Tuesday, December 16, 2008


this isn't fair. my erudite learning should be earning me millions and millions, but it is just too bad that i am not American.

How many decades are there in two millennia?

'Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader' posed this question to an adult, who is probably a professional, and guess, she doesn't know the answer! let me do the simple mathematics for you, dear friends. i hope that you wouldn't think i am insulting your intelligence.

2 times 1000 divide by 10 = 200

boooooooooooooo...she didn't know the answer, and so was dropped out of the contest, taking home ONLY U$10 000.

i think if i watch the show any more, i would be emotionally unbalanced, from sheer indignation. now, i have never begrudged winners in 'Who wants to be a millionaire', because they really, truly seem to know a lot. but this is entirely different. half the time, children in brown ask me questions like i am wikipedia and google rolled into one, and i only get a fraction of the money.

i think that the americans shouldn't embarass themselves in this way by selling these programmes that betray their woeful lack of knowledge. but guess what? we are paying big money to buy and air these shows! now...who is really smarter?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hainanese Chicken Rice

since we were already in the vicinity, HL and i decided to go and explore the origins of Hainanese chicken rice. for the record, it does exist. Hainanese chicken rice is made with the famous Wen Chang chicken, which i think refers to free-range, organic chickens, bred in the wild. otherwise, why is the meat so tough and the skin so thick? :P we asked the guide what is special about Wenchang chickens, and he said, 'the bones are exceptionally soft.' this is very strange. we don't eat the bones, do we? you can gather that we were not impressed.

here you are: Wenchang chicken, served with slices of blood curd :P

it comes with a light garlic dip, with a touch of chilli and vinegar. the rice is not very different from ours, but they use short grains.
anyway, so the mystery is solved. Hainanese chicken rice comes from...Hainan after all.

Friday, December 05, 2008

All's well that ends well

shall i just say, all's well that ends well.

i would love to have something nice to say about my trip in conclusion, but you see, there was a blackout at our hotel just as we were leaving. all in all, it does look like Hainan let itself down completely in front of these two tourists, and whom can it blame?

i have to say, it is just a little too close to home to be really interesting. why did i go from one tropical island to a bigger tropical island? the guardian gargoyle pointed out helpfully, 'that's a papaya tree', and i wanted to say, 'yeah, we used to steal from our neighbour's papaya tree.' you see what i mean? sigh, rain tree, angsana tree, mango tree...it isn't his fault, but i can't be expected to go 'ooh' and 'ahhhh', right?

at least, i am finally home safely. i shall just put it all over me, and...decided never, ever, to go back to Hainan Island again.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


on the record, the place is Effects Cafe in Hai Kou, Hainan.

it started out reasonably well. HL and i went in and happily ordered our tea sets, and they were of excellent value. before we sat down, the waitress brushed away little black crumbs from the table. guess what they are. the sofas are frayed and betray little tears. guess why.

suddenly, a mouse scuttled out from under MY seat to the opposite seat. well...that's not too bad, yet, is it? sometimes things like that happen...then its cousin ran out to join it. is the place infested with mice? we complained to the waitress and just then, a third mouse appeared. all hell broke loose. HL screamed so loudly that all the staff of the cafe dashed out to see what was wrong, and my legs were well up on the sofa. goodness me! the place is crawling with mice. now you can guess why the sofas were torn and there were black crumbs...we could puke. obviously we didn't want to eat the food in the place, so we paid up and fled.

funnily enough, nobody else was surprised or alarmed. the other customers were at first startled by our screams, but when they were told, 'it's just mice', they shrugged and continued to enjoy their tea. the waitress told us that they were not afraid until our screams frightened them. ok, i guess, i am glad that we didn't damage their business too much :P

*** ***
our guardian gargoyle abandoned us.

after bringing us back to Hai Kou, he made us fill in feedback forms, and i am sorry to say that we were honest. he got really upset with us and blustered and protested. then, he went off in a huff, leaving us stranded in our hotel and that is the very last time we saw him today. so now, we are on our own. never mind, we are going home soon and now, at least we are reasonably near the airport. sigh...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Update on my adventures in Hainan

Let me try to be a little fairer about Hainan. there are long stretches of lovely beaches here, yes, fringed with coconut trees and fine sand like what you see in pictures. we had fun dashing through the lapping waves of the South China sea. what other enjoyable moments were there? raiding the coffee factory :) and sampling different flavours of coffee, and the tea brewing session was interesting. the weather is gloriously sunny and does not come with searing heat. Hainan is an island blessed with many different natural attractions, but i am utterly underwhelmed by the human attempts to exploit the tourist factor.

when we tour the End of the World Beach, i was impressed by the beauty of the sea. what i really hated was that they actually managed to broadcast one inane catchy song throughout the beach, over and over again, it does something like, 'oh what a beautiful beach, welcome to hainan island and may you enjoy yourself..' :P this is a dreadful addition to the place.

and part of our itinerary was Southeast Asia Village. i wonder if i am spoilt, but it is hard to fake interest in a replica of Chao Phraya when i have seen the real thing :P there was even an ugly statue of the Merlion. oh no, so this is what they think represents singapore! >:1

*** ***
of course, much of my experience of Hainan has been coloured by the looming presence of our guardian gargoyle. sigh...it has been one long battle of wits, will and words. this man hadn't reckoned on us fighting back this morning. there was some blustering and voice-raising on his part but we stood firm. bully. just because we have been so polite, he thought we were meek and stupid. we threatened to call the main agency in Hainan to ask them why we have turned into an illegal (and therefore underprivileged) tour group, and he finally capitulated. i am not sure what he is really doing, probably double-dealing and trying to take advantage of both the agency and us...among other things, sharing our tourist privileges as our relative *grimace*. after the lambs bucked and kicked, he spent today trying to appease us. it is just as well. at least, now there is no more of the 'table for 3' nonsense.

besides, we managed to shake him off for the evening and ran around Sanya on our own :) i forbade HL from speaking, in case she betrays our alien origins, and i put on my very best Beijing accent. if i am careful, we pass off as mainlanders. that makes us merely foreign, instead of alien.

anyway, we would be returning to Hai Kou tomorrow to spend the last night, then this curious experience would be all over.

Monday, December 01, 2008

my relative

the problem is, HL and i are criminals here in hainan, so we can't exactly run away and ask for help. you see, as soon as we arrived, we were informed that china/Hainan doesn't allow small tour groups, there are only 2 of us, which makes us...illegal. if they find out, someone would be fined. so he solemnly warned us not to tell anyone that we are tourists. we are his relatives. and since we are his relatives...

this is the first time ever, really, i have ever shared a meal with the guide. at every meal, he would sit with us, bold as brass, as if he is one of us, sharing our food and dipping his chopsticks into the same dishes...i don't think we know him well enough for this. isn't it most awkward and strange? we don't get a single moment away from him! even when we reach the hotel and wanted to walk AROUND the hotel, he tagged along, until we went back to our rooms. sigh...because he says, Hainan is a dangerous place and we are foreigners.

i really don't want to eat anymore meals with him. i don't feel like a tourist. HL and i are like two helpless little girls dragged around the country by a crafty old uncle, who is at once protective and exploitative. no one is allowed to fleece us except himself. we are at his mercy and he knows it. we don't even speak the language too well, and who can we protest to? he drinks heavily (by my standards) every dinner, then drives us back. for once, this intrepid traveller wishes that we have other guys with us.

PS, about the compulsory tour, in the end, we simply paid for a very expensive seafood dinner (yes, he shared it with us), and that was it. apparently, it was enough money spent to justify...whatever. it means we aren't getting fined, i think. wait, maybe it means we have just been fined.

in case you are wondering, he says that his company is Ye Lin, and we booked with City 99. masterofboots posted this entry in Maintint Hotel, Sanya.

Sucker's Land

why would anyone want to go to Hainan Island?

dear friends, i wish that i could post an 'wish you were here' entry, but...actually, i could. i wish that you guys were here so that there is safety in numbers.

HL and i are like lambs brought about to be fleeced and slaughtered. i am not sure whether it is the guide's fault, or the agency's anyway, someone, no, i mean, many people, are out to squeeze every drop they can. so i am very CROSS.

many of the so-called 'items on the itinerary' are merely shops in disguised. after some demonstration, the real point, of course, is to get you to buy the products - tea, medicine, silk. oh man, even if you buy anything, they would persuade you to buy more. i think i am going to have to be very rude soon. these people don't know how to take 'no' for an answer.

now we are having a ceasefire with our tour guide. notice my choice of noun. it would resume soon. he is trying to force us to go on the 'optional tour', because if not, someone would be fined! how bl*ody absurd! so friends, wish me luck, and oh yes.

wish you are here too :(

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hainan Island

was looking at the comic column in Straits Times Life! and a cartoon character said she is trying to reduce credit card debt. it was funny, until i realise i am in the same shoes :( counting down the pennies to payday :P got carelessly over-leveraged. ok, fine, i promise myself to be a better women next year, especially with the recession looming.

Bye, friends, i am going off to Hainan Island early, really early tomorrow. if i am sufficiently bored there, will blog. i heard that there is a famous chicken dish, Wen Chang Chicken. who knows? maybe it is the original Hainanese chicken rice.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


God answered some of my prayers pretty quickly in the past few days, so quickly, that i was surprised. maybe i wasn't really expecting an answer, and the prayers were almost perfunctory. sometimes i forget whom i am praying to.

but the biggest reason why i was surprised, as that too often, prayers don't get answered immmediately. some prayers appear to get shelved, and the results were seen only much later. some never get answered, at least, not in the way that i want it to be answered. looking at the spotty record God has in answering prayers, a cynic can easily ask, then 'how do you know that there is a God at all?" after all, the results look random, and it is the pattern-seeking human who puts God into the picture when possible.

it is a good thing then, that i don't base my faith on how my prayers are answered. granted wishes are proof of a genie in a bottle, not of a sovereign God. As human beings, we look to the supernatural for proof of God, as if God would use magic all the time. even the people in Jesus' time asked him for a sign of his deity. If there were a God, He would part the Red Sea more often than once, He would lift up his beloved disciples so that their feet would not strike a stone, He would smite the blasphemous or nasty in a satisfying manner. at least, that's what we would do if we were God. we would behave like Bruce Almighty :P

but in our New Testament times, God doesn't seem to work this way anymore. It is not that He stopped answering prayers, i come to see that He prefers to respect natural laws and gently direct the course of our lives and circumstances instead, to meet our needs, to comfort and to guide. maybe one day when we look back at the entire picture of our lives or the course of history, we would be astounded by the ingenuity God displays in orchestrating His plans without resorting to magical shortcuts. personally, i think that this would be much more difficult.

still, it is nice to, every now and then, have the satisfaction of a prayer answered very speedily. we all need a little miracle every now and then.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tiddly Toddlers Week 3

oh no, i have joined the menagerie and become an animal too.

today's babysitting army saw a tiny chick of a girl who was two sizes smaller than everyone else and timid as a mouse. whenever she was left alone, her little lips would quiver and those big round eyes dart around the room anxiously for mummy. what is the nanny to do? so, this is what i did the whole of the first hour:

i felt like a great fat mother hen nestling the chick under my wings. she was so young that she didn't seem to understand what was going on, and stare uncomprehendingly at you if you try to talk to her. hehehe, it was almost like hugging a warm soft toy...until it wanted to go and pee :P then this mother hen relinquished her to the toilet 'choo-choo train', and ran off happily to play with other chicks, i mean, children. the menagerie was rather quiet today because some of the most lively members were not around, so it wasn't as tiring as usual. or maybe, i am getting used to babysitting already.

*** ***


this epic campaign makes me want to laugh. some undergraduates from SMU want to stop people from reserving seats with packs of tissue, and staged the monumental effort of giving out packs and packs of tissue with the words 'this seat is not taken, it is yours'.

in the first place, i am not convinced that it is an anti-social act to reserve seats in this manner. after all, it is not like the seats are hogged for a long time. it is perfectly understandable that diners want to be assured that they have a seat after they bought their food, right?

what is so intimidating about a pack of tissue? why does it stop people from taking the seats? it is effective as a means of reservation only because we all respect the unspoken social rule, because we too have benefitted from it. surely you don't mean to say that all this while you have been fuming, you continue to be rendered helpless by a pack of tissue? my goodness...i would love to have such compliant children in my menagerie.

i thought, the easiest way to abolish the rule is to ignore it. those who refuse to recognise the sovereignty of the pack of tissue can simply take the seats anyway, and yes, use the tissue too, so there! :P

please, young people, this is really much ado about nothing. in other countries, undergraduates are running around naked to stop animal abuse, or demonstrating against excessive carbon emission. i would be embarassed to be fighting a battle over something as filmsy as tissue paper :P

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lehman Minibonds: Appeal to emotions

Logical fallacy: Appeal to emotions

This fallacy is committed when someone manipulates peoples' emotions in order to get them to accept a claim as being true. for more detail, see here

don't string me up and shoot me. i know that money matters are sensitive, especially if one feels victimised. over and over again, we have been bombarded with media coverage of investors of the doomed Lehman Minibonds. much of the focus is given especially to retirees who have lost their life savings, and yesterday's Newpaper featured a partially paralysed man who was counting on this investment to see him through for the rest of his life.

of course these people need help, and considering all the public attention lavished, there is no doubt that DBS and all other banks would bend backwards to cater to their needs.

but it is another matter saying that they deserve compensation because of their failed investment. if a product pays anymore than a fixed deposit, naturally, it carries a higher risk than one that pays less. how can there be such a thing as a free lunch? to be frank, isn't the higher profit the very reason why one would take more risk? the worst doesn't usually happen...but this month, it did.

of course it is painful to lose money, especially in huge sums. but this doesn't mean that the banks have the legal obligations to compensate the investors. in fact, i thought that if they do, it actually undermines the integrity of the laws that govern investment, because it means that even legally-binding contracts, aka the fine print, can be overturned if there is sufficient public outcry. let us not forget that these laws exist to protect not just the banks but also the investors, and a spirit of fair play is necessary to ensure that both parties continue to transact freely, without the fear that the contract would be breached.

this doesn't mean that we leave the needy in the lurch, and tell them, 'just too bad'.

the banks could, and should extend them help out of goodwill, as part of their social responsibility. let those within the category of 'vulnerable investors' appeal from this angle, and receive all the help that they need. and let this help be generous and big-hearted.

at least, in my point of view, this would be the more legally logical solution.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

This is not a key

this is the key to what used to be my locker at Jurong Fuji Ice Palace. i went back with a huge bag as planned, and brought everything home. then, i left the door unlocked. i would never need this key again, because the whole building is coming down in a few days time :( goodbye, Fuji Ice Palace. it is hard to explain why i feel sad, when i still have every intention of continuing to skate.

maybe it is hard to let go of the carefree days of young adulthood, a time when my skating friends and i had lots of time and money, and no responsibilities. We jokingly dubbed ourselves the 'Waltz Jump Club', since that's all we could do at that time, and invented silly moves like the Ultraman spin and moonwalk-on-ice. Why can't things remain that way forever? My partner and i have not even finished choreographing our programme 'I need to Know' . and i never got to perform the Butterfly Lovers, which i rehearsed so painstakingly. ! i think i am the last one left in the party, singing forlornly, 'I don't want to grow up because if i do, i won't be a Toy R' Us kid...'

making the transition to the Kallang skating rink turned out to be less difficult than i thought. though many skaters in my generation have stopped skating, there are new people joining. in fact, i met even more people i knew, since some of the coaches made the switch much earlier on. the rink seemed a little smaller, but i can live with that. the building has many more shopping and dining options. now, if only they would provide lockers as well...

well, i suppose there is no point looking back and wishing that things would remain the way they were. there are always new things to look forward to, even if i have to be dragged into the future by my hair, screaming and kicking petulantly.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Little Girl Lost

last week, i was at the rink, when i met a little girl wandering around on the ice alone. she was so tiny that we could hardly see her, unless we looked down. it probably wasn't too long ago when she was learning to walk. why on earth was this child skating alone, or skating at all?

it was a crowded day, and the public skaters were charging wildly everywhere. this little girl was too young to understand danger. actually, she was skating/walking in the wrong direction, but you can't teach a baby what anti-clockwise means. here we were, adult expert skaters :P all skidding and stumbling to avoid her, and she walked everywhere freely and blithely, utterly oblivious to the dangers that surround her. i bet she had more fun than i did :(

Maybe to God, i am just the same - naive to perils, and indifferent to teaching. i am not known for my cunning or discretion, and am prone to supremely rash decisions. God knows how many times He intervened to save my skin, or to save me from myself. maybe all my guardian angels are overworked, especially when i am skating, or wandering in quiet places alone, or hehe, simply talking to the powers that be :P

and like the lost little girl, i am not even aware of all the action behind the scenes to keep me safe. i just traipse along merrily, throwing occasional tantrums when protective hands hold me back from what i want. yes, i think that is probably what my life looks like in God's perspective.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Play Fair

you don't go into someone's house and start criticising everything you see, do you?

in my opinion, the western media has been doing exactly just that. no, actually, they are worse than that, because they have been picking on China for as long as the Olympic preparations started. it seems that China can do nothing right! they sneer at the architecture of the Nest and are morally offended by the amount spent. when the date drew nearer, soothsayers looked hopefully into the skies and pronounced the air pollution unmanageable.

sports commentators hint at homeground advantage, in case China wins more gold medals than the US. this is grossly unfair, and undermines the backbreaking (sometimes literally) effort that the sportsmen put in. the media struck gold when reports of lipsynching and voiceover surfaced. more reason to fault China's meticulous preparations. someone wrote to the press and commented that the opening ceremony was technically perfect but 'soulless'. what, if i may ask, would the writer define 'soul' as? it seems like an excuse for criticising, when there was nothing left to be dissatisfied about.

don't get me wrong. as a chinese singaporean, i don't even see myself as an overseas Chinese, so there is no nationalist outrage in this entry. i just feel that people have been very unfair to earnestness of the effort put in. come on, tibet or not, give credit where credit is due. besides, i can't help wondering, of all the western activists defending tibetan rights, how many have actually visited the place and made the effort to understand the situation?

it seems ironic to me that human rights is preached with such stridency and sense of superiority.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Acer travelmate 2000-2008

the day has finally come. acer travelmate is no more.

since i have neither a car nor a flat, this laptop is the most expensive item i have ever bought, and cost all of $2300. i was a poor undergraduate struggling to get by with tuition. a relative got it on my behalf, and when it arrived, i must admit that i was disappointed by its unwieldly body and heavy weight. it wasn't particularly mobile for a laptop, and those were the days when i had to take two jam-packed buses to get to school and back.

but it had a record of impeccable performance. i have to say that all these years, it hardly ever 'hung'. the only time i had to bring it to the acer service centre was to fix its upper case because of sheer wear and tear. i must have been a model laptop owner. later in its life, i actually quarantined it from cyberspace so that it did not have to be overloaded with anti-virus softwares and other security features. it had a long good run.

there are two things i remember Acer particularly for. i bought it mainly to write my honours thesis on, and spent many long hours writing frantically in the honours room and drinking gallons of bubble tea. it was the time when every second shop sold bubble tea. i put on weight thanks to my drinking habits :P hey nihon no tomo, we both got our new laptops at the same time. how long did yours last? hahahaha

then i graduated and took to playing sim city after work :P instead of socialising like a sensible young woman should. and i wasn't even being a nerd. sim city was already sadly out of date even at that time :P at least i achieved astronomical land prices in my cities :) mind you, i still like a good game of sim city. it is stunningly easy to play and one can hardly fail, especially since i have cheat codes :P

in these days, to an eight-year-old laptop is an anachronism. the monitor has corroded beyond repair, and since i paid only $2300, what more can i ask for? it served me well when it lasted. i'll let it RIP. some things are gone and lost forever, like the lovely pictures of my solo odyessy in england :( and my essays :( :( but life still goes on and there would be better things to come. this time round i'll learn to use a thumb drive :P

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Say

i have been swallowing my words so often that i think i am growing fat.

i don't know whether it is because i have become wiser with words, or maybe i am just too tired to argue.

sometimes i don't offer contradictory views because i don't want to strain friendships. this is particularly true of theological opinions, because most of the time, i think we know too little to be able to argue meaningfully.

other times i don't argue because i also discover that some people - many people - aren't really interested in what is said. they just want to expound on and on. h*ll, i have my own opinion and i am not about to change my mind because of your pontification. it isn't my problem if you insist on your misled views. besides, a lot of opinions cannot really be justified by logic and evidence. i just feel this way, and why can't i? why should i attempt to put emotions into words and reasons?

and i have learnt not to speak, when speaking doesn't help anything. words are hopelessly futile in consolation, and pointless in trying to change the decisions made by the powers-that-be. but it is ok, argument isn't the only form of resistance.

so just because i am silent doesn't mean that i agree with you. you may have the last word but you may not get what you want. you cannot defeat me when i choose not to fight. i feel rather like the defiant little boy who is punished in class: 'i am standing, but my heart is sitting.'

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


there aren't any pictures.

to be honest, there wasn't anything really noteworthy. i mean, those of you who have been to batam would have seen bintan too :P besides, i was armed with only my samsung Hp camera, which really can't do justice even to whatever there was.

it was rather a wrench coming home. all that resort living does is to give a moment of escapism, when reality doesn't seem to matter very much, and you are made so happy that you would pay $30 for every meal, because you were feted like royalty everywhere.

and it was great not having anything on the agenda, only to eat, sleep, and try to while away the hours in between. on the second morning, i had breakfast early, swam a bit, had more breakfast, then swam again. i think i must have dripped chlorine water all over the restaurant, but the waiters were very tolerant :P

the last note on my trip: Hot Stone Massage at Aroma Day Spa

i liked being able to choose my favourite oils. the therapist was very sensitive to my reactions, and made sure that i was comfortable throughout. hot stones were used to soften the ground before the kneading started.10 mins into the treatment, i felt so relaxed that i could melt into the bed. this treatment is highly recommended.

the spa touts itself as a place offering 'world class service at local prices'. well, it is certainly cheaper than the resort spas, and they actually even sent its own private transport to chaffeur these two women to the spa. the service was impeccable, to say the least. check out this place if you do go to bintan.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Since God is omnipotent...
Can He create a mountain too big for Him to lift, and
can He then lift this mountain?

This was a classic trick question i encountered in my philosophy class. Dare i hazard an answer?

What makes us think that the syllogistic logic of our world has to be true always, in all forms of existence? Let us imagine that you can follow the white rabbit into a world in which the laws of logic are different. In this world, it is possible for something to be completely red and completely green, at the same time. And 2+11=1 because we count according to the face of the clock. Can God create a world like that?

Why not? He has already created our world, with astounding detail and complex laws governing it. I wonder if these logical laws are set in place more for our benefit than anything else, to enable our limited faculties to make sense of something too great for us to comprehend. Just consider the concept of time and space - these are limits only for us. God is everywhere and, He has no beginning nor end.

so it is not difficult to imagine that an alternative world like that can exist. after all, when we are dreaming, our minds sometimes follow completely different logic. extraordinary things appear perfectly natural. last night, i dreamt that i was...erm, yes, flying ala ironman, and at no point was i surprised. in fact, i could even control my flight path and decide how high to fly. no, i wasn't on drugs. i was just in an alternative world - dreamland.

the question therefore, is not how God can create an impossible mountain, but why He should. Why would God want confuse us, and contradict the principles of nature which He sets in place? He is already God, what more does He have to prove?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

what difference does prayer make?

Disclaimer: this is my own musing on a topic which i am entirely not qualified to write about. read, but only with a critical mind.

i don't think i know how to pray anymore.

let me put it more accurately: i am beginning to learn to pray, all over again.

when i was really young, well, young enough to be afraid of dentists, i used to pray with all my heart that the school dentist wouldn't schedule me for a check up. i progressed to asking for top results in school and scholarships, because nothing mattered more to me than that. did God grant these requests? let us just say that i got more than what i hoped for, but less than what i asked for.

it was so easy to make demands as a child, but when i learnt more about Christianity, i become afraid to ask. it seems to me that every request has to be couched in hedged terms - 'if God is willing', and begin with, 'Lord, if it is Your will'. i learnt that i can i ask amiss. i am afraid that if i ask too hard, it just shows that i do not have faith that God would give me what is best. and i am afraid that God will say, 'very well then, your will, not mine.'

Christian books don't always help - in fact, great writers give contradictory advice. Philip Yancey, if i understand him correctly, urges us to wrestle with God (in Prayer: does it make a difference), like Jacob, to hang on to the angel until he was blessed with more than what he could imagine. but i remember being taught to submit to God and asking that His will be done all matters, like Jesus in Gethsemane, who asked that the 'cup be taken away from him', but eventually accepting 'God's will, not his own'? i am seriously confused! the more i read and seek, the more i am aware that there is something deeply profound that i do not understand about prayer.

there is nothing more discouraging than thwarted prayers. on TV programmes, i sometimes see people who do pilgrimages, bowing and kissing the ground with every step, to move the gods with their sincerity. i wish that God is like that. but no, when God's answer is no, at least in my life, i have never persuaded Him to change His mind. and i just don't see why. please understand, i am not asking to strike the lottery or have other secular demands. sometimes, i think that i am making perfectly legitimate requests that, God really has no excuse to deny. so why not, God?

i used to think that this is a cop-out answer given by Sunday school teachers when they have nothing else to say. but now i see it is true: between prayer and God's answer lies a great mystery that we will not understand on this side of Heaven. no wonder the psalmist says, 'my heart is not proud, my eyes are not haughty. i do not concern myself with great matters, or things too wonderful for me.' we would only know why upon hindsight, when all is revealed. on prayer, i learnt that we have to take a (very very) long term view.

how then am i going to pray? what is the good of telling God my heart's desires if His will is inexorable? i might as well always just say, 'God, about my life, may Your will be done.'

i can't think of a direct answer. but there is dawning realisation in my heart that, prayer is more holistic than demands-made-on-bent-knees. i shall emulate descartes, and demolish all the structures of theology that i built up over the years. maybe i got it all wrong anyway. then, i pick one piece of irrefutable fact that i know to be true, and upon it, establish a new understanding of God.

and this is what i have chosen: that God is an Almighty being who loves me and wants only the best for me.

sometimes i feel like when i pray, i am just keying in my requests into an impersonal cosmic computer. maybe i have forgotten that prayer is a dialogue, and all these desires are expressed unto Someone who is listening, and responding, and who sees the whole picture of my life, far more than i can ever see. in fact, this is probably why the answers to my prayers are sometimes so unexpected. the issue is not that God is not listening. the problem is, He is listening, and intervening, and working in these matters. but God is no unthinking genie in a bottle. He works according to His wisdom and in His own time. What can i say? i am only made of dust.

i can't say that i now have a better understanding of how to get God to give me what i want. but it makes me feel a lot better to remember that whatever i pray, the answer is given with the greatest love, by the greatest Being.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

in my cave

my friends, some of you might have found me abrupt and rude in the face of the attention you have shown, and i don't want you to think that i do not appreciate your concern. please know that i am very grateful to discover that i have so many friends :)

but i am tired of trying to explain myself. i received strongly-worded advice from mentors and such, to tell the truth, advice doesn't help. and i do hate having to justify my actions and have my wisdom questioned.

there is another reason for refusing to give more details. my friends, if you knew what really happened, you would:

1. finally discover how impulsive, capricious and temperamental i am, and hence
2. scold me for being myself or worse
3. scold me for all the wrong reasons like someone (unnamed) did

so, please understand that on this matter, i have decided to go into my cave like a man, and not say anymore after this post.

my own conclusion is that i will not bother to try to figure out what the right thing to do is. i choose to be reckless at all the wrong times. that's how i live. on these matters, i think i can only follow my own heart. i said that i do not know what i am doing, it doesn't mean that i think i am on the wrong track...if you know what i mean.

i don't recommend this to anyone else, but to me, evaluated decisions really, are no different from a toss of the dice. at the inevitable crossroads we encounter, there is no telling where one turn would lead to, but it would always go somewhere anyway. and now i am just waiting to see what is going to happen next.

what i really hope to get is your non-judgemental acceptance of my actions and the comfort of your presence if things go wrong. maybe you secretly think i am making a mess of my life, but please don't tell me that.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Last week

Warning: i'm not sure that what i am writing has been theologically studied, and is considered sound doctrine. it is simply my experience of a cataclysmic week.

i made two abrupt decisions within a few days. if you know the whole story, you'd think i am absurd and rash. i suppose i am, but i am not going to explain myself. i cannot say that i considered matters from all angles carefully and arrived at the most appropriate conclusion.

i suppose, i am admitting that i don't know what i am doing at all. not every decision in life can be weighed and reasoned. whatever i do, there are bound to be doubts about 'what ifs' and 'perhaps'.

exhaustion makes me patient because i have no more strength to do anything else. i can only sit very still before God, and finally stop asking 'why and how'. i can only say, 'Lord, Your will, not mine'. some things are beyond my control, i have no plans for the future, and can't see what is going to happen next. but it is ok.

most importantly, i know that God's hand is upon my life, and this is enough for me. i trust that God is working on the hidden things. sometimes when you don't know what to do, you can only do what you know to do - to keep worshipping, keep praying, keep walking. And to trust somehow that:

'We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!' (1 Cor 13:12 the message)

Monday, April 07, 2008

Goodbye old GAMs

it is finally time to discard my faithful old GAM skates. it has been a good 5 years, old GAMs. look at their poor battle-scarred surfaces, especially the right skate. i have a dreadful habit of bashing one skate with the other, so the right skate is suffered more than its fair share of slashes. poor skate :P well, it is better than cutting myself, of course.

new skates just arrived after a long odyssey, that involves them being shipped from canada to US, before being loaded again to Singapore. what a journey! it was a trip that almost never happened! have to thank sminy and his sister-in-law :)

here are my new skates - super duper parabolic professional freestyle blades! check them out. fresh off the plane :) i am still wearing GAM, they are my very much preferred brand. can't wait to try them out. but first, i have to break them in first, and that means wearing them at home with thick wet socks to mold them. they feel horribly hard now. it is like having a wooden armour around your feet :P i do hate breaking in new boots.
parabolic blades are supposed to help with spins and jumps and such, so, maybe now i can really make those perfect little circles when i spin!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


seriously politically incorrect, misogynistic stuff. feminists best not read :P

what is all the fuss about having women ministers? (or that the latest Cabinet lineup has no woman) women have broken new grounds everywhere, i suppose it is a matter of time before this highest sanctuary is breached.

my interests feel reasonably well represented already. i can't think of anything that needs special feminine attention at the cabinet levels. i am represented as a singaporean and that is enough for me.

feminists might claim that the situation means that there are unacceptable systematic barriers that prevent women from reaching the highest office. insidious discrimination, they cry! why else are there no women in the whole cabinet? well...there is another rather obvious reason (but i can't say it i can't say it. don't make me say it :P even political incorrectness has its limits :P)

in fact, i don't particularly admire female leaders or see them as role models. think of Margaret Thatcher, or Hillary Clinton's bullheaded fight for the White House. Goodness me, these women have nothing in common with me except biology. their achievements are their own and have nothing to do with me. i am intimdated by the Iron Lady, and repelled by the former First lady. if i were to meet them, i would probably feel like a useless, frivolous akimbo bimbo. and they would think the same of me. this sisterhood thing is a myth.

there is something worse than not having a woman in the cabinet - having a woman in the cabinet because she is a woman. that would be terrible, because such affirmative action would undermine everything that other female leaders have achieved on their own merit.

so, who are these people complaining about the lack of females in the Cabinet? Not, i imagine, other women. because i don't want to be a minister, and don't care if other women can't :P

ps: the answer to yesterday's question: Myanmarese (according to Weekend Today)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Via Dolorosa

i don't like you, but don't take it personally.

According to Alan Greenspan's new book, Richard Nixon was not just 'anti-semitic', he was anti-women, anti-hispanics, well, basically, anti-everyone else. the dislike was not personal. he just didn't like people. Some days, i feel like that, especially when i am in a crowded Mrt carriage, rubbing shoulders with sweaty strangers. the smell of our humanity can kill me.

i am not bothered by the grand evil schemes that people dream up, because they are so remote from my personal experience. it is the everyday encounters with people that get on my nerves. little things can be so annoying if they happen constantly, like handphones ringing in cinemas, human roadblocks on escalators and whiny voices. i can't stand women whining, because they sound just like me :P some days i fantasize that i live in South New Zealand, where the nearest human is 5mins away...by helicopter.

Yesterday was Good Friday service in church, and once again, we were reminded that Jesus died the cruellest death possible to remove the weight of our sins. God, i cannot understand why You bother. this could only be done out of love, but to love such as us! to love the sloth, the glutton, the self-righteous, the complainers and the grump (like me). and most of the time, we are not even grateful. i mean, if i had my way, there would be no Noah's ark during the big flood.

sometimes there are really irritating, slap-able brats running around, and only their doting parents think they are cute. God's love reminds me of those parents, because i know myself, and worse, He knows me even better. He knows the dark thoughts in my heart, the careless words i say, and everything else more, and oddly enough, loves me anyway. He is endlessly patient with the faithless prayers i mouth, and all the times when i sing hymns without meaning a word. Then, because He remembers that i was made from dust, He says, "where sin increased, grace increased even more." (Romans 6). God! How could it be?

not that i am complaining. i could be the one stripped and whipped and nailed to the cross, so, honestly, i am very relieved to be spared. i just find this agape (love) incomprehensible. Dear Lord, i am completely, utterly floored by this

Amazing Grace.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

the last post on batam

ok, i finally got around to putting the pics of batam online. notice however that mine are extremely non-social. if you want the more personal pics, go and look at sminy's blog instead.

this is the view from the girls' villa. i don't think that my hp camera does the beauty of the place justice. the villa's balcony hangs right over the stormy grey sea, so you can admire the waves lapping on the rocks, even when indoors. why would anyone pay so much to go to the maldives? can things get much better than this?

i had a single room, where i was able to be as anti-social as i wanted to be. this is where i curl up to read whenever i want time out. since it rained so much, i seem to spend half of my holiday just lolling on this couch. rather miss it now. i can see the pool from here :)

we met an old friend in batam megamall. everyone wanted to take a picture with dear A&W bear. we all had rootbeer float. the funny thing is, when we had A&W in singapore, i never had rootbeer float, or ever ate much at A&W. see, things are precious only when they are hard to find :P

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rainy Holiday

why am i blogging again when i am at a beach resort? because it has been raining
and raining
and raining
and is still raining.
so, this is the only thing left to do :P

the poor guys are disappointed about missing the banana boat, but since i can't do any sea sports, i don't really care too much :P

slept reasonably well today, but i woke up sadly early, at 6.15am, which is 7.15am in singapore. it was already bright. why does the sun rise so early here? i tried to go back to sleep, but a whole tribe of korean aunties and uncles trooped heavily out to breakfast. a little later, the whole tribe trooped back after breakfast :( why do people get up so early when it is holiday?

today, the rest of us got pummelled and kneaded by the excellent masseuses in the spa. by the end of my treatment, i was so relaxed and lazy that i could only crawl back to my room and sleep again. the treatment rooms were rather strange though. the set up is a serious test of your faith. it was only after my massage that i realised that the walls are made of glass. i wonder if the people at the beach could see what goes on! probably not...at least, i hope not...i mean, surely not!

i tried exploring the place despite the rain. there is a little spice garden, and nice wandering lanes along the beach. but i felt dreadfully silly carrying my umbrella around. besides, it is awfully cold. we all packed for the wrong climate. luckily i brought along a pair of long sleeves last minute. my room's air-conditioner is set at the maximum temperature - 30 degrees :P

i am never travelling with people who like to sing in public again :P yesterday we had a most strange experience. the lounge singer invited mel to sing, and unfortunately, she sang well. he got so inspired that he decided to make all of us perform...one by one! and so, tonny was up next, and then, amy went up to sing too! bloh and i were hauled up next, by our hair. she sang a song. there is no way i am going to sing in public when i am coughing so badly! and so, i had to offer to play the piano. he was very surprised, and funnier still, sang along when i performed. so, it was quite an experience. luckily the northpole gang is full of talented performers :P tonight if he is still around, we have decided that we are going to enter by another door and run away as fast as we could.

ok, now i am going to see if the rain has finally stopped. if not, it's back to the bed :P this is my kind of holiday :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On Holiday

Why am i blogging when i am in a beach resort?

the simple reason is, it has been raining
and raining
and raining
and is still raining :(

the good folks of the north pole packed ourselves to a nice resort in Batam. our villas are right beside the tumultous sea, and this place isn't crowded at all, considering that it is school holidays now. in fact, this place is so laidback and comfortable that i am going to be selfish and not tell you where we are :P don't want this place packed with the holidaying crowd :P

since it is pouring, we have to find ways to amuse ourselves. so, i am here surfing the internet in front of the beach. Wayne and mel are playing pool. sminy and tonny are getting kneaded. the others are drinking by the bar...this is life :)

in a little while, we are going to have a kelong seafood dinner. and tomorrow, we plan to go and eat live seafood, you know, the kind which you pick out of the water, and throw into the frying pan right away.

now, if only it would stop raining. then we can go and fish for gong-gongs.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Wabi Sabi

A barren tree in the dead of winter. but life would come back in spring.
i am not sure that i can fully explain wabi-sabi, but it seems to me to be the right way to live, not that i actually follow it. in fact, i am quite far from it, and that is why it is such an attractive idea to me.
it is a philosophy of simplicity in life, of not striving or struggling. wabi-sabi accepts that life is imperfect, and fleeting. with life inevitably comes decay. we cannot hold on to happy moments, but sadness does not last forever either. as such, one should move with the natural rhythm of life.
this term probably is of zen origins, but it is not very different from the attitude set out in Ecclesiastes (Old Testament). King Solomon too, observes that 'everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind'. we will return to dust, with all our dreams and aspirations, and all our griefs.
but don't get me wrong. i don't think this attitude is pessimistic at all. it is serene acceptance of what life offers us, and a refusal to strain too hard at things that are impermanent anyway, and trying to control what we cannot control.
and for the Christian, it means also that we submit ourselves to the will of God for what He wants to bring about in our lives, because as the psalmist says, 'all the days ordained for me are written in Your book before one of them came to be'.
i imagine that wabi-sabi cannot be achieved with effort. one would just be trying too hard. it is cultivated when we learn to let go. and peace comes from not struggling to change what we cannnot, letting ourselves flow unresistingly through the ups and downs in life, knowing that we are secure in the love of God, and we will meet Him one day. i suppose, all questions and complaints can wait until then.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

a walk in the mountains

many years ago, i went to Nepal with a bunch of good friends, and one day, the local guide told us we were going for a 'gentle walk'. naively, we all trotted along with great enthusiasm...for the first hour.

then, it turned into to be a monster (to me) 26-km trek along the foot of the annapurna mountains. in Nepal, there is no such thing as a straight walk. you are either climbing upwards, or trying to stop yourself from rolling downhill.

one of the most vivid memories i had was this particularly long and winding stretch we walked through. it was downhill all the way, and i learnt that day that gravity is not a friend. there were many parts when i had a helping hand, but somehow, i managed to stumble through right to the end...then i turned around and looked back at the entire trail, and nearly fainted from horror.

the trail was nothing but a merest scratch on the massive face of the mountain! it was so narrow, anyone of us could have just slipped, and fallen to our deaths thousands of feet below. i hadn't realised how dangerous it was, because i just focused on my feet, taking one step, and then the next, before i knew it, i got through everything. i am a very faint-hearted person. if i had known what i was in for, my legs would definitely collapse beneath me. they would have to send a helicopter up to airlift me away :P

this experience helps me to understand better why God wants to lead us one step at a time, instead of showing us the destination right from the start. we might draw back in fear, and fail to achieve what we could. the thing is, we might not realise that when the eventual happens, we would be prepared, because God's grace is sufficient. but trying to be prepared too far ahead forces us to use today's grace for tomorrow's problems. no wonder He tells us 'not to worry about tomorrow, because each day has enough trouble of its own.'

it is really easier to just take one step at a time. and that is what i am going to do: focus on putting one foot in front of the other, and see where God eventually leads me.