I was recently asked what it's like balancing a blog, university, freelance web design and the beginnings of an acting career. Is it fun? Absolutely. Do I sleep? Absolutely not.Read More
One of my favourite places to go in Singapore is Gardens by the Bay. Anyone who has been there at peak hours and on public holidays might say otherwise, because elbowing tourists for selfie space can quickly feel like the onset of an Armageddon. Instead, I love to go during the quiet hours, when it feels like I'm completely alone in the tropical oasis.
Stepping into the Cloud Dome feels like entering another world. In true Singapore style, the temperature plummets so drastically that your hair nearly shoots off your arms from goosebumps. A cloud of mist hanging in the air shimmers as it catches the light, and every time I feel awed by the serene waterfall cascading from the heavens. The goosebumps intensify.
After gaping up at the impossibly high ceiling and inhaling the fresh smell of plants until you nearly pass out from euphoria, you'd probably be quite happy to stay on the ground floor for the rest of your life. However, the path takes you up to the towering canopy, where the the walkway meanders down and around until you reach the ground again.
From on high, the view is just as breathtaking as it is from the ground. The waterfall glides past open alcoves and suspended balconies with a magnificent ease. Plants fill every imaginable space, verdant and luscious, in a controlled chaos. It is the epitome of serenity.
From beyond the glass panels, the city looks like it is miles away. The strong steel columns keep out the heat and humidity, and for a moment it feels like a crisp day in spring. After waiting for the huddle of old Chinese women, dressed more vibrant shades of pink than all the other flowers, I ran onto this ledge to take the iconic and obligatory photo. We do it for the 'gram, dahling.
After the splendour of the Cloud Dome, was the Flower Dome a bit underwhelming? Possibly. I would definitely advise going the other way around: Flower Dome first, Cloud Dome second. However, I still enjoyed myself tremendously. I squealed in delight when I saw a section of plants from Zimbabwe and South Africa. It's not that the plants themselves were absolutely astounding, but the mere fact that they were included made me feel all types 'o ways. Nothing makes me happier than plants and sunlight, so for me this is always the perfect Sunday.
For more information on the gardens, google it. Just kidding, click here to find out more information and how to get there.
If you liked this post, click the little love heart in the corner! If you want to see more of explore singapore, comment down below or hit me up on Instagram/Twitter: @iwanimawocha
Pepper & Söl
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I'm always rather conflicted when I encounter someone who's never seen someone with locs, or perhaps never even seen a black person in real life before. Do I entertain their curiosity? Do I respond to their intrusive questions with an awkward laugh and a simplified explanation? Do I respond with a polite smile and walk away? Can I blame them for their curiosity?
There are so many things to consider, because nowadays there's a fine line between innocence and ignorance. Try as I might, I can't help but be polite and forgiving when I face an old auntie on the MRT who is visibly intrigued by my foreignness. Sometimes it's an overheard conversation - "look at that girl over there! So pretty, wah! She looks like she's from Africa," which always makes me smile. Other times, out of nowhere I'll feel fingers on the back of my head and turn around to see an old lady touching my hair. I very quickly pass from fright to surprise, then from understanding to extreme annoyance. However, out of respect, I keep my emotions in check and engage in conversation with as much patience as I can muster.
That's the problem of being an 'ambassador of your people.' Black people aren't common in Asia, so everywhere we go there's bound to be a reaction, whether good or bad. In Korea, apparently black people are met with star-struck wonder. In China, they here "" (black devil) muttered under people's breath. In India... well, let's not talk about India. It's a bit too depressing for this post.
Obviously, because we don't want to leave people with a negative impression of black people, we're often overly accommodating. At first encounter, it can be nice having people want to take photos with you as though you're a celebrity. But then it occurs to you that they'll probably share it to all their friends and family with the caption "look! I met a black person!" It's quite disturbing to know that your face is being passed around somewhere on the Internet as 'The Black Person.'
So what do you do? If you're black and you live, or have travelled around Asian countries, how do you handle these situations? Are we meant to sympathise with people who don't know any better? Or are we meant to expect more from people, in an era where information is abundant and black people have increased visibility? Is the feeling worse coming from a white American woman vs a Chinese woman? Is it equally discomforting?
For all other people, have you been in similar situations? Have you felt like more like a Zoo animal than a human being before? How do you feel?
I hope all of you let me know in the comments, because I am genuinely interested. I still haven't reached a conclusion myself. My default setting is to be patient and respectful, albeit rather uncomfortable. I doubt I'll ever stop being that way, but I do wish to tell all the aunties on the MRT, and all other strangers for that matter:
Please don't touch my hair.
Or at the very least, ask first.
Pepper & Söl
Don't touch my hair | When it's the feelings I wear
Don't touch my soul | When it's the rhythm I know
Don't touch my crown | They say the vision I've found
Don't touch what's there | When it's the feelings I wear
They don't understand | What it means to me
Where we chose to go | Where we've been to know
You know this hair is my shit |Rode the ride, I gave it time
But this here is mine
What you say, oh?
What you say to me?
Don't touch my pride | They say the glory's all mine
Don't test my mouth | They say the truth is my sound
They don't understand | What it means to me
Where we chose to go |Where we've been to know
You know this hair is my shit | Rode the ride, I gave it time
But this here is mine
What you say, oh?
What you say to me?
1. If you're not East Asian, and you've never lived in East Asia before, you're probably holding your chopsticks wrong. Even if it works for you, it's wrong and you're a dork and there's a much less painless way to do it.
2. Where there is space, there will be a themed café.
3. Don't jaywalk somewhere unless you've seen an auntie do it before.
4. Whenever you're in Singapore and you are black, you will get excited every time you see another black person. When you go to a European city with lots of black people, you might strangely find yourself excited to any type of Asian person.
5. Sometimes people will stare at you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. Sometimes they're bored, sometimes it is out of prejudice, sometimes it's a creepy old guy who assumes you're a prostitute (yup) and sometimes, once in a while, that's literally just their face.
6. You will endlessly be amazed by the numerous but very nuanced ways in which Asians are similar to Africans.
7. There will be days where you don't see a single non-Asian person.
8. Those will be surprisingly lonely days.
9. It is incredibly insensitive for a foreigner to tell a local how to behave in their own country. Whether that's how they chew, how they dress or what their beliefs are, it is not anyone's right to look down upon someone for doing something that is part of their culture when you are merely a guest in their country. However, it is ok, and highly encouraged, to tell fellow foreigners not to be d***s.
10. There is a particular brand of foreigner (*cough cough cough*) who is obsessed with being a Buddhist and says 'namaste' and possibly even writes poetry about the Sun. We all know one. Stay away from these people.
11. Asian Movies > Western Movies. Bollywood. Korean. Japanese. Hong Kongese. Just so good.
12. Korean dramas are everything. So are the cosmetics.
13. It is nearly impossible to eat ban mian whilst reading a book.
14. Though the prices of drinks in Singapore are high, being a woman will often make them free. I like to think of it as a small reimbursement for the price of actually having to be a woman.
15. Western media will lose its collective mind about some moderately attractive viral-guy who is "shattering stereotypes about Asian men" and you will roll your eyes because you can name hundreds of more attractive men who have always existed and don't need to be fetishised in the name of 'progress,' or in order to make people feel less ignorant.
16. Forget everything you think you know about Chinese food.
17. And Japanese food.
18. And Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean food, for that matter.
19. You will feel an eternal loss and blinding rage when you return home and eat "Asian" food.
20. No one makes better fried chicken than Koreans.
21. K-pop is not only 'pop' but is actually incredibly diverse,and to be a Korean star requires an incredible amount of talent and hard work. Here's my article on what you should listen to. You're welcome.
22. The Chinese language is so thoroughly fascinating, difficult and awe-inspiring, yet many English-only speakers will make fun of Chinese people's accents and grasp of English. Stay away from these kinds of people too. They're the same people who think 'will Will Smith smith? Yes, Will Smith will smith' shows the marvellous complexity of English and yet there's a beautiful and long poem in Chinese entirely made up of different intonations of the word 'Shi' that you could never dream of pronouncing correctly.
23. It is advised to never say "I'm basically part-Asian," no matter how much you may love any Asian culture. Living in a culturally-rich country for six months or even a few years hardly gives you a true understanding of what it means to be from said country. If so many born and raised citizens cannot fully answer the question 'what does it mean to be [insert nationality here],' then, my dear Becky, what makes you think you can?
24. No white dude has ever sounded cool whilst attempting to say 'lah.'
25. Most of your unexpectedly eye-opening memories of Singapore will come from having a meaningful friendship with someone who is actually from Singapore. Some like to pretend the expat bubble is not elitist and sterile, but it is often exactly that. My most heart-warming experiences have often come from the most obscure places in Singapore that I would never have known about without the incredible friends I've made along the way.
Pepper & Söl
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After living in Singapore for two years, and hearing "you just don't have the look we're going for" far too many times, I finally walked the runway for the first time here. It's taken so long to get here, but I think it was good because I still had a lot of growing to do and rejections to face before I could really appreciate what this means.
I had all but hung up my heels and thought that perhaps modelling wasn't for me, and that I'd never encounter real opportunities because, as someone once said to me, "perhaps Singapore isn't ready for black models." One of the only black models I knew here was a tall Afro-Brazilian goddess, and even she's gone now. So not only did I have diversity going against me, but I'm also 1-2 sizes too big for high fashion.
When I told people this, the reaction is often shock! Horror! The injustice! How ludicrously skinny do models have to be?! Whilst the modelling industry does have a plethora of faults and disappointments when it comes to size and body image, I also know that smaller sizes are often preferred be designers for practical reasons. It takes a lot of time, money and fabric to prepare a collection for a show, so designers make sample sizes only - both to save a bit on fabric, and to not have the hassle of fitting dozens of models. It's pragmatic to the core - they don't have time to waste so if you fit, you wear it. If you don't, you're out.
When I first received a message from one of the organisers that I should go to the casting, I politely declined because I was one size short of fulfilling the requirement and try as I might, there was no way I could squeeze what my mamma gave me into a UK 8. However, she got back to me and encouraged me to try anyway. I went to the casting and I got in! Well, everyone at the casting did, but no one needs to know that ;)
However, I was completely stunned when later in the week I received a call from a booker at NOW Model Management who had been at the casting as well. She wanted me to come into the office to talk about signing with them!
When I went into the office, I found myself staring at a wall of flawless Asian, Eurasian and Pan-Asian faces, and I secretly wondered what I was doing there and whether there was really a place for me there. It all seemed a bit surreal, and I couldn't imagine why they would possibly want me, but they told me they were super excited about signing their first black model and some other really great things that I can't repeat without sounding conceited af.
Anyway, fast-forward two weeks to the Zalora fashion show. Picture me backstage, practicing my walk and drinking milo (it has calcium or something, leave me alone), getting ready to go on and praying I didn't trip in my heels. Unlike Nancy Sinatra, my heels were not made for walking, they were made for standing and only walking to and from the cab. That's it.
Somehow, I made it though! With slightly sweaty palms and feet (not helped by wearing a leather jacket outdoors on a tropical island), I stepped onto that runway and, whilst the nerves didn't all go away, I felt like this was what I was meant to be doing. The crowd was considerably large, but I quickly spotted my friends and for what felt like the first time ever, I successfully winked! Normally I do a blinky-wink thing because I'm a bit of a spaz who can only aspire to sexiness. However, this time my wink actually was electric (according to my friends)! Yeh, watch out Megan Fox.
I'm really excited to start working with NOW when I come back from Paris in January. In the meantime, imma be up in the gym just working on my fitness (because I must confess I haven't been in the gym since November) so that when I come back I'll be toned and actually able to walk up three flights of stairs without being winded. That would be nice.
Pepper & Söl
A lovely shoot with Kathy Chu!Read More
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Why do so few local men want to date foreign girls? Is it intimidation, or is it more than that? Culture? Race? As promised in an article from long ago, I am finally elaborating upon why that local guy is probably just not that into you.Read More
With my expert opinion, garnered by at least ten first dates, first-hand interviews and extensive social media stalking, I will attempt to give an introductory understanding as to why dating in Singapore is such an awful mess.Read More
Living in Singapore has been difficult, and more so because when prejudice is not outright and overt, it is ignored and never addressed. Your feelings are invalidated by even the most well-meaning people. But I can tell you what prejudice in Singapore feels like.Read More
Lily Tomlin once said, "man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain." In my mind, Lily Tomlin actually meant 'South Africans,' because anyone who has ever met one will know that complaining is their favourite pastime.Read More
I was initially determined to have a cocktail from every bar on the list. Then I counted them. There are 60 bars. Trying to accomplish all of them would require a terrifying amount of day-drinking, something I'm not remotely old or bitter enough to do.Read More
Short of launching into a nit-picky diatribe as to why this club is not nearly as classy as it has the potential to be, I will simply say that I will probably not be returning to the Alibi very often. However, I'm sure over time it will gain a loyal patronage of people not nearly as obnoxious and sober as I was.Read More
Step 1. Ask him out.
Step 2. Watch as he magically disappears, never to speak to you again unless absolutely necessary.Read More