Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thoughts and uncertainty

I try not to think too much when I start blogging. I know from experience that once you start typing, the words and ideas will just follow. It's a little like jogging. At some point when the legs start to tire and scream for oxygen, just when you think you can't go any longer, you keep pushing on with a certain point to reach in mind willing one foot in front of the other...and very soon, you're there!


In Hong Kong, there are many subways, trains, buses, trams and walkers. Generally, everywhere you go there are lots of people. This is a big change for me from sleepy XX but I'm surprised at how fast I get used to it. It does facilitate one of my favourite hobbies though...people-watching. Granted, Chinese people in general are not an attractive race. It's true! Chinese are the most pragmatic people in the world. They breed hardiness, hardworking-ness, frugality and good business sense. Beauty never gets you anywhere (nowadays with the popularity of models and actresses, though, things may be a bit different). As my grandmother once said, "What do you want a good-looking husband for? To display on the shelf?"


All the same, people on the trains are not very interesting. They are on standby mode most of the time. Sleeping, cuddling (if they're a couple), tapping away at their PDAs, reading comics, staring into space. Like they'd rather be somewhere else. I wonder if some of these people have ever sat in their own car before. Most likely not if they were born and lived all their lives here. It's too expensive for the average Ah Fook to own a car. Reminds me that I'm lucky to have grown up in a place where single- or double-storey houses are the norm, where food is cheap and less people smoke, where there's food from a few different cultures available at 15 minutes drive from my house.

Makes me miss home a little.


I should sleep now. It's getting late and a little cold. Will Hong Kong seem colder to me when my family has gone home, my relatives are on the opposite side of the island, when I'm sleeping in my dorm bed with only my beanie dog for comfort? I don't know. But it's better to take it one day at a time, no?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Waiting On Dishes

Going abroad to study feels a little like eating a five-course meal at a posh restaurant when you’re simply famished and wish everything would appear all at once. At this point in time I’ve left behind everyone and everything I know in my hometown. Granted, I’ll be back for a short break in a few months, but it’s a big transition all the same. Thus people have been kind enough to make time and effort to wish me off properly and inadvertly making me miss them all the more just as I have to leave them behind and step into a new phase of life in a new country.

To get back to the food metaphor, I’ve been here in XX for about 3 quarters of a year since I left school; I have friends who will be entering university next February as they had taken a one-year pre-university course. I’ll only be halfway through my first year of college. And college takes two years. I am definitely not speeding up the freeway to adulthold, independence, a single apartment and bills. Sometimes during these few months I felt a nagging irritation that I was wasting away my time; that the only appropriate use of my life at this juncture was full-time study or work. It seemed wrong to have so much free time and spend half of each day sleeping. I could hardly wait for this moment when I would finally jetset into the city of bright lights and marvellous shopping to have the best years of my youth. I was drinking from the salty, tangy bowl of current boredom and listlessness flavoured with a dogged determination to spend every single day well; growing in understanding and passion for God and being continually challenged to rise further; seasoned with underlying excitement and wonder at the opportunity that I had been blessed with and hoping that the experience coming very soon would be everything I had wished for and more.

Now that broth has been sipped dry, I reap the rewards (often undeservedly) of the friendships I have gained in XX both old and new. They remind me that one’s worth is cannot be measured in terms of a degree or loads of money but in kindness, service, love, laughter and shared memories together. They have each, in their own way, expressed how much I mean to them and it leaves me simply lost for words to have such blessings as these.

Now, the tugging seaward and eastward calls to me! I’m still waiting to have the next dish, my main course and I can almost taste the fabulous steak to come. (Sorry vegetarians, but I’m a confirmed meat lover) Every bite of this new and eye-opening experience will be a treasure and pleasure to me. So I wait in anticipation, knowing each second brings me closer to it….

But for now, I’m waiting between dishes; not gone completely, and not there completely. From what I know of food, though, there is no use in complaining that the dish you’re waiting for has not arrived yet. It will, in due time. Till then, I’ll just enjoy the intervening moments, the funny and mixed sensations of growing up and leaving your most dear people and places behind – knowing that when you come back again, you will view it with different eyes, not necessarily better or worse, just…different.

Written 24/8/2007, the eve of my departure to Hong Kong for further studies

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Of knots, dishes, and little joys

I like unravelling thread. I like untying knots and cables. Do you?

For me there is a great sense of satisfaction in making order out of something disorderly and messy. Just imagine, there is a mass of knotted electrical cables in front of you. Some loose and some quite tight. You can see at least three colours in the mound. Don't you feel your fingers start to twitch uncontrollably? (Mike and guitar cables are the best. For one, they're big enough so you don't have to use your nails, and unlike rope they won't chafe your hands and make them sore, and unlike thread you don't have the feeling that you're destroying something. But don't get me started on rubber bands twisted tightly around a bag. They will always, by some universal rule, snap on your fingers painfully no matter how carefully you try to untangle them.)

Same thing with washing dishes. Except for washing dishes, there is a stigma and certain repellent quality of it being "housework" that initially stops me from beginning the task. But once it starts it takes on a certain dreamlike/zombie quality. It's just you and the dishes. Mano el disho. And the clinging dirt and oil thats going...away, away! Down the sink into oblivion!

And once you're done-washed your hands, wiped them on a clean towel or shaken the water off with grave finality-there is a sense of whelming (not over-, but just enough to last a few seconds) satisfaction at a job done - for that day, at least.

Why am I writing about this? Has the tea puller gone a little off topic, a wee bit wyeird?

Not really. No one should grow to old to savour little joys. Maybe we can't all run in open hills and smell dandelions (I wouldn't even recognise a dandelion if I saw one) and eat fresh berries in early spring (I want!), but there are ways to make each day a little more bearable. By doing things that make you happy. Simple things that don't require elaborate set ups or commercial forms of entertainment or even money.

Dishes, anyone? I could always use an extra pair of hands...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Losing ideas, losing people

It's funny. At 3 in the morning when I'm just about to sleep I have plenty of thoughts which seem to me to be brilliant fodder for this blog, but 12 hours later when I sit down to write aforementioned thoughts, they all seemed to have eluded me.

Like butterflies escaped from a net.

Thoughts, sleep-slurred thoughts, come back to me! You look so beautiful in the mist, whispering of hidden potential. A gleam in the twilight corners of my frontal lobe. Though it's possible that if I caught you again and carefully inspected you under a microscope, you would turn out to be so dull, your colours faded, your wings flapping wearily as you consider the troublesome work of sludging through another careworn miserably boring day. Dust and pollution cover your fine wings, your six legs trembling with exhaustion and fear.

That's the problem with lost ideas and thoughts. They always seem grander when they're gone.

Is it the same with our forgotten relationships, then? When we look back, in our distorted memories the chasms were bigger and more menacing, the good times were sweeter but ultimately doomed, the joy laced with pain and bitterness now that we knew what was to come.

This is not a productive train of thought. Blame it on the foul heat that characterises Ipoh weather nowadays.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Emo post. You have been forewarned.

What happens when you think you’ve given your best, indeed all you have, and yet it is not enough?

What if you are found lacking in the very areas of your life that matter to you the most?

You realise that it’s not enough that you are beloved by God. That you crave to be recognised and appreciated by fellow man as well.

Now, mundane things that occupied so much of your waking time and attention seem so far away.

And you shouldn’t expect someone else to come and comfort you, tell you that you did well, that everything’s ok. That it will be better next time. If there's a next time.

Grow up. You’re supposed to be the caregiver now. Not the care-taker.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Starting on solids: "kicking the bottle"

"Kicking the bottle". That's what parents call the process of weaning their babies of drinking milk alone and starting on solid (though still soft, tasteless and mushy) food. To the doting infantbearers it must seem like a major achievement. To me, well, they still have a long way to go before they can savour the un-replicable taste of a freshly fried plate of char koay teow, dazzling in its glorious oiliness and fattiness on a glistening banana leaf throne...

Anyway, I'm getting carried away (I'm hungry). But what made me think of this is the verse that I have pasted on my wall:

"Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."
Hebrews 5:13-14

My understanding is that this spiritual milk refers to the basics of our beliefs in God: that He is our creator, Father; and He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, and whoever believes in Him and repents of his sins will be saved. And to just know this truth, indeed, is enough for salvation. But is that all God wants of us? Is that all He put His people on earth for? To know the basics by heart but never bother to delve into the deep and complex mysteries of God?

I think that as we grow more aware of God, and hungry for Him, He seeks like a loving mother to bring us to the next level: solid food. But how many of us are really willing to kick the bottle, to stop just depending on our passed-down faith and confront the confusing, often contradictory realities that we encounter in our daily lives?

For me, I have a few friends who have been "Christian from birth", or as near to it, being raised in a Christian family, attending church services all their lives, gone to numerous Christian camps, even serving in Christian youth; to them, Christianity is a familiar theme in their lives. And yet, now that they have grown up and started to question their long-held beliefs, they find themselves having to go "back to the basics" in Christianity. They struggle so much even to accept that God is here, God cares, God loves and God wants all of them.

I just hope that this renewing of their faith takes place quickly so that they can come to the maturity that God desires for them. If you live on milk alone how can you fight in battle? Even the armies of man fight on full stomachs. You are saved, but you cannot be of much use against the enemy...

That's why the above verse means a great deal to me. I'm still learning what it means to "constantly train yourself to distinguish good from evil". It's something I can't do on my own, I need His wisdom to guide me. But first must come the willingness to be trained.

For me, this whole "venturing into the world with a little more bite" starts with:

1) My readings on the role of women in the New Testament. I have never identified with Paul the apostle that much, though he is definitely admirable and wise, because he seems to have such a low opinion of women. At least he comes across as such. And his words have been used to justify so many injustices in the church, to somehow imply that women are the "lesser creation". And yesterday, when I read that "women will be saved through childbearing..." (1 Timothy 2:15), I felt like..."What?" Then what about barren women, or women who didn't live long enough to have children, or those who dedicate their lives to God in singleness? The footnote said it could also refer to "The Childbearing", that is, the virgin Mary conceiving a child who is the Son of God. But somehow, still felt that it was unfair.

2) Transsexuals. (Am I spelling it correctly?) In the shower this morning, I was wondering how complex it was to bring them to Christ. Would they have to become a man again if they had already physically altered their bodies to become women? How would Christ have spoken to them? How can Christians love them unconditionally and at the same time not neglect their Christian duty, to tell them that what they hold most dearly to them, their long fought-for 'right' to be a woman, is an abomination to God? Apparently, many Christian groups actually have hate marches, and look down and even spit on these people....I think that is so sad and shameful. God created them just as much as He did you and I. Who are we to say that we are better than them?

So, these are a few questions that have flitted through the caves of my minds now and are probably settling there for a while, like bats, flapping their wings once in a while to remind me of their presence until I can finally find an answer that is satisfying to me and I can bring them out into the light.

God works in strange ways though! Just now as I was looking at, (thanks Raj:P) I saw a book that he and some others had written which was available online, "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood". I've downloaded it and shall be going through it soon.

Looks like a lot of us are searching for solid food, and answers to our spiritual questions...and thank God, some may have found as good answers as we are going to get in this world already. "Seek and you will find, ask and it will be given to you."