Monday, December 31, 2012

Year-end roundup 2012

In Japan, one of the traditions on New Year's Day is to send out a little postcard to friends and relatives and people you know. Not too sure what they write on them, but for one family I know, they use it as an opportunity to let others know what the family has been up to.

I really enjoyed hearing from them, but I was only reminded of it recently (a few hours ago really), so given the lack of time and the relative dearth of creative talent I possess, I have been unable to do up a proper postcard. So instead of a proper one, here's my 年賀状 for this year's end (I'll try to make a proper one next year), with some of the important things that happened this year!

  1.  I got into a spot of trouble with the Customs authorities in Singapore because I overstayed, and for a few days at least, temporarily became an 'illegal immigrant'. Long story, but the end of it was that I was let off with a warning. (Maybe I will blog about this some day)
  2. I got into my first car accident. Well, not so much an accident as a few scratches, but I damaged the car while making a tight turn around a corner that was much tighter than I realised. Nope, no one was injured and nothing was really badly damaged. Unless you count my ego. 
  3. I got to go to Japan for a trip again! Got to see some of the places I wanted to see, got to meet many of the people I wanted to meet, got to eat quite a bit of the food I wanted to eat (which tended towards rather pedestrian tastes most of the time, like Matsuya/Sukiya/Yoshinoya/Manshuu, onigiri and conbini-bentos, much to Marie's distaste).
  4. I joined a new CG. They had a reshuffle across the young adults' ministry in church, so we were all moved around and stuff, and now I've got a new group. Still trying to get it into a cohesive group at the moment, but things are fairly ok.
  5. I started cycling regularly, since I finally learnt how to do it in Japan. First it was cycling every Saturday morning with Dad, and then since work started, I cycle to work every now and then.
  6. In case you didn't pick it up in the previous paragraph, I finally found a job. It's with The Straits Times, the local dominant English news daily. Most of my colleagues are nice people.
  7. Grandma passed away. I still miss her sometimes :(
  8. I got to be involved in a close friend's wedding as one of his groomsmen. Fortunately for us, his wife's friends were rather nice people, and didn't make us go through a lot. 
  9. I missed another month in blogging, just the second time in my blog's existence that I missed putting up a post in a month, which is why there is no October 2012 in the drop-down list on the left.
  10. The world didn't end on 21/12/12.
Ok, that's really about all the major incidents that I can really think of at the moment.

Anyway, Happy New Year everyone! Please stay safe and warm (if you're in a temperate or arctic zone) and don't drink if you're driving!

God bless!

Thursday, December 13, 2012


About a month ago, one of my really good friends from St. Andrew's School (no, we don't have the word 'secondary' in our school name) got married. Alvin was the only guy I was classmates with for all four years there, either through chance or misfortune. But whatever it was, while we didn't always hang out together all the time back then (something to do with the fact that he was a prefect, I believe), we struck it off really well in Sec 1, and remained close friends till now. 

Alvin is the one on the left. Coincidentally, this was taken almost a year before that, when the other Alvin (2nd from right, also known as Fuzzy) was about to get married. And even more coincidentally, both are married to girls called Amanda. The dude in blue is Joel, Fuzzy's best man.

A couple of weeks later, another of my secondary school mates tied the knot. Unlike Alvin, Sam was my classmate for only a year in Sec 2, but we were mates for all four years and then some, as both of us were in the Boys' Brigade. When you suffer together (since the 7th Singapore Company was an old school unit that believed in the value of corporal punishment to instill discipline), you do form some pretty close bonds.

Sam Tan is the dude in white with the biggest smile on his face, as befitting his happy day. In Sec 2, myself, he and Gerald (with bowtie) formed a little clique that came up with rather... embarrassing names for each other. Shaun is the fellow in front, and incidentally, there's another Sam, in the black polo.

Two weeks after that, another of the old BB boys from my cohort got hitched. Marcus was always ready for a joke, and I have to admit, he still hadn't changed at all much since we graduated more than 10 years ago.

BB 7th Singapore Company Charlie Batch ('97), plus Marcus's bride and his father. Marcus is the guy to the right of the only lady in the picture, Darius, is the one all the way on the left, and in front, next to Shaun, are Kelvin (in white) and Jiancheng. I'm pretty sure you can therefore figure out who the father and the bride are.

It's always fun to be able to meet up with old friends, to find out how they are doing, to see how their lives are like. And over the years, I have made many friends (hopefully not so many enemies). But one thing that always stands out whenever I meet some of my secondary school friends, either one or both of the Alvins or a group from the BB, is that no matter how long the interim, or under what circumstances the meeting, it's like time has never passed. We all slip so easily back into the bantering as if we were once again carefree youths, old enough to have some independence, but still young enough to not have to deal with too much of the responsibilities of life that invariably weighs us down.

I have to admit, of all my time I spent in school, I have always had the fondest memories of secondary school. And I do believe, part of that is due to the people I met there that I'm proud to call my friends.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

NTBI #10

Just before I left Japan in June last year, the ladies of the E-moms group threw a farewell party for Steve and I. It was really nice, good food, a homemade cake, and laughs all around.

They also gave us a cup each. Like so:

The cup they gave.

Now I was rather pleased with it, since being a history buff, I instantly recognized the crest as belonging to the Tokugawa clan. Plus, there's this famous Japanese drama called Mito Komon (水戸黄門) that like everyone's heard of, and which I sometimes use to tell people what my kanji surname is (黄), and the main character in the show has this Tokugawa seal that his adjutant displays near the end of each episode to kind of establish his authority and judge the bad guys.

The old guy in the yellow and red suit is the Tokugawa fellow, who's like the hero of the show.

But I digress. So anyway, this cup has proved most useful to me as it has allowed me to contain liquids of personal sustenance that I desire while I am at work. Most of the time, it is plain water from the cooler out at the back, especially when I have cycled to work. But since one of its properties is heat retention, there are a couple of times I desired hot drinks.

So one day, it was cold. And I was exceedingly sleepy, for some strange reason. It got so bad that I finally decided, ok, I can't take this anymore, it's time to use one of my coffee sachets and make instant coffee.

So I emptied my coffee stick into my cup, and still feeling kinda sleepy, I toddled off to the pantry to fill it with hot water. As the hot water went in, I realized, rather unhappily, that not all the powder was getting mixed; instead, quite a bit of it was stuck under the top layer that was mixing with the water, and was not getting dissolved. You can sort of realize this when bubbles start appearing, which means there are lots of air pockets which in turn implies lots of powder not getting wet.

I was stuck, as I did not have a stirrer or spoon with me, and as the water was rather hot, I was not inclined to use my finger. In my sleep-addled state, of course, I had forgotten that there were probably stirrers at the nearest coffee-maker, but of course, I did not realize this at that point of time.

I was somewhat bummed out, then I had this absolutely brilliant idea. I decided to simply cap my cup (since it was fairly watertight), and swirl it around.

Brilliant! I thought to myself as I started swirling it. This should do it. And then, another even more brilliant idea popped into my head (though later events would prove that it was not as brilliant as I thought it was). I decided then to shake my cup, to make sure everything was well-mixed.

Unfortunately for me, after about two shakes, the coffee exploded out through the side of the cap, due to some effect involving heat, water and air in a confined space that some physics major can explain to you. Not a lot of coffee mind you, but it squirted out in a fairly violent manner, essentially painting the partition and part of the CPU with coffee (you can see the area that got hit. It's just behind the cup in the picture above).

It was after this, while scurrying about to clean up the mess I had made, that I remembered about the nearby coffee-makers and the stirrers that were in all probability there. Fortunately, not a lot of coffee came out, so I didn't really scald myself, though the area smelt of coffee for the rest of the night.

I did wake up fully after that though. Nothing like a major shock to your mind to get you out of your stupor.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


The first I heard of my being sent for the basic reporting course (BRC) was when we had just come back from dinner one day, and Janice (who sits behind me) turns around and says, "I didn't know you're going on course."

Now, I didn't know it either, but she had been looking at the subs roster that had just been sent out, and I was penciled in as being on course for most of the month of September.

I was not particularly enthralled to be going on a basic REPORTING course because one of the main reasons I wanted to be on the subs desk is because I'm not a terribly extroverted person, and I  would very much have preferred to not have to talk to people I don't know (which sounds incredibly weird for someone who's entire job experience up to that time was being a reporter and a missionary and which kinda requires you to go out and talk to people).

The other subs were strangely envious of me when I mentioned it to them though. Quite a few were going like, "Wow, you got a month-long holiday!" or, "It would be great if I could get normal hours for a month." (Just fyi, subs work from about 4.30 in the afternoon to 1.30 am). I was somewhat surprised, since I was rather happy at the subs desk, and I was just starting to get the hang of things after a month of work.

One of the other subs called Rajan (who's user name is the incredibly cool 'Trajan', thus making me think of the Roman emperor every time I see it in the system) told me that his time on the BRC was the best time of his life in SPH. And how he would always go drinking with the other dudes on the course, and how he still kept up with some of them. He told me that I should just try to enjoy myself. He did mention how part of the course was going out to actually get stories, which only made me feel bleah.

The email from the head of training didn't help much either. He talked about how he expected us to be like good reporters, always questioning and asking stuff and all. But the other subs told me on my last day there, that I should just go with an open mind and see what I could learn and stuff, which I resolved to try and do.

And surprise surprise, I actually enjoyed myself on the course. The email from the head of training, Paul Jacob, sounded really serious and all, but he wasn't that frightening, and he had quite a few good points for us, even though he did tend to mumble a bit at times. The course itself had lots of useful information, even though it was meant for reporters and not subs, and they gave us free food every day!

The other good thing of course, was that I got to meet quite a lot of other people from SPH. I got to know a few of the other ST reporters, who's names I've seen in bylines but whom I've never met before, as well as many others from different parts of SPH. 

Got to know most of these guys in my time there. Even though I never knew who the guy who sat at the back was. Incidentally, while most of the names point at the chairs the people sat in, Amelia's and Wee Cheow's chairs got moved because they had to go on a different course for the last week, so their chairs got moved around too.

In particular, I got to know Sanjay, Chor Hao, Hashim, Terence and Elrica, since this was the usual lunch group I hung out with. Think Terence was the one that said that the good thing about being on course wasn't so much the stuff that you learn about work, but in getting to know others from different departments and seeing how they work. At any rate, we managed to form a pretty good bond (along with several others), and hopefully, we'll continue to be able to chill out in the future, though it may not be that simple, since I work at night and Hashim works in a completely different building. 

In the last week there, it was kind of a bummer knowing that it would end soon, and our relatively relaxed lifestyles over the past month would end. Back to work, where instead of hanging out in groups, we'll be expected to work independently. But it was a good run, a good time, and maybe some day, we'll end up on the same course again.

So see you guys around the newsroom sometime. After all, it isn't that big, right?

The guys on my table. It was great spending about a month with you guys.

P.S. I never had to go out and get stories. They scrapped that part of the course, for which I am exceedingly grateful.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


My grandmother passed away around midday yesterday, and I guess most of the family is still kind of getting to grips with it.

Unlike when my grandfather passed away four years ago, she went really fast. Grandpa had been slipping further and further into dementia in his final years, and his health deteriorated and he was hospitalized for a week or so before he finally stopped breathing. But grandma, she was still pretty healthy. She had been complaining of pain in her hips for the past couple of weeks, but we thought it was a case of rheumatism like she had had before (we later found out it was a hairline fracture in her pelvis), and so she just stayed in bed while we brought her food and tried to get her to move about.

She was complaining quite a lot these past two weeks, refusing to move out to the living room, or even to go use the toilet, and she would constantly bemoan the fact that she had no appetite and did not want to eat, no matter how hard we tried to get her to do it; not surprising since she was quite a stubborn old lady. Still, yesterday morning, it seemed like she was getting better, and although she did not touch her breakfast, she seemed relatively cheery and upbeat. But then she lost consciousness once just before noon, regained it for a while, then slipped off really fast.

There are quite a lot of things going on through my mind right now, but one thing I do not want to forget is stuff I do remember about her. There are so many things that I can kind of pick up from memory, like how she would make fried rice with charsiew (mom hardly ever uses it), or how she would buy chee cheong fun or make samsokdan for Andrew because those were the only things he would eat for breakfast, or her special curry that we would have (bright yellow, lots of cabbage and taupok, and rather watery in texture, but spicy), but I don't want to just think about her in relation to food, so here are five things in my memory that kind of stick out.

1. My brother and I pretty much grew up in my grandparents' place. Both our parents worked, so during the day, we would be at their place until dinner, when our parents and aunt would join us for dinner, and then my family would head back. When we were there, and we were still kinda young, we would always take our afternoon naps, and grandma was the one to get us to sleep. And she would always hum this song to us. Only a single fragment of the song still resides in my memory, and I do not even know if I remember the tune right, but she would always go something like "hm-hmm-Hm", with a slight emphasis on the last syllable.     

2. Around the same time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became really popular in Singapore. Apart from watching the half-hour cartoons at 6.30 every evening, my brother and I really wanted to get the action figures. We were really happy once when we found a discarded Donatello toy once, and got to keep it. But we also wanted to be able to get our favourite ones (Andrew liked Leonardo, and I for some inexplicable reason, liked Raphael then), and we would beg our parents to buy it. But they would not, mainly because my father did not believe in needlessly spending money on toys (he sings a different tune nowadays, but most of his toys are electronic, and they are for him). When my grandma heard we wanted those toys one day, she suddenly said to me, "Ok, let's go and buy it," then brought me out with my aunt (I think she was there, she was not working or off on that day or something). I kind of assumed it would be at the nearby market (which had a few provision shops that had toys), but was stunned when she flagged down a cab and we went to Metro. I admit, I was kind of shocked, and somewhat horrified at the thought of what my dad would do to me if he found out I convinced grandma to bring me out shopping, but we got two toys and went back. Dad didn't do anything much to me, and Andrew was quite pleased with his new toy (he was in the afternoon session then, so he was in school while we were at Metro).

3. Much much later, grandma was living with us. She had moved in a few years earlier with grandpa, having sold her place at Henderson Crescent (#03-24), but now grandpa was gone. She was starting to get out of her sadness by the time I left for Japan in May '09, and it seemed she was ok (though she was still really worried about me being out of Singapore - it's one of her foibles). In November that year, I tried to sneak back into Singapore without telling anyone except my brother. I was returning for a friend's wedding, and my parents knew I was supposed to be back, but I really wanted to prank them by not saying anything and then suddenly appearing in my bed the next morning. My plan failed, mainly because some doofus kept calling the house phone in the middle of the night just after I had slipped into the house, and so my dad found me out. I went to take a shower after that, and as is my wont, I kicked the floor mat closer to the shower area so that I wouldn't get too much water on the floor. The next morning, I popped out of my room, and surprised my mom, but grandma was not surprised at all to see me. I asked her why she knew I was around, and she calmly said, "You're the only one in the family who kicks the floor mat in the toilet near the shower stall, so I knew you had to be back."

4. While I was working in Japan, I came back to Singapore three times during my two years and three months there. The first time was the above-mentioned sneaky time. The second was in between my first and second years, for about three months. The third was near the end of my term. And those times, as well as after I returned for good and remained unemployed for 10 months, I would usually eat lunch at home (to get free food). Usually it would only be grandma and me at the table, since everyone else was working or at school. Sometimes, we would eat in silence, but other times, she would tell me all these stories and things about her life, and I really enjoyed it, partially because I'm a history kind of person, and partially because some of the things she told me painted my dad in a somewhat less-than-flattering light (mostly to do with mushrooms or his pride). And I really enjoyed those times just listening to her. I would usually finish eating much faster than her, and she would try to chase me off, but I think she really appreciated the fact that I would always wait for her to finish eating before leaving the table. And when she was done, she would sort of shrug and lift her hands palms up to show that lunch was over and we could both leave.

5. I also remember when Marie first came to Singapore. She was horribly nervous about meeting my family, even though my dad and mom had been really nice when they spoke to her over Skype. She got in really late at night, and so mom and dad welcomed her and showed her to her room. The next day was a normal work day, so by the time she woke up, everyone (except me, being unemployed of course) had left for work/school. Grandma had of course heard that Marie was around, so when she saw her in the morning, she tried to get her to eat breakfast. They couldn't really communicate, since Marie doesn't speak Chinese or Cantonese, and grandma could not really speak English or Japanese. But she did remember a few Japanese words she picked up as a girl during the Occupation, and the one she was very proud of being able to say was arigato (thank you), which she told Marie, partly to show off, and partly, I think, in relief that there was some girl willing to get attached to her eldest grandson. Marie wrote to me after she heard about grandma passing away, and she said she felt less nervous because my grandma was so welcoming, and she remembered how happy grandma was when she was showing Marie pictures of grandpa.

I know someday we will all be able to meet up again (I was so joyful when mom messaged me one day that grandma had finally decided to believe in Christ - she was the last of my grandparents to do so), and I'm really glad that she had a great community in church, with friends that would always bring her laughter and joy, and who would regularly come round to visit or pick her up. And I'm thankful to God too, that He was with all of us in this time, and that He decided to take grandma back into His arms, to give her peace and rest.

So sayonara, mama (yes, she remembered that too). I'll be seeing you some time around.

Friday, August 17, 2012


"Well, you certainly took your time coming here."

Her eyelids fluttered upon hearing the voice. She had been sleeping quite comfortably, for the first time in quite a long while, but she had been woken out of her slumber. It wasn't that the voice was loud, or particularly harsh, but there was something about it that she knew was not quite right, yet sounded strangely familiar...

Finally, her eyes opened and managed to focus on the sky high above her. That was another thing that was odd. She had fallen asleep in her bedroom, and she did not think she had been sleeping long enough for the sun to have started setting anyway. She reached out to her side for her glasses, then stopped in surprise. Her vision was completely fine, and she was able to see everything clearly, down to the finest detail, as the sun's rays gave an orange hue to everything.

She breathed deep, and the air, Such pure air, she thought, filled her with joy. It carried within it, the strong smell of the grass and the fields, and just a touch of fragrance from the wildflowers growing in the lee of some rocks behind her. She turned her head, and lifted her hands to touch a blade of grass, and felt its smooth surface, its fine edge, the way it connected to the stalk, and realized that she actually knew it.

She sat up straight, and her body responded easily like how it was like when she was still young and not weighed down by age or concerns. She marvelled at her arms; the skin was no longer wrinkled and sagging, but was as tight and smooth as when she was a schoolgirl, before the Occupation. She felt the strength in her limbs, the warmth on her face, and wanted to jump up and run about...

"It's also been too long since I've seen you with black hair," the voice said again from her other side.

She gave a short jump and twisted around. Lying on the ground next to her was a young man, arms behind his head, legs crossed, glancing at her from the corner of his eye. He cocked an eyebrow when he saw that she was finally acknowledging him, then grinned. She stared at him. He definitely looked and sounded familiar, and the way he looked at her, those dark eyes... and in a burst of alacrity, she knew why she was no longer an old woman bed-ridden by pain, but someone much younger, much..better...

The man looked back up at the sky, which was filled with brilliant streaks of pink and orange and the white wisps of clouds, and said, "You should have been here earlier to set up the place, and arrange the meals and do the washing..."

She gaped at him incredulously as he closed his eyes to relax. She suddenly knew who he was, and her heart almost burst with joy at seeing him again, but she also wanted to reach out and smack him for his impudence and wipe that smug look of his face.

Her mouth opened and closed a couple of times as she tried to think of ways to riposte, then finally said, "Well, if you were here so much earlier, why couldn't you have done it yourself?"

"It's a woman's job to do that," he replied without opening his eyes, but the growing smile on his face told her he was not being serious.

She rolled her eyes and groaned. "What did I do to have to endure this from you? I finally get here to be with you and that's the first thing you say to me. All you do is complain and demand things from me and waste our money on food that is too expensive and make me do all the housework..."

She stopped when he reached out for her hand. It had been too long since she felt him, and she fell silent as she soaked in the moment, and feeling happy and complete once again.

They sat in silence for a while, then a thought that had been nagging her at the back of her mind finally came to the forefront.

"How about the others? Will I be able to go back down to see them for a bit?"

He sat up and shrugged. "That's not up to me to decide. When I came up, they were willing to let me go down one last time to see the rest, but I don't have that sort of authority."

"Who does then?"

The man jerked his head at the rocks with the wildflowers. "He does."

She turned around, and realized for the first time, that the two of them were not alone.

"Hello grandmother," the boy started, then added, "Though I do not think you look very much like a grandmother anymore."

She looked closely at the boy. Like the man, she sensed she knew the boy, but in a different way. She peered into this clear, black eyes, and saw ancient wisdom and youthful enthusiasm, eternity and impermanence, past, present and future, and she instantly knew Him.

She bowed her head, and respectfully said, "Lord."

The boy giggled, his laugh a clear and pleasant sound, and he spoke again. "Welcome! It's been a long journey for you, always working and thinking of the needs of those around you, but now you can finally rest. No more worries or cares, just peace and joy with us."

She smiled at that. It was something her children, and her grandchildren had been saying to her. The though of them reminded her of her request, and she raised it up.

"Will I be allowed to go back down to see them again, Lord?"

The boy looked thoughtful for a minute, then looked at her with more sadness than she thought anyone that youthful-looking should be allowed to bear.

"They love you, you know. And naturally, they asked.  And I know how they are feeling too, much more than they could ever know themselves. But while I could do it for him last time, I cannot do it for you this time."

She looked downcast for a moment, but then knew that the decision had been made with thorough consideration, and she bowed to the infinite wisdom of the choice.

She looked around a bit, then heard a bell tolling in the distance. The boy jumped off the rocks, and reached out for her hand, then pulled both her and the man to their feet.

"Time for us to go back," he said, then started walking, hand still in hers.

She looked back wistfully for a minute, remembering all those she was leaving behind. But the boy continued to pull her along, and the man smiled at her reassuringly, and she knew that it was time to leave it all behind.

"Let's go," the boy urged again, and this time, she did not hesitate, as they walked towards the eternal city.

*   *   *

Good bye, grandma.
Rest in peace.
1926 - 17/08/2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Before Work

After almost a year since returning from Japan, I am finally going to start work on Monday. I didn't think it would be that long till I found a job in Singapore, but I guess when you're a 'Foreign Talent' who's not really foreign or talented, you kind of end up in the situation I was in. It didn't help either, that most of the jobs on the job search sites were the kind that were not particularly pertinent to someone who possesses a degree in history (read: Engineering).

Thankfully though, there is a company that's willing to accept this 外人, which is why I will report to work on Monday. I have to admit, I am a bit nervous, as I am not too sure what will be required of me. I am glad though, that I will be able to finally start earning my keep and growing my savings account (missionary work, while enjoyable and fulfilling, isn't exactly the best place to grow one's savings), as well as to finally pay off my bond to the government.

In the meantime, while looking/waiting for a job, I was able to do some things. Mainly bumming about at home and running about town, though I did go down to church for a bit to do some stuff. In the process, due to my expiring social visit passes, I had to leave for the bright lights of Johor Bahru twice to renew my visa, both times in the company of good friends. The second time though, we got trapped in a jam on the way over that took up more time than what we actually spent in JB.

One of the friends. Though it would technically be more accurate to say that she isthe daughter of said friends. I doubt she considers me a friend.

I also went to a couples' engagement party. Alvin Tay got engaged earlier this year (on Valentine's Day, if I'm not wrong. Such a romantic) and his future sister-in-law arranged an engagement party for him and Amanda (his fiancée). It was all pretty good fun, I got to talk to an ex-classmate most of the night, and that would have been about it....except for the fact that the multi-storey carpark had really narrow ramps....which led to this:

In the immortal words of the Black Knight, "'Tis but a scratch!". In case you can't tell, there was yellow paint demarking the corners of the ramp pillars. 

And I went back to Japan for a visit. Partly because I missed the place, partly because I missed Marie, and partly because the company had granted me a second interview then, which seemed to mean that I could potentially land a job. And before that happened, I wanted to go back once before I get tied down. It was fun. Uncle Louis and Auntie Chris were really nice and let me stay at their place, and I had good fun going around surprising a whole bunch of people who never expected to see me in Japan.

There was also work I didn't expect to do that I ended up doing.

While there, I also managed to get a cd of one of my favourite pianists. I had never heard of her before going to Japan back in 2009, and I think in Japan, she's actually more well-known as an actress, but I fell in love with her music when I heard it on an NHK show about Kyoto. If you ever get the chance to listen to Nao Matsushita, you should. Her music seems to have a certain... melancholy to it that tugs at you, and makes it very suitable to rainy days, or traveling through snow-capped mountains. Don't ask me about the connection. It just fits.

 This song was one of those from that show that I watched back in 2009. It was on the cd that I got, and in the first Book Off I went in too.

I had to pay a bit of extra on the plane ride back. I was bringing back all my worldly possessions that I had left in Japan, and besides my luggage and backpack, I had my quiver of arrows. Unlike SIA, which allows you a certain amount of weight in check-in luggage, Delta only allows one free piece of luggage to be sent into their cargo holds. Anything more, even if you're still under the 18-kilo weight limit, will be charged. Bah.

But I did manage to catch one of the Always: Sunset on 3rd Street movies on the plane. I didn't finish it because I started watching when we were somewhere over the Philippines I think, but it somehow managed to evoke a feeling of nostalgia, of the 'good old days' in the 60s, in someone who was born in 1984. Must be the slightly faded colours and the prodigious use of orange lighting. If you're looking for action, it may not be quite your cup of tea, but it really is a rather pleasant show to watch.

From the first movie. There are currently three in existence. Can't you feel the nostalgia?

So that's about what went on for me. Now on to work. Hopefully, I manage to do it in a sufficiently competent manner that would allow me to continue to work there for a while. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

John 7:53- 8:11

a.k.a. what I think is a good response to the whole City Harvest thing.

Now, before we begin, I must make my position clear.
  • I am no expert on legal, or even on Biblical matters. I am merely stating what I feel is the best course of action based on what I know of the Bible.
  • Neither am I saying that this should be the course of action all people take. 
  • I am personally not terribly enamoured with City Harvest church in general.
Alright. Now that we've got that out of the way, we can go on to what I would like to talk about.

Now, just in case you do not own a Bible (or more likely than not, are too lazy to open your own), here is a link to the passage.

It is a fairly well-known passage I believe, since it gave rise to a phrase that is still in use in the common vernacular. Here's a rundown:
  • A woman commits adultery.
  • Said woman is caught in the act of adultery.
  • Said woman is brought before Jesus by various temple significants, along with a mob, who ask Him what they should do.
  • Jesus promptly ignores them and starts writing (I like to think He starts randomly doodling but that's probably not the case) on the ground.
  • The leaders and local authorities ask Him again.
  • This time, Jesus says the 'well-known' phrase: "Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."
  • The angry group of people grows less angry (perhaps) and gradually dissolves away till only Jesus and the lady are left.
  • He then forgives her and tells her to leave her life of sin.
When the woman was caught in adultery, I imagine it must have been quite an ordeal. The sin she thought was secret was suddenly and unpleasantly brought to light, she was dragged about by a bunch of people and local notables, and they were screaming for her to be stoned, which was perfectly within their rights. But when she was brought before Jesus, He did not condemn her, neither did He discipline her. Instead, He forgave her and gave her another chance.

I am not suggesting then, that the government release those guys who have done wrong stuff; if they did wrong, they have to face the consequences. But it seems people have taken to casting stones at City Harvest and the congregation there as well.

I understand that some of their doctrine is not correct, and that in the past, they haven't exactly proven to be Mother Teresa, but surely now is not the time to be condemning them. Shouldn't we, as Christians, be looking to encourage those who are feeling lost and depressed because of this situation? (And no, I know what some of you are thinking, I am not advocating encouraging them that their doctrine is right, or that their leaders will be freed miraculously.) Instead of beating them down more, shouldn't we be bringing them up and telling them to look to Christ who is the hope for all the world?

We pray for non-Christians to be saved, we pray for those doing wrong to be convicted by the Spirit that they are doing wrong, so shouldn't we then also pray for Christians who are hurting because of what is going on?

And so I pray, that the people there will find comfort in God, that they will look to Him instead of looking at the situation around them, that their faith in Christ will remain strong, and that in the end, He will make something good out of all this mess.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Amazing Race

Yesterday, for our cluster gathering, our great and illustrious cluster leader, SK, and his son Jared, organised an Amazing Race style event for us. Now, in the event that you have no idea what an Amazing Race event is, it is essentially a race between groups of people who get clues which lead them to a certain location, spend some time there doing the challenges that have been set up, and then get more clues that will lead them to the next location.

Now, such events are not new to the church. We've been doing similar events in the youth ministry for years, and it is usually quite fun... for a while, before the fatigue sets in and we start wishing that it wasn't so long.

But one thing that happened during yesterday's race made it seem a lot more valuable. You see, in most of the past iterations of the game, it would be held around church area, and so every place was accessible by foot. A new twist (which I personally found more entertaining), was instead of it being merely around Woodlands, the area of play was expanded to encompass all of Singapore. But even that wasn't as worthy as what happened yesterday.

SK had gotten in contact with WSC (the social welfare arm of our church) and asked them if it was possible to get the names of some of the families who needed financial assistance. He then went to these families, and asked them if they would be willing to be part of a game. And one of our tasks, as participants, was to go and purchase the food hampers and deliver them to the families.

It wasn't powerful, or moving, or even touching. My group bought the stuff, managed to find our way to the house, smiled, and handed over the stuff. The mistress of the house was a very quiet lady, who invited us in to sit down, but we didn't really want to impose on them, and told her it was ok. And just like that, the task was over.

What was important though, was that this time, instead of merely focusing on our own fun and games, we were reminded to also be mindful of those who are less fortunate than us, and who could use a little help. It's not like we're so superior or whatever, but as Christians, we're not just supposed to focus on our own personal fulfillment, or only on our Bible study, or any one of the countless other church things we like to fill our lives with. We are also called to be the body of Christ to the people, and even though it was only a small token of it, I'm glad it was included in our game.

So thank you SK, for making our game so much more meaningful than just an afternoon of fun.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Via Dolorosa II

The Via Dolorosa was the route that Jesus took on His way to the cross, according to tradition.

It is also a song that was released by Sandi Patti in 1984 (I think).

I've mentioned the Via Dolorosa before, quite a long time ago actually, and if you're interested in the lyrics, you can click there to see the ones I've copied onto the blog. Today, for the Good Friday service, the worship leader sang the song.

Here's a clip of the song. It is rather graphic, so if you would rather not, please do not look at it, but do listen to the words.

I guess it's hard to explain, but it was really intense emotionally, and I am not ashamed to say that I almost cried. It's not just seeing the pain being inflicted on a human, but also knowing that the poor, battered person is my Lord. And considering how slack I've been in my Christian walk, hearing Him say to me through those pain-filled eyes, "Daniel, why have you forsaken me?"

The thing is, that is no accusation. It is a plea for me to return, made possible by that very act of sacrifice He did on the cross. And that is what Good Friday is about, that by suffering, not just the physical part during the crucifixion, but also taking on the sins of the world, and becoming a curse in the sight of God, He freed us from our own curses, and allowed for us to be made clean before God.

Guess it's a little small, but this comic from B.C. by Johnny Hart (or one of his descendents), which quite succinctly explains why Good Friday is good.

Happy Good Friday everyone.

Like a rose, trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all

Thursday, March 29, 2012


When I was about 8 years old or so, my parents bought me a bicycle. They also got one for my younger brother, and I remembered mine had yellow wheels, or at least, that yellow was a fairly prominent colour on that bike. My brother's was blue. Blue had been his favourite colour for as far as I could remember.

Anyway, every other weekend or so, my parents would bring both of us down (our sister wasn't born yet), and we would go whizzing around the void deck of our old home in Bukit Batok. And I had no trouble riding it then, mostly because there were two training wheels which pretty much prevented me from ever toppling over.

But then, we started growing up. And then we moved, and didn't take the bikes with us. Or the bikes kinda rusted away and we moved. Either way, we ended up with no bikes, which was not much of an issue, since we drove most of the time, and in Singapore, the moment you bike (or even walk, for that matter), you start sweating.

Every now and then though, my parents would take us to East Coast Park or Pasir Ris Park and we would go cycling. But I was never good on bikes-without-training-wheels, I just could not get my balance right, and would start toppling off when I tried to push off. The few times I gained enough momentum, I could cycle fairly straight; the problem was getting the momentum.

And then, once during a church outing to East Coast Park to cycle, I was kind of peer-pressured into cycling. So while my friends were all able to quickly go off cycling, I was kinda stuck trying to start off. And then, finally, I got on, but didn't have enough momentum. And there I was, trying desperately to balance on my bike but not doing a good enough job. And I was not in control of my bike as it headed towards a pond.

Fortunately, I was able to pull the brakes in time to avoid going head-over-handles into the pond. Unfortunately, I was in such an awkward position on my bike that when it toppled over, I landed on the pavement and scratched myself up pretty bad. And that was it for cycling for me...

...until I got to Japan. See in Japan, cycling is a really common thing for people. It's really convenient, and apart from summer, it's pretty pleasant to ride around. Especially if you live far from a station. Or don't want to pay a train/bus fare (which can be expensive). However, still living in fear of the toppling incident, I refused to learn biking. I had a bike, which I inherited from Dan and Joy Lau when they left, but all it did was to remain outside my house gathering dust. If I had anywhere to go, I would leave home early and walk.

And then, Alpha course with the Shinjuku HC happened. For the Alpha retreat, Karen wanted to go to Karuizawa, and she planned a day outing with.. you guessed it, cycling. She wanted to rent bicycles and cycle all about the old town. And since I was unable to ride a bike, this happened:

Tomo (Karen's future husband) and me in Karuizawa.

Yes, I had to sit on a two-seater to get around. After some initial issues about how to balance the bike and stuff, the two of us were able to get around pretty well. And no one fell off. And since I was starting to get a sense of balance, I asked to borrow one of the normal bikes when we were going to return it. And I kinda managed to balance. Mostly.

Fast forward to CRASH. I was supposed to have learnt how to ride a bike after the Karuizawa trip, but I kept on putting it off, being too lazy. And then, Marie (and others) found out I couldn't ride a bike. So one night, when I was supposed to go to the sharehouse for some event or other, she took it on herself to teach me how to ride a bike. She lent me hers, and ran. And she got home faster than I did. But by the end of that, I could ride a bike.

And so now, I know I can ride a bike. I enjoyed riding a bike in Japan, especially since I could get to places that were further away, faster, and without having to pay anything (I was running low on money by the end of my time in Japan).

My dad borrowed a couple of bikes from Uncle KC and Auntie Peggy a while ago, and I got to cycle a bit again before he had to return it. And it's quite fun in Singapore too, just that you start sweating the moment you cycle. You get to see nice places and travel around quite a bit, more so than if you tried walking.

Now, all I need to do is get a bike myself...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


It came as somewhat of a shock when I heard that she passed away. I had known that she had been in and out of the hospital before I ever got to know her, and that she had been hospitalized again several months ago, but I still never quite realized how serious it was. I guess it was because the few times I had met her, she always seemed so full of energy.

I hardly knew her too. I go to know her husband because he came for the Coco's English Corner that Steve set up a couple years back, and which has now been taken over by Auntie Chris (I'm sorry Auntie Chris, I just can't not call you auntie). He was a history buff, which meant that we would talk about some historical stuff, and just as often butt heads over interpretation of said historical events. And though he said things about his wife like, "She's not Japanese. She's too noisy", it was also obvious he loved her and cared for her. And I guess it was because I had heard about her, that I knew her a little better than I would have.

She came to the Tokorozawa Housechurch when I was serving at CRASH's Tono Base in August last year. The ladies of the church, who also attended the Coco's English group, had finally gotten to meet her, and it seemed they had hit it off pretty well. She had also been rather interested in Christianity when she was younger, and though she didn't follow-up on it then, her interest had not dimmed in the years since, and she happily came to join the housechurch, which was where I got to meet her.

And like her husband had said, she certainly did not fit the common stereotype of the Japanese woman; quiet and demure. She seemed to be everywhere at once, talking to the ladies in Japanese, chattering away to Louis in Cantonese, testing me on my Mandarin... and even when she was sick with the flu one Sunday, she still came down to witness Yoshiko's baptism, and while definitely muted, you could still see the spark in her as she joked about and congratulated Yoshiko.

I heard she got hospitalized again a few weeks after I got back from Japan, but since this was not new, I didn't think much about it. A little later, Auntie Chris dropped me a message, to say that Mina had prayed to receive Christ while in the hospital, mainly due to the love that she felt from the housechurch members who regularly dropped by to visit her, and I rejoiced in knowing that she had finally taken the important step that had been prepared for her all those years ago when she first heard about Christ.

I found out that she passed away last Friday. And I do feel sad, sad that I won't be able to visit her in Japan again, sad for Hideki, her husband, who is undoubtedly distraught.. but I can also give thanks that she chose to give her life to Jesus, and that she is now with Him, probably chattering away in Japanese, Cantonese, and Mandarin, and being the spark of energy in heaven that she was here on earth.

So let us pray for her husband, that the grief will not be too much for him, and that he may also come to know God, but let us also give thanks to God, for another soul that is reunited with Him.

Monday, February 06, 2012


Ever since I got back to Singapore, I've been sort of bumming around. The first month, it was to kind of take a holiday after another year in Japan (this time, with the added workload of doing full-time stuff with CRASH).

Part of the second month was a continuation of said relaxation, but partially also to play tourguide to an important person who came down to Singapore (and she's coming again soon!!)

The third month, it was starting to get a bit sian. And I felt like I had gotten enough rest (too much actually), and was looking to find a job. Part of it was that I still owe a bond to the Singapore government for my university tuition grant, but another part was also so that I could get some money, which is always useful (and being a missions worker isn't exactly the most lucrative of jobs).

So I went to look for some jobs. And I tried applying to some, but no answers. And I found out that one of my friends works for a recruitment agency, and she took my CV and I went down to talk with them.

And yet, I still heard nothing much for them. So I prayed, and asked God to show me something about my work. And that day, I got an email from one of the recruitment agency ladies (it's called JAC) letting me know about a possible job opening.

When I first heard about it over the phone, I was thinking, "Er, that doesn't sound like something I would do." Actually, I was more like, "What exactly does she mean?" because she was talking in Japanese, and it was not that great to begin with. But that was the gist of it.

But as I took a look at the company website and slowly worked my way through the mission statement and stuff (it's in Japanese too see), I started to think, "hey.. this sounds pretty interesting". So I wrote back and said, "Sure, I'll be interested in hearing more".

Then there was silence for a few more days. And I felt, "oh, I guess that's it". So once again, I prayed that God will show me something again, and I got another call from JAC about that job offer, asking for more information.

And now I'm beginning to go a bit like, "Huh?!" because it's not like I've been praying non-stop for a job. I don't even pray non-stop (which is not something I'm proud of, to be honest), but I thought, "Okaay..."

And then there was silence. And today, my brother starts work at his new job, and I'm still very unemployed, so I prayed again. And you can see where this is heading right? I got an email saying that the company may be interested in arranging an interview.

And I may not get this job. I mean, I've never been good at interviews, and maybe I'm not cut out for this job, and maybe I was never meant to take a job in Singapore now.

But everytime God answers my prayers this way, when I wonder why something's happening, or nothing's happening, and He prompts me, "Did you pray?" And I guess I'm a bit of a cynical Christian, because I do believe in prayer, but to pray to get something for myself? That's not quite gonna happen right? And I think like that, but then I'll think, "What's the harm in praying?" and I pray like a short 5-second prayer along the lines of:

"God, I'm not sure about my job, and I'm not sure what you want me to do, but I commit it to Your hands."

And I'm done and I continue along like nothing much happened, and then God answers the prayer.

And each time, I feel touched and amazed and happy and I think of how God has this sly smile on His face when He looks at me and tells me, "I told you so, you should have prayed" even if the prayer seems so small and flippant. And it makes me want to laugh and cry and shout and give thanks at the same time.

And this is what is important, to know that whatever happens, God does answer my prayers, and He sometimes takes pleasure in poking a bit of fun at me, and it makes Him so much more real.

Monday, January 09, 2012


I just spent 4 hours on skype talking with Marie because she was going on a walk, and I was accompanying her. We (she) walked from the CRASH house to Oizumi-Gakuen station, and I was with her looking at the camera feed, and when we realized that was taking up too much battery, following her progress on google maps. And it was fun.

Who said you had to be physically near each other to have a date?