We take a look into the life of a long-time expat, business owner and all-round cool mum who made an unexpected move to Singapore.
For JANA YAR, starting a family and business in Singapore was something that never would have crossed her mind. It was only after an unplanned detour here that the Slovakian native found herself slowly falling in love with the place.
After this initial visit, Jana endeavoured to pursue her passion for taking photos by enrolling in a photography programme at Lasalle. After a chance encounter with a neighbouring tattoo artist, she found herself putting down roots in Singapore and starting her own business, Ensof Photography. Today, the mother of three juggles this business, a master’s and diploma course, and family while making time for her nerdier pursuits!
Tell us a bit about the move to Singapore.
I lived in Thailand before and wanted to finish my second degree and stay somewhere new in Asia. During the protests in Thailand, I ended up flying through Singapore instead and realised how much I liked the country. I made some friends and a year later, I joined Lasalle’s photography programme. I originally planned to stay just a year to do my bachelor’s degree and move back to Thailand, but here I am more than a decade later!
What gave you the idea of starting Ensof Photography?
It was an easy decision because it was the only thing I wanted to do. I never had a desire to work for anyone so I just built my own company and started shooting straight away. I used to shoot a lot of events, but now I mostly do F&B shoots because it gives me more time with my family.
How long have you been here? Did you ever see yourself starting a family here?
I’ve been in Singapore for 13 years now. No, starting a family here wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind – but here I am, married with three kids!
Can you tell us a little about how you met your husband?
My husband Sam had a tattoo studio next to my condo but we only met through mutual friends after a tattoo convention. It took me forever to work up the courage to ask him out for a drink though!
As a freelance photographer, is it challenging to balance work, family and friends?
Yes! I also study two separate degrees – a Masters in Counselling and a Diploma in Child Psychology and Education specialised in Special Needs – and I play lots of computer games. Family still comes first, always. It might be hard but I like the challenge.
How has COVID affected your day-to-day routine?
It has caused some pretty big changes in my routine. The F&B industry is struggling so I don’t get as many shoots. Unfortunately, I now do a lot of goodbye shoots for expat families. My eldest son is six and doing home-based learning, so he often accompanies me for my shoots. He really gets along well with people, whether they are kids or bartenders. The two degrees I’m studying are now online-based so I usually spend my whole day in pyjamas.
Where’s the first place you’re planning to travel after the pandemic?
Home to Slovakia of course! I haven’t seen my family in almost two years. After that, I want to head to Bali for a long holiday.
What are some of your hobbies besides photography? You mentioned gaming earlier.
Yes, I’m a nerd at heart so I play lots of RPGs (role-playing games) and I would like to play more Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. The degrees I’m studying now are important too so I also read lots of books about parenting and psychology – mostly about special needs; that area is very important to me. My first degree was in film so I watch lots of indie movies as well. To keep active, I do a lot of yoga and I also skateboard with my son. My new COVID hobby is definitely online shopping for stuff I don’t need.
Is gaming a way that you bond with your family?
Of course! I taught my kids to play computer games and we play Elder Scrolls Online, Minecraft and Overcooked. They have a screen time allowance on weekends, so now with nowhere to go, we definitely play a lot of games. I want to make sure we also keep active so we’ve started doing yoga and meditation as a family.
What advice do you have for expats who are thinking of starting a family in Singapore?
Save up and bring as much as you can from your home country. Some things are hard to find here so it’s always helpful to join mothers’ groups on Facebook to ask for advice prior to moving.
View Jana’s photography at ensofphoto.sg.
This article first appeared in the November 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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