Museums in London that you absolutely must visit

Hi everyone! Throughout my stay in London I’ve had the luxury of time and the pleasure of visiting many museums, and here are some of my top 7 picks! This city is a place so rich in culture and content, not to mention they’re particularly good at documenting it, so no matter what your interest is—cinema, retro culture, art and design, science or natural history—you’ll definitely find something that interests you. If you’re not a museum lover, these museums might just surprise you too!

  1. Natural History Museum
    
    Size: 4/5
    Famous for: Life and Earth Science, and natural specimens
    Admission: Free

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    So hyped over learning more about history AND enjoying great architecture at the same time! Some of my nicest photos were captured here at this museum. I’ve heard a lot about its Romanesque architecture even before I came to London; and you’ll need a full day for this one, given its humongous size. The highlights, I’d say, would probably be the dinosaurs and the mammals’ collection. I quote, ‘The collection includes 157 taxa, 115 consists of original material and 69 are type specimens.’ I even got to see the first fossil ever found from my favourite dino species, the T-rex.

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    Surprisingly, the first gallery my friends and I flocked to wasn’t the dinosaurs. It was human biology. Yes. They make science so easy and interesting to understand, and there were kids all around on their field trips. I wonder if I had grown up studying in London, would I be smarter. hahaha. There was also an exhibit on volcanoes, outer space and the Earth, which was really interesting considering it was like a geography crash course on Earthquakes and Earth minerals.

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    If you’re more interested in living things, go to the Large Mammals Hall first, and you’ll be captivated by the sight of a large blue whale model suspended from the ceiling. There’s a certain kind of wonder when I saw it. This section features extinct mammoths and other mammals like giraffes, hippos and horses. Alternatively, if you happen to be interested in plants, insects, or minerals, don’t worry, the museum has everything for everyone.

  2. Design Museum
    
    Size: 2/5
    Famous for: Product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design
    Admission: Free with the exception of some exhibitions

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    Unlike other big museums I’ve visited, this one doesn’t give me stress or tire my legs at all. It’s just the right size, with easy to understand information and descriptions. The exhibits mainly are separated into 3 sections: Designer, Maker, and User. I was from Design school so I totally understand the importance of user-friendly designs, and this museum pretty much emphasises on that. Just this year, Design museum was named “European Museum of the Year.”

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    There was this section devoted to the graphic design of London’s transport system (the tube) and road signs. I thought that was pretty interesting because you’ll notice a font consistency when you walk around the streets of London. There’s this “London font”, the same font they use for all their signs and stuff. Omg, totally catering to my inner OCD. It also shows the design process of some new trains—how certain features of the old trains (ie. height of the train) must be kept, and how certain features can be improved. A broad range of design disciplines is covered, from architecture and engineering, to the digital world, fashion and graphics. You’ll probably only need an hour or so to view this free permanent collection, so you decide whether it’s worth going down.

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  3. Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising
    
    Size: 1/5
    Famous for: Retro culture, packaging and branding history
    Admission: £9.00

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    This is one of the most underrated museums! I went there on a University field trip and had a workshop on branding done there. If not for that, I’ll probably never know about it. Located in Lancaster Rd, it’s not as accessible to get to as compared to the other museums, which are near tube stations. This museum is the best for hipsters in my opinion. I LOVE IT. In fact, I loved it so much I purchased a 1950s scrapbook from the museum shop—I never purchase anything from museum shops unnecessarily.

    This museum focuses a lot on consumer culture, and it documents the packaging design of many lifestyle products, showing visitors how a brand evolves with time…I saw familiar brands like Ovaltine, Dettol, Nestle’s Carnation Condensed Milk, basically everyday items we use!! It’s so interesting to see an unfamiliar packaging on a familiar brand. The evolution of packaging design reflects the changing demands of consumers at different time periods; it tells us something about what they look for in a product, and how visuals are constantly shaped to cater to appeal to our attention.

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    The retro culture in the museum is so strong, it gives me so much historical nostalgia. Album covers, vintage TVs and radios, typewriters, old newspapers…all these gave me insight into the society in Britain during the 1920s, 40s, 50s and so on. The famous scandal involving Princess Diana, Queen depicted on vinyl records, papers on the royal wedding…the list goes on.

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  4. Victoria and Albert Museum
    
    Size: 5/5 
    Famous for: Decorative arts and design, materials and textiles
    Admission: Free

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    If you’re in South Kensington and visiting Natural History Museum, there’s no harm coming into V&A to take a look. It markets itself as an art and design museum, but there is so much more than that. They have art and design pieces dating back to 5000 years ago, which brings us to lots of stuff like the 1960s fashion, photography, embroidery, furniture…etc. There was even a section decided to metals, and glass, and other materials as well. There was this particular section filled with gates, doors and benches made from the material.

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    And then I finally went to the top floor, where I saw more graphics, communication design and product design stuff! There were really cool furniture design as well as design for social media, design for the digital age and more. This museum also has a pretty good cafe beside a large open area where you could sit on the grass and chill. The weather was nice that day, so we ordered a salad and did exactly that.

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  5. British Museum
    
    Size: 5/5
    Famous for: Collections from all around the world- Eygptian mummies, Renaissance and medieval objects  
    Admission: Free

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    The British Museum is the first museum I’ve been to out of this list—and I also visited it on my very first day in London, so it was very fresh! To be honest, I came without expecting anything and I didn’t even know what was inside. It was SO HUGE, I arrived at 1pm and stayed till it’s closing time @ 5.30pm, and yet it was not enough to cover everything. The museum houses over 8 million objects, has 8 different levels (from Level -2 to Level 5); and it is so exhausting to walk through it. Just make sure you get a map, some water and wear comfortable shoes!!

    Perhaps my favourite gallery in the museum in the Enlightenment gallery. In the past, people studied all sorts of things to understand how the world works, and the knowledge gained during this era has greatly changed the way we viewed the world and shaped culture. In this gallery, they classified the various topics of study into various sections, and it was so interesting to see a comprehensive collection and renderings of nature, stones, etc…people in the past are just so so patient and smart, I could never imagine putting that much effort and detail into a field of study!

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    Two types of posers in a museum:

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    This is the Department of Greece and Rome. Also one of my favourite!! I was like feeling some high classical Greek vibes here, plus the sculptures are so amazing! These sculptures date back to 4000 years ago, from 3200BC all the way to the 4th century AD. It’s almost like a time travel, I promise you, and if you’re feeling playful you can even wear a nude coloured top (like me) and recreate the poses of the Greek Gods hahah.

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    Many of the must-see artefacts of the gallery belong in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, so if you’re tight on time, please don’t skip this section. It’s located in Room 4, Level 0. They have over 100,000 pieces of Egyptian Art, and most of the sculptures were really huge, like towering over me. And if you’re interested in more ancient Egypt, you can visit Rooms 60-66 on Level 3, where they talk more about the Egyptian death and afterlife, a huge part of their culture! This is where the mummies are housed, it talks about the procedure the bodies have to go through after death and more.

    British Museum is so much more than that—they have the department of Asia, Africa, America, Oceania, the Middle East and Europe—it’s pretty much a museum of the world, for the world.

  6. National Gallery
    
    Size: 4/5
    Famous for: Portraits and paintings from mid 13th century-1900, fine art
    Admission: Free

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    Located just next to Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery is worth dropping by when you are in the area. It was a hot day, and I was in London for a day trip, so my friends and I decided to escape into the museum. As we have limited time, I went there with a purpose: to see the works of famous artists like Monet and Van Gogh. You can catch their works in the 18th to early 20th-century collection. Many famous works such as van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, Turner’s Fighting Temeraire and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers are all housed in this museum. If you have the time, I strongly recommended joining a tour where they would explain the story behind the paintings. Most of the paintings there has a narrative behind it, a narrative that tells us something about life, death, passion and beauty.

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    There are stunning paintings depicting seduction and forbidden love; and also paintings of the English countryside and nature. This one below is one of my favourites, ‘The Boulevard de Clichy under Snow’ by Norbert Goeneutte. It depicts a snowy winter in Paris, capturing the buildings and the people, and the elegance of the city. I particularly love traditionally-painted townscapes, they all look so dreamy.

    The Boulevard de Clichy under Snow 1876 by Norbert Goeneutte 1854-1894

  7. Tate Modern
    
    Size: 3/5
    Famous for: International modern and contemporary art
    Admission: Free with the exception of some exhibits

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    For us, Tate Modern was a regrettably quick experience and was kind of rushed, but I still decided to put Tate into this list because I saw pretty inspiring photography, installations and fine art. The gallery holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Most of the stuff there is pretty abstract. There were media networks exploring the impacts of mass media and digital technology on contemporary art as well. I really prefer contemporary art to classical art nowadays, I prefer cubism to realism; maybe because realistic, historical paintings don’t intrigue me anymore. With contemporary art, boundaries are endless. The impossible might become the next possible.

     

    So there it is! My list. Next post will be on my favourite spots in London in general. Lots of love!

Passion and Fire

“Hear this, young men and women everywhere, and proclaim it far and wide. The earth is yours and the fullness thereof. Be kind, but be fierce. You are needed now more than ever before. Take up the mantle of change. For this is your time.”
—Sir Winston Churchill

Speaks to me a lot, because I know I have a vision, perhaps even a global revival for the youths of today. I can be kind and fierce… the question is, is this my time?

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When we are young, we are filled with all energy and hope and passion and fire.

I was watching this documentary on American rappers in the music industry and they say we creators, us, we have to keep feeling and keep owning this fire; and implement our passion with discipline and consistency, because if we don’t it’s going to fizzle.

I hope mine never runs out.

I know in the creative industry, in the business of blogging, youtube and content creation, we have to market ourselves. This female rapper, Awkwafina, was talking about how she thinks she probably couldn’t be marketed without her music (her niche). I think so, for me, too. I have to have something that complements me…a kind of craft, a skill I can hone. Asian female, I am short, petite, normal looking, nobody would notice me. Some people (like celebrities and fashion models) can be marketed as themselves, as it is, as their personalities; but I don’t think I can be marketed like that. The thing is I am still not sure about my niche: is it art? Is it design? Is it in my writing? Or my video editing? Or photography? On top of all these, I still have so many things I’m interested in like acting, modelling, singing. Even though I have 0 experience in those. I have to find and market my niche.

My friends and I were talking about YouTube (the Asian Hollywood lol) yesterday and how it’s so oversaturated, that in order to really stand out, we have to be smashing original. Thinking about this repulses me, but it does not quench my drive for innovation. It just quenches my interest in YouTube. I DO NOT wish to be a social media influencer or a YouTuber, but I just enjoy creating videos. How does it make sense?? HAHHA. I have to be original and innovative.

Growing up, I am taught by my mother that Asians have no place in Hollywood, or in any creative industry for that matter. When I wanted to venture into the international market, my mum and others would tell me that as an Asian, I would always be treated with inferiority. It only has been in the recent year that I studied more on race, gender and culture in University; and I think the world is changing to become more inclusive, so I refuse to be defined by race or gender. I am still working on my insecurities though: my Singaporean accent. Not so much because I’m not proud of my culture, but because people have such a hard time understanding me when I speak Singlish. I feel embarrassed, and even though I have successfully shaken off most of my Singlish accent, learning how to speak in standard English; there is still this nagging doubt: If I wanted an acting career, would they accept the way I speak? If I wanted to have my own talk show or go into public speaking, would people recognise the way I speak? Would international employers want me to go into news reporting, for example? Race and gender is a barrier that the world is slowly overcoming, but what about accents? I want my face to get out there and I want to represent the weak, to give a voice to the silent, to inspire. I have to be comfortable in my own skin.

 

Forbidden love: The Crown Review

The Crown, as you know, is about the Royals, about the reign of the dazzling Queen Elizabeth as the main character, but perhaps what stole the show was the short-lived love affair between Margaret and Peter Townsend.

These star-crossed lovers got me a couple of times, with their subplot pulling at my heartstrings, I couldn’t help feeling indignant towards them.

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Their proposal for marriage faced strong objection not only from the state but also from the government body. As the church of England, royals like Margaret aren’t supposed to marry divorced persons like Peter. After waiting it out for 2 years with the hope that they’ll finally be able to marry, but that was not to be. These two are finally reunited; but they soon find themselves separated again, and this time, for good.

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I am no stranger to the concept of forbidden love. Perhaps I know the feeling that it comes like the dagger straight to my heart, that as a Christian, it is both against my parents’ wishes and God’s wishes to marry a non-Christian, someone outside the faith. You may think I’m silly, that in this modern age, nobody clings onto traditional values like this, but I don’t have a choice because my relationship with God is important to me as well.

I think the negotiation in today’s post does not lie in whether a Christian can marry outside the faith or not; but let’s assume we cannot, then the negotiation lies in divided loyalties, the party to blame. Should we be angry at God for prohibiting our relationship? Our parents? Myself? And sometimes it hurts because there is no one to blame at all.

Perhaps that is why when the time came for Margaret to choose, with great agony, between the call of duty and love; that I felt great pain for her—marrying a divorced person at that time was against the Holy Scriptures, the church of England didn’t allow it; and no matter how we matter dismiss these values today, they stand in face of their unique situation.

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Despite his record as a courageous fighter ace, [Townsend] was gentle, sensitive, and intuitive, qualities that appealed to the vulnerable core hidden beneath Margaret’s willful, confident exterior. When Townsend accompanied the royal family on a tour of South Africa in 1947, the two were in each other’s company every day. “We rode together every morning in that wonderful country, in marvelous weather,” the Princess told a confidante. “That’s when I really fell in love with him.”

For once, I know how it is to love that kind of man. That kind of man that seems more passive, quiet and probably duller than me but really…is the one silently supporting me from behind, is really the one shining, the one to hold me together. Gentle, sensitive, intuitive. The one that complements my fire, that wild spirit inside; the one who can tame it, nurture it, shape it without being burned himself. Rather decent and old-fashioned. “Easy qualities to mock,” Margaret says. “Easy to miss, too.”

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“I won’t let them send you away. I won’t.”

“Even though both Townsend and Margaret went on to marry others—with Margaret’s marriage to photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones ending in its own scandalous divorce—Townsend was always considered to be the great love of Princess Margaret’s life.”

Perhaps we only fall in love once, and that happened when we least expect it, or that one romance early in life that was everything. Then as we grow older we just find people who fulfil our ‘checklists’…financial security, tick. Appropriate age gap, tick. Preferred race, tick. Similar values, a similar religion, tick. Royals have to marry royals. Easier to live together this way. A safe route.

But if you have a checklist is that really love?

I always believe love is just…unexplainable. It just happens, you just love a person, you don’t know why. If you say, “well, he’s so cute,” or “well, he’s just the sweetest being ever, so responsible and romantic,” then perhaps you’re in love with his qualities, qualities that fulfil your requirement in a lover. Of course, that’s not to say we shouldn’t appreciate or look out for these qualities, but if these qualities become the reason you love someone, then…chances are you’re letting it define your relationship, and when that crumbles, your marriage would crumble, too.

Loving has no explanation. It is loving the person, embracing their flaws (unless they assault you or whatever then please go to the police la) HAHHAA.

Maybe there is such a fine line between requirements and real love, that we don’t know what’s the difference anymore. All I know is I felt strongly, that Margaret’s great love is Peter Townsend, that one love that we will never forget no matter what, that one precious love early in your teens that if it has worked out for you, you know you’re the lucky ones.

Midnight in Paris

Watched a film I put off for a long time, Midnight in Paris last night. Before I played it I already knew I would not only enjoy it, but it would resonate deeply with me.

I was having a bad day, but Midnight in Paris totally cheered me up and transported me to another world.

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Plot: A writer travels back through time in Paris in the 1920s every night, and mingles with famous writers and painters to get inspiration.

Wow. For a start, ok, this film is a visual feast. The filming locations are usually outdoors, in beautiful locations, so romantic, so picturesque. The soundtrack, oh my god, it accompanies everything. The jazz…so relaxing, it’s really my type of music. That’s how it drew me in.

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That’s exactly how I see the world, through those lenses of fantasy, taking in the charming allure of the city. I think that’s why I have such strong attachment to my Europe trip. I romanticise places. A lot.

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The lines in the film are also exceptionally beautiful and inspiring for me as a designer, writer, artist, content creator.

THE CONCEPT OF CREATING

But Midnight in Paris is not just that. It’s about content creation, inspiration, ambition. The power of believing and giving a shot. Probably too late to be a writer, but I do believe people have what it takes inside of them to succeed.

“We all fear death and question our place in the universe. The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence.”

I think that’s the highest form of calling. I think this is what I’ve been searching for all along. I recently came across this Japanese concept ‘ikigai’ online, which means ‘the reason for being’. It means combining doing what you love, what you’re good at and what the world needs all at the same time. I think what the world needs is an antidote to the emptiness of existence. I do believe I have the antidote—God, of course—but not everyone believes in God and some people even pushes away the gospel. I’m afraid I don’t have it all figured out, I want to help people, but I don’t know how to…and I’m still trying to figure out how to present my antidote to the world in another way. Though I’m not going to pressure myself, because I believe all things come in its own timing. As an aspiring writer/artist, seeing how they talk about art in the film is…rather confronting. Real art is confronting I think. It might be harrowing, but I think in a sense it questions our being and through that, encourages people to find their own ‘ikigai’.

Anyways watching the artists at work just makes me very very inspired, to bring my abstract concepts to the world.

The question is what can I offer?

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The film inspires me because it tells me it’s never too late to start. Yes, I’m young, but I always believe our time on earth is very limited. Gil (the main character) took a real shot at being a writer, to me, he’s inspiring. This sounds cliche, but pursuing our dreams is inspiring, no matter how old you are. And if you’re in a field like accountancy, or medicine, or law, those professions usually have a fixed path, a corporate ladder—but in my field, the world of content creation, the creative industry, we hustle and hustle in obscurity. I have lost track of the times where I felt so unheard, my voice so insignificant and soft. This film then is so peculiar, because Gil is also a normal, insignificant person that gets to hang out with the greatest giants of the literary world—F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso.

THE CONCEPT OF LOVING

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“I believe that love is true and real and create a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving, or not loving well, which is the same thing. And when the man who is brave and true looks at death squarely in the face, it is because they love with sufficient passion, to push death out of their minds.” —Ernest Hemingway

I know this. I know this full well because I had a man give up on us because of his fears.

Because he was too afraid. Afraid of exactly what, I don’t know.

Afraid of commitment, afraid of poverty, afraid that he wouldn’t be able to carry the heavy crown on my head.

“I’m sure you’ll be a very successful designer.”
“So what? Why does it scare you if, just if, I’m more successful than you?”

But whatever the fears are, all fears stem from one fear—the fear of death.
We are sinful beings that deserve death in the first place. Perhaps the reason why we’re so fearful of the future and about the little things in life is that we know death is the unavoidable outcome, and we try so hard to make our lives matter.

I had asked him, “Do you like me enough?”
I’d like to think the hidden connotation to my question was, “Do you like me enough to call it real love?”

He couldn’t answer.

Maybe the answer is no. Perhaps it has been no all along, because if cowardice comes from not loving, then the answer is simply not loving.

I saw and I loved. I loved wholly, though flawed, but wholly. I know it is for three years. I loved enough to brave the storms, to push death out of my mind, I loved enough to disregard all flaws, and I love that about myself.

That was a question I had asked him for a long time and both of us couldn’t figure it out. Maybe it’s a question not targeted at him but targeted at myself. I needed a conclusion, the concept of either loving or not loving, when in actual fact, the greatest, most perfect love of all, from God, is enough to push death out of my own mind.

I’d like to think my love for him could possibly push his fears out, however regrettably, if only he believed in the power of love.

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AN OBSESSION WITH THE PAST 

Funnily enough, this week’s lecture in my University talked about the topic of retro culture as well! This ties in nicely with the idea in the film where characters obsess over the past and, as a result, travels through time. My lecturer says, every generation seems to admire the previous, which is exactly the same insight this film is giving. For example, millennials of today would admire the 50s or 60s; many people agree that era exactly was the golden age of art and literature. The 50s kids would then admire the 20s, and the people of the 20s era would think that the Renaissance Age is the Golden age. Perhaps why we’re constantly obsessing over the nostalgic past is because we just want to escape from our every day (unsatisfactory) lives, and the thought that we would be happier elsewhere….well, do you think that’s what’s happening to me? The fact that wished I lived in a different era.

It is said that ‘people prone to historical nostalgia tend to have a more negative view of their own past and find less satisfaction in their relationships.’

*Personal nostalgia: the past that you experienced
**Historical nostalgia: the past you never lived in, like for eg. a different era

Personal nostalgia helps people maintain a constant sense of identity through changes and traumatic experiences. It’s good. However, could it be that historical nostalgia is just escaping to the past to cope with the present? The denial of the painful present—where the dissatisfaction is great enough that someone actually prefers an era or time period from the past…

I think maybe for me, that might be true. My past hadn’t been particularly nice. Using this term loosely, I do not look forward to returning home to my past life in Singapore, for example, and my relationships with my mum and dad, and friends haven’t been exactly tip-top either. It isn’t bad either hahaha. I do admit nobody really understands me, I’m always by myself, even though I laugh and socialize pretty well. “Midnight in Paris” ultimately makes the case for choosing present-day reality over nostalgic escapism, and builds a case showing the harm in over-indulging in nostalgia.

SOME LIGHTHEARTED STUFF

Not to mention my baby Tom Hiddleston is inside- as F Scott Fitzgerald. Although the scenes he appeared in are very little, funnily, coz I didn’t choose to watch this movie because of him. But he’s so dashing as usual, and this is the first time I see him light a cig!

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I am probably taking a trip again soon. Maybe, just maybe, this time, I will ditch my camera, and write my way through.

Marvel

Here’s my favorite quote from Captain America:

“A strong man who has known power all his life lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength, and knows compassion.”

And Spiderman Homecoming:

Peter Parker: I’m nothing without the suit.
Tony Stark: The more you shouldn’t have it.

How true. The things we hold onto most tightly are the exact things we should let go. Because if not, it becomes an unhealthy idol, the more we can’t live without it, the more danger we put ourselves to, let ourselves and our worth be defined by it.

I realize I can learn so much from Marvel. Thor used to think he’s nothing without his hammer. The more he shouldn’t have it, because it actually hurts him. After it has been taken away from him, how much true potential within him was uncovered?

And Doctor Strange:

Ancient One: Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.
Strange: Which is?
Ancient One: It is not about you.

but really at heart, Doctor Strange is about losing one of the things that define you (in this case, his work) and this sense of salvation when you embark on a journey to rediscover yourself.

Forget self-pity and panic and pride. What will be your mission now?

Something that I always ask myself whenever I fall.

Of hope and dreams

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All these magnificence led me to pray for you at St Paul’s. I know you will say, “I don’t need this prayer, it’s alright.” But you need it. In fact, my prayers have taken you all around the world. I hope his angels will guard and protect you. I hope you know my love and care — however imperfect it might be — in your darkest days. I pray that if God thinks I’m the best woman to love you then one day He will give us His blessing. Otherwise, I pray that He gives us someone that loves us as much as He does.