It’s been a while since I shared my #gr8ful list here ━ now, accompanied by my a-glass-on-Wednesday-night wine, seems as good a time as any.
Today I am grateful…
That I work in the CBD area which at times makes me feel like I am in the American TV shows I grew up watching. That I cultivate nurturing hobbies and for having the chance (and my sensibility) to nurture them. For stand-up comedians. For the sight of stacked books, hanging house plants, flying flock of birds and easy-to-read tarot spread. For life-defining split-second moments. For having white teeth and a happy womb. For relatable personal blogs. For an endless supply of funny stories and sleepy tea. For the come back of some parts of the old normal. For having a zest for life. For keep discovering more and more things, I love as I grow older, like chai. For film photography Instagram accounts and inspiring audiobooks. That I have strong female friends.
There are only a handful of things in life that I am more obsessed with compared to tarot. One of it is culture (check out my other blog: KultureKween).
Eventually, researching the interconnection between traditions and tarot, which started as a curiosity, grew into an obsession and has now turned into a life goal.
I also must admit that I have spent an embarrassing amount of hours researching tarot decks with the two cultures that I associate the most with, Indonesian and Indian.
Though there are more than a few Indian culture themed tarot decks out there, I didn’t find any that I liked nor could relate to as of now.
As for the Indonesian themed tarot deck, first of all, I was surprised that it existed to begin with. It’s called Tarot of Nusantara but it didn’t call out to me either. Instead, I found some other culture themed decks that I absolutely adore. Here they are, sorted by my liking from top to bottom*.
With rich, vibrant art and a keen understanding of traditional tarot archetypes, illustrator Yoshi Yoshitani infuses Tarot of the Divine with worldly insight and an intriguing selection of fables and folktales from cultures across the globe. With fables from more than forty countries, this spiritual journey is a worldly experience like no other.
This is a dream deck for a culture-geek such as myself. That combined with the price and zero shipping fee made it too easy for me to click pre-order sometime last year. I am still waiting patiently for it to arrive at my doorstep.
There are plenty of Japanese culture themed tarot decks in the market. From the traditional art of Ukiye to the pop-culture Manga deck but none of it spoke to me as much as Yokai Yochi did. The deck portrays ghosts, folklore, and traditional Japanese artwork. This is the second time I have mentioned this deck on my tarot deck list. Maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and order it.
The Gentle Tarot is an indigenous-made, hand-drawn tarot deck filled with imagery influenced by life in remote Alaska. Mariza, the artist behind Mari in the Sky and The Gentle Tarot deck, is a nature-inspired illustrator, grew with ceremony and daily rituals that connect us with the elements, songs that ancestors sang with words and sounds that speak to this connection. She is inspired to share the love, honor, and respect that the planet is due.
Best part: 10% of all proceeds from the deck sale are donated to ocean and climate change research.
I mentioned above that I couldn’t relate much with the Indian tarot decks out there, but then I could relate so much to some of the cards from The Delta Enduring Tarot deck.
It’s an illustrated tarot deck centering on the natural beauty and struggles of life in the Mississippi Delta. The Delta Enduring Tarot pays tribute to these ebbs and flows, and to the lives of those that continue to make the deep south a more verdant, just, and enduring landscape–despite the storm of oppression always on the horizon. Egan, the artist, is an illustrator born and raised in the arms of the Mississippi Delta. They practice medicine and the esoteric arts of magic, with a predilection for the healing of communal ritual.
This deck has been sold-out, therefore very hard to find. I am not sure whether it will ever be reproduced but I surely hope so.
Celebrating the complex American Rootwork tradition, The Hoodoo Tarot integrates esoteric and botanical knowledge from Hoodoo with the divination system of the tarot. The cards features full-color paintings by magical-realist artist Katelan Foisy and elegantly interprets the classical tarot imagery through depictions of legendary rootworkers past and present as well as important Hoodoo symbolism. In the accompanying guidebook, Tayannah Lee McQuillar provides a history of Hoodoo and its complex heritage, including its roots in multiple African and Indigenous American ethnic groups as well as its European influences.
I almost got this deck a few times. I am into Nordic culture and lifestyle and it’s pretty affordable (it’s the cheapest deck on this list), but knowing the majority of the deck (all the minor arcana cards) is not illustrated left a lot to be desired.
Rainy day in Singapore. Mustard-coloured armchair placed in a corner. Reading the blog of a published author. Chubby roses. Hexagonal-shaped corner, with windows, turned into a reading nook. Wall-to-wall bookcase. …and wall-to-wall windows. Savouring cold bread dipped in pipping hot day old fish curry. Period house with cracking floor. Indie tarot decks that come in a tuck box. Big bookstores and thin paperback. Wireless gadgets. Books that can be pocketed.
Coin-operated laudromat. Soaking the Friday afternoon vibes at work. Foreign language songs played on repeat. Singular-use kitchen gadgets. Japan.
This deck portrays ghosts, folklore, and traditional Japanese artwork. All things that I am drawn to. I hesitated a bit to when I saw the cards, because it’s grey and well.. creepy, but I can’t think of a better deck to accompany me on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage I have been planning for.
This deck uses humour to illuminate different life situation and with a keyword written on the bottom of the image, it has a bit of oracle vibes. But the illustrations are colourful, light and funny. Feels like a deck we all could use to navigate during this period of uncertainty. Also free shipping to Australia. Yes pls!
I am surprised this deck hasn’t got a cult following. The beautifully hand-illustrated cards have subtle shades of grey, making it the third grey-dominated deck on this list. It might just be the the theme of my deck choice for this year.
Created by Martina Razo and illustrated by Miriam E.G. This deck has been on my list for more than a year. I almost bought it last year but it was cancelled at the last minute by the seller due to international shipment issue no-thanks to Covid.
The question popped out on my phone. Sent by Jik. It got me thinking. The thing is, I have many.
The days I spent with my cousins, driving around Jakarta to buy the best road-side food.
The weekend I went to Malaka with my Uni friends and made more friends by the time we went back to Singapore.
Our three weeks honeymoon in Japan.
The weekend I went to Goa to attend my cousin’s wedding.
The first time I saw the Autumn colours IRL.
The many moments I shared with Cheryl when we worked together.
The day I went to the theme park as a kid with just my parents. I was wearing a red dress, and they let me do water rafting. It was so fun. I felt so happy and excited, and a bit of a grown-up.
The day I got a salary hike.
The day I got approval to move to Australia.
The day I stood in front of the sixteen floors National Library in Singapore.
The day I noticed Vi entering the classroom wearing her purple pyjamas.
The days I spent in Phi Phi Island, wearing a bikini for the first time and learning to be confident in it.
The day I bought my first MacBook.
The hours I spent in the bookstores. And the hours I spent in Spellbox.
The night of the New Year’s Eve when I met Fafa.
The drunken night walk with my cousins in Copenhagen.
The day I ate MSG ridden fried-rice in a Chinese restaurant in Italy after not having rice for more than a week for the first time in my life.
My first snowfall day.
The days where Fafa kindness was the only support I had.
The weekend in Uluru.
The hours Jik and I spent in coffee shops in Hong Kong.
The time with LOL memories.
Quality times I spent with Amma and the moments of hugging her.
The day my Amma complimented me on my cousin’s engagement day.
Drinking Karak Chai in Dubai.
The nights I sat on the beach.
The hours I spent in the kitchen with my workmates – having lunch or just taking breaks.
The days I spent with Erwin and Vivi, rediscovering Jakarta.
The days and nights I spent with Thu just messing around while trying to figure out life.
My days in Singapore.
First dates. Second dates.
The days where I do very little but don’t feel guilty at all. The days when I do so much and feel a sense of accomplishment.
My post-grad days.
My wedding days.
The day I realised I had all the support I needed in life.
The afternoon in Brisbane when we took an hour Uber-ride to eat good Indo food.
The day I discovered Serial podcast while travelling in Europe, which led into the true-crime rabbit hole.
The day I took Shinkansen for the first time, the second time and every single time after that.
The day I set up my blogs excitedly.
My last working day in Singapore.
Those are some of my best days—the ones I would love to redo. I realised now that most of them involve being surrounded by my loved ones, travelling and discovering myself. Here is to creating space in my life for more of those kinds of days.
I went through my to-do list today and saw “brown box” as one of the things to tick-off today. “brown box” has been in my to-do list for months now. Being rescheduled every time it shows up on the day’s agenda.
I don’t know what “brown box” is.
I must have written it during one of the times I woke up fresh at random hours past midnight, unable to sleep again. Or as I refer it here as my 5 AM Thoughts nights.
I have rescheduled “brown box” too many times, hoping to coax my brain into recollecting what was it instead of giving up on it. Like in that one episode of Seinfeld, when Jerry woke in the middle of the night, noted down a joke for his stand-up but couldn’t read nor remember what was it the next day.
I decided to cross off “brown box” of my to-do list today. Hoping that since it has been months, I most probably won’t need a brown box nor brown book nor to borrow a box nor to bury a box anymore.
That’s it. You are released “brown box” —into the unknown.
I am not going to look at it and spend extra few seconds every time I see it to figure out what could it be.
You can relax now brain. I have given you extra space. But it might also mean I have given you extra room to load ten more things for me to try to figure out for months before I give up and delete it again from my to-do list.
Confession time: I have committed several travel sins. Here are some of it —
I Don’t Do Backpack
The last time I wore a travel backpack, or a hiking backpack to be exact, was when I was in secondary school. Once I moved to high school, both my blue backpack and innocence were neatly packed away.
Ever since I started to travel, I either bring my pink carry-on or my big ass ‘I-can-easily-fit-a-body-in-it’ Samsonite. I cursed myself so much for not having a cool backpack when I had to carry the 40 kilos worth of luggage up 3 narrow sets of stairs inside a Hutong in China. But did I get a backpack after that? Not really. I still travel with the same luggage.
I Am Constantly On My Phone
The first thing I search for when I reach a new place is the wifi, to tell Amma that I am safe and sound. Unlike travel bloggers out there who set up a blog just to inform their parents, my Amma demands to know immediately when the plane touches down.
It is one of her nonnegotiable family rules.
Also, I like to take pictures and make notes when I travel. One thing I am pretty good at is ignoring my emails or messages because I really don’t want to have ordinary days when I travel, but the notes, don’t separate me with my notes.
I Have Never Shared A Room With A Stranger
I have solo traveled, stayed in hostels and at Airbnbs before, but I never ever shared a room with a stranger in my travels.
The last time I did that was when I was in Uni, with a girl named Tweety who could squeeze me to death from the bunk bed upstairs. And I don’t even want to experience anything near that ever again.
I don’t mind paying extra for the privacy but saying that, I wouldn’t mind sharing a place with strangers if at least one of my friends is there, just to get the experience.
I Constantly Crave For Asian Food
I claim to be a foodie, and I am open to trying new things when I travel. I have had eyebrow-raising food, and I am planning to eat my way everywhere I go, but I can’t go a week without Asian food — at minimum white rice and spicy chili.
Otherwise, I will be sad. Like depressed sad.
I experienced this the first time I went to Europe and had to beg my cousin sis to take me to a Chinese restaurant so I could eat some rice. I was on the brink of tears—it was not pretty.
I Need Bathroom Amnesties
When I travel, I am pretty particular about the toilet. I don’t mind sleeping in a small room or whatever, but I cannot do with dirty bathrooms. That is where I draw my line.
I Hardly Make Local Friends
I wish to make local friends at the places I travel to. I am curious to learn how the local live their lives. But most of the time I am either shy or just plain awkward or ignorant to put effort to make local friends.
I Don’t Travel For A Long Time
I have never traveled for more than a month in one go before.
When everyone at my age was busy taking the gap year and travelling somewhere, I too took a gap year, for 5 months. And you know how much I traveled in those 5 months? Merely 5 weeks. Budget was a constriction because I wasn’t working back then. And now that I am working, leave days have become so precious.
Do I want to travel for a year or more? Very much so! But I don’t think I can do it anytime soon. At least not in the next few years, when I am in the midst of adult-ing.
Is there anyone who doesn’t experience travel fails? Of course not.
It’s just that most of the time I intentionally choose to write about the good experiences of my travels instead of the travel fails.
Today I am going to share my travel fails here in the hope that maybe you too can relate, perhaps we can bond and or you can learn something from it. Or maybe you can judge me for being travel-stupid.
Not Liking The Place I Traveled (Vietnam)
Unlike most of the places I deliberately choose to travel to, I chose Vietnam because it’s only a couple hours away from Singapore. Also, lots of people rave about it. There was never an intrinsic, cultural pull personally. I was slightly hoping I’d be pleasantly surprised once I arrived.
I went with my cousins and had a good time with them there, but still, I was not too fond of Vietnam. Not even after sailing on the Mekong River. And after sipping Vietnamese drip coffee for three days in a row, I was so ready to go back.
Vietnam, I could have done without.
Some of my friends define Vietnam as the place to go while visiting South East Asia, kind of like how France is in Europe. There must be a base to it, might be because of the war stories, but it’s a generalization.
South-East Asia is much more than in Vietnam. It’s the potluck of Singapore, the richness of religious culture in Malaysia, the Hindu influence of Cambodia, and let’s not forget the lush rainforest of Borneo Indonesia.
From this experience I learn not to travel to a place that doesn’t “ping” me from inside. It might be an obvious choice for others, but if I am are not feeling it, I should keep my travel fare for some other places I am being called to visit.
Missed The Flight (Jakarta)
The flight was at 8:15 AM, and I reached the check-in counter by 6:50 AM. It’s not late, but this time everyone else had checked-in. Since I was late by a max of ten minutes (the check-in counter closed 90 mins before the departure), the check-in counter lady refused to check me in.
I tried to reason with her so much that I was on the brink of tears. Unfortunately, she wasn’t in the mood to show a single drop of compassion. I had to buy another ticket for a flight that left 45 minutes later than the first flight. When I passed by the waiting room at 8:20 AM, I could see my actual plane was still waiting to be boarded. Gah!
I wanted to hate that uptight Air Asia lady, but I stopped myself because at least I was still going on vacation.
From then onwards I have become one of those people who reach airport hours before the booking counter even opens. And I treat myself with a pre-holiday drinking inside on your free time, once I have checked-in.
Visa Denial aka Most Expensive Travel Fails (New Zealand)
My boarding pass was torn up in front of my very own eyes for not having a valid visa to layover for two hours in an airport in Australia before heading to our travel destination, New Zealand. Who knew that we needed a visa just to layover in the airport? I certainly didn’t. And to find out two hours before flying, it felt like a death sentence to my travel dreams. I went back fighting tears and dragging my luggage, which seemed to be heavier now than I was dragging it back home. Fafa cheered me up with coffee, and, later that night, booze. In the end, we managed to exchange it for a direct flight and reached Auckland two days later. Phew!
If you think I am going to conclude this part with a lesson learned is to check on layover visas, you are wrong (because of course, that one is obvious).
The lesson I learned is to have someone try to cheer you up when you are feeling super sad, someone who cares enough about your happiness to stay up all night to sort out the problem while you were passed out after drowning your sorrow in copious amonut of cider. It matters a lot, more than going to New Zealand itself.
Keep Losing Stuff (Japan)
I am not that good at keeping track of my things, especially the random ones. My mind works in an orderly manner and nothing else, which is why I have a travel checklist, and also why I always check my passport like 15 times before I reach the airport, but I misplace things.
I already made my peace in losing small things here and there while travelling, but the hard part is when I lose something precious or when I have the strong feeling that I have lost more things during my travel.
Among the things I have lost, the most memorable one was my first Kindle, which I went to so much trouble to get for myself for my birthday, years before Kindle was even a thing in Asia. I loved it with every fibre of my bookworm being, and I left it on the Delta Air Lines, flying back to Singapore from Japan.
I didn’t panic at first, as I was sure I would get it back. After calling and emailing Delta, and a few weeks of an unsatisfactory response, I came to terms with it.
My first eBook with 35+ self-help collections inside it was gone forever. I only hope that it made the person who took it into a better person after reading it. They have my self-help blessings.
Misplacing Passport (Netherlands)
My craziest moment of losing something was when I realized I couldn’t find my passport after I reached the immigration counter. I ran back to the arrival gate. Begged the stewardess to let me in because I thought I left my passport in the back of the aeroplane seat. Fortunately, she was kind enough to let me inside the flight again to collect my passport.
Retrospectively, it was a minor incident, but imagine if the flight had flown somewhere. I would be stuck in the airport, like Tom Hank in The Terminal.
Ever since, I always do a 4P check before leaving any plane. Passport, Phone, airPod and (travel) Pillow. Also, I stop keeping anything inside the back pocket of a plane seat.