2019: A year of figuring out (and getting) what I want

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions.

Why not? Because it’s easy to put together a tidy list of agreeable goals, but then surprise birthday parties happen (say no to cake???), your favourite yoga studio shuts down (hello disrupted downward dog) and new targets at work mean longer hours and takeaway (sorry kitchen, maybe next time).

Don’t get me wrong, there does exist a subset of super humans capable of overcoming all of the above without so much as a hiccup, but life has a funny way of butting in what you want and it’s only February.

Since returning to Singapore after three weeks bouncing around in North America, I found my mind in a distraught state. Three questions in particular cluttered up my thoughts.

“What do I want? What’s my end game? And are my current affairs going to get me there?”

2019 marks my fifth year living abroad.

There’s no regret of the choice I made to be away from family and oldest friends. The sacrifice has granted me a full passport, a loving partner, career milestones and priceless personal growth.

But seeing my beautiful mother’s face etch with wrinkles from worry and my dearest friends get engaged, build homes, made me wonder what I could be missing. I always envisioned us girls going through adulthood together.

If I wasn’t building the foundation overseas to achieve the future I’ve always wanted, what was the point of being so far away from my loved ones?

It took me a few weeks and late night conversations to finally figure out what I was going to do.

The private sector is a wonderful battlefield to develop cut throat skills that will come in handy when I make a leap into building my own social enterprise.

CAOSE is the beginning of this platform. Over time, it will grow as I water it with issues that matter to me, trim it with ideas from insightful individuals, nurture it with learnings from my travels and eventually shape up into something I’m proud of.

Each new year gives people a reset – a way to do over all the mistakes and regrets of the previous year but I don’t want a “do over”. I want to create something from all of my wrong turns.

Cheers to the unseen future, the awaiting milestones and difficult but rewarding moments ahead.

-cyn

#caose

#carewithcaose: A man & his coffee plantation

In 2018, L and I were in Canggu enjoying an espresso at Hungry Bird Coffee and chit-chatting with the owner who was kind enough to show us his roasting process. L, being Italian, has a fascination with all things coffee.

So fast forward one year and we find ourselves in a van winding up rocky roads to meet the man who supplies Hungry Bird beans all the way in Kintamani, Bali.

Arca greeted us in front of his plantation with a large grin and handshake and sat us down before jumping into the history of his family’s coffee business, Bali’s growing number of baristas and the magic of the bean.

While the two coffee fanatics continued their banter, I slowed behind to take in the humble surroundings. This is where your morning cup of coffee starts – with local farmers whose know-how feeds back into the land, the community and crosses borders.

The plantation belonged to Arca’s father before it was passed to him. He explained because his father didn’t know how to grow great tasting beans, and the demand wasn’t high, the bulk of the business came from planted orange trees. Today, they are scattered around the plantation providing crucial shade for the coffee plants.

During our hour long conversation, we learned about the drying process, peeked into his collection of stingless beehives and of course, tasted coffee.

After our very own tour of Arca’s coffee plantation. Thank you for the hospitality!

“It’s good coffee culture is becoming more popular in Bali, people work more and sleep less!”

Arca, owner of Desa Ulian, Kintamani Coffee Plantation
Adiwana Dara Ayu Villas

Bali makes it easy and almost natural to look for local produce and enjoy its wholesomeness. (Restaurants I recommend: Mosaic and Watercress Ubud).

I can’t wait to be back.

Also, stay tuned in June 2019, we will be offering Arca’s fruit infused coffee beans!

#carewithcaose

Before receiving a quality education

Oh podcasts, little packets of brain food that make my morning routine an enlightening tooth brushing.

On a Sunday afternoon, I was listening to Freakonomics Radio, more specifically Stephen Dubner’s conversation with Facebook CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg who is now known as the bad guy currently embroiled in a data privacy conundrum (see Cambridge Analytica).

It was refreshing to hear the man who almost singlehandedly built the world’s largest social platform speak so candidly about the company’s impact on the citizens of the world and how it was determined to be better. He was determined to be better.

But what struck me the most during the conversation between the two men in an AC-less trailer wasn’t Facebook’s mission to build meaningful communities or Zuckerberg’s childhood stories, it was a particular discussion about education:

When we think about education, we often think about concepts like math or reading. But very early on, when you’re learning how to walk, health is completely intertwined with education, and then of course as you as you go up through your education — it’s hard to learn math if you can’t sleep at home, or there are different issues.”

He was replying to Dubner’s question about the use of technology to improve early education. Zuckerberg highlights that it is his wife, Priscilla Chan, an equally if not more impressive individual, who is focused heavily on this topic.

“She’s a doctor and she wanted to help kids. And then through her pediatrics program realized that education and health are so intertwined, and that you need to start educating the parents, from the time that they’re pregnant, about what the right behaviors are, and then you basically want the kids in the school or in a program, or are at least to have good habits being built from birth, and have them involved in that as quickly as possible.”

His comments struck a chord with me as a firm believer in the importance of education – something I have always been an advocate for in my professional career and my foray into provoking social change.

This line of reasoning also brought me back to a TED talk I watched earlier that week about the effects of fitness on the brain. Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki shared her research on the impacts of exercise on the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex – two regions of the brain that control memory and attention.

What does this all mean for us?

For organizations that focus on promoting and providing education, be aware of potential factors that can contribute to the success of the program. Hunger, lack of clean water, a safe place to rest, etc. are problems that need to be dealt with before education comes into the picture.

Vitamins need to be absorbed before literature can.

Be conscious, take care of the body that incapsulates the brain. This goes for anyone from 1 to 100 and the generations to follow.

#carewithcaose

Kanchanaburi: Nature’s highlight reel

It’s easy for outsiders looking in to confuse Thailand with Bangkok and Pattaya.

But there’s more to one of the most visited countries in the world than Khao San Road, ladyboys, ping pong shows and flashy bars. Really.

A good friend of mine once said it perfectly: “Expats complain all the time they’re bored, well it’s because they don’t think further than the alcohol and parties – Thailand has so much more to offer.”

And thanks to him and few other explorers, I’ve been able to visit a dewy city located on the border of Burma and Thailand: Pilok, swim in Petchaburi, kayak in Khao Sook, drink champagne in Chet Sao Noi, hike in the Phraya Nakhon Cave, and stay overnight in one of my favourite towns, Kanchanaburi.

Sharing some photos from a few weekends ago:

Feasted on grilled fish, som tam (Thai papaya salad), grilled chicken and sticky rice. Grabbed some drinks, plastic cups and lazed around in the sun.

Kanchanaburi_2018
utterly relaxed

Kanchanaburi_20182
not very relaxed aha

Kanchanaburi_181
waterfalls

Kanchanaburi_18
water creature

The waterfall we visited is nearby the famous Erawan Waterfalls and just as majestic but without the throngs of tourists. We were pretty much by ourselves.

The destination took a three to four hours drive – plenty of gas station and washroom breaks. We spent a day and a half in fresh clear water and stuffed ourselves with snacks and wine before returning to the city completely refreshed.

Take advantage of Thailand’s road infrastructure and be amazed by the elements.

Tips:

  • The entrance fee to national parks in Thailand has a foreigner and local fee – usually 10X difference (please don’t complain as foreigners tend to make much more than locals). Foreigner price: around 300 – 350 THB
  • Apologies, don’t remember the name of the accommodation as my friend booked it but can share on a map
  • The canteen food at the waterfall is terrible, which is not something I say often about Thai food, so eat beforehand
  • They don’t let you take food or drinks to the waterfalls