Living in Singapore Magazine - March/April 2024

Page 1


and Now
to increase awareness and be in the moment
2024 Getting Unstuck Tips for getting out of a rut
Palate The health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet
to optimize your process to get results
NEXT STOP UNIVERSITY Stamford American International School CPE Registration Number: 200823594D Period of registration: August 9, 2022 to August 8, 2026 VISIT STAMFORD TODAY!

We’ve been off to a busy start! The 88th George Washington Ball was a smashing success. We hope you had as great a time as we did! We’ve already started planning next year’s fete, so stay tuned. Of course, we’re also getting ready for the XCL American Academy 75th Ambassador’s Cup Golf Tournament presented by the American Association of Singapore, this year at the beautiful Laguna National Golf Resort. There are just a few spots left, so grab them quickly if you want to be a part of this fantastic event!

We’re excited to bring you articles about living your best, healthiest life in this issue. In today's fast-paced world, it's easy to forget about taking care of ourselves. But here, we've got your back with tips, from eating well and staying active to finding your zen and managing stress.

Life's all about balance, right? So whether you're a gym enthusiast or a meditation newbie, there's something here for everyone. We want to help you feel good inside and out, no matter

So grab a cup of tea, cozy up, and dive in. We hope you find inspiration and motivation along

Thanks for being a part of our community.


who we are

Editor-in-Chief: Susan Williams

Publishing Editor: Melinda Murphy


Graphic Designer: Susan Williams


Advertising Manager: Thila Chandra


Andrea McKenna Brankin


Tiara Giles, Richard Hartung, John S. Hamalian, Amanda Lim, Sophia Melson, Tanay Suresh, Nicole Y.


President: Ashok Lalwani

Vice President: Mkulima Britt

Treasurer: Naureen Rasul

Secretary: Jennifer Yarbrough

Directors-at-Large: Ed Fitzpatrick, Aaron Kim, Daniel Moss, Michelle Reeb, Priyesh Shah

AmCham: Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei

AWA: Julia Tan

SACAC: Dan Levine

SAS: Kyle Aldous

The American Club: Adam Radicic

Non-Voting Members

US Embassy: Lisa Liao

US Navy COMLOG WESTPAC: Rear Admiral Mark Melson

AAS: Melinda Murphy


The American Association of Singapore (AAS) is a professional, notfor-profit organization established to enhance the well-being and living experience of Americans residing in Singapore and to promote relationships, both business and social, between Americans and those from different cultures and nationalities.

56A Boat Quay, Singapore 049845 •

Living In Singapore magazine will be released six times per year, with the purpose of enhancing the expatriate experience in Singapore.


A subscription to Living in Singapore is complementary with an AAS membership. AAS annual family membership is $120.

To join, visit and have Living in Singapore magazine delivered to your inbox. Reproduction in any manner, in English or any other language, is prohibited without written permission. Living in Singapore welcomes all contributions of volunteer time or written material.


Community News

AWA Fashion Show

what’s in...

Get to know the history behind our sister org's annual event

31 Getting Unstuck

Here and Now: Increasing Our Awareness

How to be in the moment and focus on the present

Plant-Powered Palate

Learn about the health and environmental benefits of

What Really Matters for Lifelong Health and Wellness

What you should be paying attention to in order to optimize health

31 46 34 40

message from the president

The 88th George Washington Ball was a rousing success. Our Ball Committee and Staff did an incredible job with a new venue and another fun and creative theme. This year’s Ball was our largest ever to accommodate the growing interest in this event.Our Ball has the best mix of glam and fun, where dancing goes into the next day!

The Ball is our biggest fundraiser and supports all of our community activities throughout the year. This fundraising purpose has gained even greater prominence as corporate support for organizations such as ours has diminished over the years. (If you work for an organization or know of an organization that would like to partner with us and support our mission, please do drop me an email at The support of our attendees, sponsors, donors, strategic partners, and, of course, the bidders in our very exciting live and silent auctions and raffle ticket purchasers helped to make our Ball a success.

One of the more poignant moments at our Ball occurred at the beginning when a video was played of the excellent work that Over-the-Rainbow, the charity our Ball supported this year, is doing. As you know, we always try to bring what exemplifies US culture to every event, and our Ball has always supported worthy charities. This year, we raised S$40,000 in donations for Over the Rainbow, significantly surpassing the amount from last year.

AAS has a busy calendar for the rest of the year. The XCL American Academy Ambassador’s Cup Golf Tournament presented by the American Association of Singapore is coming up on April 26 at the Laguna National Golf Resort in Singapore. Our own US Ambassador, Jonathan Kaplan, will be at this event again (third year in a row!). Please do sign up to golf with the Ambassador and your friends. Spots are filling up quickly!

Wishing you all a bountiful spring.

American Community Organizations Directory



American Dragons


BSA Troop 07:

BSA Troop 10:


Navy League

SACAC Sports

BSA Troop 1010:



Cub Scouts Pack 3017:

The American Club

US Embassy

USA Girl Scouts:


member benefits

AAS paid members enjoy discounts at a range of local businesses. Check out our website for more details.

AAS members, be sure to log in to receive discount codes on the “Your AAS Membership Card” page.


AAS Flag Football Team

Mar 2, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Pickleball Open Play

Mar 9, 2:00 – 3:30 PM

Academy Awards Watch Party

Mar 11, 6:30 AM

A Spirited Evening: Exploring the World of Scotch

Mar 12, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

upcoming events

AAS Running Club

Mar 17, 9:30 – 11:00 AM

Repatriation Tips & Tricks

Mar 19, 7:00 PM

Thirsty Eagles

Mar 21, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

The AAS Easter Extravaganza

Mar 24, 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM

AAS Annual General Meeting

Mar 26, 6:00 PM

The 75th XCL American Academy Ambassador's Cup Golf Tournament

Apr 26, 11:30 AM 11:00 PM

Getting a US Mortgage While Living Overseas

Apr 30, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

AAS Strategic Partners


Partners Stars & Stripes Partners Community Partners

The Counselling Place has an international team of Therapists experienced In serving Expats and local professionals in English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese. Teochew, & Hokkien.

Counselling for:

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The George Washington Ball was a smashing success! From the casino tables and fortune tellers to the opening drum act and sky lanterns, luck was definitely in the air at The 88th George Washington Ball, A Night of Fabulous Fortune. Almost 500 guests danced the night away at the RItzCarlton Millenia Singapore to the tunes of 10 Seconds. As our biggest fundraiser of the year, the Ball supports American Association’s many charitable, social and service activities in the community. Each year, the Ball supports a charity. With the generosity of our attendees, donors, bidders and the support of Coinbase, we raised $40,000 for our charity of the night, Overthe-Rainbow. Thank you one and all for your generosity!

To see more photos, click here.


Friendship and Leadership in Scouting

I started Scouts initially in 6th grade, overseas in Belgium, which seems like a lifetime ago. It was my first introduction to Scouting and has had a big impact on my life. My parents encouraged me to follow in my older brother’s footsteps, and I'm grateful for that little push from them. I first learned about Scouts from him and then started forming my own experiences. In Belgium, we had the opportunity to travel to countries like France and Switzerland for camping trips. Then, moving back to my hometown in the States, I rejoined Scouts the summer before my 8th grade, in Troop 1347.

Throughout the years in Scouts, I’ve met so many meaningful friends and seen and experienced so many things. Some of my best summer memories growinguphavebeentheweek-longsummerScoutcampswithsomeofmy best friends with me.Being a founding member of one of the first few all-girl troops definitely had an impact on my Scouting experience, as well. I’ve been able to grow up with these girls, and we’ve seen the troop change, with people coming and going. We’ve been able to teach younger girls who look up to us and remember how it was when we were their age.That truly has been one of the most meaningful parts of Scouting to me – forming those connections and being able to be a role model and mentor.

Being new to Singapore, I was apprehensive joining Troop 1010, but the thing that international Scouting has taught me is that the common themes and values of Scouting are the same, like I had seen in Europe. I’ve still been able to form meaningful connections. This time, I’ve met people from so many places, some I had never even heard of. This has really given me a global perspective, learning from each other, with Scouts being our common factor. At this troop, specifically, coming in as an older girl, my biggest role in the troop is as a mentor. I’ve had the chance to meet some of the younger girls, and I really do enjoy and take value in teaching them and being a part of their Scout experience.

Overall, I think Scouts is something in my life with a big impact. I think it’s a really great experience to meet new people, and I’m excited to see where the rest of my journey to Eagle Scout takes me.

Sophia Melson is a Life Scout and Troop Librarian for SAIS Troop 1010G.

Trip to Laos

Girl Scout Troop 82 embarked on a trip to Luang Prabang, Laos, this spring. We did various cultural activities, having fun while learning along the way. We stayed at The Namkhan during the trip, where we slept in tents.

On the first day of the trip, we visited the temples of Luang Prabang— each with its own unique flare, stunning gold pillars, and hand-painted murals. We learned about the history of some of the temples and made sure to appreciate the careful architecture of the religious sites. That evening, we had a nice boat ride down the Mekong River and finished our day off with the unique experience of a Laos massage session.

On day two, we woke early to head out to the rice fields. With our wonderful guide from The Living Land Farm, we learned about the hardships farmers have to go through to produce a single bowl of rice. Afterward, while eating lunch, we had a new appreciation for the bowls of rice sitting in front of us and tried our best not to waste a single grain of hard-earned labor. Later that day, we visited a local farm and learned to cook traditional Lao dishes. These were the foods we had for dinner. After dinner, we sat around a fire under the stars and made some s’mores! After all, it wouldn’t be a Girl Scouts trip without the pieces of marshmallow and chocolatey goodness.

The last day of the trip started with a cloth dyeing class at Ock Pop Tok. We learned that each piece of intricate embroidery could take days to make. From red to green to aqua blue, each color is created out of natural dye, and each piece of fabric and pattern is carefully curated and embroidered by the master weavers of the Oma ethnic group. We also dyed our own scarves as a meaningful souvenir to take home. After an amazing lunch by the river, we headed to the Kuang Si Waterfall and Free the Bears Sanctuary. We learned about the illegal poaching and pet trade of sun bears in Asia and helped prepare some snacks for the rescued bears. Before dinner, we visited the Laos Buffalo Dairy, where we learned about the history and processes behind Laos's first buffalo milk farm. After the long day, we shopped at the night market, getting matching bracelet strips for our vests as a reminder of our fun and unforgettable trip!

Embracing Nature's Challenges: A Scout's Journey

Today, our world appears to be a concrete jungle, with screens and technology surrounding us. Our connection with nature has degraded, and journalists, researchers, scientists, and politicians have spoken about the need for us, especially the youth, to engage more with the outdoors. I’ve been Scouting for a year, and it’s changed me dramatically.

Before I started Scouting, I viewed the outdoors as something to be avoided. While on school adventure trips or with family, I preferred the comfort of a bed and a book to camping, hiking, and cooking in the wilderness. I abhorred the idea of sleeping in a tent and spending hours without temperature control or the internet, something I think many young people would relate to.

Over the last year, I’ve spent over 100 hours with the troop, camping in Lazarus Island, Pasir Ris, and scaling Gunung Ledang (Mt. Ophir) in Malaysia. I’ve helped to plant trees and hiked over 50 miles. Camp Nepal, a week-long high-adventure camp, was a big highlight. One thing all these diverse experiences have in common is the lack of technology. Challenges aren’t limited to physical - we spent several hours learning about the mechanics of aircraft for the Aviation merit badge, before cycling to the airport to catch some aircraft movements in action. I’m not spending any time on social media, watching videos or reading headlines. Instead, I’m fully immersed in the activities, and interacting with the environment, and with my fellow Scouts. Collaborating as we tackle physical and mental challenges has fostered deep bonds with many of my friends.

Each outdoor activity presents its own unique challenges. I remember my first hike in MacRitchie tested my physical abilities, but when I scaled Mt. Ophir, I had a blast. I’ve come to enjoy hiking, inviting friends and family to go on hikes with me whenever I get the chance. In Camp Nepal, it was constantly raining, and I was always muddy, but I grew to accept the discomfort, and I’ve grown from that. These moments have tested not just my physical abilities but also my resilience.

It hasn’t been easy being disconnected from the world, but I’ve grown phenomenally doing so. As more and more young people report feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and depressed, with technology exacerbating this trend, spending hours, days, or even a week out in the great outdoors is an excellent way to step back, slow down, and breathe. That brings us back to one of the original purposes of Scouting - to foster a deep connection with the natural world. And over the past year, it has instilled in me a profound appreciation of the natural world. Sometimes, as I spend a day inside, I feel the calling to go on a hike or spend some time at the beach,

just reveling in the outdoors. In a world increasingly wrapped in technology, Scouting has provided me an opportunity to experience the outdoors, and to grow monumentally as a person.

Tanay Suresh is a Second Class Scout and the Scribe for SAIS Troop 10B.
SUCCESS BEGINS WITH BELONGIN G Dover Court International School (Pte) Ltd is registered with the Committee for Private Education. CPE Registration No: 197100313E Registration Period: 05/07/2023 to 04/07/2027 The Committee for Private Education (CPE) is part of SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) +65 6775 7664 BE INSPIRED Come and visit us! INCLUSIVITY SPARKS SUCCESS Happy, supported and inspired students achieve remarkable results at Dover Court International School.

Meet Commander Nick Kalkas, our Assistant Naval Attaché. After an illustrious 20-year career in the US Navy, Commander Kalkas is ready to embark on a new chapter as he bids farewell to his military service.

Hailing from the vibrant city of Chicago, Commander Kalkas was always drawn to the call of the sea. Inspired by his grandfather’s service in the Marines, he set his sights on the prestigious USS Naval Academy. What attracted him most to the academy was its unwavering commitment to academic and moral excellence.

Throughout his career, Commander Kalkas sought to find meaning in his work and make a positive impact on the world. He found himself deployed in multiple Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, where he served with US Special Forces. For him, the best part of the job was the opportunity to connect with locals and truly understand the intricacies of the communities he encountered. Through these experiences, he learned to see neighborhoods rather than just countries.

In 2020, he arrived in Singapore to assume his role as Assistant Naval Attaché. He has played a crucial role in strengthening the defense partnership between the United States and Singapore, working closely with the Ministry of Defense. His dedication to his role and his commitment to fostering cooperation have not only enhanced bilateral ties but also contributed to maintaining stability and promoting peace in the Asia-Pacific region. His extensive knowledge and expertise in naval affairs have been invaluable assets, enabling him to navigate complex challenges and forge partnerships built on trust and mutual respect. Singapore’s rich culture and diverse culinary scene have left a lasting impression on Nick and his family. He will undoubtedly miss the warm camaraderie with the people in Singapore and the tantalizing flavors of hawker food, with his family’s particular favorite hawker stall being Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao.

18 LIVING IN SINGAPORE living in singapore

Humans of The Embassy

Commander Nick Kalkas Assistant Naval Attaché

Commander Kalkas’ dedication to service and his strong moral compass have been a driving force in his pursuit of making the world a better place. As he looks back on his military career, he is grateful for the opportunities he had to serve his country and engage with diverse cultures around the globe. He sought to find meaning in the work he did and strived to leave a lasting legacy wherever he served. Whether it was working alongside international partners or engaging with local communities, Commander Kalkas always sought to make the world a better place.

As we bid farewell to Commander Nick Kalkas, we honor his extraordinary career, unwavering dedication, and inspirational leadership. He has served his country with distinction, embodying the values of honor, courage, and commitment that define the US Navy.


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Sunshine and Smiles: Outdoor Playtime for Kids

Get the kids out of the house and into nature! For parents who stick to Singapore’s air-conditioned indoor spaces, the idea of venturing outside with young children can be intimidating. But there are plenty of reasons to weave outdoor play into your children’s free time. The fresh air, change of scenery, and space to explore will do them good—and you’ll probably enjoy it, too!

Why Play Outdoors?

Outdoor settings inspire kids to move, explore, and imagine, just as they have for centuries. And research confirms that time spent outside is great for children’s health and well-being! The American Medical Association concluded that “Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the outdoors.” Why?

• Running, climbing, observing, and expressing themselves outdoors helps kids develop gross and fine motor skills.

• Unstructured playtime improves kids’ cooperation, focus, and goal-setting; allows them to take risks and develop resilience; and encourages creativity and self-confidence.

• Children engage all their senses when exploring nature, as there’s always something new to see, hear, touch, smell, and even taste!

• Encouraging a love of nature when kids are young helps them develop lifelong healthy hobbies like hiking, gardening, bird-watching, mountain biking, and photography.

• Just a few minutes of daily “green exercise” has proven biological benefits, including muscle and heart health, production of vitamin D (benefiting immune systems, bones, and sleep), preventing myopia and obesity, and reducing levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol.

• Nature enhances kids’ mental and spiritual wellbeing through inspiring curiosity and wonder, promoting calmness and happiness, and reducing hyperactivity.

When Should We Play?

If your family doesn’t usually spend time outdoors, start small! Build a little time into each day to get out—visit a nearby park or playground, walk to the corner store, take a quick scooter or bike ride, or stroll through the neighborhood. The key is to make outdoor time routine, easy, and rewarding. Little by little, you’ll find what works for you and your family.

Where Should We Play?

Singapore has all sorts of kid-friendly outdoor options! If you’re at a playground or park, give the kids their space while observing them discreetly. If activities like hiking need some spice, create a simple scavenger hunt or a goal of finding a certain number of animals or plants. And consider bringing the outdoors inside with a “nature nook” for outdoor collectibles or some potted plants to nurture.

Play at SAS

Working with students from kindergarten through third grade, Singapore American School’s recreation specialist, Rob Carey, sometimes has 15, 30, or even 40 kids at one time, eager to participate in the myriad recess games on offer.

Carey is intentional about how he structures play at SAS. Sometimes, students play simple tag games. At other times, there is something more structured, like kickball, where they form teams, devise strategies, and figure things out themselves. This year, a new campaign called “Positive Playgrounds” encourages our students to be safe, kind, and responsible when playing with their friends in recess areas. Students also apply concepts like collaboration, communication, and character as they learn to play different games.


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The American Women's Association Fashion Show

Let’s set the scene: in 1949, Singapore was a city emerging from the ashes of war and the shadow of colonialism. The Japanese had just pulled out four years prior. Postwar Singapore was marred by unemployment, food shortages, and economic malaise, which obliterated the economy, except for rubber exports. Actually, a state of emergency existed in Singapore from 1948 to 1960, during which the Communist Party of Malaya attempted to take over Singapore. The war was over, but things weren’t cheery in 1949 Singapore.

And so, amid all that turmoil, the American Women’s Association (AWA) members pulled together the first AWA fashion show. Do you think those first organizers knew that their little fashion show would still be going strong 75 years later?

Sadly, there are no photos from that first event, but we have a little insight into what the ladies were wearing.

In 1989, Margaret Smith was interviewed by AWA’s magazine, The Bamboo Telegraph. Smith was a long-time member of AWA, having arrived on the Little Red Dot in 1956. Smith said, “AWA was beginning to spread its wings with the first ever Fashion Show - which was really discarded or disliked dresses of AWA members that were modeled and then sold to the highest bidder. There were few clothes available in Singapore then, and since we did three-year tours, by the end of that tour, your closet was bare, so there was much enthusiasm for the Fashion Show.”

Through the years

The fashion show really parallels the history and culture of Singapore. Think about all the styles the ladies have showcased over the years: the poodle skirts of the 1950s, the bold hippie prints of the swinging 60s, the patchwork and croquet of the 70s, the higher-the-hair-the-closer-toGod hairstyles of the 80s… right on up to the fashions of today. But while the styles have changed, some things have remained the same.

The models have always been members of AWA, who no doubt each get butterflies just before they walk out on the runway. For 75 years, the audience has oohed, ahhed, and cheered their friends as another gorgeous model strutted her stuff down the runway. The show has grown

in size and stature, but the result is always the same: happy women enjoying their friends and fashions.

In 1962, AWA hosted a fall AWA-Pan American Airways Fashion show featuring high fashion from around the world and Singapore’s original contributions. It made more than $9,000, which was donated to three charities, including St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital.

In 1965, the show “Fashions with a Flair” kicked off with teenagers’ daytime wear in “ice cream pastel colors, cool and crisp” and ended with evening wear for ladies. That show was held at Hotel Singapura and benefited Singapore Charities.

The 1986 fashion show featured clothes from different cultures, with models sporting sombreros and cheongsams. By the 90s, other AWA members worked backstage to look after the models, making the show an even bigger event in 2005. The theme was “Fitness and Fun under the Singapore Sun.” By then, the show had grown into the big production it is today, with more than 200 attendees, lucky draw prizes, goodie bags, and more. Every year, it seems the show gets bigger and better. In 2015, there was even an interactive “pop-up salon” where guests had a chance to have their hair styled while they enjoyed the buffet, cocktails, and more.

This year’s event is themed “A Passport Through Culture” and is scheduled for April 19 at the Park Royal Hotel. It will be a stylish journey through fashion while guests enjoy endless tipples, lunch, and shopping! Registration is initially open only to AWA members.

Coming Soon!


Welcome to the Head Space column, where we’ll discuss all matters related to mental health and how it relates to our lives here in Singapore. By Andrea

Supporting One Another

There's a lot of talk about reaching out for mental health support. We see commercials about loneliness and how bad it is for community health. Many people think they're ready to either reach out to somebody else or be that first call for a friend. But are they?

Approximately 46.5 million US adults (18%) say they have either one person or nobody that they can confide in for personal support, according to a 2021 poll from The Impact Genome Project and The Associated PressNORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Seems like we're not doing a very good job here, no matter what the Facebook posts and memes say. I always see people post stuff like "call me any time" and yet no one does. Or no one is truly available.

I know very well what it's like to both need that personal support and also how important it is to be that personal support. In my 2020 book Bipolar Phoenix, about my life with bipolar disorder, I talk about how a huge part of my recovery was developing a network of people to support my treatment. Here's how I did it:

Making that step to really connect with someone who will support you takes not only effort but a bit of (painful) trial and error. You must first ask if someone is up to helping you. Believe it or not, I had more than one person say no! But I kept going and eventually developed a great system of support.

One thing to remember is that your friends and families are not professionals. It's hard for them to hear about your struggles. I think it's important to keep your communications clear and maybe stick to one or two

things, like maybe just the story of what's going on and tell them how you feel. Not everyone knows how to help, so don't expect them to solve your problems.

The ones who can really help are professionals. A counselor or psychologist, a trusted doctor like your gyno or GP, or even your personal trainer, will have proper training on how to deal with mental health issues, even if they're just temporary. Having a hard time is OK and you don't need a diagnosis to ask for help. But these professionals have skills to offer like making lists of pros and cons, incorporating nutritional or self-care advice or helping you create a gratitude list. (This has been proven by Harvard researchers to improve overall health, not just mental health.)

On the other hand, many people don't know how to make that first call to ask for help or support. You may think you're being stupid, or you'll be a burden. I can tell you from my vast experience with mental health struggles that if they love you, they will be there when you ask. Stick to the people who are in your heart. That may not be family. That may be your pickleball partner! Branch out and look for those who share your interests and experiences. Be brave and make the call, send the text, and shoot off that email.

For us as expats, sometimes it needs to be another expat to understand your issues. There are a lot of anonymous posts on expat women's Facebook pages, and I can tell you there is an immense amount of love and support going back and forth online. Try all channels, in real life and online. For myself, I reach out online a lot when I'm struggling with bipolar symptoms


and my responses are just the most heart-warming and as supportive as I could ever get in real life.

Be patient on texting. Sometimes it's hard to remember that people are not 100% available at the time you need them. Just wait it out. I know it's painful and hard and you might start to feel rejected, but hang on. Someone will come through and I can tell you that the sense of relief is worth the wait.

Building a network of support takes effort for sure, but it's not insurmountable. I'll reiterate the main points that worked for me:

Be brave. You are more than your troubles and those who care for you already know that. Professionals can help.

Turn to your online community. And no matter what, keep going, keep trying to reach out.

For the listeners, that's all you need to do.

If we're all just there for each other, we can change those stats in no time.

Andrea is an American journalist and author, who published her book about her life with bipolar disorder, Bipolar Phoenix, in 2020. She writes mental health columns for several magazines and speaks often about mental health issues. She is active in the Singapore kids’ rugby community as head coach of the Titans Trixies, her daughter's team. Andrea also spends her time on charity efforts, especially at Dayspring Residential Treatment Centre for abused teen girls and for Writing Through, an organization that teaches conceptual writing to marginalized communities in Southeast Asia.

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Getting Unstuck

Y’all, I am STUCK.

I have to be honest. I had a hard time writing this because I am currently stuck in this place called the “in-between.” I’m at a point in my life where I want to do more with my career and other aspects of my life. I know what I want, yet I can’t see a clear picture of how to get there. Being like this has caused me to feel very frustrated and even depressed at times. I found myself in a cycle of stress and complaining to my friends. “I can’t believe I’m doing this. I said I would do this when I’m 30, but I’m not,” or “My knee still isn’t 100%. I can’t believe I have to start over with dance.”

I had previously been working towards my goals. I was in physiotherapy to repair my knee, reading books to get out of writer's block, and in therapy to heal my traumas and cPTSD. I had moved countries but still had the same old job. I had little time for my favorite hobbies since I couldn’t do them. I literally tore my meniscus and injured my already injured foot while doing my favorite hobby: dancing. I was so angry with myself because my progress wasn’t fast enough. I felt trapped and stuck in a cycle of “Why haven’t I gotten where I needed to be?” I didn’t focus on my healing. I wasn’t really focused on anything except being stuck. So, how was I supposed to enact mindfulness or take a few deep breaths and do yoga? That advice was simple but not really useful.

Everyone has their own way of regulating and grounding themselves. Some people can do that through yoga. Some can do that through music. For me, it was dance and writing. So, when you’re out of commission, what can you turn to? Yourself.

I know it sounds super cheesy, but stick with me. Write down your emotions and feelings. Talk it out with yourself. Sit in silence (although that can be scary if you’ve never done it before). Do whatever works for you, but you need to hear what those thoughts are telling you. Maybe you’re not actually stuck; instead, you’re not listening to yourself. You’re not listening to your needs.

Maybe what you need is to slow down and ground yourself. Sometimes, you have to hold space for yourself. Listen to what those deep breaths are trying to tell you. How does your body feel when those thoughts cross your mind? Can you sit with that? Can you listen?

Once you can hold space for yourself, you’ll find that you’re not actually stuck but just in need of a new perspective. It wasn’t easy, though. I thought I was prioritizing myself enough already, but apparently, I wasn’t. You can’t thoroughly prioritize yourself until you’ve been able to hold space for yourself and your emotions. Now that I’ve given myself the room to do this, I’ve been a little less stuck. I’m journaling, starting to dance again slowly, and mentally healing every day. It takes time, but understanding yourself is worth it.

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HERE and NOW: Increasing Our Awareness by Being in the Moment and Focusing on the Present

Sheryl Sandberg once said, “We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.” This quote nicely captures the idea of Awareness Thinking, part of a series of key thinking strategies that I call Essential Thinking, various habits of the mind that I believe are critical for our overall well-being and success. (We use essential oils, so let’s also practice some essential thinking!) Being more aware of ourselves and our environment may be one of the keys to achieving better personal wellness. In today’s fast-paced, plugged-in, hyper-connected world, with so many disruptions, disturbances, and distractions, how can we learn to be more in the moment, to focus on our surroundings, to sometimes just simply hit pause?

Although I refer to this as Awareness Thinking, being aware does not necessarily involve thinking from the perspective of logical and analytical reasoning. Some say awareness is actually the absence of thinking. This suggests that awareness requires a mental state of openness so that we can sense ourselves and our environment and allow these inputs to enter our consciousness.

To get better at building awareness, many folks have embraced meditation in various forms and ways. Apart from this, I have put together a few mind-habits, mental and physical behaviors and practices that may help lead to better thinking, that we can incorporate into our daily lives. This list is by no means exhaustive and is not necessarily based on hard neuro-science, but it offers a few things for us to think about.

1) Engage in Activities That Help Us Clear Our Minds

As writers can get writer’s block, others can get mindblock. Paradoxically, sometimes, the best way to solve a problem we may be working on is to stop thinking about it! One simple way

to do this is to switch to mindless tasks when facing a particularly daunting situation or issue. This is sometimes called meandering or diffused thinking, as opposed to focused thinking.

For me, I do this mainly by jogging. Running lets me empty my mind, and somehow, I often get some great ideas. This is as opposed to cycling, for example, which, for me, requires concentration and thus occupies too much of the mind. Sometimes, I even rush home from a jog so I can write down the ideas I get before I forget them.

Simply going for a walk may also help. According to a Fortune Magazine study on how to have breakthrough ideas, “The single common habit of great…innovators was walking.” In their study, “Participants walking indoors on a treadmill…or walking outdoors in the fresh air produced twice as many creative responses compared to those who were sitting down.”

Charles Darwin famously had a quarter-milelong walking path called the Sandwalk, his go-to place when working on a problem. “So important was walking to his thought processes that Darwin sometimes described a problem he was working on in terms of the number of turns around his path he would need to solve it,” according to Fortune


The Japanese practice of Shinrinyoku, known as forest bathing, is a particular way of walking that may lead to increased levels of awareness through more sensory inputs. “Whereas hiking is usually about reaching a destination, and a nature walk would take an inquisitive look at plants and animals, forest therapy encourages participants to engage slowly and deliberately with nature,” according to a National Geographic article. This kind of practice also helps us engage all our senses, allowing us to deeply immerse ourselves in the moment.

2) Make Time for Mind Time

undoubtedly be used for meditation or just plain old mind time.

Every once in a while, book some “mind time” with yourself to refresh, reboot, recharge, and think…not necessarily to think about anything in particular, as that may require too much concentration. Rather, open your mind to think about anything that comes your way. When I lived in Korea, my good friend YC Kim once invited me for a hike up one of Seoul's many mountains in the city. It was invigorating. He often said that such hikes helped him to "refresh my mind,” a phrase I often heard during my time in Korea, suggesting a fundamental focus on mindfulness there.

Since we hardly ever have free time, we need to make time for this, and there are many ways to accomplish that. Former Secretary of State George Shultz liked to carve out one hour each week for quiet reflection, a practice that has somewhat famously become known as “Taking a Shultz Hour.”

Or...take a Ferris Bueller Day! (Kids, don’t try this at home!)

3) Be in The Moment

In Batman Begins (the best-ever Batman film, in my view), Liam Neeson’s character tells a stumbling, pre-Batman Bruce Wayne, as he teaches him how to fight, “Always mind your surroundings.” People have died while walking and falling down holes and stairs because they were not paying attention, whether on their phones or just not focusing on where they are. Embracing a mantra of “Look up, not down!” may literally save a life or, at the very least, allow us to be more in the here and now.

"I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think.”

Then there’s the “5-Hour Rule,” said to be practiced by some well-known people such as Oprah, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Elon Musk, which posits that no matter how busy successful people are, they will dedicate at least five hours a week to deliberate learning and skill development. Note that this is not necessarily a mindfulness technique, though according to the rule, the hours can include reflective thinking and could

I have personally had at least two near-death experiences in my lifetime. One was while on a trip when the driver fell asleep at the wheel while heading straight into a slowmoving truck, and the other was at a crosswalk where a car went right through a red light. In both cases, being personally attentive saved my life.

“The Fish! Philosophy” (a team-building and management approach modeled after practices from the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle) includes a principle called “Be There.” This concept encourages us to eliminate distractions and interruptions so that we can focus better on people – in particular, people who need us.


In the case of Pike’s Place, that usually means customers, but it could be anyone. We can consider this “Awareness for Others.” After all, you can’t help someone if you can’t see them.

4) Redefine the Notion of Productivity

“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone," said 17thcentury philosopher Blaise Pascal. And that was way before mobile phones! In today’s world, we often equate productivity with busyness and, therefore, feel the need to always be on. Being offline is easily equated with wasted time and, thus, unproductive. One of the issues with productivity is that it is essentially a measure of quantity and largely bereft of a quality dimension, inadvertently promoting a focus on efficiency rather than effectiveness. There are numerous ways to emphasize time effectiveness over time efficiency. Here are a few thoughts:

Re-embrace Dead Time

Before mobile phones existed, there were many captive situations when there was not much to do, such as riding a train or a bus. Now, this dead time has largely been filled by mobile phone usage. Instead of impulsively reaching for our phones when nothing is occupying our attention (which a Microsoft study found that 77% of respondents do), shift the thinking from “downtime is screen time” to “downtime is mind time.” JK Rowling is said to have conjured up the idea for the Harry Potter books while on a train ride from Manchester to London. If she was engrossed in her phone (assuming they existed back then), we may not have our beloved Harry, Hermione, and Ron!

Wander Off Course

luck may be a great way to become more aware of people and places we would not otherwise encounter. This is easiest to practice while on a trip. Resist the urge to plan every detail and leave some wandering time in your schedule (divide the agenda into fixed and flexible times).

Adopt the mantra “Doing Nothing Can be Something”

Lao Tzu said, “Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” Resist the perceived need to be constantly on. Being still may lead to unexpected ideas, insights, or, at the very least, some muchneeded mind downtime. (Husbands, don’t try this at home).

5) Engage in Mind-Keeping

Going from Point A to Point B the fastest way may be the most efficient, but not necessarily the most effective. One of the best photos I took on a journey to Kyrgyzstan a few years ago was of horses grazing along a gently sloping meadow near a beautifully placid lake. The photo was the result of purposely going off the planned course. Embracing some

We do housekeeping, so why not mind-keeping? In the management and innovation approach known as Lean Thinking, there is an important adage of “More Value - Less Waste,” reminding us to continually identify and reevaluate what is most essential and then treat everything else as waste to be eliminated, forming the basis for Kaizen improvements. This relentless focus on prioritizing value has the effect of decluttering whatever we are doing (physical space, digital space, and even mind space) by concentrating on what keeps us away from what is most essential to us (our wellbeing, family, friends, etc). While digital detoxes and


wellness days may be helpful in the short term, what is most needed is systemic change in the way we do things on a day-to-day basis.

One of the easiest and perhaps most effective places to start is our digital devices. The American Psychological Association reported that 86% of adults in the US say they constantly or often check their email, texts, and social media accounts. The study found that stress levels for these constant checkers run higher, on average, than for those who do not engage with technology as frequently. To counter this, here are a few mindkeeping actions we can take:

Keep mobile phones mobile

Do an app assessment, focusing on the ones you need while on the go and deleting the others, which can help you reduce screen time while away from home. This also helps reduce time online at home, preventing excessive couch surfing, though tablet and laptop use would also need to be considered). For me, Facebook is not on my phone but only on my home PC.

Minimize built-in distractions

on urgent communications (audible notification) and reclassify others as important but not urgent (silent notification) or unimportant (delete or no notification). The only audible notification I have on my phone is for the actual Phone, and the only pop-up (silent) notifications are for calendar events, SMSs, and missed calls.

Schedule phone checks like we would meals

Just as we don’t eat continuously all day and generally limit ourselves to three meals daily, identify mobile phone timesappers and decrease how often you check your phone—target stress-inducing habits such as the news. For example, develop a habit of only checking your news app once in the morning and once in the evening.

Re-evaluating all the notification settings on our phones can greatly reduce screen time and increase mind time. Prioritize communications based on response time needed. E-mail notifications can be a tremendous distraction and can be turned off for most people. Same for most messaging apps. Focus

Being aware of the present can help us appreciate what we have, the people and things around us, and, perhaps ironically, help us understand our past and advise our future. Mother always told me that wherever I was and whatever I was doing, I needed to stop and smell the roses. That classic metaphor connects to a lot of the mind-habits mentioned in this article and, in a way, perfectly encapsulates the idea of building more awareness into our lives. As Ferris sagely stated, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

John lives a dual existence:  his ‘day job’ is in Management and Innovation, but another passion lies in a parallel path of travel, writing, and photography.  An avid explorer, he has visited more than 75 countries, including the entire Asia region, journeying to lesser-traveled places such as North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Siberia.  John’s personal mission is to help spark a spirit of building a more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable world.

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Plant-Powered Palate: Good for You and Good for Mother Earth

More than 90 percent of the population in Singapore is not vegetarian or vegan, so expecting a mass shift to vegan lifestyles is unrealistic. But by making small changes to eat less meat, people who do eat meat can improve their health and also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Why Plant-based Foods Matter

Eating meat is clearly part of the culture in Singapore and many other countries. Yet it comes at a cost.

Diets high in red and processed meat and lower in whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit are associated with higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, according to Johns Hopkins University and the US National Institutes of Health.

A study at Harvard showed that just one daily serving of unprocessed red meat led to a 13 percent higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease or cancer, and processed red meat such as a hot dog or bacon raised the risk by 20 percent.

Along with the health risks, meat significantly impacts climate

change. Food and agriculture cause about 25 percent of global carbon emissions, and meat causes about 60 percent of that total. Beef is the worst culprit, with meat producing ten times as much greenhouse gases as poultry and 32 times as much as tofu.

Less Meat and More Veggies Improves Health

Rather than simply giving up meat entirely, which meat-eaters are highly unlikely to do, eating less meat – particularly beef –has significant positive effects. Researchers suggest simple dietary substitutions such as substituting chicken for beef in dishes such as burritos could improve consumers’ overall dietary quality by 4–10 percent, and it could reduce the dietary carbon footprint in the US by more than 35 percent. Researchers in Germany found that replacing 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of processed meat with plant-based foods daily lowered cardiovascular disease risk by 25 percent, and replacing

that much processed meat with plant-based foods reduced the risk of death by 21 percent.

People who switch to a vegan lifestyle have even better health. Stanford Medicine researchers who studied identical twins, putting one on a vegan diet and the other on an omnivore diet, found that a vegan diet improves cardiovascular health in as little as eight weeks. The twin who shifted to a vegan diet had lower cholesterol (LDL-C) levels, insulin, and body weight.

Along with the health benefits, the changes help the climate, too. Even just swapping highercarbon foods for lower-carbon alternatives, such as replacing cow products with plant-based foods or poultry once a day, could reduce people’s dietary carbon footprint by more than 35 percent. "We found that making small changes in what we eat can substantially


reduce carbon pollution and also make our diets healthier," Anna Grummon, assistant professor at the Stanford School of Medicine, told ABC News.

How to Make the Switch

A key question, then, is how to switch. It’s one thing to intend to live a healthier and more climatefriendly life. It’s another thing to do it.

One option is simple substitutions such as chicken instead of beef in tacos, cod instead of shrimp, or plant-based instead of dairy milk. Lower-carbon foods have better Healthy Eating Index scores, so they are good for you and the planet.

Another is Meatless Mondays or Taco Tuesdays. You can try new recipes one day a week, knowing you’ll go back to meat the next day. Or if you don’t have much meat for breakfast or lunch anyway, decide you’ll have meat only for dinner.

As MSNBC put it, “Taco Tuesdays can turn into a chance to save the environment.”

Harvard researchers also suggest reducing processed meats such as bacon, sausages, and cold cuts. If you eat red meat multiple times a day, such as a sausage for breakfast, a ham sandwich for lunch, and a steak for dinner, try cutting it down to once a day. If you eat red meat once a day, reduce the portion size a bit. A single instead of a

double hamburger, fewer slices of bacon or beef, or buying half a pound of beef and adjusting other ingredients if a recipe calls for a pound can make a real difference. Eating more “umamipacked” plant-based foods such as soy sauce, miso, toasted nuts or seeds, and vegetables such as tomatoes can provide a savory, rich taste when cooking without animal foods.

While vegans and vegetarians may suggest that you switch to plant-based foods entirely, and it does have advantages, it may be unrealistic. Reducing meat in your diet or swapping it for healthier meats can make a difference – for your health and the planet.

Richard is the Managing Director of Transcarta and a freelance writer for Today, Challenge, The Asian Banker and other media, as well as corporate clients. He is also the author of Changing Lanes, Changing Lives. Richard is a consultant in retail banking, focusing on payments strategy and efficiency, with more than 20 years of experience in Asia. You can read more from Richard at

Vegetarian Restaurants

Cooking at home is great. Realistically, though, many people want to go out for a meal. You can now find vegetarian options at almost every place you like to eat, from hawker centers and fast-food joints to casual dining establishments and Michelin-starred restaurants. Restaurants that serve only vegetarian cuisine or that serve a vegetarian set menu include:

Casual Dining

• Eight Treasures serves creative vegetarian Chinese cuisine. It uses fresh vegetables and soy to prepare various dishes, including an extensive menu of vegetarian meat replacements. 282A South Bridge Road.

• VeganBurg is a vegetarian burger joint that offers plant-based burgers with fresh greens and wholemeal buns. 44 Jalan Eunos 1 and 1 Bidadari Park Drive #01-37.

• Elemen is a very casual place that prepares wholesome meatless recipes using natural ingredients, from lasagna and quinoa salad to Asian curry with roti. HarbourFront, Millenia Walk, Paya Lebar, Woodlands Height, and Great World City.


• Joie, located on the rooftop garden of Orchard Central, specializes in modern meatless cuisine. It leverages dining trends in Europe and Taiwan, using fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs for four- or five-course lunches and six- or seven-course dinners. 181 Orchard Road, #12-01 Orchard Central.

• Whole Earth is Singapore’s only Peranakan-Thai vegetarian restaurant. It says it seeks to elevate the standard of plant-based cooking using fresh vegetables, legumes, mushrooms, and grains. 76 Peck Seah Street.

• Original Sin offers a range of dishes that capture the essence of Mediterranean vegetarian cuisines. #01-62, Blk 43 Jln Merah Saga, Chip Bee Gardens.

• Ling Zhi Vegetarian, a vegetarian Chinese restaurant that has been around for more than 30 years, has replaced its style of preparing vegetarian dishes with mock meats and shifted to a range of dishes that use premium and organic produce from specially contracted farms. Liat Towers #05-01, 541 Orchard Road.

• Rang Mahal offers authentic flavors from all the regions of India. Level 3, Pan Pacific Singapore, 7 Raffles Boulevard

Fine Dining (Vegetarian Set Menus)

• Jaan uses a seasonal philosophy to showcase innovative British dining in a modern, light, simple cuisine. Michelin says this two-star restaurant has it all – food, service, ambiance, and spectacular views - and uses top British produce and inspirations to turn out modern culinary creations. 2 Stamford Rd, Level 70, #70-01.

• Saint Pierre serves modern French cuisine with an Asian accent. Michelin says it offers modern French cuisine, underpinned by solid skills and characterized by Asian overtones that accentuate the natural flavors of premium produce. 1 Fullerton Road, #02-02B, One Fullerton.

• Restaurant Jag says its Vegetable Journey uses vegetables picked at their seasonal best and served in various techniques. 41 Robertson Quay, 02-02.

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What REALLY Matters for Lifelong Health and Wellness: Optimizing Your Process to Get Results

Eighteen years ago, I started my career as a health and fitness coach in Los Angeles and let me tell you that in the nearly two decades (!) that have passed – having lived in two major US cities and now Singapore – I’ve seen it all.

The wellness industry is constantly coming up with shiny new things (Piloxing!) and crazy gimmicks (celery juice cleanse, anyone?) to entice – and very often confuse – the general public. I can’t tell you how often I get questions from clients about niche supplements, crazy workout trends, or complicated new diets –and how often I have to burst their bubbles on what really matters for long-term health.

When it comes to achieving optimal wellness – what I regard as a combination of healthy

body composition, an absence of physical disease or chronic conditions, thriving mental health, and a well-functioning gut and metabolism – there are a few inalienable points that can help cut through the “noise” of social media, pseudoscience, and pop culture:


If you aren’t strength training, building lean mass, and eating a protein-focused diet (more on that below) to preserve lean muscle tissue, you are missing out on the single most important factor in determining your longterm health outcomes. Individuals with more muscle mass have an easier time maintaining body fat loss, are better protected from metabolic syndrome (including Type 2 diabetes and

hypercholesterolemia), and report less cognitive decline with age.

But don’t be intimidated: you don’t need to go from being a cardio junkie to a powerlifter overnight. Progressive strength training across the six fundamental movement patterns (squat, hinge, push, pull, carry and rotate) is enough. For true beginners, even bodyweight movements can begin to build muscle and – for those who have been weight training but not progressing – simply keeping an eye on total volume (sets x reps x weight) and aiming to bump that number up slightly every 6-12 weeks can be transformative for better health.



There is no “one path” to optimal nutrition, but if there’s one thing that longevity physicians, registered dietitians, and holistic health professionals can agree on, it’s that a diet adequate in protein is crucial. Protein not only builds and repairs your body’s vital tissues (most importantly – muscle!), but it aides in immune function, improves the composition of the gut microbiome, and helps control appetite for those trying to lose weight.

The purest protein-rich foods are white poultry, white fish, egg whites, tofu, non-fat/low-fat unsweetened dairy products, and protein powder supplements. Secondary sources of protein (meaning those that also contain significant fat or carbohydrates) include fatty fish, beef, pork, nuts, and legumes/pulses. My general rule of thumb is to aim for 20-40g of protein in each meal or snack, prioritizing complete proteins whenever possible.


Even if you’re eating protein and lifting weights regularly, there are still major health issues that might lie “under the surface” such as vitamin deficiency, stress-related chronic disease, sleep problems, or hormonal imbalances that can impede your journey toward better health. In my practice, I recommend that all of my clients embark on a quest to “know your numbers” – meaning, get familiar with the specific factors that matter for your healthspan (which refers to the number of healthy years spent within one’s total lifespan).

Some examples of the numbers that matter include glucose, lipid, thyroid and hormone profiles (usually done with a comprehensive blood test), Vitamin D, B12, and Ferritin levels, VO2 Max (a powerful correlate of all-cause mortality) and RMR (resting metabolic rate). It is also important to know the details of your body composition (not just weight!) including body fat, visceral fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and skeletal muscle mass (measured by something called the ALMI, appendicular lean mass index). The final number I recommend knowing is your relative grip strength, measured by clinical dynamometer and again, is directly related to predicting the incidence of all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular risk.


My final recommendation is to focus your attention, time, and resources on the five things that truly matter for optimal wellness: sleep hygiene, adequate movement, food-based nutrition and hydration, stress management, and maintaining healthy relationships. Studies have long shown that the healthiest, longest-living communities are those whose cultural and social practices naturally support these outcomes, encouraging things like spending time exercising outdoors, eating fresh, unprocessed food, prioritizing time with family and friends, developing healthy outlets for stress, and following steady sleep and wake patterns.

Keeping these five pillars of the “wellness house” intact ensures that you are building a healthy lifestyle that will support positive lifelong outcomes – but getting too caught up in the nonessential details like quick-fix diets, green powders, or fleeting exercise trends (things I liken to “mowing the lawn” in front of a burning house) is a recipe for disaster. Invest in your vessel by developing balanced, consistent lifestyle habits, and you’ll cut through the noise to find what truly matters in long-term health.

Amanda is a certified fitness & nutrition coach, perinatal specialist, and director of Singapore-based LIFT Clinic. American by birth but Singaporean at heart, she enjoys hot yoga & CrossFit – followed by a big bowl of laksa. You can find her at @coachamandalim and


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