Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The Visa Story

So, I'm kinda tired of explaining this visa thing over and over again. I know people are interested to know what's going on with my life and why this visa is so important. I know people care (well, I choose to think so) and sometimes I don't mind telling the story over and over again, but sometimes I do. So here's the somewhat full version of how it all began.

So in order to marry Ross in the US, I would need to apply for the Fiancé visa. Once I get the visa, I need to get my ass into US and marry that man within 90 days otherwise the visa expires. We started the application in January this year and hired an immigration lawyer to help us with the process because we wanted to cover every single detail of the visa and not be denied just because we did not submit what was required.

We know that the visa application will take several months and would cost us a few thousand dollars. But hey, people do stupid things for love right?

I won't go into the nitty-gritty stuff because they can be boring especially if visa application does not pertain to you (but I'll probably write another post on the details which includes the documents, processes, dates, etc of the visa application process because in my journey, I read some blogs about what they went through and I found them really helpful (especially in knowing that when there are bumps along the way, someone has gone through them and emerge on the other side).

So, the first problem we had was a lawyer who took a very long time to reply to our emails. We had so many questions to ask but she always gave us those kind of vague answers which were really annoying. We got past that when Ross got so mad one day and called her managers. Since then, she has been very prompt with her replies and her answers were actually useful. As much as we didn't want to seem over-demanding, we feel as though we somewhat deserve better service since we are paying thousands of dollars to hire her.

We submitted the application and waited. So, this is the harsh truth about applying for a visa- especially the K1 Fiancee Visa. It is a bloody expensive waiting game. All you do is wait. And whether the US or the Singapore side, they will never tell you an exactly when you'll be receiving a document or when you'll hear back from them. It's always a very vague range like 4.5months to 7months.

The second step after submitting the actual application itself is waiting for the National Visa Centre in the US to send you a letter saying that they have received your application. This letter is called the Notice of Action 1. At this stage, you don't have to do anything yet but wait until they process it and send you the Notice of Action 2. NOA2 will be sent to you between 4.5 to 7 months. So, to play it safe, I assumed that we will hear back form them on the 7th month, in July.

But surprise, surprise, we were lucky that we received NOA2 in April. Of course, between January and April, we were going crazy wondering when it's going to come. So much for a free world, I felt as though my life was on hold during this period. I didn't know if I should leave US, I couldn't commit to any school or work because I have no idea where I'm going to be in the next few months. I couldn't plan, I could only assume. It sucked.

Even after receiving the NOA2, you can't really do anything but to wait some more.

When you receive the NOA2, it means that your application is successful BUT you have to do several more stuff that will eat your money and your life before you can actually step foot into the country.

The application will be sent to the Singapore embassy and you will just have to wait until they send you a snail mail on the interview details.

More waiting.

So much for globalisation and rapid delivery of goods. Apparently, rapid delivery does not exist in these government agencies' dictionary.

I came back to Singapore in May because my 90 days of being in the US is up. As a tourist and under the ESTA, I can only stay in the US for up to 90 days. Travelling across land border to Canada or Mexico does not "reset" the 90 days. I would choose to travel around the world waiting for this stupid visa to be processed but because I haven't been working for a year now, I can't afford to travel. (UGH SAD TRUTH).

So I've been back in SG since then, which is probably the longest I've been around since forever. It feels weird being around for so long because everyone expects you to have already left and one of the rowers saw me at the rowing centre and exclaimed, "oh, you're still here." I've been coaching alot, which is nice. Nice side hustle.

So finally, after what seems like forever, I received news from the US Embassy in Singapore about my interview BUT they can't schedule it yet because I have to complete a document and sign it and submit it to them. So I did it right away, even paid 15 fkg dollars to send is as a registered mail so that they will receive it the next day. Lesson learnt, next time- don't bother.

This time round, while waiting for the embassy to get back to me on the interview day and time, I have to do several stuff like going for a medical check-up, apply for a police certificate of clearance and fill up more forms and pay more money.

So this is when the real nightmare began, as though the first part of the waiting game isn't already a nightmare.

Unfortunately, the US Embassy tells you which clinic you have to go to for your medical check-up. I had to schedule an appointment with Fullerton Health but when I arrived, they don't even give you a priority over walk-in patients so WHY EVEN FKG BOTHER HAVING AN APPOINTMENT SYSTEM. When you enter the clinic, you fill up a form and it is based on that form that they will call your name.

I can understand why medical check-ups can take forever so I was prepared to wait for several hours. Apparently, the usual nurse who administered vaccinations was not well that day so this other nurse took her place. I didn't think anything of it, really, until she poked a needle into my arm and there was blood all over my arm. Not like a ridiculous amount of blood but a significant amount for a vaccination. I'm not a health professional but I have been through quite a number of vaccinations to know that there was something fishy about the amount of blood that came out from my arm. Again, I didn't want to think alot of it.

My arm was sore for two fkg weeks.

Upon leaving the clinic, I was told to check my details and they made a mistake on my birthdate. The guy at the counter changed it (PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THIS MOMENT WHEN HE CHANGED MY BIRTHDATE). I checked again, and this time round, it was correct. I paid 580 fkg dollars and left. Also, they require you to submit 4x passport photos which cost me $10. Just saying.

I went for the medical check-up on 10 June and was told that they would sent to the embassy within 10-14 days. (PLEASE ALSO TAKE NOTE THAT THEY SAID 10-14DAYS).

Back to the other processes that I have to go through while waiting for the interview to be scheduled, one of which was applying for the police certificate of clearance (COC). Basically, to show that I have no criminal records in Singapore (just national records and historical records, probably. Chey, stop it.) That process was easy peasy. In fact, I went to get my COC outside of the collection hours and they still made do for me. So nice. So grateful for such amazing and efficient service.

My interview was scheduled on 2 July and there were ALOT of documents I had to prepare for it. The thing is, anything within my control is fine but when it comes to things out of my control, it just pisses me off when people don't take their job seriously and that affects the lives of others ever so greatly.

In case you're wondering what kind of questions they asked me:
-What does your fiancé do?
-Where does he live?
-How did you two meet?
-How do you keep in touch with him after you left the US?

Easy questions, you know.

After all the questions, the guy who interviewed me asked if I needed my passport in the next few days to which I said no and he told me that everything is good except that they have not received the medical reports yet. OMFG. Because of that, there will be a delay in the visa processing. Okay, I tried to chill as much as I can. The moment I left the embassy, I took out my phone and called the clinic.

The process in Singapore works in a way that the medical reports are sent right to the embassy. And when I called the clinic, they told me that it was 10-14 BUSINESS days. So I counted. 14 BUSINESS days after 10 June is 28 June 2019. The lady at the other end of the line still had the audacity to tell me that they only start counting the day after the medical check up, on 11 June, to which I told her that it makes 2 July 15 BUSINESS DAYS BODOH. Wah I was damn pissed. And wait, not yet finish. To which she said, oh, on the 14th business day, the doctor wasn't there to sign your report.

Can you imagine how pissed I was?

Actually hard to imagine nah, cuz I don't usually go crazy when I'm angry because I realise that I CANNOT DO SHIT ABOUT IT. I mean, the least she could do was to apologise for the delay but NO, she came up with all these excuses. OMFG. Seriously. But wait, NOT YET FINISH. In her email, she said "Good day to you :) Thank you for being patient" STILL GOT SMILEY FACE ALL I CANNOT TAKE IT.

Okay, fine.

So, she said she sent the reports to the embassy. Unfortunately, last week was 4th of July and all that jazz so I assumed it will be processed this week.

Today, a week after the nightmare with Fullerton Health Medical Report Office last week, I emailed the embassy asking them about my visa status. Guess what? They told me they have received the medical reports but there were mistakes so they had to return them.

Fullerton Health sent me an updated version of the report and you know what mistake was there? MY FUCKING BIRTHDATE WHICH I TOLD THE GUY IN THE CLINIC TO CHANGE LAH SIA. Also, they left out my dad's name.

Okay. So the embassy said they will have to wait for the report and will need at least a week to process the visa.

The same woman from the clinic called me back after I specifically asked for her name when I called the clinic demanding for an answer to this poor quality service. She wasn't there to pick up my call, but she did call me back. But not even once was there a Sorry but instead gave me one of her excuses and this time round she said the box in the report was too small they missed out an E in my father's RAFAEE. No kidding, she said that.

I don't know what else to say, guys. There is really, really nothing else I can do right now but to wait.

I can just do humanity a favour by discouraging people to visit Fullerton Health clinic on the 25th floor of Ngee Ann City.

So now as I wait in peace, I have missed a whole week of orientation last week and I'm going to miss 2 weeks of school and was supposed to be racing with the CRI Women's team this weekend and theres a race next weekend of which if I miss it, I'm going to be fucking pissed.

But then again, I am trying my very best to not let this anger and frustration affect my life. I just cannot believe how unprofessional, incompetent and how such poor quality of service can exist in Singapore. Upon reading years worth of reviews from other fellow K1 visa applicants, my case is not the only one they screwed up.

I was writing this post with so much anger that my fingers and wrists actually hurt.

Okay, I'm done venting now.

No more surprises, please. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

It has been a long time

It has almost been a year since I last blogged here. I've been trying to be consistent with my blogging on Aisyahrower.com but honestly, I'm a complete noob at wordpress and the difficulty just in logging in turns me off from writing. I also feel like it's about time I write regularly since, well, since I decided to write a book. So here I am.

WARNING: This post will attempt to summarise what has been going on for the past year and what I'm up to right now.

Look, I've been wanting to write a book for a very long time but never really got to doing it because I'm the greatest procrastinator around. Finally, things look like they are falling into place when a publisher showed interest in publishing the book and they found me a writer who is keen to write on my behalf. My job now is to start researching, compiling and writing but even then with things "falling into place" I choose to procrastinate. WHY?

To be honest, I don't think it's procrastination. More like, not maximising my time. I'm so tempted to say that I feel I don't have enough time but HELL, I'M NOT EVEN WORKING. So I cannot use that "no time" card. I have all the time in the world right now, I'm just not using it wisely. Not prioritising, not being smart. TIME TO CHANGE ALL THAT AND GET SHIT DONE.

But what have I been doing all these while?

Since I came back from Boston a month ago, I've been doing quite a bit of coaching to get some pocket money. I've been running alot, considering I'm aiming to run my first marathon this year. It's not really just completing the run but I have some goals to meet which I will eventually share (in later posts). I've been meeting up with people, which I don't think is wasting my time away because this will be my last time back home before I move to the US permanently (I know right, how crazy?). I've been settling alot of school and visa stuff- more on that later. And basically, most of the time, I find myself at home, lying on bed, checking my emails, attempting to study, etc. I'm not saying I'm busy but I've just been feeling like I'm in my own little bubble sometimes.

Study- Okay, so I was accepted into a Masters program in Sport Psychology in the US but because I cannot study with a tourist visa, I postponed the program to next year because I didn't think I would be able to get the visa before school starts in September. Meanwhile, I decided to apply for an Advanced Certification in Rowing Leadership which is basically like a masters in rowing where they unload lots of skills on you to groom you to become a "leader" in the sport, whether you choose to be a coach, a rowing administrator or anything involving rowing (except being an official, maybe). The program is held at the Community Rowing Inc, one of the biggest boathouses I've ever been in. The program seems pretty intense and I've always been interested to learn to be a good coach, although I know it's not going to be a career for me. And since I have some time before school starts next year, I thought, why not? There was a hefty price tag that comes with the program but thankfully, using my Olympian card and the fact that I am actually fkg passionate about the sport, I received a full scholarship. I mean, you'll never know where these paths might take you to. And being in Boston, I should maximise the rowing culture there as much as I can. Orientation for the program has already started on 1 July but because I am still waiting for my visa, I probably will miss 1-2 weeks of school. I'm disappointed but I've learnt not to get too worked up over things that are beyond my control. Recently, too many things have been testing my patience and I've been stressing over them when in fact, I didn't had any control over them and should have focused on other stuff instead.

Visa- so the visa situation is finally coming to an end. We applied for the Fiancé Visa (K1 Visa) in January 2019 and finally after 7 months, I was scheduled for a visa interview. I attended the interview today and was told that they cannot continue to process the visa because the medical reports have not been sent to the embassy. This news made me so angry because I went for the medical check-up 3 weeks ago and was told that the clinic will send the reports within 10-14 days. I called and even dropped by the clinic to tell them to submit the medical reports and they merely said sorry for the delay and that they will try their best. The clinic has also received alot of bad reviews online and a 1 star on Google. The sad thing is that, applying for a US visa, we were told to go to this specific clinic. So whether the service is bad or not, we have no choice. The other sad thing is that, I'm pretty sure the staff in the clinic knows that they are getting terrible reviews but nothing has changed. Year after year, more bad reviews are seen online.

Anyway, now all I have to do is to wait for the clinic to send the reports to the embassy. Another waiting game. Since we submitted the visa in January, it has been a long waiting game for us. In America, we were told that we would get notice in 4-7 months, when the documents reached Singapore we were told 2-4weeks till they get in contact with us. Now another 1-2 weeks wait. It has been a long, arduous and bloody expensive journey and if you're not a US citizen and you're marrying one, I wish your process didn't had to be as painful as ours.

I will also put up a separate post on the K1 visa process because I have benefited alot from reading about others' experiences and I would very much hope my experience would help others applying for the same visa.

Soon, I'll be back in Boston and very much soon after that, I'm getting married.

And that's for another day, another story.


Saturday, September 01, 2018

And then,

So as you already know the past few months have been one of the darkest periods of my life. I never really thought transitioning from being an athlete to living a normal life is going to be this hard, especially knowing that i can never do normal.

Recently I was sharing with someone that I was going to find scholarships to help me fund for my studies. She told me, "why can't you work like everyone else?" It cuts me deep to hear that. I have been working, I worked, I earned, and then I helped a brother pay his credit card debts because I didn't want him to face going into bankruptcy at a young age. Was she there with me when I went through this?

And then there was the questions that people incessantly ask me, "are you still rowing?" or "have you retired?" and when I tell them I'm taking a break, a wave of disappointment washes over them. Do they know what it means to put aside your life to train? Time that you will never earn back? Sometimes I will feel bad and I will say things like, "I'm still aiming for Tokyo. I'm still training and just needing to sort out stuff with rowing so that I can get back on track." Just to make them feel happy. But why?

It is true though that I am still sorting out stuff. I've bene through and going through alot with rowing. If I can tell you all the stories, I would but it's not time yet. For now, I shall focus on being the best version of myself everyday. My priorities for now will be getting this masters and securing an awesome career.

Recently I had a chat with a sponsor who broke the news to me that they are not going to continue to support me because I am not competing anymore. Which is fair but of course, hard to swallow. I was expecting it so I was nonchalant about it and was open and honest about my situation. But of course it doesn't make sense competing only to be sponsored kind of thing. you know?

But when I walked out of the office, I felt...free.

And just a few moments ago, an old friend reached out to me and asked me if I knew this person. And I said yes, I do. And he said, he heard this person saying nasty things about me. And I know, I KNOW, I shouldn't bother but it hurts. It hurts so much to know this especially knowing that you have all these things you can tell the world but you keep it deep inside you because you're too nice.
I wish I could be less nice and be mean. But why would I want to wish that upon myself? I'm an advocate for always being kind. Always see the good in others. I must not change who I am just because of what others say about me.

These people are mean because they are jealous. They are envious of the position I am in. They hurt me, and bring me down because they can't bear to see me happy. But I will not let them win. I will not be daunted by them. I will stand tall.

I will rise above them all, you will see.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A little bit about my recent travel adventures

So, I'm gonna use this platform to rant and to write anything that I feel isn't suitable for my readers on Aisyahrower.com. (Yes, you may be surprised but I do have people reading my blogssss! I'm well surprised myself!) So I came back from a 2 months trip where everything didn't go according to plan during that trip. Here's a brief recollection on what happened:

May: I left my job at NP because I wanted to look for greener pastures. I felt that my daily time at work could be better used developing myself in the field that I am more passionate about. I'm not saying that I wasn't passionate about student development. I like my job, I enjoy working with students and helping them "develop" but I wanted to do more. I wanted to change lives. I mean I still could change lives as a student development officer but PLEASE CAN I GET ON WITH MY STORY ALREADY. Just assume that I've thought about it well and through that the current job that I was in was not helping me grow anymore. In fact, I sat on the dilemma for WEEKS. I even had to consult Google asking her: "how to make hard decisions" and rewatch Ruth Chang's Ted Talk on decision making over and over again to make sure that I'm making the right decision.

But as we all know very well from life experiences, there's never a right decision. Life-changing decisions are meant to be hard. That's what makes life exciting and worth living for, right?


I remembered crying so much on my farewell party because it is hard to find colleagues who care about you so much that it hurts to leave.

So off I went, heading to UK to start my masters and live with my ex-bf in London. I've already applied in some schools and got accepted, so close to getting a scholarship to get my Masters funded and then, I broke up with my ex (thus, called an ex now) and didn't see a reason for me being in London because that would mean higher living costs and all that having to live alone, etc.

June: I continued my plan which was to volunteer at a summer rowing camp up in Craftsbury in Vermont, USA where I met the most amazing rowing people. Being there reminded me of why rowing is fun and how beautiful it can be if you remove the distractions caused by politics and power and even sometimes the idea of competition. Rowing is such beautiful sport, I've trained so hard and so many times that it started to lose its meaning and enjoyment.

Anyway, Vermont is beautiful and I met a couple there who said that I MUST ROW ON THE CHARLES and that I can stay with them if I do head to Boston. So I went to Boston, stayed with the beautiful couple in their beautiful house and rowed on the Charles. I absolutely fell in love with Boston.

How can you not love this view of Boston from the water?

And then I did a cat sit in Boston right in the middle of the city along one of the most expensive areas to live in. I feel so blessed. I was pretty apprehensive about this cat-sitting thing initially because you have to pay like a hundred dollars of registration fee but it turned out to be a pretty good deal. 

And then I went to New York and again got free accommodation for like 10 days because I was cat-sitting, and right next to the WTC. An airbnb would have cost me a bomb in that area. And the cat was super adorable and easy to take care of anyway. I did another cat sitting in Washington Heights which is in the outer suburbs of Manhattan and faced a cat-sitting nightmare when the poor kitty had diarrhoea and was pooping all over the floor. Nice.

After NYC, I went to Montreal to volunteer with Marco Displatro, a Canadian Boccia player, multiple World Championship medallist, and Bronze medalist in the London 2010 Paralympic Games. I learnt not only on how to work with athletes with muscular distrophy, but also understand more about the sport and the Canadian sport scene as well. I also spent a bit of time with his helper, Joanna, who is a lovely lady from Poland, passionate about Boccia and lots to learn from her.

After Montreal, I flew over to Nice, where I met Ross and Brian and Nice is absolutely beautiful. My main reason to head there is to climb Mont Ventoux, which is one of the climbs the Tour de France cyclists do but not in this year's climb. So up we went, all 1912m of it. My bike's shifters refused to work so I had to rent a bike, which turned out to be a pretty okay bike (nothing like the Tarmac) but oh well.

I reached the summit around 20-30mins ahead of Ross (which I should not bring up again because he's more of the cyclist and not me). Brian was having some problems with his bike but he was brave enough to finish the ride. I'm proud of all of us. It was one hell of a ride, I must say.

Ross and I decided to meet in Paris after we soaked in the sun, sand and sea in Nice to catch the finals of the Tour de France, which was unexpectedly pretty intense and exciting. In a way, it made me want to compete again but...
..but I need to focus on other priorities in my life before I delve into training again.

So after Paris, I took a bus to Dusseldorf to meet Zakiah, because I owe here a visit since I pangseh-ed her last year during raya. Initially, I didn't like Dusseldorf cuz I was there on its hottest week and being a "green" city, they dont use AC and Zak's house didn't had a fan so it was HOT. There also seemed like there was nothing much to do but when I went for the walking tour with Zak (which was also quite boring and dry- haha), I realised that it was the little things about Dusseldorf that made it unique and interesting. I love the fact that it is such a runnable/cycable city.

I took a flight to London, met up with Yatay and actually spent a few days dreading London, although I've always thought I liked London. I think I'm starting to become more of a countryside lover as opposed to being a city-lover. I don't enjoy the high prices, the overwhelming bustle of activities and high traffic or both vehicles and human.I managed to squeeze in a few good runs around the city. One thing about my runs is that I've been telling myself that I should go for long, slow runs, but my long is not long enough! Ugh. Can I not be lazy already?

I need a proper training programme.

Or more like, I need a clear direction in where I want to be in life. UGH.

okay, moving on.

I had a cat sit duty in Bath, which I was dreading initially because Bath is 3hrs away and I'll be completely alone but it turned out to be a really nice house with a really nice cat. An outdoor cat (first of its kind for my house sitting experience) and scared me one day when I couldn't find it anywhere in the house, in the garden or around the area the whole morning! But it came back eventually after 4 hours of worrying me. Bath was beautiful. In fact, I have been there 3 x and this is the first time I've seen it in the sun. The house also had some berry bushes where I helped myself to fresh blackberries everyday and a trampoline! It was strange being alone in a big house but honestly, I kinda liked it.

Bath was the final destination before I headed back home. 

It has been a week since I've been back and to be honest, other than a row with the ERC ladies last week, I haven't really been out in the sun! I've been either cooped at home, in the gym or in some cafe/library on the computer sorting out my life. I haven't missed a day of training since I've been back and that is why I think my body is telling me to rest now. It started with a sore throat yesterday and then a full blown flu last night which made my sleep fog uncomfortable that my head hurts. And now, swollen eyelids, stuffy nose and a head ready to fall asleep at any time.

I do get asked what I'm training for and honestly guys, I don't know. I wish I knew but I don't. So I'm just training to keep my fitness level up and to maintain my strength and I guess that is the way I should approach this and not only do it because I have an upcoming race. Focus on the process, not the results.

I hope to tell you more about each city that I visited and my future plans!


Monday, August 13, 2018

The Return of the Aisyah

I guess it's finally back to return to the good old blog. Just because the aisyahrower blog should be pretty much about rowing and aisyah as a rower but I want to be more than just a rower. I want to be a human. And often when I write a post, I'll be asking myself, is this appropriate to be posted on aisyahrower and often the answer is no so it ends up either in the draft folder or in my ever notes, waiting for someone to chance upon it when they use my laptop or my phone or something like that.

So yes, I haven't been competing in rowing since 2016. Well, I did a Masters race with the Easter Rowing Club in Hong Kong in October 2017 but like a proper 2000m, last race was the Asian Champs right after Rio in September 2016. I would lie if I said I haven't rowed since then because there are a few times when I was out on the water in Singapore. I also did some coaching in Vermont and managed to steal a few opportunities to row on the Hosmer and later on the Charles in Boston and even in Zurich once when I had a 6hours layover on my way to Nice from Montreal.

Yes, I have been around the world, my goodness. But my life seems like a repeat and it is going nowhere but around and around and back to square one.

Very quickly, let me summarise what life has been since Rio 2016:

After the Asian Champs in China (which I can't even remember which city, maybe Beijing, because I think it was where the Olympics was held), I went to train in Philly with Vesper. It was fall and it was cold. It was probably the first time in my life I was wearing pogies. I liked Vesper because I was driving a really cool car and I know that I was being paid and I didn't had to worry about money because everything was covered- car rental, accommodation, fees, etc.

And then in January, I returned to Sydney but remembered I hated rowing so much. I went for the training camp but it wasn't in Jindy. I can't really remember where it was but I left after a few days because I hated it. I drove back to Sydney and met Rob and we sat at the beach. I believe it was Maroubra. And I felt relieved. I was happy. I told AB and he said that he will give me a 6 weeks break or something like that from rowing.

I learnt how to swim and did some boxing. I dislocated my shoulder in February and was sitting on the bicycle for at least 2 hours each day every single day because that was about the only thing I could do. It was either at home or in the altitude chamber. I dislocated my shoulder again 3 weeks after the first dislocation while showering.

I remembered my first day back on water at the new Sydney Uni boat shed. It wasn't amazing. It was hard. All I remembered was that everything was hard. Or that I've become soft. Either way I wasn't enjoying rowing like how I used to.

Then I had to leave Sydney in May. I think me and Rob got together somewhere around that period. There wasn't an exact period when we got together again but it somehow happened. I remembered liking him alot when he took care of me when I dislocated my shoulder. Rob left Sydney too to get back to the UK. We had plans for Canada by the end of 2017.

I went back to Singapore in May and decided that I wanted to run away because I'm good at that, so I went to do some farming in Sweden, in Enkoping to be exact. It was in the middle of nowhere, hardly any wifi, so it was good for the soul kind of thing. Farming was mundane but I learnt alot. The hosts made their own cheese, planted their own fruits and vegetables, they were self-sufficient, it was a very hippie lifestyle, and I know I won't want to do that in the future but it was a great experience.

After WOOFing, I met Yati and Henrik for midsummers, and then left for Oslo, Norway. I didn't really fancy Oslo and I was supposed to fly to Dusseldorf to meet Zakiah for Hari Raya but I was sitting at the train station in Oslo crying because I miss home so I bought a one way ticket home.

I went back to Singapore to start training for my first triathlon. Did a random Europe trip in August for no good reason but just because we were both not working. I think we went to UK first, then flew in to Venice from there, drove down to Croatia, passing by this city in Italy which I can't remember at the top of my head right now, Piran (Slovenia), and the cities we visited in Croatia were Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik and we also went to the islands Hvar and Brac. Okay now I remember, it was Trieste in Italy. We also drove into Bosnia and Herzegovina and visited Mostar which was a pretty interesting.

After this random Europe trip, we went back to Singapore where Rob spent 3 months there. He was just like training, I guess. Not sure for what, really. I guess he was supposed to look at the possibility of working in Singapore? He was working on his photography skills. And then in October, he broke his foot on the day I did my Aquathlon where I came in 1st in my age group, not bad considering I just picked up swimming at the start of the year. And I spent the next 2 months pushing him on a wheelchair, including our trip to Bali. Bali was beautiful but we didn't do much because it wasn't really the most accessible place in the world.

After Bali, we went back to the UK to celebrate Christmas which was beautiful. We left for Vancouver because we wanted to experience Vancouver at its coldest. There was just so much snow and I skied for the first time in my life. I love winter. I told myself that I am going to train for the Winter Olympics.

And 2018 came around, I started work in February. Quit in May because I refused to be sucked into the world of 9-5 (more like 8-7 where I worked). I went to train in the morning, went to work, and then couldn't muster up any energy or motivation to train again in the evening. Life was mundane, work was OK, to be honest, it wasn't all that bad. But oh my life, it was on repeat, day in, day out. I needed to get out of there. I didn't even had time to wash my hair.

I used up my leaves before I resigned to visit Rob in UK and we road tripped around Wales which was incredible! I fell in love with Wales. I did most of the cycling alone.

I also came up with a 100days of me project which was to be able to do a handstand by the end of 100 days (which was the day I turned 30). I could only do a  wall handstand. And till today, still cant do a handstand. It requires you to train everyday and WHY DO I FIND IT SO HARD TO DO IT EVERYDAY IF I CAN ROW EVERYDAY FOR THE PAST 13 YEARS OF MY LIFE?

After Wales, I left for Singapore, finished up my work and went back to the UK to be with Rob. But I felt like I was wasting my days away so I went to the US to volunteer at a rowing summer camp in Vermont, met a couple who told me that they would be able to host me in Boston if I wish to row on the Charles, so I went over to Boston, and life took a 360 degrees turn.

After Boston, I was supposed to coach in Saratoga and New York City but I didn't because plans changed. So basically I was just travelling, training, looking at schools, etc. I applied for schools in the UK but postponed them because I didn't want to be in the UK. Rob and I broke up.

I saved alot on accommodation since i found this housesitting website. Loved the fact that I could stay in a home for free at places I never imagined myself staying at like next to the World Trade Centre in NYC and on Commonwealth Ave in Boston.

After US, I cycled up Mont Ventoux in France, visited Paris, took a bus to Dusseldorf in Germany which passed by Brussels, Belgium and Eindhoven, Amsterdam which I thought was pretty cool.

The gearing on my bike broke down which sucks because I spent alot on travelling with my bike and I cant even use it.

So here I am, back in the UK, spent a few days with my best friend in London and now doing some cat sitting in Bath. I love Bath.

Somewhere in that muddle, I launched my YouTube/Podcast series called Sports Gala Show. I interviewed some athletes, learnt a lot from them, but haven't had the time to edit the rest of the videos. BECAUSE I'M FUCKING LAZY.

I also got a gig to coach rowing machine at Triple Fit.

So there you go, story of my life. I feel that my life has been on repeat. I try and I fail, or fail to try. I dont know but I must keep reminding myself that it's okay to start again.

I do have occasional mental breakdowns, sometimes more often that I should. Just because I feel useless and aimless without a sporting goal in mind. It is scary how we talk about post-Olympic depression and shit like that but I believe I went through it. My life was a mess, although you dont really see it in me or in my social media, but I was not a happy camper. I tried to fake it till I make it. But I end up going round and round in spirals that brought me to nowhere.

So now I need to get out of that rut. I am going to take ownership of my life. It is absolutely okay that I am not competing, although it is hard to accept. But I know that one day, I'll be back. Wearing the national colours on my back, the Singapore flag on my chest. I know that I am not ready to leave yet. There is still a fighting spirit in me. But I'm gonna make sure that when I finally retire from competitive sport, I will have something to fall on to. A career that would make me as happy as sports does. That is my aim now. To build that career I'm gonna love.

And love, well, that's for another story.


Monday, April 06, 2015


I thought I needed to pen down my feelings here.
I feel like my emotions are all cooped up in my head, I feel like I'm gonna explode soon.
At the end of the day, when I feel like I'm at the lowest point in my life, this is where I will look for a reason to stand up again. This is where I remind myself why I started rowing in the first place. Why this dream is so important to me and what shit I've been through and why giving up is NEVER an option. Why I should fight for what I believe in.
This is where life slaps me in the face and tell me to WAKE UP MY IDEA. GET A GRIP ON MY LIFE. GET MY ASS OFF THE SAPPY SHIT OF BEING EMO AND WEAK. AND DO MY JOB. I have one job. One job I have been wanting to do all my life. One job I dream of and I'm fkg living the dream. All I have to do is to row fast. One job, Aisyah.

I knew I had to look at this blog again today because I feel like my life is going down and down and I can't just sit here and watch myself die like this and my dreams taken away from me. I HAVE TO STOP THIS NONSENSE SHIT.

Today, I learnt a few very important lesson that I believe is going to make my whole life turn around.
I learnt that the only reason you didn't get something, is because you didn't want it hard enough. You can give yourself a million excuses, you can be at your peak of your performance but if you didn't want it bad enough, you won't get it.

I wished my morning didn't happen.
I tried to pretend it didn't happen but you know, pretending it didn't happen is way harder than accepting that it happened and move on.
Don't run away from your problems.
Face it, and overcome it.

So today, I sat on the erg to do the 2k piece and finished it with a FUCK and threw my shoes on the ground. The splits I did were not even close to what I do for trainings. I don't even remember the last time I threw a tantrum because I had a bad session.


And then I cried for what seemed like hours.
FUCK YOU, AISYAH. Stop being such a weakling.

So I did ask myself, "What's wrong with me?"
And life gave me an answer that dropped from the sky and hit my head so hard it split my brain open to see myself better.
Nothing, says life.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with me.
All these excuses of losing myself and wanting to look for myself again, of not having any confidence, of needing a reason to be angry at something to make me row hard, all these whinings and complainings that I tell myself, all these pretence to be consumed by fear, all these hate towards the person I am now, ALL THESE ARE JUST THOUGHTS IN MY HEAD. They don't exist if I don't let them exist.

Lesson learnt from that whole emoshit experience:

I feel heaps better now, thank you.

Let go and move on.
10 weeks to the races. Let's do this, Aisyah.
Be who you're meant to be.
Decide. Commit. Succeed.


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Sydney 2014

I don't update here anymore because I have another blog on aisyahrower.com but I realised that I have to be a bit more careful of what I say there just because 1. I paid for the site 2. I'm assuming more people read that one 3. I can't talk about my personal life there, can I? Maybe I can. Maybe I should. But so far, I've been ranting, complaining, whining, I sound like an awful, miserable being. But that is how my life has been recently. Can't be that bad right?

Anyhoos, here I am again, dying to write because I miss writing crap, things that go unnoticed or don't matter. Where its okay to have a seplling eorror or a grammatical mistakes.

Life in Sydney, as I mentioned before in my other blog (wah, now its like a competition between the two aye about who gets to be filled up with more interesting and latest news- GOD, is my life so boring I start arguing and comparing with myself?), yes so life here has been pretty boring. I don't know why I enjoyed my stay in Sydney last year more than I did this year. And I think I've found the root of the problem- training. Recently, because of the stupid rib injury and all (yes, I was out of the boat for a miserable 3 weeks), I just started to get on the boat again, starting to do things like drills working on my technique which was so horrendous if I was my coach, I'd throw a show at myself and rather stay in bed then to see such rowing! But thankfully, he was patient enough to wait until the 10k was over before heading to work. (I make an amazing coach, I know.)

But let's not talk about rowing here. Since anything about rowing you can go to aisyahrower.com (eh, like promoting my page only).

Also, I refuse to talk about my single life because there are so many better, happier, amazing things out there to talk about! Like how I spent my weekend in Newcastle which is about a 1.5hrs drive from Sydney. So, my friend from SMU, whom I haven't met since I was in uni (gasp!) was over in Sydney so I thought of doing a roadtrip and a good company would be really nice so he said okay and there we were, with a rented car, a last minute accommodation at some beachside backpackers hostel and no plans of where to go what to see and do whatsoever. It turned out to be pretty fun! Newcastle was gorgeous! Despite the nasty winds and the chilly weather, the stretches of beaches were amazeballs. It was such a waste it was too cold to lie down on the beach or swim in one of the ocean baths. So we ended up just viewing, appreciating and walking around, wondering how blessed Australia is with all these gorgeous places.

Before we went back to Sydney, we stopped by Hunter Valley. It was a last minute plan which we almost bailed out on because it was an hours drive inland from Newcastle which would add on to the time we get back to Sydney. But there was no rush to get back to Sydney so to Hunter Valley we went, where I drove most of the time and my co-driver was having a good nap.

And my goodness, Hunter Valley is beautiful. No sand, no sea, but thankfully there was some sunshine which warmed up the chilly weather. Acres and acres of lush greenery, really pretty cottages made into little shops with names you can almost eat like Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory and Cheese Factory. As I'm not a fan of weird, Tupperware-smelling cheese, I bought a gelato. HAHAHA. So anti-climax. I did try a Viking Blue Cheese though, whatever that meant.

So most of the days in Sydney are spent literally on my bed. Rolling around under the warm blankets in the middle of the afternoon. Life is good, you say. Yea. Life is good here thinking about being back in Singapore, having to work everyday of your life, after done with training, only to face the shitnits that people at work give you or even those at home, having to bear the heat, sweating the moment you step out of the airconditioned room, having to squeeze yourself in between the hundred thousand other commuters on the train each day. I don't miss all of those. But I do miss having dinner with my family and friends, having spending time with them, going out with them, talking to people I know instead of having to muster up enough courage to make new friends which can be really draining sometimes. I do eat dinner with my foster parents here, but its not the same as back at home. Food is great here, but the company just feels different and you just can't replace your family with anyone else. I miss going out with people, it feels great to be travelling alone and discovering new places but sometimes it sucks to ask yourself if you look good in this dress or that, no one to argue with you on where to have dinner and to sit in a café alone. You can even wear the same clothes 3 times in a row and absolutely noone will notice! WAH SAD LIFE.

Hahahaha. I'll be fine, I know it. It's just another 21 days till I get my ass back home anyway. And then there's a race in Marina (which will be so exciting as it would be the SEA Games 2015 venue!) and who knows, I'll be somewhere else around the world for another month or so. That's my life, I guess. So better if I just deal with it rather than fight it and end up being the miserable one.

I guess I should be grateful to have understanding employees who are willing to let go of me for a few months and still want me back at work (I hope) and the opportunity to be staying in another country and training full-time, although alone. There's a hundred other things out there for me to be thankful about! So I should BE GRATEFUL and stop complaining. #TellingMyselfThatForTheHundrethTime

I am grateful. Always am.

Like how its been 6 months since the Games and people still want to interview me and feature me. Sometimes they can be tiring (but they haven't bothered me since I'm here, though) but I try not too get too involved in the scene or else I might be distracted and that would put a big cross on my coaches's faces which you wouldn't want. But sometimes I would go back to reading what people write about me and it serves to remind me about how f*d up my life was last year, having to train and work and having no funding, using my own pocket money to travel but eventually, I did it. So I have things better in many ways now.


The Visa Story

So, I'm kinda tired of explaining this visa thing over and over again. I know people are interested to know what's going on with my ...