The little value of money

If there was one thing I learnt since having moved to Berlin – it would be that money really has very little value. Where I come from, many get caught up in their pursuit for money. After all, more money means more luxury.

Since moving, I’ve noticed that the priorities of people here are different. It’s all about what makes them happy, or what makes the community happy. In fact, the poorer the people, the more generous they are.

When I got a little raise / stopped being underpaid, it was a conscious effort to remind myself not to be stingy. What good is money if you only know how to spend it on yourself? The more generous I got, the richer I felt. I paid for a round of drinks because I felt like the company was lovely. I got the homeless chap a little snack because he deserves a break sometimes. I brought more food to parties because why not. I bought us CDs because the artists we like deserve to get paid too (and Spotify just doesn’t do that).

And I did wonder: If I won a million bucks, what would I do with the money?

I think I’d take some non-paid leave, send my family over, enjoy some fresh air together. I’d like some sunshine on my face. I’d like to go to the countryside and ride some horses (till I run out of money then I just pat them). I don’t know if there’s much more that I’d like to do, apart from have more free time with the ones I love. I’d gladly cook for them.

Of course, we all need money to survive. But dear readers, if you are in pursuit of money, I hope you know what you really are looking for.

Ain’t Nothin’ Better Than Horseriding

With a quick blink of an eye it’s already 2017! I didn’t want the year to go forgotten without speaking about my favourite highlight of last year. (That is of course apart from getting married and having the most precious baby nephew, whom I will be meeting soon!)

Sometime in October, after travelling around the Balkan states for our honeymoon (shucks, that was another highlight I have to write about soon), H had planned for us to spend a weekend in the outskirts.

In the outskirts it was alright. It took two hours to get to a village that was surrounded by lush fields and horses. This village was mostly bought over by the owner of a horse stable. We were going to learn how to ride a horse for an entire weekend! You couldn’t imagine my excitement.

And fear. And worries. I didn’t have the right clothes. Nor the right shoes. Nor the experience of getting on a horse. Nor the experience of falling off a horse.

But joy. I concentrated on the joy. I was among 10 other excited kids, so I focused on my own joy.

The Friday afternoon started with an hour of getting into the mood. They called it Schrittrunde, literally a round of steps. I had thought that meant I would be walking around with the horse next to me, so I would get used to even having that big animal next to me. And perhaps learn how to get on it.

So we were asked if we had a preferred horse. I could’ve asked for one that flies. No, I have no idea which horse I would like, thank you for asking though. I got assigned one. I went to meet her (the ones I got assigned to usually had female names I think. I’m not sure, they were mostly Icelandic names) and I patted her, learnt to brush her and scratch her hooves. I could do this.

The lady who was assigned to help us was lovely. But she also spoke German, and I didn’t have the German vocabulary for horse riding. I could order a beer sure, but horse riding is way out of my league. She told me my horse was missing a trense. I said, what? Trense, she repeated. I asked her what that is. She described what it was for. I didn’t understand. She told me to just pick whatever is under my horse’s name in the store. Why didn’t you say that earlier?

Then we had to gather and walk our horses to the assembly. Schrittrunde was about to begin. They realized I was still without a helmet. I asked if it was necessary, they said yes. I went to get it and came back to see that all my fellow Schrittrunde mates have already gotten on the back of the horse. I thought that was the aim of this first hours! Nope. I panicked and put on my helmet. The lady told me to grab the saddle, put my foot in a position and pull my weight up. Whoosh – easier than I thought. I may have a secret talent. Holy smokes, ma, I’m on a horse!

We walked with our horses through the forest. The horses have such herd instinct that they rarely go away from one another. It was freezing cold in October, but I felt almighty on my horse walking through the forest. We learnt how to shift our weight on the horse when going uphill and downhill. The forest looked phenomenal when one is a little taller. The horse was brilliant. We were starting to develop chemistry. Then the hour ended, and we had to take them back to the stable.

Over the next two days, I learnt what the German word for a brown horse, a white horse and a mixed horse are. (I’ve forgotten now obviously.) Also, we learnt how to steer the horse, do slight gallops, learn how to balance on the horse without grabbing anything, etc. It was absolutely brilliant! H said he had never seen me happier.

Oh yes, he enjoyed it too. He just wasn’t allowed to explore his potential with the horse, because he had to have the largest horses (most of us were either women or kids), and because the horses have such herd instinct, he would move too quickly for the rest of us.

I think I found my Disneyland.

Well roared, lion.

Have you ever been so angry that your entire mind and body gets mad along with you? You find yourself literally taking heavy puffs while walking. Your body curls up a little. You don’t want to speak to anyone else who’s innocent, really. You fight back tears. Your mood is ruined. You start to get mad at the weather. You start to get a headache.

I did yesterday. And it was exhausting.

It makes me wonder – how do people get so mad so often? I’ve a boss who roars every so often. We don’t take it personally because he’s just heavily passionate about the business. But still.

I just did it once in ages and I feel like I aged in a day. This exhaustion is so not worth it. Anger is so not worth my life.

If you ever get mad at someone, go do something that makes you happy. You don’t deserve to be angry.

Getting “hit on” on the train

I just got back from my first ever work trip – and it was to Madrid so it was quite awesome. But I’m very relieved to be home again. My husband’s missing but the place is lovely and quiet, and I get to be in my favourite solo spot – lying on the mat by the window.

While on the way back, I had to figure my way out of my least favourite airport and wait 20 minutes for a train that I didn’t plan to take. A lady asked if it was alright that she sat in my four-seater area. I said of course, and shuffled my luggage closer in, so she had more space.

Then it was silence for about 10 minutes as I fumbled with my phone and also tried to figure out if the familiar voice I keep hearing was indeed from someone I know.

As the lady about to check our ticket approached us, she warned me before, and all of a sudden we started to get talking.

As part of what I’ve been learning from The Happiness Project (this book is totally growing on me), I’ve taken the waiting time for transport to be factually terrible but mentally ok. I’ve got time, why do I need to get worked up about it?

And I was pleased that the lady and I started talking, because social activities make people happy and it totally made my day filled with simply travelling from one place to the other, trying to get home.

Not only that, we hit off really well. I said things like “I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but…” and it was a really lovely conversation. She initiated exchange of contacts, I suggested since she’s in town temporarily, we could hang this weekend while the husband’s away, etc.

And she said yes, how about tomorrow?

Isn’t this just ridiculously random but wonderful?

I’m also starting to get slightly worried that she isn’t contacting me because she has my contact and the power to reach out… Hope it doesn’t take 3 days. 😉

Watch you grow

Have you ever watched yourself grow?

Trust me; it’s possibly one of the best feelings in the world.

I’ve been reading The Happiness Project and while I think it’s a far cry from a very exciting book I completed just before, it did teach me one thing: it’s absolutely fundamental to sit back and reflect your behaviour – all the good, bad and ugly.

Often, of course, we don’t give ourselves enough credit. We think we’re fat when we aren’t, we think we’re old when we hit 30, and we think true love falls from the tree and all bad behaviour means the relationship is falling apart. Myths. That’s what they are.

I constantly realise (without reminding myself) that I’m having the best time of my life right now, and it just keeps getting better.

I used to walk when completing a 2.4km sports test in school and struggle to reach my toes, but now I encourage others to join me in the 5.5km company run and am surprisingly flexible thanks to yoga.

I am a city girl who’s used to luxury and being driven around, but now I grab my backpack and trek into the woods without a problem.

I used to fear dark dodgy corners but now I keep my head up high.

I don’t dread getting older because I feel my age.

I used to hate speaking in German to my own husband but now I don’t think twice speaking in German to him, or his friends, or his colleagues.

And, the best part is – I used to dread work and look forward to the end of the day, while I now actually like that it’s a part of my day.

Feeling awesome isn’t about waiting for that one rare lottery moment that strikes you, but giving yourself credit for the effort you have put in to make yourself better.

Perhaps I hadn’t “peaked” early. And of course these moments can also be fleeting, but it’s important to remind yourself while you’re at it – that life can be pretty damn awesome sometimes.

Quarter Life Crisis

I thought I lost it a couple of days ago.

I have a loving husband, a job I like, colleagues I enjoy spending time with, a gym membership that is almost worth it. And yet I needed more. I, with everything I could ever dream of, felt like my life served no real purpose. I, the successful and wonderfully blessed person, needed more.

I thought – this is it. It’s my quarter life crisis.

But on hindsight, I think it was a nice wake-up call. I’m cooped up in a very warm and comfortable bubble. Somewhere along the line, I subconsciously decided to take everything for granted. Nothing excited me anymore.

But that can’t be it. It must be a mindset thing. Someone once told me she took a seminar on willpower, and everyone received a pep talk and ran through a column of coal on fire. It was all in the mind.

The phrase “quarter life crisis” is a fashionable term. Almost as fashionable as boasting about how “busy” one is, to make one feel more important.

But it’s just a pretty lame excuse to be crappy to everything and everyone that was great to you.

Somehow I’m fine again. I found myself back and stopped being snappy. I know what I need and what I have to do.

If you think you’re in a quarter life crisis, think again.

 

Wind in our hair

Today, H and I tried out a new scooter-sharing system. It’s like every car-sharing system we have in Berlin but with an electric scooter. Eco-friendly.

It was ridiculously fun. The wind in our hair, weaving in and out of traffic, being able to watch out for traffic for him (because the view of the traffic behind is better when you’re sitting at the back).

I had to constantly remind him though, that we were slower than the cars, ergo slowest lane please, and that we were too quick, so no bike lanes.

And we got to park right in front of the door, without worrying about finding a parking lot.

The app also worked tremendously well and quick. We were both really impressed. And happy.

Travelling seemed so much more fun today.

Time travel

Upon waking up after falling asleep on the couch, H and I shared this conversation.

I: Did I sleep long?

H: About 20 minutes maybe. What time is it?

I: 5 minutes to 2am.

H: Oh! That’s late.

I: No wait, 5 mins to 3am.

Thanks for robbing us an hour of sleep, daylight savings.

(But the truth is I’m thrilled to have an hour extra of daylight after work! :))

My Singaporean Salute to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew

I rave about this country I’m in. Germany is wonderful. I’ve great options here, I enjoy what I’m doing at work, the quality of life is amazing.

But above all, I enjoy telling people about Singapore. Or at least Singapore has made a name for itself – it’s Asian without being backward, successful without being corrupt, well structured without being boring, and a big city without the lack of green.

And I enjoy it. I find it extremely thrilling to tell people about the country I’m from. I call Berlin my home now, but Heimat is a different thing. Singapore is my Heimat.

I complain that living in Singapore is stressful and there are too many changes to feel nostalgic. But the moment our founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew died, the pride I have of my country rose.

I grew up in a safe environment. Because English is my native language, it’s easy to go everywhere and learn new languages. I never worried about carrying too much valuables around, leaving my bags open, travelling around alone at night. My country grew and prospered because of the man’s vision. He brought us to this standard, and his sense of protection for this country is admirable.

I don’t strive to be a politician, so I don’t expect to fight as much as he did for our country. But I will tell my future kids about him. And I will strive to love my husband, the way he proudly and strongly loved his wife.

“Growing Up” in Germany

Sometimes I feel like Germany has moulded me in the past year and a half, although early mid-twenties hardly ever counted as the impressionable years. But indeed, the impressions are imprinted on me.

Right as I’m saying this, I’m struggling slightly to type quickly and accurately on my good old macbook. I’ve gotten used to the German keyboard since starting work.

I’ve become more careful with my manners. Back home, we don’t show appreciation or give thanks as much as the Germans. Now it becomes more natural to say that “I’m looking forward to it!” when arranging a meet-up with a friend. Or to say “it’s so nice to have met you!”

I’m also in the midst of creating a new habit. I’ve started trying to use people’s names when speaking. It could be a personal habit or an asian thing, but I’ve never been comfortable using people’s names. This is especially so for the older generation (I never call my aunties and uncles by their first names in Asia), but it also applies to the younger generation. But lately it’s becoming easier to say, “How’s it going, (name)?” and “(name), thank you for your help!”

I’ve learnt to look out for quality over quantity when purchasing, because Germans buy things with the aim of keeping it for a long time. I used to buy tons of flats for $20, so that I could switch among them, but the reason why I end up switching so much is because none of them last a season! I’ve become a little less stingy while shopping.

Most importantly, having the German language all around me, hearing it and speaking it all day isn’t as exhausting as it used to be. In the past, a two hour intense conversion in German is enough to kill me for the rest of the day. Now it’s like meh.

It’s interesting to be a foreigner and not really feel like one anymore. 🙂