Thursday, 31 January 2008

Last Night's Prayer Meeting

Mr Hoh was the chairperson, and as usual, he chose his favourite songs (easily predicted if one pays attention to his huraian before each song):
  • Sweet Hour of Prayer
  • What A Friend We Have In Jesus
  • God Answers Prayer
  • How Great Thou Art
And while elaborating on the prayer items, his attempt at a pun was really fascinating:
Jesus is the One who sings the tune, so let us hope that it strikes a note within us.
^_^" To end the presenting of prayer items, as always, he spoke in a very formal manner, as when he teaches Mathematics:
Without further ado, let us break into our groups to pray.
That's Mr Hoh for you.

Anyway, after prayer meet, we went off to Ramli's Burger next door for our traditional supper:
  • Uncle Rodney + Uncle Beng
  • Daniel See + Harry
  • Sharma + Melissa
  • Sis + Me + Shaun
(The youth sat at a separate table) We talked about all sorts of things, ranging from the Bible (fuh so spiritual) to our future lives (on Earth). Mel told us of how her friend's in a church where the pastor says that if you leave the church, you have to come back and serve 7 years there before you can leave. And he said it was from the Bible. Shaun suggested that he adapted the custom of the Year of Jubilee:
And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years.

And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family.

Full passage on the year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25
I suggested that the pastor was thinking that you can't have a jubilee year if you weren't a slave/servant or doing some sort of service in the first place, so he instituted a system of servitude for 7 years so that at the end of it the members could have a jubilee! Whoop!

After a long discussion, we concluded that the pastor was nuts.

We chatted a little bit about Biology, and we discovered that all of us (except Shaun) were Bio dropouts:
  • Sharma: "I slept in every Bio class from Form 4 to Form 5 and failed every paper. My teacher sampat wan. Every time during exam come and talk to me about football (o_O). I only managed to get B3 for SPM cuz the standard drop until very low."
  • Sis: "-_- (at the last line) I failed every paper and got B4. Plus my friends always laugh at my test answers."
  • Mel: "I can't remember a single thing about Bio. Only the isotonic, hypertonic and hypotonic thing."
  • Me: "I dropped Bio for SPM =D"
Shaun: "Thanks man. I feel so pressured now."
Me: "Why leh? Our Bio all so teruk wat."
Shaun: "Yalah, you all! Bad role models!"
(Sharma mentioned something about how his Add Math always got A1 wan) After that, we moved on to the topic of work, especially relevant to the actively-looking-for-a-job Sharma, the currently-working Tse Shuen and the one-with-the-working-experience Melissa. Sharma and sis are both in the audit line, and it's really a tough line of work (judging from the amount of work sis brings home as a trainee).
"I know, I know. We work as auditors for 3 years first, then we move into Accountancy!"
"I know you were going to say that! Don't want! I want to move higher until become manager."
"Eh, manager in audit firm also get RM 3000+ only leh. I think you go into teaching better."
"Har?"
"Your pay confirmed higher than RM 3000 lor."
"Cannot la. I cannot handle students like me."
"Eh, why not become lecturer? Easy life!"
"Ya! Get paid by the hour somemore."
"My lecturer ar, for 3-hour lecture, he came in the first hour and wrote a question on the board. Then he hilang diri till the 3rd hour, then came back and said: 'This is where most of you went wrong. I think.'"
"Become teacher la."
"Ya, ya, become PJ teacher! Everyday in the canteen only wan =D 'Boy, ini kunci. Pergi ambil bola. Ini bola. Kick.'"
"Eh, Sharma can teacher Add Math wat. Hwei can teacher Law and English, I teach Accounts..."
"Melissa teach Econs, Shaun teach Moral and Civics~"
Talk talk talk~
"Eh, so we're all going to be teachers right?"
"Ya! We open our own school!"
Sis + Shaun: "Yeah! Got everything wan - Law, Accounts, Add Math, Moral, Civics, Economics~"
"PJ!"
"Yeah! Private school! With everything except Bio."
"The Special School With Everything But Bio. Got Standard 1 until Degree wan. All in one place."
And so we spent the night talking about nonsense over a plate of kentang goreng and iced drinks (except Sharma and Sis)

"Cold drinks are for small kids. Adults drink hot drinks."

That was before he realized Mel had ordered iced tea. After that, he quickly changed his sentence:

"Working people drink hot drinks."


"Pandai you."

New Entry! (Jun Yi: Woohoo!)

I was reading Psalm 117 today. Read it when you have the time. Actually, you can read it now. It wouldn't take longer than 10 seconds. It's the shortest chapter in the Bible! (2 verses only) Oh, interesting fact: It's not only the shortest chapter in the Bible, it's also the middle chapter, meaning it's the chapter that's right smack in the middle of the Bible.

Anyway, I was using the PC Study Bible cuz I really didn't know what I could get from this super short chapter =.= Barnes' commentary on verse 2 reads:

Truth is a representation of things as they are; and truth, therefore, must be ever the same. What was true in the first ages of the world in regard to the relation of the sum of the squares on the two sides of a right-angled triangle to the square of the hypothenuse is true now, and will always be true; and so, what God has affirmed at any one time will always remain the same in all ages and in all lands. What was truth to Abraham is truth to us; what was truth to Paul is truth to us; what was truth to the martyrs is truth to us; what is truth to us will be truth to all generations of the world in all lands, and will be truth forever.

.from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft. Emphasis mine.

Wah very long paragraph. What Barnes said was in line with what Paul Copan's definition of truth:
Something is true -- or corresponds to reality -- even if people don't believe it. I often use the example of the earth being round even when people thought it was flat. Some people have said to me, "Wasn't the earth flat for them at that time?" I say, "No the earth was still round."

.from Lee Strobel's The Case for the Real Jesus, p.236
Truth is not something subjective, subject to people's convictions and opinions. There is only one truth for any one thing in the world. I always had trouble reading the Old Testament and the New Testament. The typical question that most people ask is: "Why does the God of the Old Testament seem so different from the God of the New Testament?"

The God who ordered the destruction of whole cities seems so different from the gentle nature of God reflected in Jesus.

The typical counter-argument for this typical question is that God works in different ways in different times. So since it was the culture to destroy cities like that during the OT times, it was alright? If somewhere in the future, it becomes the culture to practice cross-dressing to evangelize to homosexuals and transexuals, then it would be alright to do so?

Or have I mistaken the Lord Jesus for another person? I should think that I have neglected the nature of His justice and taken upon His gentle nature instead. I so often fail to realize the seriousness of the circumstances I would be in had Jesus not died for me. In the Old Testament, God only ordered the Israelites to destroy the cities to carry out His judgment and His justice upon the sins of those cities. It wasn't merely to drive those foreign nations out so He could nicely place the Israelites in their land.

God's justice never changed. If Jesus didn't die for us on the cross, so taking all our sins upon Himself, we would be just like those cities.

God has forgiven us. That's the only reason we're still around.

I've taken Jesus' sacrifice for granted all these years! I always knew that I didn't appreciate Him enough, but I never thought that it was that serious. It is almost to the point of blissful ignorance! Gawk! How can!? For all the questions I've asked to obtain a certainty of truth, I've missed the very important truth that's right in front of me, the one the Bible has been proclaiming berabad-abad lamanya!

  1. God's intolerance of sin in the Old Testament: Destruction of sinful nations, denying Moses entrance into the Promised Land, the plague on Israel for David's census etc
  2. Romans 3:23 - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
  3. Luke 3:7-8 - Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"
  4. Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  5. John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
  6. Luke 3:5-6 - Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
  7. John 1:29 - Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
  8. Matthew 13:49-50 - So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
  9. Eph 2:8 - For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.

Dad spoke on Salvation 2 weeks ago, and he said that salvation doesn't just mean being saved from going to hell, it also means coming into God's presence. Therefore when we evangelize, we shouldn't just keep hitting on the part about hell and heaven, we should also emphasize the part about receiving the Lord Jesus.

Now that the intensity of salvation is recognized, it's much easier to be motivated to work out my salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Because I now realize where I could've been had Jesus not come down to earth when He did. Thankfully, it wouldn't be an impossible thing to work out this salvation, because Paul adds in verse 13 that "it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His purpose."

End of long post. Dissecting the shortest chapter of the Bible turned out to be one of the longest trips I've ever taken.

And now... to sweep the floor. Buhbye!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

My Day At The Swimming Pool


I drove Ken to Tiara for his 2nd swimming lesson. These few thoughts ran through my head as I battled the flies that flew around me, hinggap-ing here and there the whole time:

First thought: That little boy seems to be undecided between swimming and drowning.

My eyebrows raise. Involuntarily. Cough.

5.36pm Ken's gotten the hang of the flippers. He's fast. Really fast. I can almost see the adrenaline coursing through his veins. Nah. His soul. That's what swimming does to you.

5.39pm Lady With Cellphone (all of us had cellphones but...): "No, we'll have the next party before she enters Form 1. I don't want her to get used to having parties." Then no need party lerrrr.

5.41pm The expert-looking girl turned out to be one of those moon-lovers.

(Definition. Moon-lover: Swimmer who looks at the moon a lot when he/she swims the Freestyle)

5.50pm A little boy beat Ken at the Breast-stroke.

5.53pm Waitaminute! That's not the Breast-stroke! That's the Mermaid! Cheat!

5.54pm Little drowning girl swims the Breast-stroke instead of the Freestyle. After some pestering from the coach, she reverts to Freestyle and almost overturns at the 3rd stroke. I smile. And laugh inwardly. (Evilnya)

5.56pm Another big girl does the Freestyle shame.

5.58pm Ah, I see. The yellow tube thing is a float.

5.59pm Swimpool stampede.

6.00pm Paikia-looking duo stroll in. And I mean stroll in. I look at the time and realize it's 6.30's going to be a long time in coming.

6.02pm Goodbye, flippers. Stampede again. The soaring feeling of flying ahead of the rest. Knowing this is something you can do. The desire to be first. Knowing you CAN. I hope the kid at the end of the stampede didn't think so. Cuz that would be sad. Like sadder than never thinking he could excel.

6.04pm Ken came in 3rd. I now recall pro-stampede routines as being mere 'warm-ups', as the coaches liked to call them.

6.06pm As I watch the coach hold back a boy till the last minute of the stampede, I also recall my coach doing that on purpose to spur us on. To encourage the boy's kiasu-ness and for the rest to know there's some wacko kid speeding after them.

6.07pm Paikia Boy has six packs. Little boy touches wall first and squeals, "I'm first!"

6.09pm 6 Packs Boy swimming in the baby pool??? No, that's not him. Thank goodness.

6.12pm I watch Pinky (the little drowning girl) splash her Freestyle across the pool. I watch the coach painfully watch her splash her Freestyle across the pool.

6.14pm Lady With Cellphone: "Printscreen for me. You know how to printscreen or not? Just press printscreen and paste the snapshot into Word. Thanks." Ooo. Think she'd go "ooo, that's me!" if she reads my blog? Doubt it.

6.16pm Gross thought: These people don't have armpit hair yet.

6.18pm Ken swims his first Backstroke. Unfair! =( Note to self: Hands straight when swimming Backstroke.

6.20pm The ever-patient Mr Ng.

6.21pm Little boy does unsuccessful imitation of the Butterfly.

6.23pm Beginner guy gets a thumbs-up from his coach when he kicks superbly. He almost immediately stops kicking, causing a well-justified o_O look on the coach's face.

6.25pm o_O Coach to Beginner class: "If you don't do good, you're going to kick until the end of this lesson. I'm not joking with you. I want to see good kicking."

6.26pm Kid floats about in his float while sucking on his thumb. Really don't think he's supposed to do that.

6.28pm I admire the watziznehm-bird's grace. What? I said grace, not name.

6.29pm Ken's 2nd attempt at Backstroke. He's got it already.

6.30pm I watch the birds soar on the wind and wonder what it's like.

6.31pm Mr Ng watches the little girl beat the little boy and keeps the amused smile. The Beginner class leave the kicking and start Freestyling.

6.33pm Ken Butterflies and does it well!

6.35pm We used to hold on to the wall in between swimming routines. Now they just... squat.

6.40pm Little girl's kicking feet touch her head. Nah. Maybe her flippers are too long.

6.41pm Ei? Past 6.30 d.

6.46pm I miss this life.

6.47pm They'd go much faster if they leave the massive strength at the shoulders and keep it out of the palms. I realize by the cheering that it's a race. That means the session's going to end.

6.52pm I can tell that he's tired. Not dead tired. He'll be dead tired in the car. Little-boy-who-was-beaten-by-little-girl cries. Mr Ng: "Aaron, just now I tell you to cry, you dowan to cry. Now you cry pula."

6.55pm Been-to-ah-moh-country-looking-lady gestures impatiently to somebody in the pool and speaks in a lovely accent that's way to polite for a scolding session: "Are you coming?! I'm waiting!!"

6.58pm I really miss this life. And I feel really uncomfortable about leaving that chair out like that. (Don't ask what chair)


Not my life anymore.

I left it behind.

Friday, 18 January 2008

My Obsession

... is currently keeping a database of every single person who's ever come to Melaka Gospel Chapel. My obsession aid is the MGC Registration Book, and my obsession tool, my sister's laptop.

I got obsessed with it in 2002 when Geng Yi asked me to type out the details of our visitors and youth so that the Card Ministry could send out birthday cards efficiently. I opted out of the Card Ministry later on and lost the privilege of possessing the Book of Names in my hands.

Now I've got it again! Yeah!

So now I know all of your names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and birth dates! =D

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Taman Asean Rojak and Cha Sao (or Siew) Fan

I went to Taman Asean to pick Ken up yesterday. I left a little late (dots) and got there a half hour later than planned. Meaning 5pm. After dropping by popo's (tis my grandma) house and stuffing the little boy into the car, I forgot about buying the rojak and shot straight past it. I got over it and drove over to the cha sao fan place instead.

As I stepped into the shop, my first thought was that there was nobody around. Second thought was that I'd have to eat maggi mee for dinner again. Ei? Saw two people sitting around and one guy standing up talking. Thinking they were having a lovely conversation, I went over and was about to politely ask for my cha sao fan when I realized the guy (who was the boss of the place) was scolding one of the ladies to death. Something about her filling in the checkbook using the carbon copy instead of the... well, the other one (doinks). He was basically saying the same thing over and over again - stuff like "na li you ren zhe yang ben de" (where got people so stupid wan) with the "!" and "?!" all the way. As I waited there awkwardly, wondering whether I should run away or stick around for my precious dinner, the guy suddenly turned to me (chuak!) and said, "Yes, girl, what do you want?" politely, as if I never saw the scolding. And after I said 2 packets of rice, he nodded and went back to scolding the girl. -_-

He was finally satisfied with the forlorn look on her face and walked over to where the ducks and meat were (or were supposed to be, since they weren't there yet). Just when I thought I was going to get my dinner, he said: "Wait ar, I'm going to open shop d."

Err ok. Whatever that was supposed to mean. Isn't his shop already open?

And he just stood there with a hand on his hip and another on the table. Like he was waiting for the ducks to fly over or something. I stood there, trying to hide my o_O face. He then realized that he had nothing to do and walked over to where the ladies were. He stood there with a vacant look on his face, and then decided to start scolding the girl again. After he did, he had nothing to do again. So he stood there again. (Notice the abundance of "again"s. It implies a redundant repetition of actions.) Imagine how awkward I was feeling already. Gahhhh.


After what seemed like eternity (but in actuality could be just 4 minutes), he walked back to the ducks place and finally had his ducks brought to him. He took his time in hanging the ducks and meat up, but he finally got down to giving me my cha sao fan. As I watched him dilly-dally, I was thinking that I should have gone to the rojak place first since they were most certainly already OPEN. And I was also thinking of how we Chinese always put the Malays down with insults like how they're always so slow, inefficient, etc, but we Chinese are actually about the same when we let ourselves be. Like this fantastic, slow-moving guy right in front of me. I'd been there other days, and he had always been rather quick in preparing my order. He was really upset about the checkbook, I guess. And some other stuff, since he was also complaining about some poor fellow who didn't help him at all that day, who came to help right after he'd finished everything, and who was sent back in cuz he was no longer needed.

Right then I decided that even guys could nag. And nag real good.

Next, I went over to buy rojak. I stepped up to the counter and asked for 2 bungkus rojak. I was totally ignored.

Is my voice too soft or something? I'd gladly repeat my order, but no one's even looking at me.


After they busied themselves with handing wrong orders to their customers and spilling kuah all over the place, I finally heard one of them point to me and said I ordered something. Oh, cheers. I saw another lady waiting to the my right, and thought that I'd get my order pretty quick after she got hers. After what must have been 10 minutes of waiting and watching her wait, I began to put on the -_- expression. It didn't help much that my specs (that rosak-ed after a basketball slammed into my face one Sunday evening) kept slipping down my nose.

It wasn't like there were many people there. I could like count the number of people. And I must add that I usually don't count very well without my calculator. Just when I thought they'd finished unjumbling all their orders, some Indian guy walked up and asked for 5 bungkus mi rebus. I thought, nevermind, cuz I ordered first so they sure give me first mah. Mana tau... that guy preceded even the lady on my right. I was really getting tired of all the inefficiency I was getting that day. And that thought about going to the rojak place first just vanished into thin air.

There was this guy at the counter whom I'd never seen before, and he was in charge of scooping the kuah. And I could tell he had a lot more kuah to scoop, since he was obviously less competent than the girls, and as I watched him clumsily scoop the kuah, he suddenly stopped and lovingly wiped the tong of kuah, which I didn't perceive to be needful, since I didn't think the tong contributed to the taste of the rojak in any way. Amazing how people like to make themselves busy.

Well, the lady on my right finally got her order, but I had to wait for a few more in between before I got mine. As he packed my rojak, my heart stopped beating for a moment when one of the girls said: "Bagi tu dulu", pointing at another guy sitting at the table.

Really.

My -_- =.= faces were really starting to alter my entire countenance. I even thought of leaving the place and saying, "Hey, look guys, call me when you finally finish." But then another thought came to me, which is that they'd probably forget my order when they didn't see me there.

People in real life don't just kick up a little fuss, cheer up when you give them cookies, and then leave when their heart levels get to zero, like in Cake Mania 2. People in real life get frustrated and give you
The Look, and then scold you in all sorts of languages and probably not only never ever come back again, but also spread the word that your stall is so not the bomb.


Yeah, life is tough. For them, anyway. I'm the customer, I get to fret and complain. Bua-ha-ha.

Right then they were lucky I wasn't the type to fret and complain though.

Too bad if they got my mum instead.

Anyway, the guy must've seen the look on my face cuz he changed his mind and said tak per, he'd give me first.

So I paid up and left, pondering how some people could be born inefficient and some people, efficient as they actually are, could choose to be inefficient.

Next time you buy cha sao fan and rojak at Taman Asean, maybe you should write your order on a piece of paper and pass it to the rojak people, then lepak somewhere until it's 5.30pm when the cha sao fan stall should be very open, and then you can go order your cha sao fan and leave to get the rojak. Since the cha sao fan is probably quicker, by the time you get back there, he'd have finished. Woohoo! Lots of time saved!

Of course, more time would be saved if they could just buck up on efficiency and speed.

But who am I to judge?

*just realized it's "shao" and not "sao" but lazy to change. Oh ya, sorry for another pictureless post -_-

Monday, 14 January 2008

Me And My Mouth


I have got to work on restricting the feelings part of the iceberg from getting up onto the surface.

Behaviour is dangerous. Especially when most of my behaviour is concentrated on the mouth and the fingers (for typing).

How many times must I talk with my foot in my mouth before I start using it to help the other foot to walk?

-_-

Get up and try again.

Get down there, disobedient foot.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Greetings from the USA

Lin called just now. All the way from America! Woohoo!

Anyway, after the call, I joined her club - the Life Overseas Is Tough, Appreciate Malaysia, People Club. Right now I really, really appreciate everything I have here. I always knew life overseas would be tough, but I didn't know the immensity of that toughness. Paying expensive rents, scavenging for second-hand books, living and dealing with people, finding out the tough way that your character isn't "environment-friendly", checking out bus routes yourself, standing outside in the winter cold an hour before class starts, finding out you need to look for a substitute tenant pronto, being so uncertain about the future, practically starving yourself everyday due to the scarcity of funds, sitting in a lecture hall for two hours not understanding a single word...

Tough life!! Maybe not to some of you out there, but it is to me. I can't even begin to describe it. They probably need to invent a new word for it. A word that has super, mega, hyper, duper and other such descriptive elements in it.

To those of you who are reading this, please pray for my cousin. If you were in her shoes, you'd want lots of prayer too.

Lin's call today told me that though I may not have the kind of friends I want, God has given me the kind of cousin (or cousins =D) I never dreamed of asking for and yet am thankful for.

God does know best, I guess. (it rhymes! it must be true! -quote Elsen- but only if you pronounce the two words the Manglish way =P)

Lin told me I must work at being independent also, so that I wouldn't trouble people next time. I know that is so true. The reason why I never wanted to start working (until the time I really have to la...) is because I know I'd bring chaos and misfortune upon my employer. No exaggeration here. I really believe so. I'm so blur, clueless and dependent that the employer will wish he never hired me.

Things to do:
  1. Pray for Lin
  2. Thank God for everything and everyone I have
  3. Stop complaining
  4. Entrust everything to Him cuz He's the best planner around
  5. Stop procrastinating
  6. Work at being independent
Note for Lin: You can do it! Jia you!

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Since I'm So Free...

I'd probably start digging around for stuff that I used to write and finally put on the blog all the notes I wrote in A3.

One regret I have about the past is that during the 3 years or so that I was persistently "encouraged" to join essay-writing competitions launched by Infineon and other whatever's (I'm an ignorant, indifferent person, can you tell?), I finally decided I'd like to write one essay my style and according to my own definition of creativity.

It was an essay entitled, "A Happy Family" (common betul) or something of the sort. Sis suggested that I steer clear of the conventional way of writing since it would be so
cliche anyway. So I did. I'll try to rewrite it (doubt I can, though) sometime soon. My mind's already starting to sigh at the idea of rewriting a past essay -_-

The teacher in charge (who also gave me nightmares as the advisor for the school magazine) returned the essay to me and said that it was too abstract. She said that people wanted a story of a real happy family and not one that's the fruit of far-fetched imagination (realize, of course, that I'm merely stating the core of what she said, and not the precise words she used). And so I must put this harshly, but she threw the essay back at me (figuratively... though that's what it felt like) and told Teacher B (who was in charge of sending out essays from the school) the stuff I wrote up there. Yep, she didn't tell me herself. I had to hear it from another teacher. He told me all that she said, and kindly added that if I still wanted to submit the essay, it was fine by him. He told me that it was my choice.

I wish I'd been more confident of myself.

Or at least more brave.

Then I'd have been more willing to take a risk.

Blake Lewis said during the American Idol 2007 Bon Jovi Session Interview:
If you never take risks in life you'll never see anything new.

I wish I'd submitted that essay =(

What The Modern Woman Really Wants

The old woman sat in the backseat of the magenta convertible as it careened down the highway, clutching tightly to the plastic bag on her lap, afraid it may be kidnapped by the wind. She was not used to such speed, with trembling hands she pulled the seatbelt tighter but was careful not to touch the patent leather seats with her calloused fingers, her daughter had warned her not to dirty it, "Fingerprints show very clearly on white, Ma."

Her daughter, Bee Choo, was driving and talking on her sleek silver mobile phone using big words the old woman could barely understand. "Finance" "Liquidation" "Assets" "Investments" ... Her voice was crisp and important and had an unfamiliar lilt to it. Her Bee Choo sounded like one of those foreign girls on television. She was speaking in an American accent.

The old lady clucked her tongue in disapproval.

"I absolutely cannot have this. We have to sell!" Her daughter exclaimed agitatedly as she stepped on the accelerator; her perfectly manicured fingernails gripping onto the steering wheel in irritation.

"I can't DEAL with this anymore!" she yelled as she clicked the phone shut and hurled it angrily toward the backseat.

The mobile phone hit the old lady on the forehead and nestled soundlessly into her lap. She calmly picked it up and handed it to her daughter.

"Sorry, Ma," she said, losing the American pretense and switching to Mandarin. "I have a big client in America. There have been a lot of problems."

The old lady nodded knowingly. Her daughter was big and important.

Bee Choo stared at her mother from the rear view window, wondering what she was thinking. Her mother's wrinkled countenance always carried the same cryptic look.

The phone began to ring again, an artificially cheerful digital tune, which broke the awkward silence.

"Hello Beatrice! Yes, this is Elaine."

Elaine. The old woman cringed. I didn't name her Elaine. She remembered her daughter telling her, how an English name was very important for "networking", Chinese ones being easily forgotten.

"Oh no, I can't see you for lunch today. I have to take the ancient relic to the temple for her weird daily prayer ritual."

Ancient Relic. The old woman understood perfectly it was referring to her. Her daughter always assumed that her mother's silence meant she did not comprehend.

"Yes, I know! My car seats will be reeking of joss sticks!"

The old woman pursed her lips tightly, her hands gripping her plastic bag in defense.

The car curved smoothly into the temple courtyard. It looked almost garish next to the dull sheen of the ageing temple's roof. The old woman got out of the back seat, and made her unhurried way to the main hall.

Her daughter stepped out of the car in her business suit and stilettos and reapplied her lipstick as she made her brisk way to her mother's side.

"Ma, I'll wait outside. I have an important phone call to make," she said, not bothering to hide her disgust at the pungent fumes of incense.

The old lady hobbled into the temple hall and lit a joss stick, she knelt down solemnly and whispered her now familiar prayer to the gods.

Thank you, God of the Sky, you have given my daughter luck all these years. Everything I prayed for, you have given her. She has everything a young woman in this world could possibly want. She has a big house with a swimming pool, a maid to help her, as she is too clumsy to sew or cook. Her love life has been blessed; she is engaged to a rich and handsome angmoh man. Her company is now the top financial firm and even men listen to what she says. She lives the perfect life. You have given her everything except happiness. I ask that the gods be merciful to her even if she has lost her roots while reaping the harvest of success. What you see is not true, she is a filial daughter to me. She gives me a room in her big house and provides well for me. She is rude to me only because I affect her happiness. A young woman does not want to be hindered by her old mother. It is my fault.

The old lady prayed so hard that tears welled up in her eyes. Finally , with her head bowed in reverence she planted the half burnt joss stick into an urn of smouldering ashes.

She bowed once more.

The old woman had been praying for her daughter for thirty-two years. When her stomach was round like a melon, she came to the temple and prayed that it was a son.

Then the time was ripe and the baby slipped out of her womb, bawling and adorable with fat thighs and pink cheeks, but unmistakably a girl. Her husband had kicked and punched her for producing a useless baby who could not work or carry the family name.

Still, the old woman returned to the temple with her new-born girl tied to her waist in a sarong and prayed that her daughter would grow up and have everything she ever wanted. Her husband left her, and she prayed that her daughter would never have to depend on a man.

She prayed every day that her daughter would be a great woman, the woman that she, meek and uneducated, could never become. A woman with nengkan; the ability to do anything she set her mind to. A woman who commanded respect in the hearts of men. When she opened her mouth to speak, precious pearls would fall out and men would listen.

She will not be like me, the woman prayed as she watched her daughter grow up and drift away from her, speaking a language she scarcely understood. She watched her daughter transform from a quiet girl, to one who openly defied her, calling her laotu; old-fashioned. She wanted her mother to be "modern", a word so new there was no Chinese word for it.

Now her daughter was too clever for her and the old woman wondered why she had prayed like that. The gods had been faithful to her persistent prayer, but the wealth and success that poured forth so richly had buried the girl's roots and she now stood, faceless, with no identity, bound to the soil of her ancestors by only a string of origami banknotes.

Her daughter had forgotten her mother's values. Her wants were so ephemeral; that of a modern woman. Power, wealth, access to the best fashion boutiques, and yet her daughter had not found true happiness. The old woman knew that you could find happiness with much less. When her daughter left the earth, everything she had would count for nothing. People would look to her legacy and say that she was a great woman, but she would be forgotten once the wind blows over, like the ashes of burnt paper convertibles and mansions.

The old woman wished she could go back and erase all her big hopes and prayers for her daughter; now she had only one want: that her daughter be happy.

She looked out of the temple gate. She saw her daughter speaking on the phone, her brow furrowed with anger and worry. Being at the top is no good, the woman thought, there is only one way to go from there - down.

The old woman carefully unfolded the plastic bag and spread out a packet of beehoon in front of the altar.

Her daughter often mocked her for worshipping porcelain Gods. How could she pray to them so faithfully and expect pieces of ceramic to fly to her aid? But her daughter had her own gods too, idols of wealth, success and power that she was enslaved to and worshipped everyday of her life. Every day was a quest for the idols, and the idols she worshipped counted for nothing in eternity. All the wants her daughter had would slowly suck the life out of her and leave her, an empty soulless shell at the altar.

The old lady watched her joss stick. The dull heat had left a teetering gray stem that was on the danger of collapsing.

Modern women nowadays, the old lady sighed in resignation, as she bowed to the east one final time to end her ritual. Modern women nowadays want so much that they lose their souls and wonder why they cannot find it.

Her joss stick disintegrated into a soft gray powder.

She met her daughter outside the temple, the same look of worry and frustration was etched on her daughter's face. An empty expression, as if she was plowing through the soil of her wants looking for the one thing that would sow the seeds of happiness.

They climbed into the convertible in silence and her daughter drove along the highway, this time not as fast as she had done before.

"Ma," Bee Choo finally said. "I don't know how to put this. Mark and I have been talking about it and we plan to move out of the big house. The property market is good now, and we managed to find a buyer willing to pay seven million for it. We decided we'd prefer a cozier penthouse apartment instead. We found a perfect one in Orchard Road. Once we move into our apartment we plan to get rid of the maid, so we can have more space to ourselves..."

The old woman nodded knowingly.

Bee Choo swallowed hard. "We'd get someone to come in to do the house work and we can eat out... but once the maid is gone,there won't be anyone to look after you. You will be awfully lonely at home and besides the apartment is rather small. There won't be space. We thought about it and we decided the best thing for you is if you moved to a Home. There's one near Hougang, it's a Christian home, a very nice one."

The old woman did not raise an eyebrow.

"I've been there, the matron is willing to take you in. It's beautiful with gardens and lots of old people to keep you company! I hardly have time for you, you'd be happier there."

"You'd be happier there, really." Her daughter repeated as if to affirm herself.

This time the old woman had no plastic bag of food offering to cling tightly to; she bit her lip and fastened her seat belt, as if it would protect her from a daughter who did not want her anymore. She sunk deep into the leather seat, letting her shoulders sag, and her fingers trace the white seat.

"Ma?" her daughter asked, searching the rear view window for her mother. "Is everything okay?"

What had to be done, had to be done. "Yes," she said firmly, louder than she intended. "If it will make you happy," she added more quietly.

"It's for you, Ma! You'll be happier there. You can move there tomorrow, I already got the maid to pack your things." Elaine said triumphantly, mentally ticking yet another item off her agenda.

"I knew everything would be fine."

Elaine smiled widely; she felt liberated. Perhaps getting rid of her mother would make her happier. She had thought about it. It seemed the only hindrance in her pursuit of happiness. She was happy now. She had a everything a modern woman wanted; Money, Status, Career, Love, Power and now, Freedom, without her mother and her old-fashioned ways to weigh her down...

Yes, she was free. Her phone buzzed urgently, she picked it up and read the message, still beaming from ear to ear. "Stocks 10% increase!" Yes, things were definitely beginning to look up for her...

And while searching for the meaning of life in the luminance of her handphone screen, the old woman in the backseat became invisible, and she did not see the tears.

Amanda Wei-Zhen Chong
Raffles Girls School (Secondary)
Singapore
Write Around the World - The Commonwealth Essay Competition
2004 First Prize Winner - Class A

--

Interesting indeed. I got this from a friend via email. I know I'm pretty outdated and you guys have probably read this gazillion times but this is my blog blehhhh. And it's still interesting. So there!
Seriously. I only read it because it was the only email I've had from my friend so far. I started out with the chin-resting-on-palm-of-hand kind of attitude, thinking that it'd be one of those common and touching-menouching stories I'd be "given a choice" to forward at the end of the day. It kept me glued to the screen for a few minutes and kept me posting and editing it for the next hour. I'm not an English or Literature student, so I may not know much about it in terms of its errr literature beauty or whatever but it's a story that speaks to me because I know I have great potential to turn out like that (not the successful stuff all that la, I'm not that perasan -_-). I do treat my family members callously sometimes *guilty* and I mean to change starting erm... (it's 2.07am now)... 8 hours later today.

Good morning, people!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Do Titles Really Matter? Jeez.

My blog would be relatively full of photos if I could just activate my computer's Bluetooth.

Yeah.

That's all I wanted to say.

12.14am. People who go to school should sleep already. Shoo!


...................


I changed my mind. I want to say more.

After I blogged about not having close friends to share stuff with and all, both of them asked me for help and shared stuff with me. Not stuff as in material things, but as in problems & doubts.

Oh yeah, both of them actually called me up. So ironic. Maybe I'll just have to wait awhile before the mamak-ing and yamcha-ing comes along.

Rightttt.

And then I began to think (yeah, I actually think sometimes). I don't really like sharing my erm stuff (both material and problems - yeah, I'm selfish, as I've already confessed somewhere) with people. How on earth are they supposed to know that I'm dying because of some problem la?

So it's my fault things go one-way sometimes.

Anyway, updates for whoever wants to know. I might start working as a - get this - piano teacher for a little girl. Bua-ha-ha is what I usually hear when I hint that I might work. Well, go ahead and bua-ha-ha. Tsk.

Dad, Mum, sis and practically everyone else in church who's working have been telling me to enjoy the longest holiday that I'll ever have and to enjoy it by doing nothing. I always thought I was pretty good at doing nothing, but once I actually tried to get down to it, I realized it was really a most difficult task. I'm honestly good at sleeping and lazing around, but that's not nothing. Sleeping and lazing around are verbs - do-able things. How exactly do I do nothing?

The idea of doing nothing is a relative idea which is to be used with something else.

For instance, if Ken is being chased by a ferocious dog and I stand there looking silly-willy and watching him get chased, then of course I'd be doing nothing about the situation.

If someone on MSN asks me what I'm doing at the moment, and I said, "Nothing", of course it isn't to be taken literally, because I'm obviously doing something - I'm chatting with the person. And although in actual fact it shouldn't be so, the person's question becomes quite rhetorical.

Ahhh. The light dawns.

Doing nothing during the holidays simply means..... not working la.

Perrr.

Talk so long just to come back to one point.

Well (usually used when trying to justify loh-soh-ness).

No offense, but I've always felt that philosophers and psycologists do the same thing. Technically, all they do is summarize what each one of us knows in the deep recesses of our minds, and put them into words.

For instance, when Dad asked me what I should do in order to avoid another quarrel with Shaun (we quarreled and fought a lot in our younger days), I said, "Control my anger." He said, "Nope. Change your mindset, so that you won't get provoked by him."

If you think about it, it's actually what people do everyday.

For instance, A asks you if B is pretty. You try to avoid the question, but because you are persistently pressured to answer, you bluntly say, "No" and in so doing offend the person auditioned. A gives you a lecture and says that you shouldn't have said it quite like that. It's really not your fault, you argue, because your standards are so high that sometimes you think that the word "pretty" was invented for mere fun. You seriously can't be expected to lie through your teeth and say that the person cited is pretty when you really don't think that she is, or fake diplomacy.

When Lin was around (now in US), she always smiled when I presented my argument and said,

That's because you don't look at people through Jesus' eyes.

Really. Imagine what Jesus would see as He looks at that girl right there. A big bowl of ugly? Hollywood Top Ten Celebrity Lookalike? Nah. Probably...

She's okay.

...Anti-climax? Not if you knew how He'd say it. It would've been an honest statement, not a polite or courteous one to avoid hurting her, or a shrug-yeah-she's-ok statement. When He says okay, I believe He means it in the way
that somehow told the psalmist in Psalm 139:14 what he needed to know. That he was fearfully and wonderfully made. Yup. Don't know for sure what Jesus would say, but I know He'd look at B with those eyes that saw that ugly splinter of a cross, with the heart that determined to reach it anyway, and say with that voice:

B. You're okay.

See? Changing your mindset. We don't have to be psychologists to do it. We just need to put them into words. When Lin said, "Look at them through His eyes", what she meant was actually, "Change your mindset."

...

How'd I get this far?

Nevermind.

1.35am. Time to sleep. Tomorrow watching movie with Shaun and Ken. I think. I hope.

What other catchy phrases can you think of?

Nevermind.

Good morning, everyone~

And do feel guilty about staying up so late, school people.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Holiday Blues

Yep. This is how I feel. Sungguh lebih.


Picture: Silhouette of Scottish Sentry Guarding Stores in Salonika During WWI Conflict, February 1917. Taken from AllPosters.com

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Looking Back

...At other people's blogs. Yeah, I do that. Cower in fear, all you bloggers who blogged irresponsibly. Mua-ha-ha.

...Because I had nothing better to do (copy Pei Ling's style). Didn't feel like sleeping with my swollen eye (it doesn't look swollen but it is - feels like there's an eyelash in there continuously poking my eyeball), Facebook didn't have much going on, and I was searching for pictures of people profile-y enough to put up in my Gmail contacts list. Yup. I have all your photos in the laptop right now. And on Flickr and Photobucket. *evil grin*

Anyway.

While browsing Yen's blog (since she has the most pictures), I kept coming across entries where she talked about Chen Li's problems, how she felt helpless cuz she couldn't help, and pictures of Yen, Chen Li and Juliana. Of course, in putting up photos for the MGC group on Facebook, I had to come across photos of Mel, Sin Yee and my sis together too.

If I were an Anime character, a wind would blow right about now. Yep. Whoosh and all.

If I were a Manga character, that little thinking "voice" that hangs around in cloudy-ish circles would appear right about now. Yep. Imaginary voice echoing through the head and all.

Always wondered what it would be like if Seoks, Wan Ting and I were just a little bit closer.

Then I'd have two special people to call up and be called up by whenever any of us felt down, and two loyal companions to mamak with (yeah I'd have learned the mamak trend if I had such friends) whenever any of us needed companionship.

And of course I'd have two close friends to share my burdens and thoughts with.

As it is... well... it's just different.

I have two close friends. But no one will be giving us labels like SMS and JYC any time soon.

When Sin Yee talked about how different things had become after the SMS broke off to go to their respective universities, how they had to work hard to make things the same again, I didn't know whether to feel relieved because I wouldn't have that problem or to feel sad because I'd never have the chance to work hard with two people to maintain a friendship.

I could never make real friends easily. Friends came to me when I was the top girl in primary school. They all left when the more popular girls decided to leave me out of the group. Seoks was similiarly isolated, left out of the core of the group. Pengalihan negatif, as Business would term. The two of us left alone, we became close friends.

First became friends with Wan Ting during Tae Kwon Do classes. She was my sparring and training partner all through our 2 years as TTSC's. At the time, I was oblivious to all the gossips and malicious rumours that revolved around her, and so we became close friends without the influence of bias or opinion.

Maybe it's the way I make close friends that makes the WHS quite improbable.

Maybe I'm being too demanding and ungrateful, but I really wish I had close Christian friends I could meet up with every Saturday and Sunday. Friends who went to the same school with me all my life. Like SMS and JYC. Then I could talk about spiritual things with them, discuss youth ideas with them. There are so many things I can think of right now that I could do with them.

Is that what I should be doing?

Is the problem with my inability to make friends or did God put me in this situation for a purpose?

I have no idea what it can possibly be.

Does He think (I know He doesn't think, He just knows, but for blogging's sake...) that I'd be domineering over my friends?

Does He think I'd clique with just them in church if I had such friends?

Does He think I'd never get a breakthrough in socializing if I had close friends to be contented with?

What? What does He think?

Does He want me to see that there are other people in church who don't have abbreviations attached to them and their friends? That there are people who are feeling left out?

Does He think I wouldn't be able to understand them if He didn't let this happen to me?

Ever since debate, I'd acquired a hobby of making elaborate lists of alternatives and possibilities, and the ones listed up there aren't half of the possibilities in my mind. But God - with His higher thoughts and ways, He has an explanation that's not on my list? That's always been what intrigued me about God. He outlists me. Way outlists me.

Pei Ling quoted someone in her blog who said that there doesn't always need to be a reason for everything that happens.

For me, if there is no reason for doing something, there is no point in doing it. That's the sloth in me speaking. So there has to be a reason. It's just... not in the list.

I was asking God about it and mourning over my "bad fortune" when a few days later, God began to reveal in stages that there were other people out there feeling the same thing. Maybe with me and my lists, I can discover it faster. So maybe God is saying, "Use that list, young one. Discover, and act."

The youth would've realized that socializing is a sensitive button for me. I grew up having trouble communicating with even my family members. I felt friendless for the most part of my childhood. I lugged that experience with me into my teens. It was only after Geng Yi left that I began to realize that we'd all been parasites - feeding on Geng Yi's zeal in making people feel welcome. How could I, who knew what it was like to feel left out, friendless and alone, possibly allow the same thing to happen to someone else?

The list began again. Alternatives. Dad always said the point of counseling was to narrow down the choices to two. Stay in my comfort zone or get over my self-pity and do something about it.

I picked choice #2.

I didn't like the approach of 2008 because it meant people I went to a lot of trouble to befriend in a closer way are going away.

I still feel like sitting in a corner by myself sometimes. Sometimes I fall back into my old habit of being a reserved person.

God always sends something along to remind me of the choice I made when I came to the end of that list. And cheeky as He is, He uses my hardly-mild temperament to help me stick to the resolutions I make. For example, I can hardly stop the socializing thing now that I've cried out all sorts of things about it to the youth that Sunday. Tsk.

It's 12.30am. It's the kind of time when a blogger blogs about every single thing that touches her mind without giving consideration to whether it's relevant or blog material. It's the kind of time when a blogger blogs about things people in the not-too-distant future would look back at and say, "aaah" to.

12.32am.

It's the kind of time when time seems to pass so slowly. Why isn't it 1am yet?

12.33am. The kind of time when the soul yearns for a higher purpose for itself.

12.34am. The kind of time when the blogger wonders where that wandering mosquito is that she'd been trying to kill for the past few days.

Still 12.34am.

The kind of time when the blogger decides this is the end of the blog. And thinks that no one will make it this far. Except if they cheat and skip all the way to the end.

(p.s. can't help but question: reason is something sloths and philosophers have in common. Sloths are actually smart, thinking people??)