, our financial longevity hinge on prudent spending and honing our sniff for great bargains. And SAFRA has made it easier to stretch the dollar for its member with a tie-up with Deal.com.sg. The partnership promises exclusive deals and premium products at up to 80% savings ONLY for SAFRA members!

From holiday packages to specialty dining, electronics, wellness accessories, lifestyle services and just about anything wholesome under the sun, the SAFRA members-only discounts are hand-picked to reward SAFRA members and their families.

Blessed with S$100 to spend, I decided to see how much that could buy me. I’m missing the shopping gene in my DNA so I hardly succumb to retail therapy but the attractive discounts offered by the SAFRA Deals had my fingers walking all over the digital shop.

I eventually settled on the Power2Roam Media Device which is a mobile power bank for my phone and camera as well as a Wifi router cum media broadcaster (original price : S$96.90, SAFRA Deal price : S$44.90); a pair of stylish KingTime Zipper Earphones (original price : S$69.90, SAFRA Deal price : S$19.90); and a Malaysian Lok Lok buffet dinner for 2 at Lim Kee Lou Shu Fan (original price : S$72, SAFRA Deal price : S$33.60).

If I were to purchase these items off-the-shelf without discounts, I would need to pay S$238.80 but I only paid S$98.40. That’s a whopping S$140.40 saved!

Of all the SAFRA Deals items, I chose these 3 because I need them although I wanted everything on the list! LOL. I needed the mobile charger as my current one takes a long time to store enough juice to charge my mobile phone for only 2.5 times. The Power2 Roam charger can power my phone for up to 22 hours.

I also needed the KingTime Zipper Earphones because I don’t own any earphones at the moment and the zipper phonics would really channel the adrenalin during my gym workouts. Or help me listen in to the Thai, Korean and Japanese language apps I have on my phone. As for the Lok Lok buffet dinner, I intend to enjoy it with my mum for some quality time over good food.

So that’s how S$100, though not much in today’s times, can still do a lot because of good deals. The SAFRA-Deal.com.sg deals are available to members only and you need a SAFRA membership to redeem them. That’s why it pays to be a SAFRA member!

SAFRA Deal items change frequently so it’s exciting to check back to see what’s available. I had wanted to book a Desaru hotel stay and insoles 3 days ago but when I log on again, those deals were gone. The moral of this story? Don’t wait or the deal may be gone!

Check out the SAFRA Deals at : http://www.deal.com.sg/specials/singapore?category=safra

Beer Party at SAFRA Toa Payoh

Oktoberfest came to SAFRA with a series of parties and good cheer at the various clubhouses for NSmen to enjoy a night of great music, movie screenings, games, and of course, beer!

I attended the Beer Party at the SAFRA Toa Payoh clubhouse and delighted in the discovery of a rooftop patio to knock back a couple of pints away from crowded clubs and bars on a weekend night. It felt like coming to the doorstep of my neighbourhood and having a reasonably good time…

Whenever I come to the SAFRA Toa Payoh clubhouse, it is usually for a swim or personal training sessions at EnergyOne gym. I never thought that there would be life at the clubhouse after dark. But surprise, surprise! The rooftop patio is open till 1am on weekdays and 3am on weekends with Beer Alley serving snacks, full meals and booze at affordable prices during the operating hours.

Beer and bowling… that’s bound to be a strike. Something of an indoor ‘beer garden’ next to bowling lanes, Beer Alley offers bowlers thirst quenchers and an extensive menu of savouries such as fried chicken wings, fish and chips, pizza and even Laksa Hotpot!

The bowling lanes were all taken up and the place was pretty busy on a Saturday night.

A side exit from the bowling alley leads to the rooftop patio where the Beer Party was held. This was the first ever rooftop party held at SAFRA Toa Payoh.

Caught up with food blogger Melissa (melicacy.com), her dad, and fashionista Juliana (spunktitud3.wordpress.com) with a bevy of beauts in little black numbers. Yeah… “Let’s Party” the house upside down!

I think the rooftop patio is a nice place to host a private gathering or birthday party.

About 200 NSmen and their guests attended the ticketed Beer Party.

I didn’t expect such a disco ambience from a SAFRA clubhouse.

Sitting area at the rooftop patio turned open-air club for one night.

What’s an Oktoberfest without succulent sausages?!

For just S$21.40 (SAFRA members) and S$26.75 (guests), each partygoer gets 2 beers, a Turkish wrap and sausage to assimilate the German festivities. Oktoberfest originated from Bavaria (Germany) in 1810 to celebrate the wedding of King Ludwig 1 and Princess Therese. The festival is the world’s largest fair with a 16-day celebration spanning late September to the first weekend of October. If the photo looked kinda blur, it’s intentional. After a few drinks, blur is the new clear!

DJ Maverick and his team spun the feet-thumping grooves of the night as well as getting Singaporeans to pull off their veil of embarrassment.

Games of the night included this beer drinking (with straws) contest…

… and an impersonation of your favourite Member of Parliament competition! *Joking* It was a dancing contest where the guys had to follow a prescribed sequence of moves to win. It’s a pity I was there to cover the event. Else I would’ve showed off my years of training sucking beer from a straw and shaking my booty for a prize!

Beer Party goers also stand to win a Deutsche Master timepiece worth around S$680! Beers at the event also went for only S$4.50 per cup after the 2 complimentary drinks that came with the ticket. With or without the Beer Party, the rooftop patio is still a nice spot to chill. Now, that’s reason for a toast! Bottoms up and have a great October! And remember, if you drink, don’t drive.

SAFRA Mobile Snapathon 2013

Fast fingers, quicker minds… SAFRA Mobile Snapathon is a test on one’s physical fitness and stamina for creativity.

We’ve all heard of walkathons, marathons and triathlons. But a Snapathon?

Fans of photography with mobile devices had a chance to pit their photographic and image editing skills against each other in SAFRA’s inaugural Mobile Snapathon where participants were given 5 locations and 5 themes to shoot. Sounds like great fun so Siow Har and I joined this event that’s held in conjunction with the Shine Youth Festival. Initially, I thought the Snapathon was open only to youths. 

But apparently, so long as you can walk and snap a photo with your phone camera, you are a youth!

Getting into the right frame with SAFRA Mobile Snapathon at The Central mall.

Participants of the Snapathon can sign up under 2 categories – Individual or Group of 4. It’s free play for all when it comes to interpreting the theme at the designated location but the photos of Group participants must include a group member/s or body part of member/s.

Only one shot is to be submitted for each thematic challenge and the two best photos (one for Individual, one for Group) from each theme win a prize. Are my photos good enough to win something? Here are the shots I framed and the submitted pick for each location and theme in this Amazing Race-type photography challenge…

Location 1 : Asian Civilisation Museum

Theme 1 : Devotion and Desire

ACM has curated an exhibition of Asian iconographies and religious artefacts currently ongoing at its gallery titled Devotion and Desire. And that’s the theme at our first Sanpathon checkpoint.

It was the first time I stepped in ACM and I was more interested to check out the place than the photographic task at hand. But no time to play tourist as we only had 45 minutes to go from one location to another, snap our shots and upload onto the Snapathon dedicated QR coded mobile app.

A centerpiece at the Devotion and Desire exhibition was this hanging pyramid made up of abstract knitted cloth Buddhas.

One of the shots I considered submitting was this. I liked how the spotlights threw a starburst next to the Buddha… 佛光普照.

This is another shot I considered. Playing with depth of field, I wanted to show the beauty and desirability of these Indian women carved into a bas relief.

But I finally submitted this shot for the theme of Devotion and Desire. The naked bosoms of the women evoke a sense of eroticism that stirs desire and the hand of one woman on the other hinted subtly of devotion. Well, that’s my interpretation. I shot this first before the above photo but thought it may be too risqué to submit for the Snapathon but decided to keep abreast with the theme and uploaded it. Hahaha… I’m devoted to my desires!

Location 2 : Peranakan Museum

Theme 2 : Getting Married Over 12 Days!

Our second location was the Peranakan Museum, which again, I’ve not visited before (and I call myself a Singaporean!). The museum has dressed up its second floor gallery in the splendour and richness of traditional Peranakan weddings in the olden days, presenting a photography banquet for shutterbugs.

But with so many people crawling around the exhibition space for shots, I felt kinda lost and stumped for a subject matter. Thankfully, Siow Har came to my rescue. I’m amazed by her eye for interpretative storytelling.

A shot that Siow Har ‘saw’. Marriage is probably something that every girl hopes for. Here is Siow Har’s impression of her longing for that day to come.

I liked her idea so much, I decided to get a shot done too. Being single, I’m not interested about Getting Married Over 12 Days, but getting a lifetime of romance with the compatible one! Still waiting…

This is the shot I submitted which Siow Har ‘saw’ and shared the angle with me. I liked how the beams framed the two photos of a couple in the background and seem to say that marriage has two sides… a side that cages, and a side that frees. Which side are you on?

Location 3 : Singapore National Museum

Theme 3 : Life in Singapore

Location three is the grand dame of our museum circuit. I’m familiar with the place, but the theme is so open, it was difficult to pick a message to convey pictorially.

Me attempting to find the meaning of Life in Singapore. Photo by Siow Har,

Not one of the shots I considered for submission but I thought the scene presented an interesting study of contrast… left side is sitting still, right side is on the move. Life in Singapore offers the freedom of both sides. The left also signify the born-and-bred Singaporeans who stayed while the right represented the coming and going of foreign talents.

A shot I considered submitting. Singaporeans are like eggs… hard on the outside, soft on the inside and could easily break. The government forms a strong and protective net over the people, but a chick that hatched inside the cage won’t become a chicken. But I think the times are changing judging from the people’s voices at the recent elections.

I submitted this. Singaporeans are relatively wealthy, well-fed and well-clothed. But our comfort in affluence may blind us to surrounding dangers. And that is Life in Singapore for me. If we don’t hunger, we won’t prosper.

Location 4 : Fish & Co. (313@Somerset)

Theme 4 : Reeling in the Catch

This was the toughest amongst all the locations and themes. We were supposed to compose a shot that shows Reeling in the Catch at the premises of Fish & Co. dining outlet at 313@Somerset. But I’ve seen some of the most creative interpretations at this challenge which showed that creativity is not limited by a small space but a small mind.

I discovered I have a small mind.

One of the Group participants Reeling in the Catch with this ensemble of air fishing with an umbrella! LOL.

Had a hard time thinking about what to shoot and finally decided to bring the ‘ocean’ to the fish…

… my submitted shot of the swordfish ‘leaping’ out of the water as it is being caught and reeled in. I know, it’s lame and a sinker.

Location 5 : The Central

Theme 5 : Riverfront Shopping, Riverfront Dining

The last checkpoint was back at The Central shopping mall where the event had its flag off in the morning. Super brain-dead by this time and hungry, I just wanted to get the shot over and be done with.

But as I started conversing with the scenery for a shot, I began to appreciate the waterfront area. Well, the waterfront is narrow, more like a longkang, but it is still pretty scenic and vibrant with the trail of bumboats and rows of colourful shophouses converted into restaurants by the Singapore River.

New faces, old souls.

Love these huge outdoor shelters that spread out all along Clarke Quay like the undercaps of giant mushrooms.

Submitted this ultra uninspired and straightforward shot to try and encapsulate the meaning of Waterfront Dining… but Waterfront Shopping was missing.

A Good Body and Mind Workout

Well, my five submitted shots didn’t win any prize. They didn’t even make it into the shortlisted photos of the Individual category which I find undistinguishable from the Group category.

But well, photography is always a matter of personal perception and satisfaction. I enjoyed the process and learnt a lot from Siow Har as well as the other participants in the things we can do with photographic angles and human subjects within such a short amount of time. Some of the photos were really funny and amazing!

Plus it was a really great workout speed walking from location to location and holding weird postures while framing a shot. The photos were not developed through soaking in lab chemicals but sweat.

No prizes but still two thumbs up to this very stimulating photo competition by SAFRA in partnership with SAFRA Photographic Club and various sponsors. Will definitely join again next year if it’s going to be held again! And oh my, I didn’t know my tongue is so long! Maybe I’ll win in a lickathon?

 

Fab by 40 – Train Hard, Train Smart

I’ve been gymming for almost 20 years but never had I worked out as hard as I did in the past month. And I felt a difference. Not only do I feel that my stamina is improving, but my clothes are starting to feel tighter. *smile* The muscles are not bulging yet but my biceps do feel firmer and I can trace little humps on my quadriceps. I’ve achieved more growth in a month than the last two decades!

Being too cheap to engage a personal trainer, I’m one of those gymmers who tries every technique and exercise recommended in fitness magazines and bodybuilding websites. Following their advice and recommendations, those paper and digital experts were my trainers. Eventually, I settled into a set of comfortable exercises that I repeat each time I’m at the gym. There was growth for some time but my muscles soon got bored with the routine and fell asleep. Worse yet, I’ve sustained injuries to my lower back, left wrist and knees along the way. I was training hard the foolhardy way.

While there are many self-taught musclenauts who achieved impressive physiques just from following what they read (good genes play a big part too), for someone like me who is a hard gainer and a slow learner, personal training is the prince who delivered that waking kiss to my comatose muscles! But inking a personal training package doesn’t guarantee results. The trainer makes ALL the difference.

In the last 4 weeks, I’ve been training under one of SAFRA EnergyOne‘s most hardworking and dedicated Exercise Specialist, Roy Chan. Yup, his title is not a Personal Trainer or Fitness Instructor but a Specialist! However, I have a nickname for him…

Roy destroyed many myths I held about bodybuilding as well as bad training habits I’ve developed over the years while introducing new concepts and exercises to stimulate muscle growth. He’s a very friendly and jovial guy but when it comes to training, horns grow out of the side of his head.

The destroyer no give chance one. Thanks to his firm adherence to training sequences and rest intervals and encouraging words, I pushed myself harder than I did before. Every so often, I can’t speak after a set because I just don’t have the breath to. With Roy, there’s no compromise on proper form when executing an exercise no matter how much my muscles burned.

Holding a Masters in Sports Science from Edith Cowan University, Perth, Roy is a fitness coach who runs various programmes for schools and organisations while lecturing part-time on the care and prevention of injuries for an overseas institution.

His expertise in fitness and wellness spans across weight loss, strength / muscle building, pre-National Service preparation, and sports specific training (eg. golfing, team sports, etc). With such impressive credentials in academia as well as field experience, there’s a peace of mind training with him. But more than that, this guy really knows what he is doing.

After assessing my fitness level, physical condition and understanding my ultimate goal, he tailored a custom training programme to have me training hard, but training smart. Roy applies that motto for all his clients. He also believes in the adage of “no pain, no gain” but he doesn’t subscribe to going all out just to feel pain. The right kind of pain leads to muscle enlargement. The wrong kind ends you up on a stretcher.

The aftermath of another legs training session with Roy. My butt used to look like roti prata… now I see dim sum being served. *smile*

Having trained with Roy for some time, I would say that he’s probably one of the best around. He follows up with me about training sessions constantly to the point that I feel guilty for cancelling on him due to a trip to Bali and work.

One of the things I appreciate most about this trainer is his commitment and drive to help me achieve my physique goal, no matter how impossible it may seem, through a systematic and safe approach grounded in the efficiency of train hard… and smart.

To rebuild, we need to totally destroy mindsets that are limiting our growth potential and get acquainted with new bodybuilding sciences that will half the gym time but double the results. “Safe speed” to reach my goal is the essence because let’s face it, I’m no spring chicken. I’m in a race against my biological clock to get that ideal bod before everything sags to the floor.

And with Roy as my body sculptor, I believe I will achieve visible breakthroughs (have you seen my butt in the above photo yet? LOL). I have 4 more months of training with Roy and I look forward to the new me at the end of it.

Meanwhile, stay tuned to this blog as I leak training secrets and techniques taught to me by my Destroyer. So join me to welcome pain and gain the hard but smart way!

Singapore National Day 2013 : Be the Firework

While the National Day Parade (NDP) attracted thousands to join hearts in the celebration of Singapore’s 48th birthday at Marina Bay, I joined limbs, torso and buttocks with fitness lovers at SAFRA Mount Faber for a mass kick-boxing and Zumba session!

The 2-hour non-stop adrenaline pumping workout gave me a high that was equivalent to the euphoria of watching the NDP fireworks ‘live’. But even better. The firework was brought within to torch calories and burn fats with the feel-good mood lasting the whole day instead of a mere 10 minutes at the grandstand!

Happy Birthday Singapore! 新加坡,生日快乐!Selamat Hari Jadi Singapura! இனிய பிறந்த நாள் நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள் Singapore! I love ya!

Put your hands up if you love Singapore! Regardless of race, language, religion and deodorant use, the theme this year salutes our unity in diversity through “Many Stories… One Singapore”. The many strands of fur under my armpits concur!

Fireworks can also come from the faces of people. The smile from this gungho nanny who kicked and grooved through the aerobic moves brightened my morning and showed that exercising is the fountain of youth!

A-cha! 李小龙俯身! High intensity kickboxing is one of the best calories burner with an hour burning up approximately 400 calories for women and 700 for men. How much calories one burns depends on age, sex, weight and muscle mass in the body so those numbers are just a gauge, but kickboxing is definitely one great way to rev up the metabolism. Plus, it is very cathartic to throw those punches and high kicks at the stressors of life.

Participants of the free aerobics session from 10am to 12pm were encouraged to turn up in red and/or white attire.

The sessions were injected with national songs such as “Stand up for Singapore”, “Home”, and this year’s theme song, “One Singapore”. I got goosebumps when they came on, feeling how lucky I am to call this little red dot home.

It may seem like psychological propaganda to exhaust the body and mind so that nationalistic messages may sink in, but I don’t think of it as propaganda because the fact is that Singapore, despite its faults and flaws, is truly a great place to be. So to any one who dislikes our nation, the above photo is for you *smile*

After an hour of kickboxing, the endorphin rush reached a crescendo with Zumba. Always game to try a new workout, I’ve perspired through almost all of them… step aerobics, body combat / kickboxing, body pump, hatha yoga, ashtanga yoga, pilates, and spinning, but I’ve never done Zumba. The reason? I have 2 left feet and 2 right hands. Need I explain more? My lack of coordination made keeping up with even the simplest of sequences in step classes a Charlie Chaplin act. So I’ve always regarded my participation in Zumba to be nothing short of being the joke of the town.

But I had the last laugh as the workout is really not as difficult as it looks and hips heaps of fun!

Zumba fans up in arms for their favourite aerobic workout.

What makes Zumba such an aerobic phenomenon is the hip (no puns intended) factor where it is not just a workout, but a freedom of self expression through fashion and dance.

Our Zumba instructress is a firecracker on stage with abs to serve ketupat on.

A 60-minute session of Zumba can burn between 500 – 1,000 calories depending on intensity. To make the aerobic moves more challenging, try strapping on some additional weight around the ankles and wrists.

Keep the fat off with a Zumba dance-off!

Bobee-bobee during Seventh Month (Hungry Ghost Festival)? LOL. The variety of Zumba moves is limited only by imagination and linked by enthusiasm. We all pray for continued harmony, prosperity and happiness for our nation as well as… world peace!

I made it through my first Zumba session and loved it!

We are the fireworks at SAFRA Mount Faber to celebrate Singapore’s birthday! Just realized I’m the only guy on stage with my extended Singaporean family. I don’t know any of them but I didn’t feel like a stranger after sweating it out together.

I used to think that the best way to celebrate National Day is to enjoy the parade ‘live’ with thousands of Singaporeans and our foreign friends. However, the NDP tickets are always so hard to get and traffic is a bane. But having participated in the unique mass aerobics session held in honour of our nation’s birthday at SAFRA Mount Faber, I felt it is really a great alternative or supplement to plug into the national spirit on this special day.

Moreover, what better way to enjoy a fantastic country like Singapore and all it has to offer by being in great health? So do more than just watch the fireworks, be the firework that builds our Singapore!

You can start igniting your body for better cardiovascular health with various fitness courses such as Kickboxing, Zumba Party, and Zumba Fitness at SAFRA. Check out safra.sg (Events & Activities > Courses) for more details.

Here’s wishing Singapore a very happy 48th birthday and excellent health to everyone so that we can continue creating more amazing stories to be told!

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