United States

San Francisco, you're such a charm.

Yes the streets aren’t spanking clean. There’s a lot more homeless people on the streets than I remember from my last visit a decade ago. The city has also gotten a lot more expensive. There's random people straddling down the streets in their birthday suits without a care in the world.  You'll find broken glasses everywhere on the streets. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend walking through some of the neighbourhoods alone, at night or otherwise. 

But still, there’s so much charm I found and want to remember from this visit: 

  • I loved admiring the facades of the many houses built on the countless hills and slopes. They’re all quite whimsical and colourful and I am amazed by the amount of individuality that goes into the design of these. Secret gardens, pride flags, purple and pink lightings, the whole works.

  • The view of the city - I don’t mean skyscrapers or anything downtown. But I love the view of houses sprawled all over the hillside, or just to be able to see long stretches of roads going up and down across town. Catching a glimpse of the sunset at the Dolores park on the way to dinner. And even when the fog rolls around, that feels just like the quintessential San Francisco experience.

  • Discovering neighbourhoods - I really enjoyed Hayes Valley. It was good vibes only. Soaking in the sunset at the open square was especially nice - with the container structures housing cafes, shops, outdoor seating, people walking dogs in the parks, interesting shops and restaurants.

  • The access to the wine country in just an hour. I really wish we have access to something like that in Singapore to take the hustle and bustle out of busy city life.

  • Every other person seems to be working in tech…that by itself is nothing interesting, but when you ended up randomly bumping into the founder of Vimeo and having a chat with him on education technology for kids, then it does feel quite surreal.

  • Conversations with people and organisations who are doing amazing things grounds-up in the field of education.

  • The amazingly diverse amount of good food and drinks and innovative menus. I also love how all the wait staff and bartenders are extremely knowledgeable and not (seemingly) working off a script. All I can say is, we ate well.

I was there with the Saturday Kids crew, and San Francisco was our 2nd stop after attending the ISTE conference in Chicago, the world’s largest EdTech conference. What’s a small digital literacy school from Singapore doing in the US spending time doing all these you ask? We met up with partners, schools, checked out innovative learning spaces, to learn and to connect with them. It’s been nothing short of inspiring. Our mainstream education system isn’t perfect (and so goes for many others around the world) - and we all have our grudges about having our kids being put through the system. But fundamentally that’s also why Saturday Kids exists and what so many of us in the team feel strongly about - to see how we can provide an alternative model to learning, and to design learning experiences for kids that helps cultivate a love for learning, creativity and curiosity. We’ve learnt a lot during this trip and hope we can translate that into something tangible in time to come. I'll be sharing more about the trip over at the Saturday Kids blog over the next few weeks. 

If you’re curious to learn more about the work we do at Saturday Kids, drop me a PM. Meanwhile, enjoy the photos below, a few impressions from the trip. No time to edit, all straight off the iPhone :)

A year on

It was last year this time when I arrived in NYC with bags of enthusiasm, and a sense of acute curiosity as to how the year ahead would pan out. With the passing of a full year, this will go down as one of the most incredible years I’ve had. Seen a lot, experienced a lot, and worked a whole damn lot too:

  • Completed the 42-mile (~70K) NYC 5 Boroughs Biking Event

  • Completed the Nike 10K Human Race

  • Attended many great concerts including: Explosions in the Sky, Nada Surf, Death Cab for Cutie, Yael Naim, The Verve, All Points West (Radiohead, Kings of Leon) and Aqualung

  • Visited San Francisco, Boston, Washington D.C, Connecticut and Vermont

  • Tried skiing and snowboarding for the 1st time

  • Caught my 1st Broadway musical - Chicago

  • Completed my first formal guitar course

  • Volunteered at the Tribeca Film Festival

  • Participated for 2 seasons of pool league lol

  • Attended 3 US Open matches and saw Nadal, Djokovic and Serena Williams in action

  • Went for a “JT Leroy” bookreading and saw her upclose and personal

  • Welcomed a slew of visitors including Vikram, Eunice, Derrick, Julie and Guoyi

  • Celebrated the victory of Obama at Times Square when it happened

What’s amazing and exhilarating is that this feel just like the beginning, and that I’ve barely scratched the tip of the iceberg - there’s more places to explore, more stories to uncover and projects to embark on. Sure, there are things about this city that frustrates me sometimes such as the dirty subways and the notorious way people drive, but these are things that are woven into the fabric of the society and in no way overshadow the magic of the city and how incredible it feels to have the crossroads of the world at your doorstep.