Friday, July 24, 2009

Sticking out like a sore thumb

I recently read an article on polyamorists in the Sunday Age Magazine (Melbourne’s Sunday newspaper). Polyamorwhat? you say. Polyamory. The word comes from the Greek and Latin words poly and amor, which translates into “many loves”. Polyamory is basically having emotionally intimate and loving relationships with more than one person at a time with the consent of everyone involved.

The article included an interview with the actress Tilda Swinton (the White Witch in The Lion the King and the Wardrobe). Swinton talked about the polyamourous relationships she shares with her long time partner, and father of her twin kids, John Byrne and Sandro Kopp, a 30-year-old German-born New Zealander she met while filming Narnia.

I quote from the article, “The arrangement,” Swindon says, “is just so sane. John and I live here (in Scotland) with our children, and Sandro is sometimes here with us, and we travel the world together. We are all a family.” She goes on to say, “it may seem odd, but it certainly is the best thing for the children… It is a situation I find very healthy. I can maintain my life with my children and their father, and spend time with the man I’ve become very fond of. There has been a lot of understanding by the men.”

Several other polyamorous couples were interviewed in the article. One of them says, “Having several intimate relationships has benefits. There is a degree of love, care and connectedness in polyamorous relationships that I have never found in monogamous relationships.”

Another polyamorist is quoted as saying, “being poly relieves you of the crushing burden of having to be everything to somebody. You can be yourself and your partners can be themselves, and nobody has to try to be everything to everybody or worry about being traded in for someone better.”

Reading this article was yet another reminder of how different the world’s views and lifestyle choices are from the ones that I’ve formed from being a Christian. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I cannot expect everyone to live the way I do because not everyone shares the framework of the Gospel that I have. Until my friends and family become Christians, there is no reason to expect or demand that they live by godly, Biblical principles.

I’ve had many reminders of how different my views are to the world this term at school. I’ve had the privilege of teaching Legal Studies to year 11 and year 12 students (16 to18-year-olds). One of the major topics we look at is Family Law. In it, we explore the different types of family arrangements under Australian Law (and let me tell you, compared to Singapore, there are many!). There’s de facto (which is essentially a ‘partnership’), blended, single-parent, indigenous, same-sex and of course, your traditional married husband and wife team. We also study laws relating to abortion, contraception, the legal age of consent and various other rights of a child. I’ve had many an interesting conversation with my students.

Jenny, a year 12 student in my Legal Studies class, interrupted class one day and randomly asked me, “Miss, is the Pill the best form of protection?”

I replied, “Well, the Pill would help in preventing unwanted pregnancies, but you’d probably want to use a condom too, cause that would protect you against STDs.”

Another student said, “Yeah, using the Pill together with a condom would be the best.”

Then I said, “Well, if you really want 100% certainty then I’d recommend abstinence.”

The entire class burst out laughing.

“MISS!!!” Jenny exclaimed, her eyes wide open in disbelief, “that’s SO old fashioned. No one practices that anymore!!”

To which I asked, “do they teach abstinence as a method of contraception in your P.E/Health Science classes?”

“No. Not at all Miss. They pretty much give us a condom and a banana and say ‘here, practice putting it on.”

Now I know the realities of this world and I know the struggles of sexual purity. I don’t expect these days that people will ‘wait’ till they get married. But for seventeen year olds to be sexually active?!! I work day in day out with teenagers and I know what they’re like. At seventeen, even eighteen, they’re not mature enough to deal with the emotional, physical and mental consequences of a sexual relationship. They’ll think they are, and they’ll argue that they are, but in reality, I’m not sure they’re ready.

It’s been almost 5 years since I made a conscious decision to follow Christ. Yes, I did grow up in a Christian home with a knowledge of God and Jesus and the Gospel. But it was only in my early 20s when I made the commitment to live as a Christian. Since then, so much has changed. My outlook on life is different, the way I choose to spend my time and money is different, the way I react to blessings (and sufferings) is different, the way I choose to indulge (or rather, not indulge) in alternative relationships or physically gratifying relationships is different. I’m a Christian now, and the Gospel has given me the framework to live my life.

I pray for the Tilda Swintons and Jennys around me. I don’t judge them and I don’t want to change them for the sake of change itself. If it weren’t for Christ, I’d live my life in exactly the same way as my dear friends. I want them to know the God I’ve come to know and love and the Gospel he has made so available to us. I want them to experience the peace and joy that comes from knowing Him.

Yes, the Christian life can be an uphill climb sometimes. But from personal experience it’s the only, if not the best, way to live.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Oh what a holiday!

The past two weeks have been one of the most enjoyable holidays I’ve had. It was well deserved after Term 1 at school and it was extra special because my folks and Uncle William and Aunty Esther came to Sydney to visit me. ☺ Tomorrow I go back to work. But before I go back, I want to record every memory of the holiday so that I can relive the joy when the going gets tough. (And boy, do I know that it will!)

In some sort of chronology:

1. Went to Seafood by the Bay at Blackwattle Bay for graduation dinner. Ames joined us and we had a wonderful time. Fresh oysters, white wine, fish, chocolate pudding… DELICIOUS!!

2. Drove to the Hunter Valley, stayed on a farm. Had farm fresh eggs (like literally, fresh from the chicken) for brekkie every day. DELICIOUS!!

3. Rode in a hot air balloon on Easter Sunday. Got up at 4 in the morning, drove to the paddock, watched as they set up the balloon, was in the balloon by 6 and took off as the sun was rising. It was absolutely gorgeous! Marveled at God’s creation.

4. Jason Mraz concert. Jason. Mraz. Live. In. Concert. Need I say any more?? He was amazing!!! Absolutely blew me away. I can’t ever listen to his CDs again because it just wouldn’t measure up to him live. Jamie Cullum, Jason Mraz and Coldplay. The best concerts I’ve been to of all time.

5. Did some painting. The walls in the house got a little bare when Mandy moved out (she took her pictures with her) so I decided to tap into my creative side and pretty the walls up with my paintings.

This is ‘A Platypus: Indigenous Australian Art as interpreted by a Singaporean’

This is ‘I was lazy, so I painted daisies’

6. Went to Guys and Dolls the musical. Brilliant. Very entertaining, good acting, good stage production.

7. Went to the NRL game on ANZAC day. Thought it might be good ‘Australian’ experience. Thoroughly enjoyed it. The Roosters got flogged but still, the atmosphere was exhilarating.

8. In between all the above, caught up with friends here and there, which was great. Didn’t have much time to catch up with people during school term.

Tomorrow I’m going back to work for Term 2. It’s another 11 week term, so I’m bracing myself for the long haul. My goals for improvement this term:

1. Establish a solid homework routine for my Year 11 and 12 Legal Studies class.
2. Give out more detentions. Not because I’m sadistic, but to use it as an effective tool for managing my classes.
3. Establish a proper seating plan for that Year 10 class. Something tells me a seating plan wouldn’t work because the students will still yell over each other. But, I’ll try anyway.

Term 2, here I come!!

My holiday plans for after Term 2?

My flight to Melbourne is already booked. :P

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What not to say to a teacher...

“What do you do for work?”

“I’m a teacher.”

“Oh cool. Work shouldn’t be too hard then, you get all those holidays!”

I swear I’ll punch the next person who says that to me.

The greatest misconception anyone could have about teaching is the alleged luxury of our ‘numerous’ holidays. For anyone wondering about the life of a teacher, I hope this post is insightful.

Alarm goes off. Begrudgingly roll out of bed, stumble into the shower, get dressed.

Prepare breakfast in the kitchen. Rolled oats cooked over the stovetop.
While the stove is going, scamper around the kitchen packing lunch, usually leftovers from the night before.

Carry breakfast and packed lunch up to my room. While having breakfast, potter around the room, making my bed, tidying up, putting on make up, getting my things together for work.

Leave for work.

Arrive at work.

Get ready for the day. Make copies of worksheets for students. Ideally, there should be a five to one ratio of teachers to photocopiers. In reality, it’s 14 to one. As Murphy’s Law would have it, just as I’m about to make copies, someone else will beat me to it. I end up waiting.

While waiting, I start admin work. Key in marks of tests, type up incident reports, keep accurate records of warning letters sent off to students, make sure my rolls are in order, sign off on topics that I’ve covered in class etc…

While doing admin, my Head of Department comes up to me.
“Sarah, remember that HSC folder I gave you? Is all the paper work in order? Do you have a minute? Lets go through it now.”

Finally get to the copier. Start making copies. Half way through, paper runs out. Sprint to the front office, lug up a box of copy paper. Refill copier. Start getting anxious because class is about to start and my worksheets still aren’t in order.

Check watch, 25 minutes till the bell goes.


Enough time to mark those Geography tests.

Bell rings.

Run to the English/Science staffroom which is at the other end of the school. Get my roll. Run to my roll call room.

By this time, the school is bustling with activity. There is a mass of students and teachers I have to weave through to get to where I need to go. Couples are hugging/kissing along the corridor. Students are sitting on the floor stretching their legs across the corridor. I carefully watch where I step, lest I trip on their outstretched legs. Boys are goofing around along the corridor, punching, kicking, flicking rubberbands at each other. Girls are huddling in their little cliques, catching up on gossip, complimenting each other on their makeup, newly dyed/straightened hair

“All of you, get to your roll call class now!”

“Yeah, Miss.”
Eyes rolled at me.

Period One
Year 8 Geography
30 students - 23 boys, 7 girls

Students start streaming into class.

Student 1, “Miss, how was your weekend? Whaddya get up to?”

I ignore him.

Student 2, “G’day Miss! I forgot to bring my book today.”

Student 3 walks in drinking a bottle of juice.
“Emily, you know the school rules, you’re not allowed to drink that in class. Put it away.”

“Jordan, if you bounce that basketball one more time, I’m going to take it away.”

“James, I don’t want to see your iPod. Put it away now.”

10 minutes later…

I FINALLY manage to get them to settle down.

“All of you take a seat! Get your books out, get a pen out.”

While I’m giving instructions, I’m setting up the overhead projector with some notes for them to copy.

“I want all of you to get your pens out and start writing about East Timor. We’re comparing their education system with Australia.”

Student 4, “Miss I don’t have a pen.”
I take a pen from my pencil case, give it to him.

“Like I said, I want all of you to get your pens out and start writing about East Timor. We’re comparing their education system with Australia.”

Student 5 calls out, “Miss, why do we have to learn about East Timor? Why do I have to write about them? But I don’t want to learn about them!”

Student 6, “Miss, I don’t have a pen.”
I take a pen from my pencil case, give it to him.

Meanwhile, two boys at the back Jake and Sam start mucking around. They flick each other, shove and try to push each other off their chairs.

“Jake and Sam. I’m watching you. Stop what you’re doing. Take your books out. Take your pens out. Start writing.”

Student Sam, “Miss, I don’t have a pen. So I can’t write.”
I roll my eyes. Take a pen from my pencil case, give it to him.

Student 7, “Miss, what’s the date today?”

Student 8, “Miss, I don’t have a pen.”
I take a pen from my pencil case, give it to him.

It’s 9:30 and I still haven’t managed to teach anything. I sigh quietly to myself.

Eventually, the students slowly settle down, they copy what’s on the board, I explain a little about ‘Global Inequalities’. I talk about the difference in quality of life in a country like Australia and East Timor.

They work well for 5 minutes. Then the chatter starts again.

Cheeky student 9 asks, with a twinkle in his eye, “Miss, can I ask you a personal question?”

“No, you can’t.”

“I’m going to ask you any way. Miss, are you a virgin?”

The whole class bursts into laughter.

I roll my eyes, maintain a straight face and ignore him.

“Class, we are learning about Global Inequalities and doing a case study on East Timor. We are going to have a test in two weeks. I want to you study your notes.”

The lesson bumbles on.

10 minutes before the bell goes, at 9:50, I give out my reward stickers.

“Alright class, most of you are working well, I’m going to give out a sticker to the best student today.”

(I try to use a lot of positive encouragement and reinforcement in my class. I have a sticker chart at the front of the class. Student names are written on a big piece of cardboard. Stickers are stuck next to their name.)

Student 9, ”Miss, I think I deserve a sticker. I worked so well today!”
Student 10, “Oh Miss, I only have one sticker, I think I need one more.”
Student 11, “Miss, it’s not fair, I only have one sticker and Olivia has two. But I work so much better than her.”

This goes on for about 5 minutes.

“Okay class, I’ve decided. The student who deserves a sticker for his work today is……”
I drag the suspense to play it up. (Teaching involves a lot of clowning around.)

Student 12, “Me, Miss! Pick me!”
Student 13, “No way, look at how much better my work is than yours! You suck. Miss, pick me! Pick me!”

“Now the sticker goes to…. SPENCER!”

All the boys, “OHHHH, SPENCER. Spencer got a sticker, Spencer got a sticker.”
The banter carries on till the bell goes.

Bell goes. Students stream out of class.

I think to myself, first period over. Five more to go.

Period two.

The day rolls along much like the first period. Some classes are better than others. In some classes, all the work gets done. In some, nothing much gets done. I do my best. I pat myself on the back for a good lesson, I don’t beat myself up over ‘bad’ lesson. That’s teaching. There are good days. There are bad days.

The thing I love about teaching is that it involves many skills. Your primary aim is to learn the subject matter, you need to come up with ideas on how to teach it - worksheets, questions, group work, games, powerpoint presentations. Equally important is to develop good people skills, relate well to students of all ages, work well with your colleagues, deal with the frustrations of bureaucracy. Teaching is essentially relational in nature. It’s all about relating well to people, be they your students or your colleagues.

Teaching is dynamic, it is diverse, it is multi-skilled. There is nothing quite like it.

I’m so glad I love what I do. It makes life a lot easier. But so help me God, if one more person says to me “Oh, you must enjoy all those holidays!” I swear, with what little strength my slight figure might have, I will kick that person squarely in their shins.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

God is God and I am not.

This post has been a long time in the making. It is a story about a series of coincidences that many might consider mere chance. But from the eyes of a humbled, saved sinner, it is a reminder of God’s sovereignty and providence.

This is my story.

When I completed my studies in October 2008, I was anxiously looking for a permanent teaching job to start in February 2009. I unfortunately missed a few potential jobs as I went back to Singapore in November for a three-week holiday. By the time I returned in early December, schools were closing for Christmas and no one was hiring. Panic set in when I realized I was going to be jobless for the whole of December and January. ‘Will I be able to pay rent? Will I go hungry? Will I ever find a job?’

For anyone who has been jobless before, you will know the emotional toll it takes on you. The insecurity you feel and the despair you experience as your self-esteem plummets. I sent out at least 20 applications to schools. I received at least 10 rejections and a handful of ‘we will call you for an interview in the new year’. It is an agonizing experience.

December passed rather slowly. Christmas came and went and the New Year arrived.

On the 2nd of January, a childcare agency called me out of the blue asking me if I wanted to do a one-week shift at a nearby childcare centre. I had previously worked for them but had not requested for any work recently. The call was completely unexpected and most definitely orchestrated by God.

I worked the one-week shift and after observing me for the first day, the childcare was so pleased with my work that they offered me casual work for the rest of January.

God answered prayers. He provided me with work for the whole of January.

In the last week of January, I received an email from Suzanne, a friend in Singapore. She used to be a student at UNSW in Sydney and attended a church close to university. While she was here, she developed a close friendship with her bible study leader and his wife. His wife Lucille works as a teacher at Eton Heights High School. She asked me to get in touch with Lucille to get advice on applying for high schools in Sydney and to talk about teaching in general. I called Lucille and it turned out that Eton Heights was looking for a Legal Studies teacher. I applied for the job, was invited for an interview, and three hours after the interview, they called saying I got the job.

God answered prayers. He provided me with work the moment my childcare job ended.

In February 2009 my current flatmate Mandy bought a one-bedroom apartment. That meant she was moving out of our house. I was in a dilemma. I couldn’t decide if I should move closer to Eton Heights or attempt to find someone to replace her. Moving closer to Eton Heights meant higher rent, but a shorter commute. It also meant arduously packing and moving and looking for somewhere suitable to stay. Something I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do as I had just started a new job and was getting used to it.

Then randomly, one Sunday evening at church, a girl introduces Amy to me. Amy is from the UK and is doing a six (possibly 12) month stint in Sydney. Amy was looking for a place to stay. I asked her what her budget was for rent. The amount she quoted me was exactly half the rent of my current place.


That Sunday night, we decided that Amy would move into Mandy’s room.

God provides. He placed the right person at the right time, with the right amount of money for rent to move in.

That evening however, I had a mild panic attack. I realized that I had no furniture of my own, and when Mandy moves, she’ll take her furniture with her. That meant that Amy and I would be left without a washing machine, refrigerator, couches, television, dining table and microwave.

I prayed. I prayed that somehow, God would provide cheap second hand furniture that we could use.

Five minutes after I prayed, Mandy came home. She knocked on my door and said, “How cool is that? We managed to find Amy to move in! Oh, and another thing, I thought I might leave my washing machine here because my new place already has one. I won’t be needing the dining table either because my new place is too small for it. You guys can have the television too because I’m gonna buy a new plasma tv.”

Are you kidding me?

God answers prayers.

In November 2008, Shing, a good friend of mine asked me to ‘car sit’ for her for three months. She was going to be away for three months and wanted someone to drive her car. She trusted me with it. :)

Having Shing’s car was perfect as I began my new job at Eton Heights. The school is in a rather inaccessible part of town and hard to get to without a car. I decided that I was going to need a car of my own. Buying a car in Sydney was always something I intended to do since I arrived, but I never had any real need for it, until now.

Last weekend I bought a Mazda2 and the dealer told me that delivery would take three weeks. He couldn’t guarantee my car’s arrival before mid-March. They were out of stock and were waiting for a shipment to arrive from Japan.

I was slightly disappointed as I was hoping that I would have my car before I returned Shing’s. I didn’t want the hassle of commuting to Eton Heights. Doing so would mean waking up at 6am, walking 20 minutes to the train station, catching the train, and then a bus to the school.

I prayed. I prayed that somehow, God-willing, I would have a car to use after I returned Shing’s and before mine arrived.

On Friday, the Mazda dealer called with ‘extremely good news’. “Sarah!!! Your car arrived early in Sydney. We have it in storage, I’ll call you next week to arrange a pick up.”


God answered prayers yet again.

The day I intend to pick up my car next week, is the same day I pick Shing up from the airport.

The timing couldn’t be any better.

God has been so good to me. I can’t begin to express my thankfulness to Him. He has answered my every prayer, not with a ‘yes’ but with a ‘this, my child, is how I want your prayer answered.’

He has met my every need and blessed me with so much I don’t deserve. He is God, and I am not and with his help I will serve him all my days.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Marley and Me

Just the other day I caught ‘Marley and Me’ at the movies and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was refreshing, fun and heartwarming. Perfect for a Friday night. While the focus of the movie is the undisciplined dog (Marley) who wrecks havoc in his owners’ lives, there were many other lessons to glean from it.

It was, to me, a very ‘un-Hollywood’ romantic movie - there was no glamourization of sex, no swearing, no romantic unrealistic ideas of love and no cheating husband. The movie captured the realities of family life, balancing work and leisure and raising kids to the extent that half way through the movie, I thought to myself ‘more people should watch and understand this – maybe less marriages will fall apart’.

At one point, Jenny (the wife, played by Jennifer Aniston) breaks down, completely overwhelmed with exhaustion and the enormity of raising two kids, the uncontrollable dog and managing the household. She yells at her husband John (Owen Wilson) and demands that he gets rid of Marley. He obliges by taking Marley to his mate’s house.

Once she had calmed down, however, and thought things through, they talk about it and she says, “I made a choice. I made a choice and I’m going to stick with it. Getting rid of Marley isn’t the solution. Getting rid of you (John) isn’t the solution. We made a choice, and we’re going to do it together”.

At that point, I thought to myself – that’s exactly what commitment is! They made a choice. And they’re making a choice to stick with it.

John’s hedonistic friend, Sebastian, plays the cynic who thinks John is better off leaving his wife.

“Is there no fight big enough that you will leave? No depression intense enough? No anger or emotion antagonistic enough that you will say bye to it all?” he asks John.

To which John replies, “No, no, no! So we had a fight. So what? I still love her. I love her and we’ll work it out.”

He’s committed, faithful and willing to work it out.

If only more people lived their lives like that. Divorce rates might actually fall.

When Jenny has her second child she chooses to be a stay home mom. She couldn’t do both her job and be a mom well and says she’d rather choose her family over work. Now I’m not saying that being a stay home mom is the only way to raise children. What I find more important is her willingness and desire to make that selfless sacrifice to put her family first; at the expense of a job she loved so much. She understood that having kids meant putting their needs above her own.

I wish more parents understood that. Maybe there’d be less troubled kids at schools.

Marley and Me is the second good movie I’ve seen this year. In Good Company was the other. In that movie, Dennis Quaid’s character says on commitment (excuse the crassness) “you find a good fox to share your life in the foxhole. And when you’re outside the foxhole, you keep your dick in your pants.”

A tad crude, but oh so true!

I wish they’d make more movies like Marley and Me. It was wholesome, entertaining and reflected good values. Pop culture would do well with more of that.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A work in progress

I’ve been contemplating 2009 and reflecting on 2008.

Where do I begin?

2008 has evoked a broad spectrum of emotions from me. I’ve spent nights crying myself to sleep for whatever reason. But I’ve also spent many a night falling asleep with a content smile on my face. 2008 has been good, but also difficult. It’s been a year of self-discovery and maturity. It’s been completely mine.

I finished my postgraduate education this year. I received a letter from uni with the heading “Re: Award of Master of Teaching”! (Yes!! FINALLY) How time has flown! I still remember, like yesterday, deciding where and which uni I should go to. Now, in a blink, I’m done! All done. Finally qualified as a teacher. It’s taken awhile to get to this point, had to make many difficult decisions, had to take many bold moves, but I’m here now. Nothings changed. I want to teach. I love teaching.

2008 has been a time of learning to trust God, especially on the job front. December is a bad time of the year to start looking for a job - schools are closed. I haven’t had any luck thus far and I’m starting to get anxious about whether I’ll be able to find work as a teacher.

Luke 12 says “And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you”.

I’m trying.

2008 is the first year in six years that I haven’t shared with a significant other. [It’s not that I’ve dated many guys. The relationships have just been long. WH (2002-2004) & E (2004-2007)]. I never thought I’d say this, but it’s been liberating!!

I’ve never had to grapple with contentment in singleness because I was already attached when I decisively committed my life to Christ. Until this year, at no point in my adult Christian life was I single.

I’ve learnt to trust God and to commit this aspect of my life to Him. I’ve realized that two people, who appear to be ‘suitable’ for each other, who work hard at committing to the relationship doesn’t equate to a lasting relationship. God is sovereign, and his plans are different to ours.

I’ve seen numerous Christian couples get married over the years, many of whom are dear friends of mine. Their lives and relationships have been such glorious testimonies of Christ. You simply cannot deny that God had ordained, right from the start, their destiny together. If God knew what he was doing with them, I completely trust that he knows what he’s doing with me.

This year of singleness has been liberating and assuring. I’ve never felt so free, so ‘able’ to do as I please, without consequence to another person. It has been my year to be ‘selfish’. I’ve had ‘me time’. I don’t know if I’ll ever marry (that’s for God to decide), but I know that until I’ve had my ‘me time’, I could never fully commit to anyone. Singleness has shown me that I am able and happy to have a life of my own. A boyfriend doesn’t complete me.

Ironically, my most intense moments of loneliness was not when I was single but when I was attached. There is nothing more alienating than being emotionally detached from the person you love.

2009 promises many new things - new job, new stage in life, new experiences. I’m glad 2008 is drawing to a close. I’ve learnt many lessons and have grown tremendously (in maturity, not height. Obviously! :P ). I don’t expect 2009 to be a bed of roses. It is yet another year, in the difficult, arduous journey called life. But I trust that my Creator is in control. Next year, like any other year will be one where He’ll mold me and prod me along, until the glorious day that I see Him face-to-face. 2009 brings me one year closer to that day.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Just because...

On my recent trip back to Singapore I was rummaging through some old journals and pictures and I stumbled on this poem. I remember finding this poem online some years back, but for the life of me, can't remember who I had in mind when I read it. (Yeah, I know. Pathetic. Heh)

Anyways, for posterity, I'm going to post it. I remember this peom evoking strong emotions of cynical love for me. Heh. I'm not sure if things have changed, but I dare say I'm slightly more mature now. :)

Here goes...

Have you ever loved another,
Yet the lover had no care.
Has a tear escaped your eye,
Yet no more would even dare.

Does your heart melt with a glance
As you offer up a prayer
When you look into their heart
Does your heart yearn to be there?

Have you wanted him so badly
That your heart would start to bleed
Have you tried to say I love you,
Yet a voice would not proceed?

Don't lend your heart to love dear friend,
Let your tears fall like the rain
A healing heart will break again
And sadness will remain.

You'll ponder thoughts of real love
and wonder if they're true
Pity takes no place in life
Upon a heart so blue

Grand is love yet merciless
The price to pay is high
A choice to take of love or death
My heart would rather die

Never lend your heart to love,
You'll find my words are true
Don't doubt me friend for I should know
I fell in love with you.

Author unknown

Monday, November 24, 2008

A heart split in two

I’m sitting on my bed, in Singapore, writing this post, feeling emotionally vulnerable and teary. Writing gives me comfort. Writing gives me release. I am sad because I am leaving Singapore to go back to Sydney in two days time. Leaving is always so hard to do.

Many times I question whether I’ve made the right decision to make Sydney my home, for now. So many people have asked me if I ever plan to move back to Singapore. Truth is, I don’t know. I’m not closed to that option and I readily would move back here if life so leads me back. But for now, I’ve chosen Sydney as my home. How long, I don’t know. Why Sydney over Singapore? I don’t know either. There’s an indescribable feeling, deep within me, a little voice in my heart, a little ‘prompting’, if you like, that’s edging me towards Sydney. I’m not ready to leave. I feel like I’ve started something there, a season of my life, maybe, and it needs to be finished, before I can leave.

Despite that, it still makes leaving Singapore hard. I’ve got so much here. My family, my friends, the past that I’ve had, the memories. Every time I walk through the departure gates at Changi, I leave a small portion of my heart here. If I do this often enough, what will be left of my heart?

As much as my parents are supportive of me being in Sydney, I know it’s hard for them to let go. Having both children in two different ends of the world is heart wrenching. My family doesn’t have the luxury of having a monthly family gathering. The last time all of us were in the same country, enjoying family time together, was two years ago. It’s not easy for mom and dad, but they unselfishly let us go any way, knowing that they can’t hang on forever, knowing that children do one day grow to become adults. I am grateful for that.

My tears are flowing freely as I write. My heart is slowly being sliced in two. This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in awhile. I pray that God will be honoured in my decision, that His plans will prevail.

Come Wednesday, when I board the flight back to Sydney, I will fill my mind with happy thoughts of my future in Australia. I will think about the many exciting things that lie ahead – new job, new home, changes at church… But know that a part of me, a very special part of me, will always cling on to everything that I have in Singapore. I am who I am today, because of the life I’ve had here and the people that I know. You may take girl out of Singapore, but you’ll never take the Singapore out of her.

I thought it apt to end with a song, written by an amazing Singaporean singer/song-writer, who understands my struggle because she lives in Los Angeles, pursuing her dreams. This song has repeatedly brought tears to my eyes. I know exactly how she feels, and she’s penned it far more eloquently than I can.

Fly away – Corrinne May

“When will you be home?” she asks
as we watch the planes take off
We both know we have no clear answer to where my dreams may lead
She’s watched me as I crawled and stumbled
As a child, she was my world
And now to let me go, I know she bleeds
And yet she says to me

You can fly so high
Keep your gaze upon the sky
I’ll be praying every step along the way
Even though it breaks my heart to know we’ll be so far apart
I love you too much to make you stay
Baby fly away

Autumn leaves fell into spring time and
Silver-painted hair
Daddy called one evening saying
“We need you. Please come back.”
When I saw her lying in her bed
Fragile as a child
Pale just like an angel taking flight
I held her as I cried

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Get the tenth one free for every nine...

Consumerism seems to have increased exponentially in recent times. Or maybe it’s just that I never bought into it and am now slowly realizing its insidious grasp. I recently acquired my sixth loyalty card. Loyalty what, you say? Yeah, loyalty card. You know, one of those ‘get a stamp for every coffee you buy and get the tenth one free’ cards. You heard me right. I now am a proud owner of six loyalty cards, all acquired in a span of six months. That’s one card a month!! If I keep this up I’ll have nine by the end of this year.

There’s my Easy Way Bubble Tea card. You seriously can’t expect me, a true blue Singaporean, to not have a bubble tea card can you? Those were so in mode back when platform shoes were fashion must-haves.

Then there’s my FlyBuys card. That’s a rewards card. I get points for every dollar I spend at Kmart, Coles, Target and a whole bunch of other shops. A girl needs food. I’m a loyal customer at Coles. They’re the Fresh Food People!!! (Oh wait, or is that Woolworth’s slogan??)

Then I’ve got my ‘discount’ cards. A Rebel Sport and Hybrid Sport one. I get 10% off on selected items or for every $50 I spend. That’s a lot of money to spend just to get 10% off don’t you think? I’m often faced with the dilemma, should I buy just one more top, or that pair of socks that I don’t really need, or new tennis racket grips because they’re a funky colour, just so I can bring my total amount to $50 so that I can get 10% off. Oh, those decisions are so hard to make!

Don’t forget my L’Occitane card. For every $50 I spend I get one stamp. When I accumulate ten stamps (that’s a total of $500 for the mathematically challenged), I’m eligible for VIP membership. That’s when I get 10% off all L’Occitane products. Work with me here - if I have to spend 500 bucks to get 10% off lets say a moisturizer that costs $60, I’ll end up saving $6 on the moisturizer. But given that I’ve already spent $500 to get the $6 savings in the first place, I’d have to buy 84 bottles of moisturizer before I’ve ‘earned’ back the $500. 84 bottles of moisturizer!@$?? I’d be dead before I even see the benefits of that 10%!

I wonder if this loyalty program works for friendship. I’ll hang out with you and listen to your sob stories over a cuppa. But on the tenth occasion, you’ll have to buy me coffee as a ‘reward’ for my listening.

Or dishes.

I’ll do the dishes at home for ten days, after which my flatmate has to buy me something nice. ☺

Or exams.

If I pass nine exams with a High Distinction, I’ll get my tenth HD without having to take the actual exam.

Or better yet - dating.

I’ll go out with you nine times (as a favour of course) but on the tenth occasion you have to set me up with your cute friend that I’m actually interested in but couldn’t go out with until I went out with you nine times. Hmm…

I’m no genius (though sometimes I like to think I am) but something tells me this loyalty program isn’t going to work for friendship, exams or dishes. I’ll have to think of another way to sustain my friendships, score my HDs and trick my flatmate into doing my share of the dishes. Heehee…

Before I get to that however I’m going shopping (where I will no doubt acquire another loyalty card) to buy myself a new wallet.

I need somewhere to store my loyalty cards!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Walk to Beautiful

The other day I had the chance to watch an African documentary titled “A Walk to Beautiful” as part of the African Film Festival in Sydney. The documentary highlighted the difficulties millions of African girls face in childbirth due to the lack of medical services and poor practices. Many of these girls end up giving birth to still born babies after experiencing up to ten days of labour. The stress of their labour often damages their bladders subjecting them to a lifetime of incontinence and stigma. The documentary highlighted the work done at the Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia. The girls who are lucky enough to make it to the hospital stand a 93% chance of being cured after surgery. To this day, there are still one to two million women suffering from obstetric fistula.

Needless to say, I was in tears by the end of the documentary.

The constant question plaguing my mind was ‘Why? Why do these poor women have to suffer? Why do people in the west have such easy access to medical services and not Africa? Why would anyone want to perform female genital mutilation on their daughter? Why does God allow such inhuman practices in His created world? Why, Lord?’

One of the hardest things I find to reconcile is the inequality that exists in the world. I’m constantly at turmoil with the bountiful material blessings I have in my life and the awareness that, in so many parts of the world, there are people who have not only nothing but have immense suffering too. There always is a deep aching and sorrow in my heart when I watch documentaries like A Walk to Beautiful. How does one reconcile the inequalities in the world?

I often try turn to prayer, trusting that God knows what he’s doing and that he’s in control. But almost always, I don’t know how to pray. There is so much suffering in the world, so much injustice, so much brokenness, so much turmoil, if one were to pray, where and how would one even start?

I bought a jacket that cost $120 the other day. It’s a very pretty jacket. I really wanted it. I knew my conscience would come back and haunt me for buying it. A part of me knows that in and of itself the act of buying a jacket that costs $120 isn’t wrong. (The price of a jacket is relative. Compared to many other jackets, $120 is nothing. But that is a debate best left for another day). If you’ve got the money, and if you’re a good steward of it, buy the jacket. It is not wrong.

The other side of me however, struggles with the thought of the poor African person living in the other end of the world with no money. How much would my $120 have done for him?

I need to be a good steward of my material blessings. We all do. But where and how do we draw the line? Is there a “cap” to the amount a person should spend on a jacket? When is too much, too much? How many jackets should I own in the first place? Do I need so many bags? How many shoes is the “right” number? Is buying expensive jewelry wrong? What about buying many “cheap” jewelry?

I don’t know.

Every time I encounter someone else’s story of suffering I always promise myself that I will never complain again. I make a promise to use my money wisely. To only buy things that I need. To not waste. To be generous. To live simply. Unfortunately, all these promises have time and time again been broken.

There is no easy answer. When I see God in Heaven I will ask Him for answers. In all the sufferings of the world, there is only one certain hope that anyone can have – the hope of eternal life in a perfect world when Jesus comes again. The hope that is achieved through Jesus’ death on the cross.

I may not be able to make sense of the fallen world around me. But I can make sense of what is told to me in the Bible. And it is only through this hope that I can live, because without it, life really wouldn’t be worth living.

I will end this post with a passage from the Bible. This passage has helped me and many others get through this difficult journey called life.

Romans 8: 18-30

18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.