I’m writing this post because I’m really in the mood to blog, which is the best time to write- not when you have to or need to. I actually miss being just a blogger and not a freelance writer, because back then, every single blog post was written with passion. Now, I simply don’t have the time to balance freelance writing along with blogging regularly, so I do feel that the blog has lost a bit of the essence that it initially started with.
I toyed with the idea of getting contributing writers to blog about JHB stuff for a long time, but then I decided to let the blog be an extension of my life instead. I know most of my readers are SA/ JHB based, but I hope that you’ll still find what I have to say interesting, and continue reading. If anything, at least you’ll know what to do when you visit Singapore! I’ll mix up this update with a few pics from the last two months.
Tomorrow, it will be 2 months since we left JHB and arrived in Singapore. I would say we’re settled now. We have a semi- routine going, and we kind of know our way around the city. The first month was quite tough on Rishav and I as a couple. We have a really great dynamic- before we came to Singapore, we’d spend at least an hour together everyday after work, just catching up on the day, enjoying each other’s company. If he had a meeting close to where I worked, I would get excited and we’d have lunch together. We also went out a lot as a couple because of all the dinner reviews I was doing. We absolutely used to maximise on time spent together.
When we came here, we took time together for granted because we’re in the same class so we’re “together” but not really together. We’d be busy in classes or doing group work all day, come home and then prepare for the next day of campus. All our socialising was done in huge groups where we’d both drift off and speak to other people. Sometimes 4-5 days would go by without us speaking for more than 15 minutes at a time. I very quickly felt the impact on us and we had to set aside time for just the two of us to hang out, and also to try and recreate a bit of what we had back home. Even though we’re both swamped with work, we’re still trying to make time for each other. I think things are pretty much back to normal which is great. We celebrated our 3 year wedding anniversary last week. How things have changed since we got married. We just ended up being on the same page about life and where we want to be in the future, which I’m really happy about. It’s great to have him with me as support. I know I won’t be destitute with him around 🙂
I really admire the partners of MBA students who have given up their lives, careers and friends to come along with their +1. I think it takes an exceptionally strong person to do that. I’m super busy and occupied all day but still feel a tad neglected by Rishav, who is equally busy. It must be really hard for the MBA students who have brought their partners to find the balance between MBA work and spending time with their partner. There are even a couple of people who have babies- proves that nothing is impossible.
The MBA has been really demanding- annoyingly so. There must be something wrong with me. I’ve been studying ever since I got my degree- it took me 5 years to start and finish CFA, and then I did Spanish and French lessons in between. Now- I’m done. I’m throwing away my calculator after this. I’m done with exams, being stressed and learning crap. Our first term has been mainly finance based, so I’m already familiar with most of the content. That said, the lecturers are all excellent so it could be a lot worse.
I try to remind myself that I didn’t pay all this money to learn finance. I came for the experience, the networking and the global exposure, and THAT has been incredible. I can’t even explain how far away my current life is from my old life. The people I get to hang out with every day are exceptional. They have high emotional intelligence, are just intelligent generally, are great to talk to- engaging, witty, funny. They’re warm and friendly. I haven’t met a single person I wouldn’t be happy talking to for 3 hours. I am loving getting to know them and I’m so chuffed about having a friend to hang out with, no matter which city in the world I happen to be in. The 89 nationalities represented in my class make that quite a high possibility.
I can’t remember if I mentioned already that I’m the social rep for our class- so I get to play a role in planning all the social events we do- parties, drinks events, basically anything. I love the fact that I can just decide where I want to go for dinner on any given night, and have 20 people show up. That said, it is a PAIN to split bills (especially when we’re all students and are budget conscious), and I sometimes want to have a 1 on 1 conversation with 1 person, rather than a short conversation with 20 people. I still feel close to my friends and family and don’t really miss anyone or long for anyone. I do have moments where all I want to do is have one conversation with a person that has known me for 5 years. Like I can be myself and say whatever, and it’s fine. I have to remind myself that those relationships take time to form, but it is definitely the one tangible gap in my current life that bugs me.
Speaking of money, I’ve become quite relaxed about it. I haven’t gone into “student mode” and I don’t think I will. I still spend money on travelling and going out, the only thing I’ve stopped doing is shopping. It’s been quite a change to learn to be okay with just me. No big bank account balance to give me security, no assets, no perfectly manicured nails and no new clothes. I guess I’ve realised that I don’t need much to be happy and to be okay. I’ve brought a tenth of my wardrobe to Singapore and there are still items of clothing I haven’t yet worn. I have two pairs of heels here, and it’s fine. Definitely a reason to relook at my priorities and what’s important to me post- MBA. I’m not going to chase money. I know that with CFA and an INSEAD MBA I stand a good chance of getting a job in an investment bank, but that’s a lifestyle I don’t want. I may even take some time off after the MBA and follow Rishav wherever he wants to work. I think I want to work in hospitality- like being a general manager of a hotel, for example. I may even look at starting my own boutique hotel. At INSEAD, we’re exposed to so many opportunities- if we have an idea, we can pitch it to investors and get funding. INSEAD alumni have started some pretty awesome companies and are making millions.
So I thought hard about spending money on travelling, and we’ve decided that we are going to travel as much as possible and not count pennies. When we do start working, time is going to be an issue, and however many thousands we’ve spent on travel and will still spend in the months to come, won’t matter. We’ve done Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur so far- proper posts on those coming soon.
Next week we’re going to Myanmar with 25 of our classmates (!!), and then the week after that we go to Vietnam. In November, we’re going to Phuket (we’ve rented a 6 bedroom ah-mazing villa- check it out here) and there’ll be 14 of us there. For our December break (we have 3 weeks off), I oscillated between China/ Japan and Oz/ NZ for about a month. I spoke to everyone who has been to either place, and concluded that winter really isn’t the right time to do China and Japan. We don’t have any winter clothing here in Singapore, and I don’t know if I’m keen to travel during sub- zero temperatures, especially after my body is just about getting used to the weather in Singapore. I wouldn’t say Oz and NZ were on my bucket list, but we’re relatively close and apparently it’s beautiful there so we may as well go. We’re gonna plan it so that we’re in Sydney over NYE- fun 🙂 It’s sooo easy (and cheap) to travel from Singapore. I can finish lectures at 5 and get to the airport in time for a 6pm flight.
Generally, my heart is light and my spirits are high. I haven’t been this happy in years. I’m an optimist, so make the best of life wherever I am. When I lived in JHB, I LOVED it and had no desire to live anywhere else. Now, I can’t see myself coming back- at least not yet. One reason is because JHB just got so tired for me. Way too predictable. I would get so excited about every new outdoor market that opened up. Now, it is frustrating for me not to know Singapore as well as I’d like to, but I am really loving stumbling along hidden gems, which would NEVER happen in JHB.
The second issue is the safety thing. I became immune to it after a while. Every second person I know has had a smash and grab- it’s normal. But is it? Whenever I talk to my classmates about SA, I tell them the crime isn’t that bad, and you just need to watch your back and not be flashy, like not leave your handbag on your seat, for example. They can’t relate to that way of life at all and just look at me blankly. When I lived in SA the crime issue never bothered me because I loved living there- there are so many advantages, which I still think exist- a great lifestyle, amazing weather, exponential growth opportunities in terms of businesses, but for me, that’s not enough to bring me back- at least not yet.
In Singapore, I can leave my laptop and phone on the table at Starbucks, go downstairs to the grocery store and come back with everything exactly where I left it. I can walk around at midnight by myself in any part of town. I don’t have to deal with traffic and can just zip on the subway to go anywhere I need to be. 10 year old kids call for taxi’s by themselves. On the downside, there’s very little natural beauty- everything’s manmade. Food and alcohol are expensive, especially fresh produce. It doesn’t make sense to cook. So on the whole, it may or may not be a better life, but it’s a different life, one that I’m thriving in.
So we were meant to go to France in January, but we loved Singapore so much that we decided to stay until March. We’re going to France from March – May and then we’re supposed to come back to Singapore again. It’s a bit too much back and forth for me (especially with the cats), so I’m hoping to stay in France for the rest of the time and not come back to Singapore. And you can bet that in 6 months from now I’ll be writing this exact post about how much I love France. Ha.
Hope everything is well with you and yours. On a separate note, if you followed my Epic US adventure from the East- West Coast, the first of a 3 part series is being published in the Sunday Independent this Sunday (the next 2 parts will be published next week and the week after.) This week’s feature is about Florida and will feature my time in Miami and Florida Keys. Grab a copy if you’re interested.