The scars you carry

If there was one thing my parents hated about me, it was my tendency to pick at my scabs.

Stop it! They cry suddenly from across the living room, index finger pointed accusingly in my direction.

I freeze, knee up the chair, fingers midway through a peel at a scab on my leg.

You’re going to have so many scars. It’s going to be so ugly!

I grin sheepishly as my mother advances, nostrils flaring, and give one final pull at the dry, hardened skin.

As it turns out, I did have many scars. My aunts, during the dreaded Chinese New Year family gatherings and birthday dinners, loved to remind me of the marks I have.

And yet still, sometimes, it was just immensely satisfying to pick at something I know I’m supposed to leave.

Sometimes, the wounds are so small you forget about the blood that pools. It’s interesting for the first few seconds, then you get bored, and you let it heal.

Other times, it’s a laceration. Torn into your flesh, deep and gaping – blood flowing, tears streaming – and it never seems like it would be complete again.

Or more often still, it’s healing. It’s trying to make you as whole as you once were, but it somehow starts to itch, so you absentmindedly start to pick at the edges again, bit by bit, little by little.

Then you hit blood, and you hastily push the skin back down.

At some point though, you either set your mind to letting it recover, or you simply stop remembering it exists.

So you let it heal.

Scars are like carrying around a constant reminder of what went wrong. Eventually, it heals – although sometimes you can still see the smudges of what once was, but never will be again.

And you let it heal, because for once, just once, you so desperately want to feel some semblance of normalcy again.

It’s never really the same the second time around.

But you let it heal anyway, because you don’t have a choice.

Some day, something small will remind you of the scars you carry. It could be a few days later, or it could be a year later. It could be anything at all: an unexpected reminder of how you got scarred, or the sudden presence of someone else’s newly-acquired scar. So you’ll look down for the first time in a long, long time, and realize with surprise that the scars have faded so much, they don’t look anything at all like what you remembered them to be. Daunting. Harrowing. Tormenting.

Because on hindsight, that’s all that scars will be: a random topic during one of those dreaded Chinese New Year family gatherings. A small blemish, a little discoloration. A gentle reminder of your own strength, and your ability to heal. Any time.

Every time.


Sliding down a Swiss mountain (ergo, how to get to Kandersteg)

Recently when I open my browser and start to type c h e r r y b e l l y in the bar, the immediate emotion I feel in the pit of my stomach is that of trepidation and hesitation. Perhaps it is the knowledge of having let this space waste away again, back to the old hurried, frenzied days of university when I simply had no time to sit down and write because I simply had too many things to do. Except, this time, I unfortunately don’t have quite the same amount of fun and happiness I had back then in exchange for my procrastination.

But of course, dramatizing the woes of adulthood is really another version of procrastination right now heh heh and so please allow me to turn your attention to the magical, exhilarating ride that was the Rodelbahn on the side of a crazily beautiful Swiss mountain (or a mountain coaster in other words).

Vivian was actually the one who introduced to me the existence of this mountain slide. It’s located in the valley of Oeschinen, which is basically a small area in between the mountains. At the foot of the mountains, you have Kandersteg, a lovely little city which looks as though it walked right off the pages of a Hans Christian Andersen book.

A gondola lift from Kandersteg will bring you straight to Oeschinen, and the slide is right beside the gondola lift station.

How to get to Kandersteg

We were actually based in Basel, another city way, way up north in Switzerland. Basel was easiest as a base for us I think, because it quite literally straddles the border between Switzerland, France and Germany – countries which were all on our itinerary.

To get to Kandersteg from Basel, we took the Basel SBB train service. We had an intermediary stop at Bern, where we had to change trains, but otherwise it was pretty straightforward. The return tickets were about SGD$120 per person in total – yes I know, but we had a mountain coaster to ride! We booked the tickets online in Singapore by the way.

The trains run on scheduled timetables and we had to pre-book the timing we wanted, so make sure you plan your day in Kandersteg/Oeschinen before committing to the timings! We booked a 6.30AM train from Basel to Kandersteg (again, yes I know, but your girl had to maximize her hours on the slide!) and a 7.13PM train from Kandersteg back to Basel. Each train ride one-way was about 2 hours long, so the to-and-fro transport cost us about 4 hours in total, meaning we had approximately 8 hours to frolic in Kandersteg/Oeschinen, which is really quite generous for a day trip I believe.

From: Basel, Switzerland
To: Kandersteg, Switzerland
How To Go: Basel SBB Train
How Much: SGD$120/pax (return)
How Long: 2 hours one-way

swiss1 How to get to Oeschinen from Kandersteg

From the Kandersteg train station, you have to walk through just about the whole city to get to the gondola lift station. It took us about 25 minutes, which while on one hand was pretty exhausting in the summer heat, but also speaks volumes about how tiny the city is haha (side note: do you believe me on how insanely gorgeous the buildings are now?).

From: Kandersteg, Kandersteg
To: Oeschinen, Kandersteg
How To Go: Kandersteg-Oeschinen Gondola Lift
How Much: CHF 28 in the Summer (~SGD$38/pax for return)
How Long: 15 minutes one-way

IT WAS A. M. A. Z. I. N. G.

swiss3 swiss4We had about 2 turns on the crazy slide each, and while I was absolutely itching for MOAR!!, each entry was also CHF 5 (approximately SGD 6.70), so whilst you weren’t paying close attention, 2 rounds on this darn slide charged about the same as a movie does on a Sunday.

And so I was dragged kicking and screaming away.

Just kidding, I was only sulking. Just a little bit. But the breathlessly beautiful 25-minute stroll we embarked on to get to Lake Oeschinen quickly distracted me from any lingering childish need to be a speed monster.

swiss5(That shot on the diverging paths will easily, easily be my favourite for a long time.)

Oeschinen is home to both the Rodelbahn/Slide/Mountain Coaster (whichever sounds the most daredevil) as well as Oeschinensee – or Lake Oeschinen, a UNESCO world heritage site.swiss6

We spent the remainder of our time at the lake – having a picnic on the rocks, enjoying hot chocolate at the cafe, flying our new bb drone around, disturbing the cows etc etc etc. It was really quite amazing.

We also rowed a boat on the lake, and very cheapo-ly decided to book it for half an hour instead of the full hour, only to find ourselves stuck in the middle of the lake hahaha. We returned almost exactly at the one-hour mark, much to the renter’s exasperation. We were promptly charged for the remainder anyway heh heh moral of the story, it’s okay to be cheapo because if you can’t get away with it you’ll pay full price, but if you can, then hey, pats on the back 😉

There’s really nothing quite like escaping from reality by traveling on a train to a cute little city in the middle of nowhere, and then hoping on to a cable car to go up to the clouds where a lovely little valley and its adrenaline slide and glistening lake lay waiting for you with open arms (and grazing cows).

In fact, scratch that about Kandersteg looking similar to a fairytale.

This entire adventure has been a fairytale, and I already cannot wait to be back.


Cambridge Summer School & Other Shenanigans


It appears I never quite got to explaining the real reason why I traveled so extensively back in summer of my third year in university. To be honest, there really was no better excuse reason to travel so much on a student budget other than summer school.

In 2014, I went to Humboldt University in Berlin, and in 2015, I found my way to the University of Cambridge.

(Yes, the same dreaded place where they set our ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels.)

But dreaded a place Cambridge was not.  Continue reading “Cambridge Summer School & Other Shenanigans”