What’s next after 30 countries? Falling in love again in Singapore!

Oh Singapore, I really really love you. I spent 6 days in Singapore – you would think that after all my mouth, I was going to relocate there, lol. Those 6 days have to be the most activity-packed days of my life, so far. Pheeew! Of the 6 days, I had only 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) to be a tourist, so the real title of this post should be something like ‘how to explore Singapore in 48 hours’.

No comment 🙂

I realized that in my former post, I did not disclose the purpose of my travel to Singapore. Well, I went there on a spiritual retreat to attend a conference called Kingdom Invasion. After I completed my project 30 by 30 (30 countries before 30), it seemed like the next logical goal would be 40 by 40 or something fancy like that. However, that didn’t excite me as much. Instead, my new goal was to become more purposeful about my travels. I have a coach who spends ALL of his vacation days attending events (conferences, seminars, revival calls, etc) centered on God’s Kingdom and how to manifest His presence here on earth as it is in heaven. Instead of just envying him and calling him #goals, I decided I would start attending at least one of such events every year. And so late last year, I signed up for Kingdom Invasion as my first trip for 2017.

Kingdom Invasion!!!

Kingdom Invasion is an annual event beyond church or denominational lines. It was 4 days of teachings and impartations about how to fulfil the portion of the Lord’s Prayer that says ‘thy Kingdom, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ It had over 1,000 delegates from about 40 countries and teachings led by 5 amazing teachers – Bill Johnson (Head Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California. If you are into gospel music, you probably know Bethel music well); Heidi Baker (an American missionary sent to Africa who actually lives in Mozambique and is taking the gospel of Jesus to most remote parts of Africa), Lou Engel (a firebrand man of prayer and fasting who is constantly rocking back and forth while standing or sitting, and is leading the prayer revival in the US) ; Ed Silvoso (the pioneer of the message of city and national transformation through the gospel and author of the book ‘Anointed for Business’ which reveals God’s mind and practical ways through which your job or business can be your ministry) and Shawn Bolz (Word of Knowledge minister who has demystified what it means to hear God and how we can translate God’s voice in our day-to-day lives). The time I spent there was absolutely life-transforming and I am excited about the practical manifestation of all I learnt and got during the conference. My biggest takeaway was a deeper revelation of the crazy, unrelenting, unbelievable, border-line ridiculous LOVE that God has for all of us. *goosebumps*.  I definitely fell in love with Jesus ALL OVER AGAIN!!

To crown it all, I attended the Friday night worship session with Bethel Music’s finest – Brian Johnson, Amanda Cook and some other amazing worship leaders. Whooooosh! That was amazing.

Brian Johnson and the Bethel Music crew

So, I was done with the conference on Friday night and my flight back to Nigeria was on Sunday night. I had 2 options – just sleep in and take it easy or go hard and max out on being a tourist for those 2 days. I am sure you know what option I went for, lol. Sleep is important but yeah, I figured I could sleep on my flights back home. No food or movies, just sleep.

Over the course of the week (specifically during the conference’s break sessions when I had time to daydream, lol), I started making a list of 10 must-do activities in Singapore.

1. Spend the day at Sentosa Island – includes visit to Universal Studios, beach bumming and some physical activities
2. Eat chilli crab (which is the Singaporean local delicacy)
3. Visit Chinatown and Little India
4. Visit the Botanical Garden
5. Catch the sunset and amazing view of the city at Marina Bay Sands
6. Visit the Gardens by the Bay
7. Visit the zoo during the day or go on the Night Safari
8. Take a long walk on Orchard street (you may choose to shop or not)
9. Extra for Kemi: Attend service at Joseph Prince’s church
10. Extra for Kemi: Visit the INSEAD Singapore campus to get closure, lol

 

Closure, finally!
Hanging out with Joseph Prince

Around mid-day on Saturday after having my first sleep-in for the whole week, I set out to tick off most of the activities on that list in the 34 hours I had before heading to the airport on Sunday night. The cool thing about Singapore is that because it’s a single city-state, everywhere in the country is within a 45-60mins drive range. This meant I did not have to worry about going out of town or missing out on some major attractions due to location. So I thought to myself, ‘Kemi, this your plan is kinda feasible’ 🙂

Good people, I am proud to announce that I managed to accomplish 60% of my target. When people start using percentages, you know they are trying to sound more profound than is necessary, lol. Okay, okay, I managed to tick off 6 of the 10 things on my list, and I even got to hang out with 2 of my favorite girls from business school.

The struggle to get a good selfie with Shaivi and Malini was real

Sentosa Island was a lot of fun! Too much to do, jeez. I managed to get a picture in front of Universal Studios, lol. There was no time to actually go inside to explore and get on all the crazy rides. You need a whole day to do Universal Studios justice. However, I got my adrenaline rush from ziplining at the MegaZip Adventure Park at a nearby beach also on Sentosa Island. I figured I could still visit the other Universal Studio theme parks in the U.S and in Japan (I will take any excuse to go back to Japan, lol).

Just in case I never get to Universal, at least I have this picture 🙂
Zip-liner Kems

The night safari was also beautiful. So many animals, all well-behaved roaming freely and staying in their lanes. For the first time in my life, I saw zebras (fun fact: zebras are actually black with white stripes), elephants, hyenas, monkeys, hippopotamuses, rhinos, lions, and giraffes. I even saw a tiger!! The tiger was the only animal that was kept behind a wire fence. I guess they must have realized that tigers can’t mind their business, lol. It was so dark and flash photography was prohibited so the pictures didn’t come out great. So sorry, no pictures from the night safari. You should just go there yourself to behold the breathtaking beauty of a night-time zoo.

I was torn between going to the Botanical Gardens and the Gardens by the Bay, but I chose to spend time with my friends at Ce La Vie (the restaurant at the 57th floor of Marina Bay Sands); catching the sunset and just being satisfied with taking pictures of the Gardens by the Bay from the rooftop. I love plants and gardens but it’s not that deep, really! Lol. I promise you, the view from the Ce La Vie was just as gorgeous.

Gardens by the Bay – spot the domes and the super trees

For me, the 3 most striking things about Singapore are how green the city is, how many malls they have and how much food is available.

Greenery: Singapore is like Dubai with more greenery. Singapore reminded me so much of Dubai. Apparently, Dubai got their inspiration for the building their city from Singapore. There are trees and plants EVERYWHERE! It’s almost ridiculous. I got tired of taking pictures of the scenery, because it was like taking pictures of the clouds. Duh, clouds are everywhere so there is nothing unusual about it. That’s exactly how plants and trees and vegetation are everywhere in Singapore.

Greeeeen!!

Malls: I thought Dubai had malls until I got to Singapore. Singapore is the winner o! There are malls EVERYWHERE. Infact, at every metro station, there is a mall. There is a whole network of malls connected by underground tunnels and bridges. It’s almost confusing, lol. And you have every imaginable shop in those malls. You need a lot of willpower or no cash to resist the shopping temptation in Singapore. Good luck!

Food: There is a wide variety of good food in Singapore. Eating out is like a national sport. I remember my classmates in business school saying it was cheaper to eat out than to do groceries and cook at home in Singapore. During the course of my stay, I ate all sorts – Indian, French, Chinese, Japanese American, Asian fusion etc. There are a lot of food courts and hookah centres everywhere you go. You can never ever starve in Singapore. Food is cheap, fast and tasty! After having such a great time with food all week, I had to make sure my last meal in Singapore was epic and memorable. I had the the black pepper crab (thanks for the recommendation Jumoke G) and it was hard work! Epic, memorable and plenty of work. De-shelling and extracting ‘meat’ from the crab was work. At some point, I got so tired, put the tools they gave me aside and just started using my hand, lol. Thank God for good friends like Shaivi who rescued me and started de-shelling for me. I think you burn all the calories from the meal by just working through it. All the same, it was quite an enjoyable experience. I genuinely believe there is a business opportunity to sell de-shelled chilli crab to lazy people.

See the TOOLS I was given plus a bib for protection, lol

 

The joy when the black pepper crab finally arrived!
I gave up on that last piece!

On my flight back home (when I wasn’t sleeping and hopefully, not snoring), I was reflecting on how Singapore has ZERO natural resources but managed to turn their nothing into a country that is the hub of trade in Southeast Asia.Their efficiency is great, everywhere is clean but Japan is still my personal winner. They are also very open to foreigners, although (as usual), I did not run into many black people. When I got back to Lagos, I was tempted to begin to whine and complain about everything that wasn’t working BUT I remembered my decision to go on a negativity fast (as inspired by Heidi Baker) and instead, started to focus on the things that are working. The airport is looking better, the wait times on the queues are shorter, the A/Cs are working well, there are fewer touts hanging around the airport these days and things are getting more efficient. And to make things even better, Mama Kemi offered me a delicious hot meal of amala, ewedu, gbegiri and plenty pieces of meat when I got home. Mama Kemi for President!!!!

Amala – before Kemi happened to it!
Amala – after Kemi happened to it!

I must confess, it was hard to leave Singapore. The time was too short, I didn’t spend enough time there and I feel like I did not get the chance to be fully immersed in their culture. So I have to go back, yaaay!

Doing a negativity fast in Singapore was super easy since everything works, but to be honest, it hasn’t been as easy in Nigeria. However, I shall not relent. Anyone want to join me on this negativity fast? We can do this till the end of April. No negative talk about anyone, anything, no complaining about Nigeria, no whining about talented drivers in traffic, no cursing politicians and all that. Just positivity and optimism all day, every day. Deal?

Here’s to good vibes, positivity and joy all the way!

Kemi 😉

p.s – please don’t try to do this crazy 48-hour vacation. My feet are not smiling at me now.

My Singaporean dream is finally becoming a reality!!!

Hello people!!! I know it has been too long, I am so sorry for my silence. Let’s just blame it on Mr Work. Or maybe not. I sincerely apologize for being MIA. That said, I have mad respect for people who work full time and blog full time as well. Shout out to rockstars like KacheeTee  who make it look so easy. I had to DM her to ask if she had quit her job to blog full time, lol. I love her style and her commitment. I only got to know about her blog when she featured me on her blog, and now, she is my place of escape in the middle of a hectic day. And no, she didn’t pay for this plug, lol. I am just blown away by how she is able to do it ALL! Now that I am done crushing and famzing, let me tell you what I have been up to (apart from taking some nice professional pictures, he he)

Serious face or smiley face? Which do you prefer?

I FINALLY got my Singapore visa this week!!!!!!!!!!!!! Remember  it was on my wish list of countries to visit and I am so glad I am one step closer to getting there. But there is a backstory to the “finally’ part of getting this Singapore visa. As I filled the form (like the visa application form filling champ that I am, lol), everything was going great until I got to the last section where they ask all sorts of questions – are you a criminal, have you ever been deported, are you planning to elope, etc. Usually, I breeze through that section and just tick ‘No’, ‘No’, all the way. But not this time. When I got to the question about if I had been denied a Singapore visa before, time froze for a few seconds and then I ticked ‘Yes’. Feel free to grab some popcorn now, lol.

Flashback to 2014, when I was applying to business school. Pause. I know I still owe you the full story on that project, I promise to get to it soon. Unpause.  When I was applying to INSEAD, I chose the Singapore campus because I really really really wanted to live in Singpaore. I became fascinated by Singapore in 2007 when I read the book ‘From Third World to First’ written by the man who led Singapore’s incredible transformation journey – Lee Kuan Yew. In less than 40 years, Singapore leaped from a third world country with poverty, bitter history, divisive colonialism and other usual relics of colonial rule (does any of these sound familiar?), to a first world, super developed country that is the envy of nations – they have one of the best airlines in the world, one of the best airports in the world, one of the busiest trade ports in the world, and definitely, one of the cleanest and most organized societies in the world. Fun fact: chewing gum is illegal in Singapore. I could not understand how they were able to make the same leap that Nigeria needs to make in one generation, and I figured if I went there to see for myself, live in their midst, immerse myself in their culture and understand their mindsets and thinking, then maybe, just maybe, that spirit of excellent transformation could come upon me too, and I would come back home to contribute my quota to helping Nigeria take her rightful place. How’s that for a noble reason to want to live in Singapore?

This could have been my campus but…

However, that my Singaporean dream was cut short by an email I received on 25th November 2014 telling me that my student visa application had been rejected. Ehn? Rejected ke? How? Why? What did I do wrong? I checked my application again – I completed every field correctly – what could have gone wrong? Instead of feeling sad, I went straight into problem-solving mode and asked if I could appeal the decision. They said yes and so I started writing this great appeal letter.

Snippet of THE appeal letter

See me trying so hard to explain myself, telling them I was a good, debt-free, tax-paying citizen of Nigeria who had no plans of breaking any laws in Singapore. I photocopied all the visas I had ever been granted, with the entry and exit stamps to prove I was a good tourist who never overstayed my visas and therefore would not overstay my visa in Singapore. I attached every document attachable. I even considered getting a letter from my Pastor, telling them I was a good child of God. Hahahaha. Now it is funny, but at that time, it was not, *straight face*.

In church, praying and taking communion like a good child of God, lol

While I was writing this letter of appeal, one of my senior friends called in a favour with the Singaporean Consular to Nigeria and explained my situation. The guy got personally involved with my appeal which gave me some hope. After all of this, you would think the appeal would be granted. Nopes! It was rejected again! This time they didn’t even follow up with a phone call as was done the first time. It was at this point I concluded that it was not my time to go to Singapore yet. I had done everything humanly and spiritually possible (I prayed and prayed and prayed. I even tried blackmailing God by fasting and crying, lol) to no avail.

I was devastated for like 2 weeks. That Christmas holiday was not fun. Can you imagine going back to the office in January after they’ve done send-forth party for you? Haha! I was already receiving alumni emails, but in January, I showed in the office like ‘Guess who’s back?!?!?!’

I’m Back!!

Eventually, I had to defer my admission and change campuses – this is how I ended up in France. I have to admit that it all worked out for my good. You see, Prophet Isaiah knew what he was talking about when he said ‘God’s way and thoughts are better and higher than our ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55 vs 9). As I reflect on that experience, I realize that it was good that things did not go according to my plan. The extra 6 months I spent at work helped me grow professionally (which helped my transition back to work less challenging), helped me raise more funds for school (this is how God saved me from having to set up a ‘Gofundme’ page halfway through the school year), gave me the chance to travel to Mauritius for the office retreat (I would have missed it for the second time), and so much more. I strongly believe that I went to school at the right time – I had a great year in school, travelled a lot and by God’s grace, got selected to be valedictorian by my fantastic classmates. I am not sure all that would have happened if I had gone earlier. Steve Jobs did not lie when he said ‘you can only connect the dots backwards’.

I think part of my coping mechanism during this period was also remembering that I had gone through a similar experience when I was trying to go to the US for my undergraduate studies. I was denied my America visa (I spoke about it briefly in the valedictory speech), I wept all the way from the embassy in Victoria Island to my house in Ogba (that’s like 2 hours of crying in traffic), shook it off after a few days and then resumed the application process to go to Covenant University. I boldly say that the values instilled me in while at Covenant University have contributed greatly into shaping me into the woman and young professional that I am today. It all worked out for my good!

So next time things are not going according to your very well-laid plans, don’t despair. Just trust that it will all work out for your good according to God’s excellent plan. His plans and thoughts towards us are only for good, always for good. So trust! It is not easy when you are going through, but at the end, I promise you, it will end in praise, in rejoicing and in joy!

Have you ever had any rejections, disappointments or delays that eventually worked out for your good? Please share in the comments section. I am looking forward to reading your stories and testimonies.

Hugs,

Kemi

p.s – I will definitely write about Singpaore and share whatever lessons I learnt there when I return. I am hoping that I am more inspired and ‘mind-blown’ than I was when I went to Japan about a year ago (see Japan story here)

p.p.s _ I need to read Lee Kuan Yew’s book again. I think it will help fan the embers of hope I have for my beloved Nigeria. Nigeria, you will be great – you have no choice.