This is the fifth annual highlights recap that I have published on this blog. Blogging has never been all that consistent for me, much to my own dismay and embarrassment. But the one post that I try to plan ahead and spend weeks thinking about prior to publishing, is this one. If you’re still reading after all these years, thank you for being part of this journey.
Got very sick (and recovered) in Singapore
My end of 2017 and start of 2018 was meant to be a beachy Christmas in the Maldives, followed by a short New Years stint in Singapore and family time in Malaysia. What actually happened was I became half-deaf and lost my ability to balance, in the middle of the Maldives leg and ended up spending the remainder of my holidays (plus an additional week) in Singapore seeing an ENT specialist to cure a viral infection that had made its way into my inner ear. You can read about the full ordeal here and about how I leaned into Muay Thai for strength. I left this experience shaken but with much more pronounced gratitude for my youth and my health, plus an even stronger respect for the ties you build through martial arts. It was also enriching to spend so much time in a neighbouring country to Malaysia, one that I hadn’t visited since I was 14.
Birthday and climbing Mount Kosciuszko
My birthday has always been very low key, as they get tend to get swallowed up by the festive period – Christmas, New Year’s, Chinese New Year. But a tradition I’m truly appreciative of is the Cherry Gang birthday meal. This year it was at Moxhe in Bronte. The weekend itself I spent in Thredbo, climbing Mount Kosciuszko, the highest point of Australia. Flic and I very hastily booked everything two days before and despite having almost no plan, we somehow made it to the top.
Tokyo (again, again, again)
I’ve completely lost count of how many times I’ve been to Japan, and in particular, Tokyo. This trip was the longest I’ve spent in Tokyo, with the aim of studying Japanese during the day and training Muay Thai/kickboxing in the evening. It was also the most significant, because of the friendships I was able to make at school and at the gym, plus it became the impetus for me to really figure out how I was going to relocate to my favourite city in the world. It was truly an experience of a life time, I promised many blog posts but this is one, on my first time trail running, is the only one that actually made it live. A bit of a shame to be honest, but I am glad I prioritised it as it was the most important story to tell. And probably the best piece I have written this year.
Aside from the aforementioned sickness in Maldives in Singapore, this year was also a tricky year for my health. I had a really not fun digestive related issue which probably stemmed from my predisposition (weak stomach) and the fact that I wasn’t eating as well this year as I could have been. I’m a lot better now but it is something that I still have to manage and still be conscious of what I eat. Thankful so far that despite moving to a new country and all of the associated changes, particularly diet, it’s actually been rather positive.
Travel this year was not overtly ostentatious but it is always a privilege to be able to do so. Tokyo and Singapore aside, I was lucky to have time to go back to Malaysia, did a short stint in Thailand and most recently, spent Christmas in Hong Kong. I am grateful for the regional travel I was able to do in Australia, which included the above-mentioned Thredbo but also a beautiful trip to Bowral and my first time in Jervis Bay and Kangaroo Valley. It hasn’t even been three months in Japan but I’ve already ticked off one regional trip to Hida-Takayama, and I thoroughly look forward to many more local destinations to come.
Work and opportunities
Going into my second year with the same organisation, I was a lot more comfortable in my role and became more confident in my ability to take on additional tasks. With that said, a lot of organisational changes came through towards the end of the year, with both the director and manager who hired me, moving on to a different role and to a different country, respectively. I applied for an internal role at a different arm of our business in Australia and didn’t get it. I was disappointed at the time, but putting myself out there led to more opportunities than I would have ever thought possible. This year I travelled to Hunter Valley about four times, worked on campaigns involving LGBT acceptance and a Tesla partnership, received two secondment opportunities (and subsequently excellent mentorship and the camaraderie of my new team), met my long-distance work husband and said goodbye to my work wife. Most notably, I am now living in Tokyo, working my heart out for the largest part of our Japanese business. I don’t think I could be happier with where I am right now, career-wise.
Muay Thai, JWK family and NEXT Base
Muay Thai has gone from a hobby I enjoy to one that I am passionate about, to now just being a way of life for me. To say I love Muay Thai, is almost like saying I love breathing. It is simply so ingrained in every aspect of my life, in the way that I think, in the way I perceive the world, that I can’t possibly disentangle what it is from who I am, anymore. This year, I went to nine different martial arts gyms, across four different countries.
FaMA – Singapore
Ara Muay Thai – Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Vault Boxing – Chippendale, Sydney
Soot Raaeng Geert – Alexandria, Sydney
Hayato Gym – Gakugeidaigaku, Tokyo
Muay Fit – Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Salypaethy Gym – Marrickville, Sydney
Jin Wu Koon – Chippendale, Sydney
NEXT Base – Akasaka, Tokyo
Of them, a huge, huge call out must go to the JWK family who got me through all of the challenging parts of 2018, there is not a day that goes by that I do not miss my trainers and training partners there. I’m currently still adjusting but very much enjoying the pace and routine that I am building here in Tokyo. My mother loves saying that things happen for a reason, and while I don’t normally subscribe to this train of thought, I can’t help but admit that every bump on my Muay Thai journey this year, happened so I could be where I am right now.
Notable dining experiences
My favourites in Sydney had a fair number of repeat visits from me. Saint Peter, Bennelong and Mr Wong are the first to come to mind. A lot of discovery also happened this year, like having Ethiopian food for the 2nd time in my life. While I didn’t end up blogging about some of these (although I may in the near future), you can view some of my pinned Stories on them on my Instagram. Some highlights: Sugalabo for probably the most educational and thought provoking meal this year. Inua for being in a similar vein, not every single course catered to my palate but every, single, course taught me something new. Kikubari in Malaysia for offering something against the grain. And sushi e for capturing the deliciousness and the hospitality of any old sushi bar in Tokyo, with all of the homeliness and none of the wankery. My most recent fine dining experience at Kadowaki with Shen has been a controversial topic on Instagram and it’s something that will eventually hit the blog later. But to think of it positively, it’s definitely proof that food is only one part of the dining experience. The company you are with is another, and on this particular occasion, I’m extremely glad for it.
I recently wrote about how moving to Japan was like coming home, the culmination of all of my feelings and hard work in getting to where I am. The start of a new year is always filled with promise but this year in particular fills me with so much excitement at what really lies ahead.
I want to get back into the kitchen more and start cooking for myself again. This is in line with eating in a more wholesome manner for the betterment of my health. I’m encouraged by my progress so far in Japan with immersing myself in the language but I hope to kick that into overdrive with lessons and spending more time speaking and listening. I want to read more, and carve out valuable times and places to read rather than only when I’m stuck on commutes. And last but certainly most important, I hope to be able to continue to connect and support my friends and family in Malaysia and in Australia, despite being in another country.
There is a photo I saw long ago that was taken by someone I knew. It was of a skateboard at the edge of a half-pipe. Even though it was a still, the energy was so palpable, like any second that skateboard was going to take off. There were a couple of instances this year where I was told that I had potential, and it was always spun in a way to tell me that I wasn’t ready for something or to soften a blow so that I wouldn’t be disappointed. Looking back at those moments, I’m grateful for those let downs. Because moving forward, I know that I have the ability to turn potential into action. And like that skateboard, there is no telling what I will be. Thanks again for reading and hello, 2019.