Friday, December 31, 2010


In Japan, there is a custom of sending out Nengajo, which are a sort of New Year's card to tell people you know that you are still in existence, and to let them know how you are doing. I won't be following this custom, since it costs too much money (and I'm too lazy), but still, the idea of having an update on what's been up is a good idea, so here are 10 things in 2010 that are 'new' or which I find either important or interesting.
  1. I decided to do a 2nd term with OMF in Japan. I was pretty much contemplating this before the end of last year, but it was only truly finalized when I got back into Japan on the 14th of July (or was it 15th?)
  2. I started taking up two martial arts classes while here in Japan. I started learning how to use a naginata in February and I started Kyudo classes in September. I am still not good at either one.
  3. I have started to teach English classes to two 5-year-old kids. Chisaki and Yuichiro are nice kids whom I rather like, but that doesn't mean I find it easy to teach English to them, with the emphasis on this phrase being on the 'teach' rather than the 'them'.
  4. I went to seminary! For two weeks, for a short course on missions work, and I made quite a few new friends. This makes me legit here in Japan (nah just kidding).
  5. My long unused and dormant Chinese speaking ability has been recalled to service while here in Japan. While it's not surprising to have to use it in the Shinjuku HC (where 2/4 core members speak Chinese with regularity), I have also used it while at Shinagawa Kai and when with several new friends I met at my Japanese language class.
  6. I started playing basketball at CAJ. Obviously, I'm not very good at basketball in general, but at least I have a better idea of how to play within a 5-man team on a full court. And the one thing I *have* become good at is setting screens.
  7. I am now allowed to go to the izakaya and drink a bit under OMF rules. And I have gone there with Shinagawa Kai, whenever they have their Shinagawa Nomikai. As long as you don't get drunk...
  8. I set up a Christmas tree in my house! It's only a foot high, but whatever. Thanks Vernon, for bringing it up haha.
  9. I made chicken rice for the first time in my life. I had a Prima Taste mix to help me, and it was fun making it and seeing people enjoy it. The cleaning up after that... not so fun.
  10. I guess one of the most important things I've started to learn (and am still in the process of learning) is about God's grace. Before this, it's always been a lot of head knowledge, and I've always lived under a sort of shadow of guilt and apprehension about sin (or about God's anger because of my sin), but I think now, I'm starting to understand the basics about God's grace, and how much love He has for us. It's no longer about trying to keep myself pure (an exercise in futility if there ever was one), but in just looking at God, no matter what happens in life.
So that's about it for me this year. Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Prayer Stuff #13

So Christmas is already past.
And year end's coming really fast.
So while hoping you pray,
I think I can say,
"This prayer stuff will be this year's last!"

Yeah ok, no guarantees though. I need to keep my options open.
  1. Coco's will start again on the 4th of Jan. I'm inviting a friend from my Japanese language class, who isn't interested in religion, but is interested in English. Pray that this will work out.
  2. Chinese Alpha started off seemingly well last week, and will continue into Feb-March of 2011. Pray for continued wisdom for the leaders in the Shinjuku HC (and language ability for me hurhur) in this.
  3. So New Year's is around the corner, let's take some time to reflect on the past year, and thank God for all He's done!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


With the number of posts I'm churning out, it's almost like I'm trying to meet a monthly quota or something (just kidding, I don't have a monthly quota, just a weekly one).

#5: Archery.

So I finally found enough free time to go down to the archery range to try to practice my archery again. The last time I had picked up a bow was almost 2 months ago, so I thought I had better start up again before I really forget everything.

So I went down, and my instructor from the beginners' course was there as well. And he asked me what bow I wanted to use.

Now see, at the beginners' course, I was using a bow with a pull of 12 kilos. And after the first couple of times, I was able to pull it with relative ease. So I thought I would go for something heavier instead, and asked for one that was 14 kilos.

At the end of the session, I learnt one very important lesson: Generally, it isn't a good idea to ask for a bow with a pull of 14 kilos, when you've only practiced with one that was 12 kilos, and the last time you practiced was a couple months ago.

In the process, I also learnt that while there is relatively little sporting action in archery, it would still be advisable to do some form of warm-ups before shooting.

And when it is winter, it is also advisable to wear long-sleeved shirts.

My arrows.

Prayer stuff #12

So over the last couple of weeks, I've been a bit busy, and quite a lot lazy, hence the lack of updates. But I've finally been guilt-tripped by myself into writing these again.

Prayer stuff:
  1. Thanksgiving for a good Alpha Retreat over the previous weekend
  2. Kid's club on Friday. We won't be doing much, just watching a video, but pray that it will speak to the kids (and the moms that are there).
  3. I'll be teaching the Christmas story to the two kids I teach English to, this coming Tuesday. Not too sure how much impact it would have on them, but please pray that there will be some fruit eventually.
  4. KHCN Celebration at Mitaka on the 23rd.
  5. Chinese Alpha starts at Shinjuku HC on the 25th. With a Christmas party. Japanese Alpha will also have Christmas party that day.
Yup, think that's about it now.

The Commercialization of Christmas

With Halloween over and Christmas just 'round the corner in Tokyo, shops have already put up their Christmas decorations. Trees, lights, stockings, the whole works are all over the place, not just in the major department stores, but even in tiny cafes and family-run shops. And the music they pipe through the shops remind you of chestnuts roasting on open fires, going home for Christmas, and winter wonderlands.

And of course there are the sales. Oh, the Christmas sales. Wonderful Christmas sales, that would make even Singaporeans happy (Of course, the word sale in itself makes Singaporeans happy). I bought a pair of jeans for just ¥3,500 the other day, that would ordinarily have cost close to ¥5,000 (it's a valid buy too; my only other pair of jeans has a hole, in a less than flattering spot).

And dear old Mr. Claus is everywhere. His presence can be found on the ubiquitous Coca-cola ads (which I heard is where he gets his red clothing from), to Santa uniforms at the 100yen markets, to even calling for you to join the end-of-year lotto.

And if you're anything like I was in the past, you would be decrying this commercialization of Christmas.

You would be upset that Christmas has lost all its meaning. That what should be a time of remembrance for our Lord coming in human form has lost its significance to a rather overweight old man who has somewhat of an odd fondness for climbing down peoples' chimneys. That as much as we like the idea of Christmas being a season of giving, it still pales in comparison to the real meaning of Christmas, the Christ-Mass.

And so invariably, every year, I would go into a silent rant about how humanity has managed to push the greatest gift of all out, in favor of 50% sales and lots of good food.

But this year, in Japan, I was suddenly struck with a bit of insight. Not through my own personal brilliance, as smart as I may be, but through what Steve said, and most likely, through the way the Holy Spirit has been opening my eyes.

See, Japan, as you might know, is not a Christian country. In fact, unlike some other non-Christian countries I can think of, Christmas isn't even a holiday in Japan. The 23rd is, because that is the birthday of the Heisei emperor, but the 25th this year would be a normal working day, if it wasn't for the fact that it falls on a Saturday (making it a normal working weekend).

And I can't help but feel that if Christmas was like any of the other 'Christian' holidays (Good Friday, Easter, Thanksgiving), it would remain a special occasion celebrated only by the foreign community living here.

However, as noted earlier, Christmas is a time of sales. Lots of sales. Big sales. And the big winners in all these sales are the department stores. And children of course, but that's a different matter. So, in order to capitalize on this unexpected source of holiday income, the stores have Christmas sales. And they amp it up, making it a happy time of giving (like in the West), and a happy time of romance (somewhat like the West).

So the final result is that Christmas is a fairly big event here in Japan.

And that gives us Christians a chance to tell people the original Christmas story. And you'll be surprised at some the reactions people give. One lady at E-moms was pretty astonished at the story, and this was what she said about it (or something along those lines):
"How come they don't teach this in school? How are our children going to know about this if no one talks about it? They should teach this in school!"
It should be noted that the lady is not a Christian.

And even the idea of Santa. I grew up thinking that Santa was a character who drew peoples' attention away from God. After all, as everyone knows, Santa is an anagram for the evil one, right? So Santa should be banned in church!

And yet, the original Santa was a bishop named Nicholas, who in trying to help a man whose three daughters needed financial aid, also gave birth to the idea of hanging stockings, and also reinforced the whole idea of gift-giving.

So the next time you think, 'oh how terrible it is that people are forgetting all about God, and only focusing on buying stuff', instead of just moaning the commercialization of Christmas, think of how you can Christianize the commercialization!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ice Cream [Hilarious Haiku update]

So today on the train while going to Ochanomizu to attend a church service with the short-term team, the conversation somehow ended up being about the X-Men.

Vernon: Wah.. so this Magneto (he pronounced it Mag-NEH-to) quite powerful ahh... what?
Hui: *Laughing* It's pronounced Mag-nee-to.. who's Magnehto? Sounds like some ice cream!
Me: Yeah! Magnehto, the combination of a Magnum and a Cornetto... Magnehto!
Hui: I can almost imagine someone trying to sell it...
Me: Like Ian McKellen! "YOU SHALL NOT PASS....this opportunity to get two ice creams in one!"

Worship at New Hope Church in Ochanomizu was quite enjoyable, rather different from what we're kinda used to at housechurch.

Also, I made a haiku in the shower:



There are only deer
The frogs have all returned home
There are no more pears

Props to Shion at Shinagawa Kai for leaving the seed of this in my mind for over a year. And no, it's not supposed to make any sense. hahahaha

My brother put the haiku into his Mac translator, and the random thing it generated was too good to leave aside:

Only only you can apply
You can apply
It is not releasing

Haha wut?

Yeah 26 years old! (Thanks Miyako for the cake!)

Saturday, November 27, 2010


This morning I wanted to make cinnamon toast
But the taste wasn't strong enough, it wasn't even close
Or maybe it's because I had a blocked nose

Yesterday I tried to make coffee with spice
But the cinnamon didn't dissolve, it looked just like lice
Oh why are you being so not very nice

I really do like a cinnamon taste
But perhaps it's time that we parted ways
I do believe I've found a brand new craze

Thursday, November 25, 2010


This morning, I had to wake up extra early to make sure I got out on time to go meet the short-term team from my church in Singapore at the station, and then go with them and Steve to E-moms. Normally, I would have to wake up early whenever we have E-moms, but today I really had to make sure I woke up, because we had a tight schedule, and we really couldn't afford any delays. It doesn't help, of course, that last night, I was at Shinagawa Kai till pretty late.

But anyway, we all got to E-moms on time. Due to the presence of the team, there were enough English speakers to each pair off with one of the Japanese ladies, which allowed for a great deal more English conversation.

Steve decided not to do the usual studies, so instead, we were using these interesting Soularium cards to answer questions. Basically, he would ask a question, and then we would all pick a picture card that best represented our answers.

So along the way, I was talking to one of the ladies called Yoshiko, and the question was "how do you think your spiritual life has been changed?" or something like that. I think my brain hadn't fully woken up since it was really early in the morning.. about 10 am or so, so I can't recall the exact words of the question.

Anyway, the picture I picked out was of this guy standing still on a subway platform while everything around him was a blur of motion. And so I was telling her that the picture represented something that I had really learnt while in Japan.

See, I kinda enjoy photography. Maybe it runs in the family or something (my dad enjoys photography too, and my brother has been doing photography.. even my sister takes like a ton of photos wherever she goes). And so wherever I go, I try to make sure I carry my little Ixus around so that at a moment's notice, I can whip it out and snap a photo of whatever it was that caught my eye.

Images like this tend to catch my eye.

The problem is that when I take the shot, quite often, it can't quite capture the atmosphere of the shot. And then I'll start fiddling around with my camera's settings, hoping to find the right combination of aperture/shutter speed/lighting balance etc that would get me that 'perfect' picture. And I almost never was able to fully recreate the aura of that shot.

And then, I started to get a little obsessive. I would walk around, looking at the things I saw, and rating them on a 'picturability' scale. Simply speaking, I was analyzing the world in terms of how I could upload it to Facebook.

And so my mind would be going something like this: "Hmm, the view from this particular point looks pretty good.. if I could just catch the way the light hits the wall at a certain angle hmm still not too good.. maybe let's twiddle this button... nope nope, still not working out... maybe I should walk back a bit? The angles looked better from earlier on ehm.. feels the same.. actually this reminds me a lot of that other photo I took 5 minutes ago but it's always good to have another one in case.. hmm still not working out think maybe this one is the best so far ah! I'm gonna upload this to Facebook!"

It finally came to a point where I realized that all I was thinking of was pictures I could upload to facebook, and of the pictures that I missed the chance to take. My mind was always either on the future or on the past! So I finally decided, that I needed to put away my camera, and just enjoy whatever it was I could see. And in a way, knowing that I wasn't taking any photos, and knowing that I would not be able to re-live the moment, made the moment that much more wonderful.

So Yoshiko said that's quite a Japanese thing, where something fragile/that disappears quickly is even more beautiful precisely because it was so impermanent. Which is probably why watching sakura and fireworks are two such big events in Japan.

And it's true. If I was always thinking of how to take a picture of a cherry blossom, before I know it, it would have fallen, and I wouldn't have been able to really appreciate it.

And I think it's kinda like in our life as well. So often, we're always thinking of what we're gonna be doing next. We look forward to the next activity. We have packed schedules. We map out our steps to advance in life. It's a great thing if you're able to plan ahead. We are almost always gripped in a fever of the future.

At the same time though, we are often trapped within the prison of our past. We look back at our lives, and think, oh how we could have done better at a disappointing time. Or remember the good old days and long for a return to that golden era, when everything was going well for us. And for a Christian in particular, I always look back, and see the sins that I've done, and think, "Oh what a horrible person I am".

But then, God didn't make us to exist in the future. Jesus said in Matthew 6, "Seek first His kingdom (the kingdom of God) and His righteousness," and in the next verse, tells us, " not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own."

Neither did He make us to live in the past, among our memories. No matter how much we may want to go back and do things differently, or go back and re-live our best moments, it won't happen. It's in the past. And if we are being bogged down by our past sins, we simply need to remember 1 John 1:9, confess our sins and we will be made clean.

We were made to live in the present, to spend our lives in the 'now', making choices that will honour God, and to enjoy the ride as we go along.

And I rather like presents too. hur hur.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Quote of the day, from the meeting we had earlier today:
"When they have a baptism service among the tribes in *** country, they have one picture showing 40 people getting baptized. Here in Japan, we have 40 pictures of one person getting baptized." -K. Weemes

Prayer Stuff #11

So the team came in yesterday and are sort of settled in, and we started doing some stuff this morning at E-moms. Thought it went really well, will explain a little more later on.

Prayer stuff:
  1. Thanksgiving that the team made it in safely. Not without some problems that just sort of happened, but well, they are here and are doing ok so far I guess. Do cover them in prayer, as the problems I mentioned may all be coincidence, or may be spiritual attack. Can't be too certain about that.
  2. Kids' Club tomorrow, led by the team. Pray that it'll be a fun time for all involved, and that the team, with Pastor Vernon, will be able to teach the kids more about the Christmas story.
  3. Alpha on Saturday. This week will be the first time Karen will be trying to do Chinese Alpha (due to the number of Chinese speakers that have joined us). 
  4. Urawa on Monday. Once again, pray for a good time of discussion, and that the Holy Spirit may be able to help the ladies understand some of the deeper parts of the Gospel.
  5. WEFC team will be helping out at Coco's. 
  6. Also, I have to teach the two kids English on Tuesday.
  7. Safe trip back for WEFC team, think they're leaving on Thursday
Think that's about it for the time being.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NTBI #1, #2, #3, #4

New sub-section, detailing silly things I have done, in other words, Not The Brightest Ideas. Have lots of backlogging, but I will only start from about a month ago, and will carry on from here. Hopefully, I won't do any of these things again.

#1: Cleaning my scissors with my thumb.

Basically, I had been cutting sticky tape with my scissors, and some of the sticky tape sticky must have gotten onto my scissors' blades. Which made opening and closing the scissors difficult. In a moment of irritation, I put my scissors under running water, and started to furiously rub the blade with my thumb in a futile effort to get rid of the sticky, forgetting that they're called blades for a reason. No blood, but some lacerations.

#2: Adding raw egg to fried rice.

So my dad always told me that if I ever wanted to cook fried rice, I should fry the egg first, take it out, and fry everything else, before adding the egg back in. But it was always so bothersome to have to take out the semi-cooked eggs, and there would always be some egg that was stuck to the pan. So I fried everything, and then added the raw egg.

My fried rice ended up being squishy, and I still ended up with egg stuck to my frying pan.

#3 and #4: The vegetable and the cup ramen.

I was too lazy to cook dinner, so I decided to eat cup ramen. Then I remembered that I had half a bokchoy in my fridge, that I ought to use before it went bad. So I thought, stuff this into this. The two problems:
  1. Too much bokchoy, not enough cup.
  2. Too much bokchoy, not enough heat in the water.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lingua Serica

When I was a young student, way back when floppy disks were really floppy, and weekday cartoons where shown on SBC from 6.30-7.00 only, my parents decided to enroll me in a SAP school. The rationale behind this was that since my parents were both pretty fluent in English, and at home we would speak English, I should make sure I don't lose out on my Chinese language. Hence SAP school.

Now, to those who don't know, most students in Singapore have to learn English, and take up a second language, usually their 'mother tongue' (I know there's a whole discussion about how one's mother tongue really is the language that one is most comfortable in, but let's not go into that now shall we?). The SAP school is a school which has both English and the mother tongue as 'First Language'. Since in Singapore, the only schools which are under the SAP program are those with good Mandarin classes, the SAP schools are generally seen as those with a very strong, Chinese-language bend, not just in the classroom, but even among the student population. See below for some notable examples from Singapore.

Chinese High: The epitome of SAP school.

ACS: Not a SAP school. (And if the people I know from there are to be believed, they're pretty proud that they're not a SAP school)

So, as I was saying, I was enrolled into a SAP school at the tender age of 5-and-a-half. The school in question is a fairly good school, some of you may have even attended it, or gone past it, if you were driving around the Clementi area; Nan Hua Primary School (See, even the name has a very Chinese-ed bend to it). I have had several really good teachers, but the best teacher I ever had, and still remember of as the embodiment of teaching, was my form teacher in Grades 5 and 6, Mrs Ng Peng Huat. She's the teacher that by some miracle, dragged my Maths and Science grades out from the Marianas Trench, and made them into something approaching respectable levels.

(Side note: Mrs Ng, not sure if you'll ever see this, but you really were the best teacher I ever had in school. Thanks for investing your time in teaching, and in wasting so much time on me.)

(Side note 2: If you were ever taught by Mrs Ng, you were blessed to have her as a teacher. If you weren't, well, sorry for you.)

But anyway, I'm not here to talk so much about Mrs Ng, I'm here to talk about Chinese, and she was not my Chinese teacher. So I was enrolled, and in my first couple of years there, I had a great Chinese teacher. She was a kind old lady called Mrs Ang, and she would encourage and praise all of us in class. Maybe she knew I was one of those 'jiak-kantang' who was born in an English-speaking home, and was just trying to help me, but whatever. I did fairly well in class then.

Then when I went to Primary 3, things started to go downhill. To begin with, I wasn't very interested in Chinese. I didn't really care much to speak Chinese, even with my grandparents, since they understood enough English to understand what I was saying.

The next problem was the teacher. Now, like any good revisionist historian, I look back at her and think, actually, she was a good teacher. She was able to make her good students better. Unfortunately, I was not one of those good students. I wasn't even an average student, which I think she had some success with. I was a poor student in any class that wasn't taught in my favourite English language, which naturally meant that I suffered in Chinese class. And I guess she didn't really know how to motivate me to study Chinese...

...which basically meant I became even worse at Chinese than ever before. I had no motivation, I didn't like going to class, the teacher didn't help (I think she thought she could shame me into getting better... hmm, nope, didn't work), and it became a vicious cycle spiralling out of control.

Then I went to this school:

St. Andrew's: Not a SAP school either.

And basically that was it for my Chinese education. I didn't improve from the B I got in the PSLE. No amount of extra tuition helped. I was never very good at it, I never scored well in it, and even when I did use it, like in church, my friends would make fun of me:

Me: 你们去那里吃饭啊?
Friend: Haha you sound funny speaking Chinese!
Me: What? What do I sound like?
Friend: You sound.. you sound like an American trying to speak Chinese!

Which is pretty duh, since I *am* an American speaking Chinese, but whatever lah huh.

So now we fast forward to the present, where I am in Japan. Now, it's pretty much expected that you'll have to be able to speak Japanese when one is in Japan. And if there's a second language that you need to learn, it would probably be English.

Now being able to speak English in Japan should not be underrated. It is useful in getting to know people. But one should also be able to speak Japanese. This is to talk to Japanese people. And if you're really good, you can pretend that you're a local just for kicks.

But what I didn't realize would be useful was the ability to speak Chinese. Now, my Chinese, as attested to in my brief history, is no where as good as it should be. But living in Singapore, even if you don't do well in school, you do use Mandarin for a fair bit of conversation. Even if it does sound like you're an American trying to speak Chinese. Plus there is all this Chinese that you take in, and gets lodged in your mind anyway. And when I do speak with my grandmothers, I use Chinese.

So recently, I got to know quite a few Chinese people in my weekly meetings. On Wednesday nights, at Shinagawa, Amechi (one of the members, he's an American) has been bringing lots of his classmates from the Japanese language school down to join in. And they are almost all from China.

Then on Saturday, Karen's been doing Alpha Course at Shinjuku, but the majority of those who come are Chinese (it's 3 out of 4 non-regular members, which is not a lot, but still constitutes a majority).

And on Friday, I got to hang out with a few of my classmates from Japanese class, and surprise surprise, they are also Chinese (though one is from Taiwan).

So in the end, though I really hated going for Chinese class last time, I'm really glad now that I can speak Chinese.

And so thank you, MOE, for forcing me to learn Mandarin.

And thank you God, that I can scrape by using my Chinese.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Prayer Stuff #10

Yay for double digits! Less yay for forgetting to write last week.

Prayer stuff!:
  1. WEFC team coming up next week. They'll be arriving on Wednesday, if I'm not wrong, and will be here for just over a week. Pray they'll have an effective time here, and that they'll see and experience what God wants them to.
  2. Shinagawa Kai's been growing recently, because Amechi is still bringing more and more of his friends from the Japanese language school. A lot of them are from China, and are looking to come here to study in the universities. Last night, quite a few of them came, and it was good that Huan Huan (from the old youth church at Louis' place) also came down, as she could help interact with the rest.
  3. No Coco's English Hour next week (it's a holiday), but pray with us as we try to come up with a Christmas program for the Coco's Christmas Celebration (yay for alliteration).
  4. E-moms and Kids' club, both with the WEFC team.
  5. Alpha course at Shinjuku HC, still doing ok, but now we need to start up a Chinese Alpha to help some of the people coming to understand better (they are Chinese students studying in college or in language schools).
Ok that's about it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Was reading Psalm 72 this morning, and some of the verses only seemed to guide along my thoughts on something that I've been thinking about since coming back to Japan.

Now, you may or may not remember I put up a post a few months ago about foreign workers in Singapore, but every now and then, I am reminded about how much they have to struggle to eke out a living working in a foreign country. It certainly doesn't help when the people who employ them or bring them in don't really seem to understand their situation.

And now I would like to make a disclaimer, that I am not an economics major (much to my parents' disappointment, I believe haha). Neither did I specialize in any of the following fields: business management, sociology, social work, political science. I was a history student (and a rather poor one at that), so what I am about to say is a very simple perception of the whole situation in Singapore. If you know better and feel that I have made an error in my assumptions, please feel free to correct me.

So now, back to the issue at hand. Short summary:
  1. Foreign workers (mostly from the Indian sub-continent) have to borrow lots of money in order to come to Singapore, where they have been promised employment.
  2. The middle-men who handle the arrangements are paid a processing fee for the work they do in bringing the workers over.
  3. Employers in Singapore are allowed a quota on the number of workers they are allowed to bring in, based on their manpower estimates for their projects.
  4. Sometimes, the quota exceeds the actual need for workers (not necessarily because of unscrupulous intentions)
  5. Sometimes, the unscrupulous ones will still use up all their quota, in exchange for a cut of the processing fee.
  6. And this leaves some workers here with no work, but with plenty of debt. And because they have no work, they have to leave.
Now, the way I see it, if the government implemented a minimum wage for all foreign workers coming in to Singapore based on the quota projected by the companies, then a few things would happen:
  1. The workers would have a minimum wage rate to fall upon
  2. There would be less over-estimation of quotas, since the companies bringing people in would have to pay the minimum wage, even for people who don't have work to do.
  3. The government would be able to have a better picture of construction needs and how people are employed.
  4. Most importantly, there will be a decrease in the exploitation of workers.
I understand that this can't be a simple blanket rule to cover everything. But I think this would be a good start for some of the downtrodden. Most of them do not have a 'voice' in Singapore, since they are kept mostly to their workplaces or to their living quarters (which aren't as comfortable as you might think they are), and most Singaporeans don't usually associate with them. They don't know anyone, they don't know their rights, they don't know what to do when they are taken advantage of.

And I mean, realistically speaking, if a foreign worker went up against a company CEO, who do you think has more clout? How many people would take the side of the worker? How many would speak up for the worker? How many would even care?

I believe as Singaporeans, we have an obligation to stand up for the neighbours in our midst. In primary school, doing the 好公民 series of moral ed. books, they show how 小明 was a good citizen because he helped his neighbour when the neighbour was in trouble. Aren't these foreign workers our neighbours too? They are building up Singapore around us, even if we choose not to notice them.

Now, people may start moaning about how this post by a 'pseudo-Singaporean' (at least I did my NS) shows his un-patriotism by writing for the needs of the foreign workers, while not caring in the least for the Singaporean poor. But I would like to point out that this post in particular is meant to focus on the foreign workers in Singapore, who you may have or have not seen working to build up the wonderful city we live in today.

Second, in case you have forgotten (history major ftw), most of us are the descendants of foreign workers from overseas. Whether they came from India, China, or even the surrounding Malay archipelago, a lot of these immigrants came as manual labourers. It was by their hard work that Singapore has developed into one of the best economies in the world, and I'm sure that we would be pretty upset if people had been taking advantage of them in the past.

See also, Psalm 72:4:
"He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy;
He will crush the oppressor."
As Christians, we look on ourselves as being the afflicted and needy, but shouldn't we also be wary of becoming the 'oppressor'? Unless you take great pleasure in being crushed, then by all means, please go ahead.

So this is just my two cents worth, a short rant, if you will, on an issue that Singaporeans (especially Christians) should sit up and take notice about.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Have you ever been in a situation where there's something that you're obliged to go for, but you don't want to? No, please don't try to hide it, everyone has had this sort of thing (*koff* school *koff*) before somewhere in their lives.

See, I had one of those today. Now just in case you don't know, I have to 'teach' English to a couple of 5-year old kids. And I didn't really feel like going to do it today. It's not that I don't like kids. Or even that I don't like these two kids in particular. I actually do rather enjoy spending time with kids, and these two are no exception.

Evidence that I do enjoy being with kids, though these kids aren't the two that I teach English to.

However, teaching them English has not exactly been the easiest of endeavours on my part. See, I'm not using any text or syllabus to teach them, which gives me a great deal of freedom in teaching. Unfortunately (for me), it also means that I have no materiel to simply copy and use to teach them, so I have to come up with lesson plans and ideas to help me teach them.

(Sidenote: To my friends at NIE and who are currently working for MOE, yes, I know my complaints sound superficial to you guys, since you have to do this all the time and have to teach all the time, but please, I'm not trained like you guys, so give me a break and let me rant a little. Thanks.)

And as any of you who remotely knows me will know, advanced planning (both in terms of complexity and foresight) is not my strongest suite. So when I realized that it was time for English lessons a couple of days ago, I still hadn't prepared anything of 'sufficient value' in my own opinion, and I wasn't really looking forward to going to teach the kids today.

Now at about the same time, I started to get a bit of a cold and a bit of a sore throat. And I thought, "Maybe I should just cancel the lesson, since I am sick and I wouldn't want the kids to catch my flu bug," which sounds oh so noble and all, except it wasn't that I wanted to keep them safe, I was really just looking for a cop out excuse. And of course, by this morning, I was almost completely fine.

And so I left home and went over to Kotesashi, thinking that you know, I didn't really have enough stuff to teach them and all that. I did have a sort of lesson plan on what to teach, but I didn't have much confidence in it. And so of course, in such times of extreme distress and desperation (I'm being overly dramatic here, in case it doesn't come through the html script), I said a short prayer to God for today's lesson (I'm not being overly dramatic here. I really did pray, and I really did mean it). Because, as we all know, God will take all our big worries, and all our small worries, and all our worries that we don't even realize we're worrying about.

And you know what, today went really well. Not too sure how much the kids learned, but they seemed to be having fun, and we all ended up drawing pictures on my small 15x10 cm whiteboard.

And I am glad that I went today. I'm glad that I didn't try to find a weak excuse to not go, and fake my way out of it. But most of all, I'm glad that I have a God who is willing to help me with even the little things in my life that I did not prepare though I should have, if only I'm willing to give it to Him.

P.S. I am in no way condoning or promoting procrastination. If you have work to do, you should like go and get it done now.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Prayer Stuff #9

Here's prayer stuff for next week (and some which are not dependent on time period at all!):
  1. A couple of ladies (Miki and Izumi) at the Urawa English Corner have shown a lot of interest in the spirituality of the Bible English studies. I've probably said this before several times, but well, both of them seem to be on the verge of searching for God, so do pray that they will be brought to a place where they see Him.
  2. Steve will be starting to meet a student contact that another missionary (Stanley Ong) for English conversation. The student has neither shown interest or aversion to Christianity, but he seems to have a good impression of it. Pray it'll lead to greater things.
  3. Steve is also going to be working with a couple of Japanese who are looking to start a housechurch in town. Both of them have been overseas before, and they are looking to start up a ministry among Japanese who are returning from exchange programs or homestay programs.
  4. Coco's English Hour is still going well, and all the people who come have become rather good friends who are comfortable with each other. Pray for the Christian members of the group (Hideko, Yoshiko, Yumi), that they'll be able to share God's word with the others.
Ok think that's about it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Today I went to 'teach' English to the two 5-year-olds that I got to know through my naginata instructor. I use 'teach' because as always, I'm not really sure if I am really helping them develop their English. In fact, today's lesson was almost half science, since I was talking about colours and was using this to show them how to form secondary colours when you mix primary colours:

You won't believe how excited they get over being able to see the colours being held up to the light. Then again, I'm still excited over holding these things up to the light and looking at them.

But as fun as today's lesson with Yuichiro-kun and Chi-chan was, that is not the point of today's post.

See, somewhere around last winter, I had this sudden urge to go walking about. It's a rather cheap way of being able to explore parts of Japan that you normally wouldn't be able to take a look at. And it saves on train fare. Plus, it's fun, as Gracia (who is probably a distant clanmember since we share the same surname) can attest to.

The thing is, two Tuesdays ago, after the English class, I decided to try walking back. And while I initially decided to follow the route I took in February (since I'm familiar with the path), halfway through, I suddenly decided to take a different path along the way, that was still heading in the general direction of home, but with which I had absolutely no experience with.

And I don't know why, but that was one of the most enjoyable times I had, just walking along, looking at all the 'new' places, while trying to follow my internal compass.

So today, I started to walk back, somewhat along the same route. I had wanted to follow the same path I took, when once again, my random leanings kicked in, and I decided to follow a different path.

And the same feeling of fun came back.

It's looking around, and realizing that you've never actually seen the place before. It's the slight thrill you get that you don't know exactly where you are (since I choose to go without a map, a singularly bad idea according to my JCC instructors). It's how your eyes play tricks on you, making you see shades of a Singapore from my childhood in the buildings and streets of a suburban Japan in the present, mixed with memories of Taiwan, while at the same time toying with the illusion that this is similar to what it would be like in Bangkok, all the while connected to an idealized, Age of Exploration-esque fantasy.

And I guess, for me, it fulfills a sort of psychological need to go on an adventure. Admittedly, in the unlikely (yes I do have that much faith, as well as residual arrogance, in my navigational training) chance that I do get lost, it won't be that hard to find my way to a train station. But I guess it is that possibility, the fact that I'm not exactly certain of where I am, but that wherever I am is a wonderful new place to explore, that makes such long rambles fun.

And I must also confess that whenever I come to a place where I recognize where I am, I actually do feel a pang of disappointment, that I know how to get back, that I've returned to the 'normal and mundane'.

But until that happens, I guess I'll continue to walk around, trying to find different ways to go on adventures (without having to spend ¥¥!), just me, my iPod, and the joy that God in His wisdom and generosity allows me to enjoy in my odd little endeavours.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Prayer Stuff #8

Ok it appears that while ideally I should be updating once a week on these items, I haven't been doing so. But we don't live in a world that is exactly ideal (if not hot dog buns would not come in sets of 4 while hotdogs come in sets of 10), so I guess we'll just have to try to avoid the less ideal bits, and move to the ideal parts when we can.

Prayer stuff!
  1. Thanksgiving for last week, had a couple of picnics (one with my naginata class on Sat and one with the Hanakoganei HC on Sun). And though both times swarms of yukimushi (a sort of aphid apparently) came upon us, it was generally fun.
  2. The Urawa English corner is still doing well, and the regular people are still coming. Do continue to pray that their interest will continue to go beyond merely intellectual or social levels, and that they may start realizing the need for spiritual fulfillment.
  3. Additionally, it seems that Miki-san from the Urawa English Corner has been asking a lot of questions with regard to Christianity, so that's a good sign.
  4. Same for Coco's Coffee Hour. It's been good talking to the people and getting to know them, since we're all really sort of neighbours living in the same area.
  5. English class for kids on Tuesday afternoon. The previous session two weeks ago went ok, I thought, but it's still something that causes me a bit of nervousness each time I go, since I really don't want to waste their time.
  6. E-moms on Thursday morning.
  7. There's a Celebration (gathering of HC members) this coming Sunday, pray for a good time of fellowship and encouragement, and that we'll be able to feel the presence of God with us.
And for the following week:
  1. The Yokohama HC is meeting on Wednesday. Hasn't really been mentioned before, but this is something that Kodaira-san has been doing recently. At the moment, there are only 6 members (Kodaira, the Hoshinos, Asahina-san and Kanbei-san, along with me), meeting around Yokohama area. This week apparently is a hike or something.
  2. As mentioned, the temperature has been dropping pretty quickly these past few days. Pray for health and stuff.
  3. Short-term team from OMF coming up from Singapore. They'll be heading up to Sapporo, but will make a brief stopover in Tokyo. It is led by Daniel Lau, who was the missionary we worked with the most 2 years ago in 2008. His wife Joylyn, is projected to give birth somewhere in Dec, so well, it's kinda stressful for him I guess? And Dean (also from the 2008 team) will be with them as well. Pray for a fruitful time of ministry here.
Ok that's about it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Being in Japan can get lonely at times... I have to live by myself, my family is 7000 km away, I can't easily call out my friends to go play CoH, or do many things that I would otherwise be able to do at home in Singapore.

Super Sentai Team: Not really possible right now.

However, being in Japan also affords its own perks. For example, I can get Japanese food at relatively cheap prices. I can also find lots of Japanese anime music which I either 1) will not be able to find in Singapore, or 2) cost $70 for a 5 track CD in Singapore.

And I am also able to pick up various things that may interest me, like martial arts.

See, as a kid, my dad didn't want me to take up karate or judo or taekwondo because he was worried that such martial arts training would lead me to grow up to become a horrible, violent, sociopath. His fears were pretty much unfounded; I have grown up to be a horrible, violent sociopath even without the martial arts training. But now that I am in Japan, I thought it would be nice if I could just go and try out some Japanese martial arts that I may not have the chance to do in Singapore.

One of the classes I picked up was the naginata. I started this earlier this year, and the net result of that is that I am now having to teach two 5-year-olds English. I will explain this some other time, since I want to post about naginata as well, but that's not what I want to focus on.

Then recently, I got the chance to try out Japanese archery. I've always thought the kyudo practitioners were really cool in the way they went through all the stylized actions of shooting. And as there was a beginners' course being taught by the local kyudo association, I thought I should join in just for fun.

I would post a picture of how cool kyudo looks, but since I wasn't able to take any photos then, this photo of me being happy with my beginner's certificate will have to suffice.

One of the interesting things about kyudo, as I read up on wikipedia, is the whole objective of the sport/art. In western archery, or most shooting sports with targets, the aim (pardon the horrible pun) of the whole exercise is to put your shot as close to the center of the target as you possibly can. And naturally, in kyudo, the closer the arrow is to the center of the target, the better.

The big difference is that that is not the main aim. The main objective of kyudo is to be able to have the correct form and actions, and the correct attitude in shooting. Which is really almost quite zen in its explanation, but it boils down to this: if your form and attitude is right, then the arrow will hit the target. But even if it doesn't, you've still managed to attain your objective. Conversely, if you hit the target, but don't do things correctly, then you've pretty much failed at it. You can go read up more on wikipedia if you're interested.

And I was thinking how this could easily be an analogy for many other things we do in life, where we have a target or objective that seems to be the main aim, but is meant to act more as a guidepost to getting the real lesson. (*Koff* studies *koff*)

And in life, we (generally) aim to be a 'good' person, and I'm thinking, being a 'good' person is a nice ideal, but that would be more like the target in kyudo. The main aim in life should be to become the person God wants us to be. And like an arrow that is shot when the archer's actions and attitude are correct, if we are able to find out what God wants us to be, we'll naturally be able to be a good person in life.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Prayer Stuff #7 (UPDATE)

Ok, I think I shall make a slight modification to this 'weekly' update. In order to be more relevant to MW publications, I shall put up things for the following week. But since we have to backtrack a bit now, we shall do two weeks for this round!

  1. Thanksgiving for a fairly decent first Alpha session. Hopefully the series will help people be willing to ask more questions, and that the Holy Spirit will give understanding to those who come (including us Christians)
  2. Taira-san (Tokorozawa HC) has gotten a month of no-pay leave, which he is quite happy about. He's been working very hard and felt like he could not take the pressure any more, so he went to speak to his section head, and they gave him a month.
  3. The 5-year-old English class was kinda ok, but it really is hard to maintain their attention. And my trump card failed, because one of the kids is not that fond of candy.
  4. Kids' club this Friday.
  5. Alpha session 2 on Saturday, and sounds like a couple more people will be coming, though leader Karen is unable to make it, as she has to give a presentation in school... which means I will have to do the English section while Sylvia (other leader) will do the Japanese section.
  6. Just received news from Liu Wen (formerly of Shinjuku HC) that his father, who was battling advanced cancer, has passed away. Pray that his family and relatives will be able to receive comfort from God as they deal with this loss, and that Liu Wen will continue to be the channel of that peace.
And for the following week:
  1. Eh... actually seems like not a lot of stuff going on the following week, but there is an outing planned for the naginata class I attend on Saturday, so well let's hope for more good relationships to be formed. Will update later if I know more stuff.
Ok so that's about it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Prayer Stuff #6

Ok so I missed out on last week's stuff. But here's this week's!
  1. Have to teach the two 5 year-olds English tomorrow, one of whom is the grandkid of my naginata sensei. While I am not particularly worried about her beating me up if I don't do a good job, I am extremely nervous, since I do not want to waste their time. Additionally, as I told some others at the HC the other day, I already know nothing about teaching English, and I know even less than nothing about teaching English to 5 year-olds. So there.
  2. E-moms on Thursday morning, pray once again for a good discussion on not just English, but also Christianity.
  3. Shinjuku HC's Alpha Course is starting up this Saturday; they'll be doing both an English and a Japanese session each time. So far, there are two non-Christians (T, who is a regular member of the HC, and ZR), as well as a Christian guy who wants to practice his English (Kawazoe).
  4. L of the Tokorozawa HC has been given an eviction notice, and he will have to leave his apartment by December. Although it's still far away, it is not exactly easy to find (long-term) housing if you're a foreigner in Japan, even more so when you need to take care of children. Pray for the Lord's provision.
Ok so that's about it, trying to gather my thoughts for the English thing tmr...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Prayer Stuff #5

Hi Everyone!

It's gotten a lot cooler in Japan these few days, temp's dropped to high 20s, which is definitely way better than when it was mid-30s. It's also raining a bit more, which is not saying much, but I already got caught in the rain twice this past week, so yeah.

Prayer Stuff!:
  1. Taira (Tokorozawa HC) is still pretty busy, he says he's been leaving work on average 9pm, but he seemed a lot 'brighter' today. Guess part of the reason is that he found out that one of his managers at work has the same interest in the piano that he has. Pray that he will continue to be able to find joy in life like this.
  2. Wednesday will be the next 'Yokohama HC' meeting. I'm putting it in inverted commas because at the moment, I'm still not too sure what it is, it's not quite a housechurch like some of the others, seems more like a leaders' group, but not sure about that either.
  3. One of the things I picked up while in Japan was the naginata, and my instructor is asking me to help her grandkid (and friend) with English. Which is all well and good, except for the part where I don't know anything about teaching English to 5-year-old children. Need wisdom, resources, and let's throw in some tolerance as well... not too sure how I'll be able to handle 5-year-olds.
Yup that's about it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Prayer Stuff #4

Whoops ok sorry was a bit late this round.

Prayer Stuff!
  1. Urawa group is back up to the usual 5 members (Michiko, Fuyumi, Kimiko, Izumi, Miki) and maybe one guy who turned up before may be coming back (Yuzo). Some of the members though, are attached to the group because they want to meet Steve, not because of the Bible study. Pray this will change from former to latter (esp since Steve is leaving for home assignment next summer)
  2. E-moms this morning was ok, despite rain, 3 mothers came for the meeting.
  3. Kids' club tmr!
  4. Temperature's going down, probably the start of autumn. Karen (Shinjuku HC) especially, is one of those who are sensitive to the cold, so pray for health for all of us.
  5. Simon (Shinagawa Kai) has been informed that his teaching contract will not be renewed at the high school he currently teaches at. He really is quite keen on being a teacher, and this is a slight setback for him, though he is not too devastated since he knows God will take care of the details. His current teaching contract ends in March.
  6. Jiehuai and Jules stopped by one their trip around Japan, was great fun having them in and showing them around.
Till next time!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


So I'm reading in the news that some 'pastor' of a 'Christian church' somewhere in Florida has the intention of burning the Quran on the anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks. He wants to 'show' that America will not back down from terrorism, that by burning the books, he's doing the work of God, and that he is legally entitled to do so by the American Constitution.

What. The. $@(&.

Seriously. What. The. $@(&.

I don't even know what to say, as my mind is simply overwhelmed by the sheer absurdity of this venture. There have been times when I was serving in the army where I really wanted to curse, but this trumps it all. It's so freaking STUPID that even cursing with all the fluency of my platoon sergeant in English and Hokkien would not be able to convey just how repulsed I am by this idea.

How is this Christian? I'll like to ask. How is taking the holy book of another religion and burning it contributing to the work of God? As Christians, we are called first to "Love the Lord your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind," but the next part is to "love your neighbour as yourself" (Luke 10:27).

How is burning the Quran, which is the most important book for Muslims around the world, gonna show love for your neighbours? Doesn't Jesus love them as much as he loves us Christians? Would the Lord of Love be proud of you for burning the Quran?

I'm totally disgusted by the fact that he considers his actions similar to the work done by so many other real Christian workers who are showing true Christianity.

What are you trying to do you moron? Start the Crusades again?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Dreams III and Prayer Stuff #3

Last night I had kind of a weird dream. See, I dreamt that was in my study room. I know it was my study room because it looked sort of like how my home's study room looked like before my grandparents moved in with us, and I know it was 'mine' personally because in dreams, you kind of know that sort of thing.

So I was there, and I was doing my own stuff, and then I noticed that there were some bugs in the room. I guess part of it was because I was reading Dotz' blog last night, hence the reference to bugs. But anyway, there were more bugs than are normally allowed in a study room. So I looked up from whatever I was doing, and I was horrified to see that the entire wall was a giant infested mess of bugs and bugs' nests. Imagine it sort of as seeing lines of ants walking all over the place, with a huge termite-ish nest on the wall, and when you open up some of the PVC wire covers, there are like maggots and spiders and stuff dropping out. And I can't remember if there was a smell or not, but whatever, it probably would have smelled pretty bad.

So I took out my insecticide to try and attack the bugs. But my insecticide was about as big as your average cologne bottle, and just about as effective as cologne at getting rid of bugs. Notwithstanding that fact, I continued to spray for all it was worth, with expected, failing results. Then I heard a voice saying, "This is the state of your heart, which has been contaminated by your sins, and no matter what you do, how hard you try, you will never be able to clear up this mess. So let me help you."

Quite obviously, that voice was Jesus, and my dream kind of ended around there, but if I could continue it in my own imagination, Jesus attacked the infestation with a flamethrower and burned away all my sins.

There was a follow up dream to that. This time, it was a very short dream, and I don't remember much dialogue, but what I do recall, with the memory of that first dream still in the back of my mind, was that I was sitting at a table doing some very simple handicraft task. What exactly the handicraft was, I don't remember, but that was not an important point. The important bit was that that handicraft thing was in service for the Lord. And in my mind, this was way too simple for 'someone of my caliber', as I thought. (Please don't think I'm disgustingly arrogant, this is just the impression that I'm getting from my dreams. Ok maybe I *am* slightly arrogant, but please don't use this against me).

The next thought was that well, obviously, I had to do something simple, since it's kinda like someone who's been grievously injured and was undergoing rehab. As capable (and I only use this in the broadest sense of the word) as anyone has been, if he had to go through rehab, he would have to start doing the simple actions first before he can go on to the more advanced stuff, and maybe return to how he was before the injury. And in the same way, since my heart had been infested with bugs, I had to do simple things.

But the most important part of this next dream was that as the camera zoomed out from the handicraft I was making, Jesus was sitting there next to me doing the exact same handicraft, as if showing me that He considered my simple work and myself important enough to sit with me and do it with me.

And it's not like I'm a particularly important person in this world, but to Jesus, I know I am particularly important. As is everyone else on this earth. I know they like to make fun with this quote, "You're unique, just like everybody else", but to Jesus, that is true. Like in the book The Shack, God is "particularly fond of you", failings and all. And that is just one of the most wonderful images I can remember.

Ok, anyway, on to prayer stuff!
  1. OMF prayer for this month took us to the Imperial Palace, where if you follow the outer circuit, you'll come across special pavement tiles every 50m or so that is a representation of one of the prefectures of Japan. Pray for Japan.
  2. Izumi-san came to join us at Urawa today! She's been unable to make it for the past several months because she's been sick for a long time, so hopefully, this is the start of her recovery and return to the English group, where she will be able to ask more questions on Christianity.
  3. KHCN missionaries meeting on Thursday morning, pray that God will continue to show His guidance to us, and to the ministries that we are doing or intending to do.
  4. One of Karen's (Shinjuku HC) colleagues at the university will be leaving for USA soon, and Thursday is his farewell party. Pray that his time there will bring him in contact with good Christian friends.
  5. Jiehuai and Jules flying up for holiday, pray for a safe journey for them.
  6. Taira-san (Tokorozawa HC) has been able to get by daily with his work, and he's grateful that God gives him just enough energy, motivation and joy to get by each day, but he does hope that he will be able to experience the fullness of joy in God.
Ok so that's it for now.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Prayer Stuff #2

Ok, so I've at least managed to get the second one of these posts up. Go perseverance!
  1. Thanksgiving for Simon's (Shinagawa Kai) confirmation last Sunday. He attends a Lutheran church on Sunday, so this is almost the same level as a baptism.
  2. This week is travel week for me. Apart from point 1, which was held in Totsuka (near Yokohama), I will also be going to Ibaraki (for HC) on Thursday, and Yokohama again on Friday (for prayer session).
  3. Regarding the Friday prayer, it is run by Kodaira-san, and it is for Yokohama HC, which he is party to.
  4. This Saturday, Shinjuku HC will be starting Alpha training.
Yup so that's it right now.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Prayer Stuff #1

So I think I shall make this a slightly more regular posting with a very specific focus on events and happenings in my little area of Japan. And I'm guessing not everyone knows the entire background on all the stuff, but it's a bit too hard to recap everything, so if any questions, please ask in the comments or on the tagboard.

Anyway, on to prayer stuff.
  1. Coco's Coffee Hour with Steve on Tuesday mornings has started up again since Steve got back, and he's started to do some simple Bible passage studies during and after lunch. Pray that this will continue to develop, so that it might become like the Urawa English group.
  2. Urawa English group, while continuing, still kinda stuck in the 'need for comprehension' phase. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work among the members to give them the understanding they need.
  3. Shinjuku HC will be planning on starting up Alpha course, so just like in church, pray for wisdom for Karen (HC leader), for people to come, for people who are coming to be prepared by the Holy Spirit, and for finance management. Last point is because Karen's church in Singapore (Wesley Methodist I think) is supporting by giving money for food, as well as to pay for transport fees of any students who may be going.
  4. Taira-san from the Tokorozawa HC (and occasionally Shinagawa Kai) still feels sort of bummed out about life in general. Pray that he might find joy in life, and in searching for God.
  5. May have Kids' Club on Friday.
So that's about it right now, update more later.

Monday, August 23, 2010


This morning, I woke up and as usual, went to make my morning cup of coffee from instant mix. First I would get the sugar out and put it into my cup, then I would add the freeze-dried coffee. It's better that way because then you won't get coffee powder in your sugar. It's not so bad if you get a bit of sugar in your coffee powder.

So anyway, I added in the hot water, and then I must stir the mixture for a while so that all the coffee dissolves in the water before I add the milk. It's a habit. I don't like seeing undissolved grains of coffee powder after I pour in the milk.

You see, before I pour in the milk, it's still ok, cos it's all so dark so I can't really see the undissolved coffee powder. But if I pour in the milk, and the drink turns lighter brown, and I see undissolved coffee grains, the first thing I think is not: "I have undissolved coffee powder in my coffee". Instead, I think: "Argh there are ants in my coffee!".

So I made sure I stirred it longer than a simple swirl of my teaspoon, since long ago, I would just swirl the coffee about a bit, and then add in milk, and then see undissolved coffee grains and think: "Argh there are ants in my coffee!".

Then I added the milk. After returning the milk carton to the refrigerator, I stirred my coffee some more, this time to mix the milk well into my coffee. That's when I saw these little darker brown specks.

This time though, the first thing I thought of was not that there were ants in my coffee, since I have been getting used to it, so I thought these were undissolved coffee grains. So I stirred it a bit more, and then looked again. But the specks were still there.

Now, I started thinking: "Oh no, maybe there really ARE ants in my coffee". So I stirred a bit more, and then a couple of the specks separated from each other, and then I felt: "No, can't be ants, even if these are ant bodies, they shouldn't separate that easily". But I was still thinking of ants.

So I used my teaspoon to carefully scoop out a few of the dark specks, and drained the coffee off so that I could get a good look at the specks. Maybe because it was a bit dim. Maybe it was because my glasses are a bit old and I should get a new pair. Maybe it was because I still hadn't drunk my morning coffee and my mind was not awake yet. But the examination was inconclusive.

"It can't be ants," I thought to myself, "Since ants shouldn't disintegrate so easily. Therefore these should be undissolved coffee bits, though it's kind of strange that it takes so long to dissolve. Maybe I should stir some more."

So I continued to stir. But the specks were still there after some rather vigorous stirring.

"Strange," I thought. "They still aren't dissolving. Maybe I should look once more, just in case these are ant bodies that so happen to disintegrate easily."

So once again, I carefully picked up some more of the specks with my spoon to take a closer look. I cautiously poured as much of the coffee out as I could, and peered closer at the dark specks that had been giving me problems this morning, and which was preventing me from drinking my morning coffee, and going on to make my toast.

That's when I realized I had been trying to dissolve bubbles into my coffee.

Bubbles: Not so dissoluble in coffee.

Monday, August 09, 2010


So several years ago, a certain Lee Kuan Yew and his colleagues decided it was in Singapore's best interest to forge a path separate from their bigger neighbour on the Malayan peninsula. And I, for one, am not gonna complain about that move, since quite obviously, we have had a pretty decent existence since then, even though all the naysayers then predicted that Singapore would (choose one):
  1. Be a weak, weak country
  2. Fall to a communist insurrection
  3. Have no economic powers
  4. Quickly go running back under Malaysian hegemony
  5. All of the above
And so today, like any true-blue Singaporean (yes yes, I know, stop laughing), I went to celebrate the nation's independence.

First of, there was a KHCN meeting, where all 4 of us (Steve is away in America right now) remembered Singapore in our prayers. And then we went out to eat (how very Singaporean) at a Singaporean restaurant in Akasaka.

See my lunch? So Singaporean. Such Hainan Chicken Rice.

The food was really quite good. The chicken rice tasted like chicken rice, the chicken tasted like how chicken rice chicken should taste, and the shop-owner even gave us a free sambal kangkong because we told him we were there to celebrate NDP.

You can tell how Singaporean a shop is by the size of the merlion it has. This merlion is fairly big, therefore it's quite Singaporean.

And then I had to rush up to Urawa for English conversation group there. But on the way back, I went to settle some other NDP thing.

See, it's pretty much de rigueur for my family to watch the NDP parade while eating pizza. Specifically, pizza from Pizza Hut. And as I know the location of a nearby Pizza Hut in Shin-Tokorozawa, I was able to get my hands on another pizza in remembrance of the family tradition.

In true Singaporean fashion, this pizza was on sale, so I only had to pay about $14 for it. Whee!

Incidentally, something unfortunate happened last year, in that my family was unable to get pizza, since the telephone lines were overworked. So here's the contingency, as per last year:

Just in case!

Yup, so Happy National Day everyone! Hope you had a great long weekend!

[UPDATE!] Hmm, I guess it appears my fears this year were unfounded.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Late last year, due to my compulsive need to save money (didn't want to take Shinkansen) and my inability to wake up on time (I missed my Limited Express train), I had the opportunity to take the Chuo Line Limited Express train from Nagoya to Nagano. It was a bit of a detour for me, since I would have had one direct train to take me from Kyoto to Nagano.

At any rate, the nice thing about taking the Chuo Line train was that it kinda goes through the mountain ranges in the middle of Honshu. Up till that time, I hadn't actually seen any snow in Japan, so it was quite an experience going through the mountains and seeing snow all over the place.

I also happened to be listening to Nao Matsushita on my iPod while on that particular trip, and the music really seemed to fit, mesh even, with the scenery that was rushing past outside my window. If you are able to imagine traveling at about a hundred klicks an hour through snowy mountains and pine forests, you'll be able to understand what I'm talking about.

This was the only video I could find of this particular song. Sorry, no MV. Just imagine the mountains. And the pines. And the snow.

Now it so happened that today, while traveling out to the Totoro HC in Ibaraki, we were in a car belonging to a guy called Serizawa. He recently started joining Kodaira-san to do ministry in Ibaraki, since he himself lives in Ibaraki with his wife. The cool thing about this dude is that he plays the accordion.

So while zipping by in the countryside of Ibaraki, we were listening to accordion music in the car. And just as the music of Ms. Matsushita seemed perfect to listen to in the cold, clear air of winter, so accordion music seems to have been made specifically for listening to on hot, sunny, summers, especially if the skies are blue, with white clouds floating in idyllic shapes over bright green fields.

It was almost Studio Ghibli-esque.

Just imagine green fields, with white clouds in a blue sky overhead.

[UPDATE!!] I was able to transfer the photos I took with my mobile phone to my computer, so now you can see what Ibaraki prefecture looks like in summer!

As you can see, it really is summer

Oh and just a random thought that occurred to me. When I was in the house at Ibaraki, I saw a spider on the window. And if you think about it, some crabs look kinda like spiders in shape. So, if you were to think of crabs merely as oversized spiders, would that make crabs look less appealing, or make spiders seem more appetizing?

*If the piano and violin are meant for winter, then the accordion is definitely meant for summer

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


So at the Shinagawa Kai today, we just so happened to be talking about the general differences between males and females, which allowed me to use the knowledge I've gleaned from the book that the Shinjuku HC is using.

One of the things that cropped up was how generally, guys are able to sort of get into a phase where they are thinking of absolutely nothing. You know, when they are really just thinking of nothing. Or not.

And so we kinda delved into our discussion. Shion and Amechi both said they had never really come to a point in life where they were thinking of absolutely nothing. Koji and Taira both said they have had such experiences (though strangely enough, Koji said his wife had a lot more of such moments), and I have had lots of such experience.

It's kind of what we would call stoning. Just gazing off into space with a somewhat vacant expression on our faces, which really shouldn't be a surprise, since there is absolutely nothing going on in the mind.

And then Taira said: "That's almost like Zen."

"Yeah, we can be like Buddhists now," added Shion.

So now, if you ever come across someone zoning off, he's not really thinking of nothing. He's achieved enlightenment.

Ok, off to sleep now. Going to Ibaraki tmr.


Friday, July 30, 2010


Shinjuku HC is currently doing a study based on a book on relationships, and that got me thinking, what exactly would I look for in a girl?

  1. Good Christian
  2. Able to cook
  3. Fairly attractive (to me)
  4. Able to tolerate my inanity and foolishness
These are the few that are always kinda 'given', but now I just realized I would like one more: She should be able to 'protect' me from other women.

Now I don't mean that she should be possessive, or that she should protect me from my mom, but if I ever find myself getting distracted by other women in a bad way, I would hope she would have enough initiative to step in and either drag me away or smack me in the head.

In return, I'll promise not to play so much Xbox or PSP, unless she's a gamer too, then it won't be an issue. Oh, and protection when the zombie apocalypse happens.


P.S. Please do not read anything into this. I do not have a girlfriend. It's just a thought I had.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Back in Japan

So I've been back in Japan for just over a week, and I'm happy to note that I have not forgotten quite as much Japanese as I thought I had, which is quite funny, since the first week or so back, I just could not get the Japanese-ness I had picked up out of me.

Like on a train, if I bumped into someone, or was trying to get further in the carriage, I would say 'sumimasen'. Or if I was at a food stall, trying to get the attention of the auntie behind the counter, I would say 'sumimasen', which is completely normal in Tokyo, but somewhat less common in Singapore.

At any rate, by the 2nd week I was in Singapore, I realized I had started to forget my Japanese, but on hindsight, I guess it was kinda like getting put into the storage area, instead of the common use area of my brain.

So the weather is ridiculously hot now. Still not the worse (I think that comes in August) but pretty close, and the humidity is pretty high too. Yeah, it's about 35 degrees about now, though it looks like s storm will be in for the whole of next week, which should cool things down a bit.

On the way in, there was one thing that I was really thankful for. See usually, when you take a flight, as the plane ascends or descends, pressure will build up in your ears. And you can usually alleviate the pressure by yawning or swallowing. Unfortunately for me, the past 4 or 5 flights I've taken, I've always had problems 'popping' my ears on the descent. Which usually leaves me with a dull pain in my ear for about half an hour after I disembark.

But this time round, I'm not sure why, but the pressure never got to build up fully. I guess I can thank God that this time round, He helped me through that little bit. (It might seem little, but it really irritates me when it happens).

I also went to a summer festival last Sunday at Hana-Koganei. While there, I managed to meet up with the Komai family (they live at Hana-Koganei) and talked to them for a bit.

Miru Komai. Last I remembered, she didn't like taking pictures, but maybe that's cos the other person was using a DSLR and I was using a titchy little IXUS.

Couple of prayer pointers, in case you don't get access to MW from my church:
  1. T from Tokorozawa HC, has a new project and now must commute further to work everyday. He says he finds it hard to be enthusiastic about work, and finds daily living tedious. Pray that God will grant him joy in life.
  2. LW formerly of Intercross, he went back to China to be with his father. His father's cancer has spread and it's taking it's toll not just on him but also his family. Keep them in prayer.
Ok that's about all I have for now. I really should get down to doing my assignments for my CMS course, but inertia is such a difficult thing to get over...


Sunday, June 27, 2010


A sudden hush had descended over the throne room when the powerfully built warrior had strode proudly in, and now that he had finished giving an account of his task, there was utter silence. The task given to him had seemed both impossible and humiliating to do, but against all odds, the warrior had returned in triumph.

Several of the youths in the room, young men who would one day be mighty fighters in their own rights, looked up at him in hero worship. The maids, hiding behind the pillars and under the doorways, admired his physique and rugged good looks. But for every person in the room who looked in awe, there were three who stared with hatred, and among them was the king.

There was no mistaking the loathing in King Eurystheus' eyes as he glared at the man standing in front of him. He slowly took a deep breath, and tried to calm the roiling anger that was threatening to boil over.

How can it be, he thought to himself, that no matter what I make this fool do, he comes back victorious? Why is it that this man is always successful? Surely there must be something he cannot do!

He had already taken down that vicious lion with the impenetrable skin, by managing to find a way to strangle it.

Then he had gone to Lerna, and had killed the seven-headed beast that resided there and was terrorizing the nearby villages. Nine-headed, he reminded himself, since the cretin had charged in and cut off two of the creatures heads, not knowing that each stump would sprout two new heads... in fact, if it had not been for that other idiot Iolaus who helped him burn the stumps...

Acquiring the golden-antlered hind of the goddess also hadn't proved a problem. How he managed to bargain with the deity he did not know, but the huntress maiden had agreed to lend him the last of her swift-footed does instead of killing him the way she had all others who had attempted to even touch one of her favoured deer.

And when he had brought that man-eating boar into this very room! The king still remembered how he had recoiled in horror when the evil creature, with it's blood-stained tusks, had been led in by the warrior, and how the warrior had pretended to let it loose on the king... oh the horror of it all.

And now this. King Eurystheus silently cursed the heavens. He had sent the warrior to the great stables of Augeas, who had sailed with the legendary ship Argo. Since returning from that voyage, Augeas had been dealing in cattle, and he had huge herds of cattle that had been blessed by the gods themselves. But the blessing had been a double-edged sword, for they produced a great deal of waste, and after 30 years, no one had been able to go within 2 miles of the stables due to the stench that emanated.

The warrior had been told to clean up the place in a day, a humiliating assignment for any warrior, much less the son of the chief god of the Olympians. And yet, he had managed to do it, and even the son of Augeas was giving an eyewitness account of the feat.

"It's true my lord. He diverted the rivers Alpheus and Peneus through the stalls and in less than half a day the place was as clean as the temple of Zeus!" claimed the youth.

The king felt his self-control losing it's grip on his anger. Oh how he wanted to beat his hands against the wall, to scream out the fury that had been building up inside of him, to smash something, but most of all, to wipe that smirk off the face of the warrior standing easily in front of him! Surely there had to be something he could not do, something that no matter how muscle-bound or cunning or intelligent he was, he would never be able to accomplish... something...

And with a start, the king set up. In the quiet and stillness of the room, that movement seemed as loud as the shouts of the phalanxes as they charged into battle. And a disconcerting change came over the king. His eyes, which had been wide with rage, had suddenly narrowed into cold, cold slits, and a cruel smile slowly spread its way across his narrow face. And even the warrior, who had up till then been standing tall and proud, suddenly felt a chill wash over him as the king addressed him:

"Heracles, I have now decided what your six task is." King Eurystheus allowed the deadly silence to hang in the air for a moment.

"Heracles, I want you to lick your elbow."

* * *
I had been watching a history channel program on the 12 Labours of Hercules (Heracles is his actual Greek name. Hercules is the Latin pronunciation) with brother the other day, and this is what he would have made Hercules do if he had been king. For me, I would have loved to see Hercules' reaction if the king had ever given him such an assignment.

Anyway, just a short update on what's been going on, I've finished my 2-week course at TTC (it was really good, learnt a lot of stuff and met new friends there) and have gone for YA retreat (kinda short but it was nice, though I wish they provided golf buggys/buggies for us) and church retreat, which was really awesome, since the Holiday Inn Melaka is really nice, and the bar was showing the world cup matches. Plus it was fun getting to play with the kids, and to get to know the German friend.

I am still aiming to return to Japan as soon as possible, and it seems that most things are falling in place. Most of my medical and psychological tests are clear (which simply means they haven't discovered my mental imbalances yet heh), as are the admin issues. I still don't like taking jabs though, and it didn't help that I've had to get more in the past month than in the past 5 years combined. I've got one tomorrow in fact gah.

I also have an interview with the home council on the 5th of July, so if I do get to leave, it'll definitely have to be after that.

Alright, have fun everyone. Looks like England's gonna be out, but at least for now, Japan's still in. 日本頑張れ!


Monday, May 24, 2010


We paid a visit to a social service center in the west part of Singapore earlier this evening. While we were there, we met a man. His name is K, and he has a diploma in Electrical Engineering. He was a bit shy at first, but slowly opened up.

K really puts in a lot of effort for his work. On most weekdays, he starts work at 8 and leaves only after 7. When he has to do OT, he welcomes the opportunity to stay on and do more work. He has to work on Saturdays too, but he faces it with the same sentiment as whenever he's up for OT.

But K does all this only for $500 a month... because he's from Bangladesh. He lives with 13 other Bangladeshi workers in a cramped apartment somewhere in Jurong West. Every morning, for the past 5 years, K and his bunkmates wake up at 6.30, leave their home at 7.30, and work long hours for one of the many shipbuilding companies that makes millions of dollars for Singaporeans, but close to pittance for them.

We see these people everyday. They are the workers at the construction sites, the welders at the shipyards, the tired-looking men in dusty clothes packed into the back of Daihatsu pickup trucks along the CTE. They have been making Singapore the city that it is today. But we never notice them.

When we visited K today, he showed us to his apartment. The other 13 men inside were all unwinding after a long day of work, sitting around in the 'living' room, but the moment we stepped in, they quickly stood up and offered us the few chairs they had in their room. One of them wanted to get us drinks from their kitchen (which at $0.80 a can, would have been exorbitant for someone earning less than $600 a month), and it took all of our convincing to tell him that he didn't have to.

These men are poor. They paid a tremendous sum of money to go to a faraway land to work long hours for low pay. (I mean, honestly, can you imagine a Singaporean having to work under such conditions?) For all intents and purposes, they are getting exploited by people we call our countrymen. But when we step into their room, the first thing they want to do is to make us feel at home.

And these guys are the lucky ones, especially when you compare them with the ones in the video below.

There are the others in the documentary; the ones who have paid the agent's fee for coming to Singapore, and who after coming in, discover that there is no work for them. Companies who have extra quotas for workers use these quotas to generate money for themselves, without regard for the lives they are jerking around.

The Singapore government is trying it's best to prevent this. They have been taking steps to try and ensure that this does not happen, and I am glad that our government is alert to the problems that these workers face. But there is only so much they can do. And for all their efforts and policies they have implemented, there's nothing they can do about the workers who have already been cheated by Singaporean employers, and have had to return to their countries with nothing but a US$6000 debt.

Two semesters after I chose to retain my American citizenship, I sat for an American History class in NUS. And after that, I wished I hadn't chosen to remain American, as I discovered just how devious and twisted some of their foreign and domestic policies had been. I feel that same feeling now after hearing some of the stories about these workers. It pains me to know that there are Singaporeans who would take advantage of these foreign workers.

And as much as I rail against this injustice in Singapore, I know there's not much I can do for them. I'm a history major. Not a lawyer, or a politician. But what we can do as the Church in Singapore, at least, is to pray for these people. Pray that they will receive the justice they need. Pray that Singaporean employers will have greater regard for the lives of these people than the thickness of their wallets. Pray that the people in Singapore will see the unseen people group living among them.

We need to pray for our land.