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.