Week 1: Nuggets, Nuggets, And More Nuggets

Reuelwrites embarks on a 52-week volunteering expedition with charity ‘Willing Hearts’, documenting his experience in the process.

For the last four months of 2017, I have been thinking about volunteering my time with a charity/non-profit organisation. 2017 has been a good year for me as I saw the hand of God bless my real estate business, and the Lord reminded me to ‘feed His sheep’ (John 21:15).

It came to a point where this [need to help someone] was weighing down on me and I knew I have to volunteer somewhere, anywhere. So I spent the last few months of 2017 looking for an organisation to volunteer at. For individuals looking to make a difference, read The Smart Local’s article, 36 Places to Volunteer At In Singapore To Make A Difference In Someone’s Life‘. 

I challenge myself to volunteering with Willing Hearts for 52 consecutive weeks starting from first week of 2018. I have also signed up with Assisi Hospice to volunteer with them.

According to Willing Hearts website, ‘Willing Hearts is wholly run by volunteers, apart from a handful of staff. It operates a soup kitchen that prepares, cooks and distributes about 5,000 daily meals to over 40 locations island wide, 365 days a year. Beneficiaries include the elderly, the disabled, low income families, children from single parent families or otherwise poverty stricken families, and migrant workers in Singapore.’

For individuals who want to make something out of their lives by helping others, read my account below for what transpired during my first week of volunteering! Feel free to volunteer with Willing Hearts or any other organisation, or share this story with your friends.

 

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PHOTO: Me with a hair net.. I find it hilarious I have to still wear one (Laughs)

4.30am – I feel like dying. Can’t remember when was the last time I woke up at this time. Only sleeping at my usual timing of 2.30am the day before didn’t help. Took me another 3 more snoozes before I dragged myself up.

5am – Took the quickest shower and sped down to Willing Hearts. Found that I was the first volunteer to reach. Approached a senior-looking staff to ask how I can help. He told me to wear a hair net, the irony.

The staff told me to help move the rice, oil and dumplings out. He instructed me to be careful when rolling the dumplings down the ramp as the dumplings might all fall out if I didn’t hold the trolley right. Isn’t that too important a role for a newbie like me?

Was asked by a young chap, “Why did you come so early?”

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GIF: ign.com

5.30am – The staff told me to help the young chap with the frying of the nuggets. We poured the oil into two huge-ass woks. I watched him turn on the stove. Even turning on the stove looked menacing. In the meantime, we opened up the bags of nuggets and poured them into trays to ready them for frying. The nugget section consists of just the two of us.

5.33am – The woks are finally heated up. I watched the young chap pour the nuggets into the two woks. Hot oil splattering everywhere. Looks scary. I think I will stick to opening the nugget bags and pouring them into the trays.

5.35am – The young chap demonstrated how to drain the oil from the nuggets using the skimmer. That looked easy.

5.36am – The young chap told me to put the next batch into the wok. Oh-ma-gawd. The only thing I’ve ever cooked from home are soft-boiled eggs, cup noodles and maggie noodles. I’m not ready for this huge responsibility.

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GIF: giphy.com

5.37am – Here goes nothing.

5.38am – Got slightly scalded on my first attempt. But I soldier on, because it’s for the benefit of needy people – this I tell myself. The young chap munched on the nuggets to try them. He told me to try them too or eat them when I want to. I hesitate.

5.45am – I spy with my little eye a ang moh walking into the kitchen. He jovially greets the staff. It seems that he’s a regular volunteer here. Makes me wonder why a foreigner would be more concerned with my country’s needy people than our own local people.

6.15am – I’m slowly getting the hang of it. Finally popped one nugget in my mouth. Not bad!

6.20am – The ang moh volunteer comes over to our ‘counter’ and informs us, “The nuggets are really good!” My Asian complex kicked in and all I could muster was an “Ah”, but my heart shouts “Oh Yippie!” Confidence rising.

6.30am – More volunteers start streaming in, including volunteers from Polytechnics – I assume.

7am – Open nuggets, fry nuggets, drain nuggets, repeat. I’m getting good at this, or so I thought.

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GIF: giphy.com

7.03am – Discovered that they have opened three assembly lines. We need to fry faster!

7.15am – Engaged in small talk with the young chap while cooking. K tells me that he just graduated from NUS Engineering. I asked him if he started working. K tells me that he’s working part-time at Willing Hearts while looking for a job. He has been volunteering with Willing Hearts for six months.

7.20am – Took a quick water break. I have been frying nuggets for hours now. I got oil on my skin and clothes. I could even feel it seep into my skin. Starting to feel a little tired but I could feel the joy of having needy people eat stuff cooked by me.

7.25am – I thought my job was one of the toughest, it wasn’t. I looked around at what everyone was doing. Those chaps cooking the rice and vegetables in huge-ass pots seemed to be expending a lot of arm strength. I feel better already.

7.30am – Open nuggets, fry nuggets, drain nuggets, repeat. Did I mention that cooking at Willing Hearts is almost like working one’s biceps at the gym except that it’s better? It’s free gym.

7.40am – I could feel fatigue slowly overwhelming me now.

7.55am – Every sense of altruism that I first felt flew out of the window. Now I just waiting for my ‘shift’ to end.

8am – Half-an-hour more to go. Eugene, you got this.

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GIF: tumblr.com

8.10am – Another senior staff comes over to our section for more nuggets. I stand down as he briefly took over the frying. He tells me I need to follow his method to fry the nuggets. I lost my nugget chef confidence. I went back to my comfort zone of opening nugget bags.

8.20am – He told me to take over the frying again.

8.30am – Nobody is leaving. Omg.

8.40am – The senior staff comes back to help with the frying occasionally. He informs us they need another 3,000 nuggets. I fainted in my head.

9am – Open nuggets, fry nuggets, drain nuggets, repeat.

9.05am – I spotted a really cute volunteer. Oh concentrate, Reuel!

9.15am – I think we are close to finishing. I’m amazed how the staff have so much stamina to do this everyday. I’m dying from just one day of volunteering. They must really love people. I can do better at loving people. C’mon, Reuel.

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GIF: buzzfeed.com

9.17am – The staff informs us they need another “2,000 nuggets”. I felt like dying.

9.30am – Open nuggets, fry nuggets, drain nuggets, repeat.

9.32am – The last time I felt so tired could be when I was still in the army.

9.40am – The staff comes over to inform us they need another 1,000 nuggets. I’m now a zombie in The Walking Dead.

9.55am – The staff informs us they have enough packs. Oh the sound of music. We pack up the remaining uncooked nuggets for cooking the following day. K tells me to leave first. There will be other volunteers coming to help with the cleaning. I obliged.

10am – I take my leave. There’s no congratulatory message from the in-charge and the staff – everyone’s doing their equal share to help the needy.

Willing Hearts is mostly run by volunteers, which means to say that if nobody comes to volunteer either to cook or deliver the food, literally thousands would not have a warm meal for that day.

So running the soup kitchen and delivery is kind of a ‘faith-based’ thingy. And the amazing thing is, there are different volunteers coming everyday to help cook and deliver the meals.

I’m pretty sure some of Singapore’s most compassionate people are gathered here everyday. I am also equally, if not more impressed by the tenacity of the staff to ensure every needy receives a packet of warm food – every single day. 

What a humbling experience. We could praise ourselves for packing over five thousand packets of food for the needy, but the day restarts again tomorrow. RW

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The Most Difficult New Year’s Resolution For 2018

Possibly the most difficult new year resolution you can ever make for 2018. I dare you.

Truth be told, I did not make any new year’s resolution for 2017, but it turned out way better than I expected. My focus for 2017 was solely on my business and the verse Joel 2:25 came into my remembrance; “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten”.

God has been very good to my real estate business and I capped the year on a high, amongst the top producers in my previous company PropNex and current company Huttons. ‘I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase’ (1 Corinthians 3:6). And for that, I’m grateful to God for His Blessing.

“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten”
– Joel 2:25

Perhaps it’s (the realisation of fragility of) one’s finite lifespan that causes us to set new year’s resolution, so as to make (positive) adjustments in our lives. Most of us would make resolutions such as the following:

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New Year’s Resolution | PHOTO: ase.org

 

In the spirit of making new year’s resolutions, I have been thinking of making just one new year’s resolution, and focus on fulfilling it. While all the resolutions stated above are all significant and important in their own right, I want to make 2018 about becoming a better version of myself.

Apart from volunteering with Willing Hearts and Assisi Hospice this year, I’m gonna make a new year’s resolution which even a saint would find difficult to fulfill.

Hence here goes! I am making the new year’s resolution to not be angry at all. That means only entertaining good vibes 24/7, 365 days a year. That would mean not cursing at those novice/fast-n-furious drivers who cut my lane haphazardly, that would mean not being upset with the patron who cut my queue at the Cai Png stall, that would simply mean – not being angry at all.

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PHOTO: notonthehighstreet.com

 

A friend told me that I’m setting myself for failure since even a pastor is susceptible to this very human emotion. But where my capacity is maxed, I rely on God’s. So wish me the strongest of will, and good vibes only!

If you are feeling inspired and want to join in, write to me at reueleugenetay@gmail.com so I know I have a fellow comrade and we can encourage each other! RW

Is It Necessary To Send Your Kid To A ‘Branded’ Primary School?

Is it really necessary? Why not a neighbourhood primary school?

I was having a conversation with my colleague the other day and found out that she rented a unit in The Minton despite owning a property in the West. Perplexed, I asked more questions and that was when I discovered that she made the move so she could stay within 1km to Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (PLMGS) and get her daughters into the school. For those who don’t know, PLMGS is one of the more popular primary schools in Singapore, taking the 31st spot in the 2016 Primary School Ranking list.

She went on to tell me that she came from a neighbourhood school. During her time there, she ‘had the time of her life’ with her friends and acing her studies wasn’t her top priority. Fortunately for her, she did relatively well in life; achieving fairly okay grades for her studies later on, landed a good job and started her family. But many of her friends were not that fortunate. And that was the driving force behind her determination not to let her children go through a similar route.

My colleague joined the assembly of parents past and present who will do whatever it takes to send their kids to a ‘good’ primary school. But what makes a primary school ‘good’?

What makes a primary school ‘good’?

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PHOTO: The Straits Times

Further segregated into ‘branded’, ‘top’ and ‘elite’, sending one’s kids to a good primary school ranks high in priority for many parents for the longest time. The common traits that these primary schools share include:

Perhaps the most important trait is still the belief that sending one’s kids to these primary schools increases their chance of scoring well at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) – which in turn guarantees they have a ‘headstart in life’. There has been rumours that top school Nanyang Primary School produced 47% graduates who scored above T-score of 250. Nanyang Primary School also produced the top student with a T-score of 283.

For more information on the primary school phases and procedures, click here.

Every School, A Good School?

PHOTO: The Straits Times

Perhaps the Government is trying to back-paddle on their previous stance and deal with this growing elitism issue. The slogan first mentioned by PM Lee in his National Day Rally speech in 2010 and popularised by then-education minister Heng Swee Keat at an MOE seminar in 2011, the Government sought to bridge the divide between the supposed-good primary school and a neighbourhood primary school. Putting their hand where their mouth is, the Government has made adjustments to the handling of PSLE with the most recent move to replace revealing T-scores in favour of 8 scoring bands instead.

I asked my colleague, “Do you agree with the Government’s statement?” She replied in a heartbeat, “No, of course not.” Well, good is relative. Good can mean a school’s ability to educate a child, to get them curious with acquiring knowledge, or to inculcate good values in them? Perhaps her – and many other parents’ – definition of good is the school’s ability to help their child get good grades for the much-needed boost in hyper-competitive Singapore.

I do agree with the Government’s statement that every school is a good school with qualified teachers and a sound curriculum. However, I would say that not every school presents the same opportunities to a child.  Statistics and probability don’t lie.

The brutal truth the Government won’t admit at this juncture is this, a kid who goes to a branded or top primary school is going to find himself placed in an environment with more opportunities to do academically well and to make better informed decisions than a said kid who enrolls in a neighbourhood primary school. Notice I did not say that a kid who goes to a neighbourhood school cannot do well, but the odds do not favour him as much as it does for the kid who goes to a branded school.

Are Grades And Going To A Top School Everything Then?

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PHOTO: The Straits Times

I thought it more as a propaganda move but a 2015 article published by The Straits Times described how many parents are choosing neighbourhood schools for their kids instead of branded ones. Sending one’s kid to a top school may increase the odds of one’s kid doing better later on in life, it also comes with its challenges.

Studying in a top primary school can be extremely stressful, do we want to subject our children to such stress at a young age? With the Government’s push for more well-rounded students (who are also expected to do well in CCAs) as opposed to students who just excel academically, the demand on a student’s time and cognition could be amplified. It may also require parents to uproot themselves and plan ahead since they have to stay at the registered address within 1-2km to the choice school for 30 months.

At the same time, perhaps something needs to be done with the labelling of primary schools. While we can’t make every school equal because it just isn’t going to work, we can stop calling normal primary schools ‘neighbourhood’ primary schools. It carries negative connotations?

I was with a friend with a family of five at The Criterion EC showflat and another client at Kingsford Waterbay showflat just last Sunday, and witnessed how both parents with no relation with each other are unanimously determined to upgrade to provide a better lifestyle for their children. In the end, everything that parents do, they do it so that their kids can be happy. Some parents decided that the only way for their kiddos to be happy is to make sure they do well in life. Some parents just want their kids… to be happy. There’s nothing wrong with both schools of thought.

The Pursuit Of Happiness

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But if it was up to me, I would say it isn’t absolutely necessary to send my child to a branded primary school. I rather my child be happy above everything else. But that’s just my opinion.

The Government has made many active steps to highlight their stance – that every school is a good school – but parents just aren’t buying it. And they won’t, neither will their obsession with branded schools and grades let up.. Unless we see our Ministers’ children start attending neighbourhood schools, all the measures to bridge the divide would be for naught.

When the Ministers does do so, perhaps then we can send a clear signal that the hallmarks of a successful child is not just in getting into good schools to get good grades; but one who is morally upright, socially responsible, has a thirst for knowledge for knowledge’s sake and most importantly, one who is happy.

What are your thoughts? Do you think that it is necessary to send your child to a branded primary school? Why or why not? RW

Like what you see?

Share this article with your friends! The above article represents the writer’s honest opinion and does not reflect the sentiments of any Government organisation and bodies. Need advice on finding a property near primary schools? You can reach me at 9-833-6450 or eugenetayhy@gmail.com. The author is a licensed real estate salesperson with Propnex.

Afterthought – 再辛苦也值得

Afterthought.

Showflat visiting last Sunday with clients and their kiddos. I’m touched by their intention to upgrade to provide a better lifestyle and ultimately to leave behind something of value to their children.

In the end, even if parents have to work harder, the joy of seeing their children enjoy the fruits of their labour is priceless and it makes their hard work all worth it. 再辛苦也值得。RW

10 Reasons Why Kovan Is The Best Town In Singapore To Live In

Let’s all move to Kovan now.

I was 17 years old when my parents announced that we were moving to Kovan. Having lived in a HDB flat in Potong Pasir all my life, I was damn excited that we were moving to a condominium apartment (Kovan Melody) with a shopping mall (Heartland Mall) in the vicinity. Back then, we didn’t have NEX shopping mall at Serangoon and Potong Pasir was and has always been more of a ‘village’ town.

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But when I finally moved there, I was disappointed, having thought that Kovan wasn’t so different from Potong Pasir except for the really awesome food available 24/7. Heartland Mall wasn’t half as exciting as Dhoby Ghaut’s Plaza Singapura too. But the heavens seem to have a plan for this humble little town. Fast forward by 10 years and after 12,345 sunset photos captured, I have repented and can safely say that Kovan is really one of the best town to live in.

Here are 10 reasons why Kovan is the best place in Singapore to live in (and why you should consider moving here).

 

1. Foodies’ Haven

PHOTO: hungrygowhere.com

This is easily the best selling point for (living in) Kovan. Every resident living along the Northeast line knows that Kovan has some of the best hawker delights. Kovan Market and Food Centre (behind Heartland Mall) is known for serving affordable, far-above-average local food. Expect long queue at food stalls Yam Mee Teochew Fishball Mee, Fa Ji Minced Meat Fishball Noodles and 51 Mingfa Wanton Egg Noodle. Elsewhere, Ponggol Nasi Lemak (965 Upper Serangoon Rd) and Nakhon Kitchen (212 Hougang Street 21) are famous for their awesome nasi lemak and thai food. Don’t forget the popular Soon Soon Teochew Porridge (13 Simon Rd) too.

Head north along Upper Serangoon road at dusk. The streets of Kovan light up at night and there are plenty of good food to choose from along the famous ‘Kovan food street’. Dig into the popular scissors cut curry rice at Sin Chie Toke Huan Hainanese Curry Rice (1018 Upper Serangoon Rd) or choose from a delectable array of dishes from Teo Seng Teochew Eating House (1012 Upper Serangoon Rd). Remember to get some beancurd at the ever-popular Selegie Soya Bean (990 Upper Serangoon Rd). Residents craving for some good Indian food can visit Srisun Express (212 Hougang Street 21) which by the way also serves Milo tower (how awesome is that?).

2. Hipster Cafes

PHOTO: Makansutra.com

Move along Tiong Bahru, Kovan is the next hipster neighbourhood to chill at. Long-time cafe, Ice Edge Cafe (2 Kovan Rd) has delighted Kovan residents for years with its wide selection of handcrafted ice creams, gelato and lava cakes. Further down, Lola’s Cafe (5 Simon Rd) has garnered quite a following with their Avocado Eggs Benedict, Truffle dishes and Nutella Pie, at affordable prices. The arrival of nearby Hatter Street Bakehouse & Cafe (Block 212, Hougang Street 21), Ciel Patisserie (124 Hougang Avenue 1) and Flavour Flings (121 Hougang Avenue 1), in recent years makes Kovan the next best hipster neighbourhood for hipster cafes.

3. Chill Out Bars

PHOTO: Tachinomiya.com

Kovan is home to a few longtime (not the shabby type of) bars; Grapevine Cafe Bar & Restaurant (787A Upper Serangoon Rd), O Bar & Restaurant (780 Upper Serangoon Rd) and Joe’s Corner Cafe & Bar (25 Simon Rd). Newcomer Japanese restaurant and bar of sorts, Tachinomiya (211 Hougang Street 21) is a welcoming addition to the already-charming Kovan. With the exception of O Bar, these bars are the best chill out places to hang out with friends and let one’s hair down after a long day of work.

4. Convenient Location

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PHOTO: Reuelwrites.com

Kovan MRT is 7 MRT stops away from the city (Dhoby Ghaut MRT), taking less than 20 minutes to get there. Kovan is also very well-connected via public bus. You’re stuck in town with no more trains to take? Take bus 147 to bring you back to Serangoon where you can either take bus 153 or take a 10-minute-walk home. Another little known secret is that buses run till late in Kovan. For example, you can still catch bus 81 to the East at 12.30am or bus 153 to the West at 11.45pm.

Drivers will be delighted to find that driving to town takes as little as 15 minutes. Kovan is also strategically located just minutes away from the Central Expressway (CTE), Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) and Pan-Island Expressway (PIE), effectively linking Kovan to everywhere else in Singapore.

 5. Affordable Public Housing

Kovan may not have the ‘bells and whistles’ like nearby Serangoon and Punggol, but that also makes property prices in Kovan that much cheaper. According to HDB’s 2016 1st-quarter resale price statistics, a 4-room flat in Kovan (Hougang) is transacted at around S$383,900 while the same property in Serangoon, Sengkang and Punggol is transacted at S$467,000, S$410,000 and S$435,000 respectively.

Kovan also has lesser HDB flats in comparison to neighbouring towns, reducing human congestion and adding to the hipster neighbourhood feels. It is definitely cheaper to own a public flat in Kovan without sacrificing on comfort and accessibility.

6. Luxurious Living Spaces

PHOTO: starsofkovancondo.sg

There are plenty of luxurious property options for Kovan residents to choose from (and upgrade to). Choose from condominiums (with private lifts), semi-detached, terrace and bungalow freehold landed developments. And there is the highly popular condominiums Kovan Melody (where I live!) and Kovan Residences located right next to Kovan MRT. I am a big fan of the unblocked sunset views at Kovan Melody.

New up-and-coming, British-inspired mixed residential development Stars of Kovan ups the stakes for luxurious living spaces in Kovan. The ground level of the condominium also comes with 46 retail shops and eateries. Interested parties can also acquire one of five terrace landed units. Besides the usual condo facilities, future residents of the atas Stars of Kovan can also get to enjoy impeccable views or BBQ with friends at the sky park. The upscale condominium has already caused quite a stir for its below-expected launch prices as reported in The Straits Times.

7. Kovan Sports Centre

PHOTO: groupon.sg

In an urban jungle that is Singapore, finding a decent field to play football is fast becoming an impossible task (and playing on state land is illegal). There are less than 20 futsal courts and Kovan has the privilege to be the venue for one of them. Located less than 10 minutes away from Kovan MRT, every hot-blooded Singaporean man (and woman) can sweat it out on the field at Kovan Sports Centre starting from S$65 per hour (member rates). Students enjoy further discounts of just S$28 per hour!

Bored of futsal? You can also play Water Soccer, Archery Tag, Laser Tag, Bubble Soccer, Dodgeball, Touch Rugby, Handball and Frisbee at Kovan Sports Centre, well how about that! Basketball courts, badminton courts and bowling alleys are also available in Kovan. Let’s never leave Kovan.

8. Shopping Mall(s)

PHOTO: heartlandmall.com.sg

For decades, Kovan residents had to be contended with Heartland Mall, while their Serangoon counterparts were given one of Singapore’s largest suburban shopping mall,  NEX. In spite of this, the humble mall has met the needs of Kovan residents (with Sakae Sushi, Xin Wang HK Cafe, Cold Storage, Popular bookstore and newcomer Shabu Shabu) through the years. Every Y-Gen adult will fondly remember their buying bubble tea at Cup Walker too. With the arrival of Stars of Kovan, residents will be well-rewarded for their decades-long wait. The condominium comes with 46 British-inspired commercial retail shops, giving residents more shopping options.

9. Religious Diversity

PHOTO: stpaulschurch.org.sg

Matching up to Singapore’s multi-religious aspirations, Kovan is perhaps one of the few places in Singapore (the other being Chinatown) with institutions of the 3 main religions located within minutes from each other along the same road. Bethesda Serangoon Church, Tou Mu Kung Temple, Masjid Haji Yusoff Mosque and Kim Tian Christian Church are all located along Upper Serangoon Rd. St Paul’s Church, En-Naeem Mosque and Glad Tidings Church are also located in the vicinity of Kovan.

10. Reputable Schools

PHOTO: Jonathan Choo via Asiaone.com

Schools are always high priority for residents with children. Fortunately, Kovan is situated near reputable local schools such as Xinmin Primary School, Paya Lebar Methodist Girls Primary School, Nanyang Junior College, St Andrew’s Junior College, Maris Stella High School and Holy Innocents’ Primary School. Foreign residents will also find that international schools such as Australian International School and Stanford American International School are not too far away from Kovan. RW

About The Author

Reuel Eugene Tay is an experienced freelance writer and licensed real estate agent with Propnex. His ambition is to help residents own beautiful homes and he plans to live in Kovan for as long as he is residing in Singapore.

Featured On AirAsia Travel 3Sixty April Issue

If you’re flying AirAsia this month, do flip through AirAsia’s inflight Travel 3Sixty magazine April issue because my article and photos are featured there! Thanks AirAsia for the 3D2N hotel stay!

Well, if you’re a business owner and you need a wordsmith aka copywriter or content creator, I am at your service. Write to me at hello@kairoscomms.sg.

P.S. You can also win a 3D2N hotel stay and have your photos & article featured if you follow the instructions in the magazine.