A world of one’s own.

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The kelong was a break- I wasn’t feeling particularly tired at CBP, but when I got onto the ferry, and then to the kelong, sitting quietly by the sea, watching the little fishes swim by, feeling the sea breeze on my skin and the warmth of the sunshine (built up a rather reddish tan over the three days) toasting my hair. I realised how fast I was going for life and how content I felt to just sit there and laze around. To do nothing at all.

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The whole structure was made of wood, with some PVC pipes in the bathroom. Which means that when R dropped her pills on the floor, it went through the cracks in the floorboard and into the water.

Of course, we had to work for some things- bible study requires brain cells, praise and prayer requires singing (didn’t want to stand, I sat on the hammock), little group prayers requires a lot of heart. The feeling that we are all here to support one another through tough times- my anxiety, her cultural disconnectedness, her postgrad exams, her medical conditions, her company going through insolvency, her life changes.

We had activities to do that were not planned- lots of free and alone time. The kelong isn’t very big but there are definitely open spaces where you can just sit and be alone. My group was about 20-25 people, and there was another Christian group (university kids) there, plus a family of four. Overall, it was less than 40 people at the kelong.

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Going to the secluded beach was nice- some were swimming, some were just sleeping on the sand thinking that they would not get wet. I wanted to sit by myself because the waves were quite clear and so I found a good rock- it was slightly lower than waist level, and there was a ledge that could fit my butt so I sat there and let the waves wash over me, under the sun.

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The ride back was quite terrible because we took a larger boat that did not have the plastic coverings down (unlike the smaller boat in the picture), so with every splash the waves got on the people at the sides (i.e me and R), and then R got so fed up that she fashioned a sort of towel to cover herself but she was soaked through anyway. And she was one of the sleeping people.

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Waking up for the sunrise every day was a really good experience. The sun sets at about 6.30pm, and it gets completely dark and cold, sunrise starts at 5.30am. There are no tall buildings in the area, the nearest patch of civilisation would be a boat ride some 20 minutes away. The wood planks are all well-sanded and there are no nails sticking out of the planks, the water is clean and the food was really good. We had a variety of seafood and curries, although the intensity of anchovies and prawns might have made my skin itch last night but considering everything it isn’t too bad. The stars and moon would come out at about 7pm and I could just sit there cross-legged and pat the dogs, they have such nice and soft ears. Dog-ear-pouch!

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Perhaps I haven’t had the time to really be alone in the past few months- there are always people and their wants, even when I am alone my phone and mind are usually connected to things that have to be done. At the kelong, though I bought a data plan, the roaming wasn’t good and basically I was without a connection for most of the time. Which was fine, I just need to clear my pile of emails when I go back to CBP later. The lack of a connection made me calm down, I was able to just walk around (sort of a really slow amble) because there was nothing to do and nowhere that I had to go.

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The pockets of time alone taught me one thing. Which is that I am a whole human being on my own, I have a faith, and this year I am dealing with a lot of changes in my life- leaving two schools, starting work, redefining some of my relationships, picking up meditation, going to church, making a lot of friends, redefining what I want to do with my life- contribute to the community and write etc. It doesn’t matter that I don’t like everyone around me, and it doesn’t matter that they might not like me too. Or at least, I don’t think I will sacrifice my need to be quiet and alone in a corner, for someone else ever again. There are limits and I have been going over these limits a few times in the past year because I didn’t want other people to be upset or to feel that I don’t care about them. But the truth is that I can care about them, and not want to be around them. As R puts it, ‘I will die for you, but I will not live with you.’

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There was a bonfire, but JT got bitten by centipede so we left after a while because centipedes there might be poisonous. Thankfully the group has quite a few doctors and then they were discussing how to treat it. “I have thisthisthis cream” “should give him thisthisthis” haha I was very amused.

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And squid fishing at night.

Grateful for:

The people-

M, for her bubbliness and making sure that everyone got a huge dose of social interaction

J and R for conducting the little group sessions, asking us to reflect on how the retreat was good for us, how we have been coping in the past eight months, how we plan to move forward in the next four months with our lives. And for planning the whole retreat- the schedule, the transportation, the various little bits that had to be organized

Z and E, for leading the bible study sessions, reminding us that we are able to study God’s words even while disconnected to everyone else in Singapore

FY, for putting me in a smaller room- it was the room for people-who-don’t-like-crowds. It had no hot water but then there’s always people like-

R, for standing outside the bathroom and whistling opera songs because it was a dark bathroom (we snuck to the other girls’ room to bathe which has hot water) and I was scared of the dark

SY, for being a good roomie, getting up with me to watch the sunrise, sharing her insect repellent with everyone. And forgiving me when I forgot that she was sitting at the balcony studying and I accidentally locked her in the room when I went out (she was rescued by Deb). The door can be locked from both the inside and the outside, which is quite funny because at night when she wanted to get in, FY didn’t realise that SY wasn’t in the room and she locked the door from the inside.

And J, for leading everyone else along with his extroverted personality. I think he is another coconut who can talk to himself all day.

D, A, and CG for talking to me consistently over three days- this is my first time talking to them on a non-superficial level. Usually it’s just “hi!!” and “bye!!” And also D, for teaching me card games.

And finally, PY, for her super extroverted but caring self on the way there, and also on the way back. I think I found one person who can understand how uncertain consulting work is already- she works in advertising, her projects are structured similarly to mine.

There are no mosquitoes at the kelong, but one of the workers there brought me to the plantation to see the mangoes and papayas. The dog also brought me there haha.

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The moment I entered, I got attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes. All 15-20 bites on my body are from the two minutes I spent on that little piece of farming land. And I woke up last night scratching ferociously ): Reminds me of my food allergy episodes.

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Good bye 🙂