Don't Waste Your Life

Life's a journey - don't forget to unpack.

Where it all meets

Perhaps then, it is at the cross of Christ that we find what we crave for most deeply in this world. Love and sacrifice, justice and mercy, faithfulness and grace. It is at the cross of Christ that all these meet, and if we dig deep enough into the core of our being, we will find that these are the things we will live and die for. - Me

To you, my reader. :)

There, look on me, so that you may not praise me beyond what I am; there, believe me, not others, about myself; there, attend to me and see what I have been in myself, through myself. - St Augustine

Time to move...

It was a love affair that started about 5 years ago. I started this relationship, not knowing where it would lead to. In fact, this is my 2nd relationship. I broke up with Xanga after a few months with her. Didn't like her inflexibility and her always showing my name when people went to the address to find her. And I didn't like the limited things i could do with her either. *wink* She just didn't turn me on. But you can still visit my ex HERE.

And so I broke up and quickly found a rebound. Blogger was right there for me. She was more flexible with me, more exciting, and more colourful. And besides, I had also grown and I was ready for more options, more interactions with other partners. Xanga was a bit of an experiment which I had outgrown.

Blogger has been my faithful partner for the past 5 years. She's always been faithful, there to listen, to hear me pour my thoughts, and my medium of communication to the world. People have heard me, read me, peered into my heart, touched my passions, through her. I flirted with other partners at times, but never got into anything serious. I guess they never attracted me enough for me to give up my comfort. But I think I was never fully satisfied with her. In fact, I've been taking this relationship more seriously in recent months, and even tried to overhaul her (as you guys have seen in e past few months). Almost like dressing up the bride or sending her for cosmetic surgery, you know. I know, it's sad, but sometimes even dressing up the bride still doesn't satisfy. Cosmetic surgery's just the outside, if the inside sucks, no amount of surgery will help.

And so I'm moving on. Sorry, Blogger. But I think blogging has become a big enough part of my life, for me to host the blog somewhere else where I can do more with it. Somewhere more exciting, more interesting, more flexible, and somewhere which doesn't give me a black face everytime I try to make it do something.

Blogger, I'm giving you another week. Just for nostalgia's sake. One more week. After which, it will no longer be possible between us. Thank you for the past 5 years, but people move on.

It's not you, it's me.

I'm an artist. Don't question my integrity.

Auction Rooms Cafe

I just passed the middle of this trip to Melbourne, and while it was wonderful being with Zhen the past few days, it was good that I had today to myself. One of the things I enjoy about travelling is often walking through the city centre on my own. I did that in Auckland, in Taiwan (hmm. did i?) and also last time in Christchurch. Walking through the city centre, people-watching, food-smelling, sound-hearing, gives your senses a barrage of information about the pulse of the city. For example, smelling coffee and hearing quick footsteps tells you of its busy-ness, smelling Laksa, chinese dumplings and fresh baked foccacia bread tells you this is a country with many migrants. Beautiful.

And so after a nap and some facebooking, I headed down to this cafe near my hostel I had chanced upon in a book called Melbourne Coffee Review. I was delighted! It was a beautiful quaint cafe in the middle of nowhere, and apparently they roast their beans on the premises! :)

My delicious braised beef cheek with black olives, a tomato-based puree and mashed potato. Mmmm.

Ooh. Can you see the jelly-gooey parts of the beef? *slurps*

At this point in the meal, Zhen popped by to visit me just for 5 minutes on her way to another meeting. It was really strange, because even though my braised beef cheeks wonderful when I was alone, it suddenly tasted a whole lot better when she came. I remember a JC teacher talking to us about why Chinese always eat their meals with friends or relatives.. and how a meal is a collective activity.

I've always believed this:

Good food = good food.
Good food + great friendships = AWESOMELY FANTABULOUS TIME.

I love it.

Look at my post-dinner cappucino!

Remnants of my dessert. I ate it all up before I could take a picture of it. By the way, it was absolutely delicious 'Chocolate Banana Spring Rolls with sour cream.' The chocolate in there wasn't chocolate sauce. It was half-melted chocolate lumps. OMG.

I really love this place, check out the interiors.

I absolutely love this place, except I won't be in Melbourne much longer. Stay noted of a new post on Jamie Oliver's restaurant Fifteen Melbourne!


Auction Rooms Cafe
103 - 107 Errol Street
North Melbourne

Seismic shifts and home

Was listening to a radio programme about a week ago and I've kinda been ruminating about the issues for some time. It was one of those programmes which had call-in callers discussing about teenagers who have consensual sex and whether legal prosecution should be the way to go.

I guess, it would not have been hard to guess that most people would be against legal prosecution but were more in favour of education, counselling and sound parenting. Yet, the programme being on 93.8Live, most of the callers were understandably middle-aged people, who talked mainly about in-my-days, 'what-are-young-people-coming-to', 'no-more-morals', 'it-all-gets-worse-with-each-generation'... etc. Many suggested counselling, education, but the host rightfully pointed out that few took on the responsibilities of themselves as parents.

The picture that came to my mind as I heard those callers was almost like those cavemen shows, where the caveman clubs the cavewoman on the head and drags her back to his cave. We want the youths to be 'with us', not different from our generation. And so we club them on the head with moralistic judgments and hope that they pass out from the intensity of whatever-they-think-counselling-and-education-is and then drag them back by their ponytail back into the supposed safety of our own caves that we're used to hiding in.

Interesting, because in every other situation these people are in, business, work, social interactions, we know that we need to get out there and engage people. But it seems that when it comes to youth, we gotta club them on the head. No wonder our youths are always seeing stars.

What few of the callers understood is how there's been a seismic shift in terms of exposure and conceptions of morality that they can hardly understand. They don't understand that thoughts have changed, and will always be changing. Except that in this generation, they are changing as fast as it takes to update a Facebook status. 'What's on your mind?'

Perhaps the way to go isn't a moral lecture and a ponytail-drag. Perhaps the way to go is to enter their seismically-shifted world and re-create the rules into something healthier.

And perhaps, a few more hugs for our youths, would give them more of the physical closeness they seek in sex.

It's a little strange that I don't feel THAT out of place in Melbourne. Except I think I still don't feel very safe walking along the quiet streets at night. This place is as much of a multi-racial place as Singapore, probably even more. Don't know why we play up our multi-racialism so much back home.

Zhen was asking me how Singapore has changed and I told her it has changed much the past couple of years. And I shared that sometimes I don't know if I truly feel Singapore belongs to me anymore.

It seems that all the new developments are built for tourists. The IRs, ION Orchard, Sentosa, new hotels like Hotel Ibis, etc. Some of the shops in these places actually sell watches that cost as much as a condo. Many of these places are not places I would go to; I can't afford it.

Is it still home? Or maybe, I could just hide in my cave.

Breizoz French Creperie! Crepe-ily Delicious Crepes!

I had just landed from the airport and having eaten a really unsatisfying "Continental" breakfast on board the flight and the most expensive egg sandwich I had ever eaten (it cost A$8 at the airport cafe while waiting for Hannah.. I only bought it because I was hungry from the unsatisfying breakfast), we decided to head for lunch after checking in at the hostel.

Zhen has always been mentioning to me this yummy crepe place which seems to be her 'coping strategy' from hectic work schedules, so it was fitting that my first Melbournian meal would be turn out to be French buckwheat crepes.

The crepe here are not the soft-ish kind kind we tend to get back home, which I suspect has more flour and egg components. The ones here are made from buckwheat flour, which give the crepe a crispier consistency. And my gosh, it also smells darned good. We had 2 savoury crepes and shared a dessert crepe.

She ordered a ratatouille crepe, which was essentially a crepe with cheese and vegetable stew. I've never been a fan of tomatoes which really form the tangy base of the stew, so I didn't enjoy this one too much.

I liked mine much better. Don't ask me why, but I've recently become a big fan of smoked salmon. The flavour and the umami factor is just amazing, whether you eat it raw with a good potato salad, or cooked like in my crepe here.

Omg. Just look at that gorgeous sunrise egg-yolk leaking nicely out of my crepe. And just that little bit of smoked salmon poking its smile out at me from inside the crepe, almost as if to entice me to slurp it all up with the delicious egg yolk. I'm glad the waiter recommended me this egg and salmon crepe. I had initially wanted egg, ham and smoked salmon in my crepe to which she exclaimed in horror: "That's ridiculous! You either take meat or you take the fish. Not both together. It doesn't make sense." Hahaa. And so I obeyed her orders like a good Singaporean.

Dessert crepe. This was a Jaffa crepe with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Jaffa just means chocolate with orange, according to the now-naturalised Australian girl. Syrupped oranges, sweet, sour and bitter. Chocolate sauce, sweet and bitter. Crepe, hot and rough-textured. Ice-cream, sweet, cold and smooth. WHAM. Both Zhen and I couldn't help it but let out an uncontrolled pleasured 'ahhhhhhhhhhh......' What else can one ask for in life? (I think a good friend is still better :p )

Iced cafe. Nothing to shout about. I am on the lookout for the elusive perfect cafe. Watch this spot!

139 Nelson Place
Williamstown VIC 3016

(03) 9397 2300

  • Lunch Mon-Fri 12.00-3.00pm
  • Dinner Mon-Fri 6.00pm-10pm
  • Saturday 12.00-5.00pm, 6.00-10.00pm
  • Sunday 9.30am-9.30pm

Melbourne feels like home

Don't ask me why. I feel strangely at ease in Melbourne. I have a couple of theories why it is so.

Maybe it just feels very much like NZ. The brands, street names, accents, banks, number of Asians etc are all so similar to NZ.

Or maybe it is the comforting presence of a long-time friend. I have a feeling it's the latter. A big hug, a spontaneous arm around a shoulder, a familiar laughter. Perhaps those are closer to the heart than external sights and sounds.

Some photos, I think food will come in separate posts. :)

This is a new journey. And it starts here.

New Life.

My newborn nephew.

We all started out small, didn't we?

And weak. and vulnerable. and helpless.

Somehow, that was when we were the most adorable.

Another life, begins.

Many more lives, begin.

Love's passage

Blinding Faith

I heard this beautiful story told by the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Commonwealth Nations. Basically, big-shot Jew ok. Let me just say before I type it that I hope you guys will read it in the right light, and not read too much into the story and hence deny it's deep profound meaning about our place in the world.

“DO you believe,” the disciple asked the rabbi, “that God created everything for a purpose?”

“I do,” replied the rabbi.

“Well,” asked the disciple, “why did God create atheists?”

The rabbi paused before giving an answer, and when he spoke his voice was soft and intense. “Sometimes we who believe, believe too much. We see the cruelty, the suffering, the injustice in the world and we say: ‘This is the will of God.’ We accept what we should not accept. That is when God sends us atheists to remind us that what passes for religion is not always religion. Sometimes what we accept in the name of God is what we should be fighting against in the name of God.”

I went online to search for this passage after hearing it on an iTunes U lecture by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. And of course, as with any other story that has elements of faith and the state of the world, there are many detractors. But to be honest, I don't even think this passage has got to do with religion, which is what many people take offence at. It's not even about Jews, Christians or Muslims, the three great monotheistic faiths.

This is about the place each of us have in the world; atheist, believer or believer of other faiths. It is about those who have hope; hope that is real and not to be discounted, and yet not allowing that hope to numb the pain we feel at seeing the injustices and pains of the world. If faith can change one life, it is natural that that life will cherish the hope that one day his faith will also change another. For the believer, it is his hope because the world is valued to him.

It is a reminder that those who discount the value of faith in this world often do so with good reason, because faith often tolerates that which it should condemn. For the atheist who seethes at injustices, he is a primarily a justice-lover and then an atheist by deduction.

It is an alarm for us ringing in our heads that no matter where we are on the continuum of faith, we have a responsibility towards our fellow human being. And this responsibility is just that; responsibility, not a means to any other end. For the rest of us, wherever we are, may tolerance work both ways, for those with faith and those who profess not to have any.

And let us not forget our brother who needs our hand.

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be, we're all okay
And not to worry
'Cause worry is wasteful and useless
In times like these

I won't be made useless
Won't be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear

My hands are small I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
and I am never broken

Poverty stole your golden shoes
But it didn't steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn't ever after

We'll fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what's right
'Cause where there's a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing

My hands are small I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
and I am never broken

In the end only kindness matters

- Jewel "Hands"

CBT: Starbucks at Shaw Towers

The week came and went, I do have some thoughts to share which belong in the other generic 'Life' categories, but I don't have much of the energy to write them.

And so Sunday came, and I found myself at another Starbucks spending my weekend afternoon. This was more a work meeting than a coffee break per se, though.

Who would've thought, that when I reached the cafe at about 11:30am, the cafe would already be packed? And who else with, than the usual students. They're everywhere, I tell you. Criowded especially around this lone pillar which had powerpoints on them.

This Starbucks is kinda special because it's located in a shopping mall which has really nothing for the regular shopper unless you're looking for specialised stuff like high-end cameras and super expensive massage chairs. So besides Starbucks, the rest of the shopping mall is practically secluded. It does have a nice Turkish restaurant that some of the Reach people celebrated my birthday at though.

It's also got a weird corner at the back that's just got 2 tables and it's really quiet. The bad thing about it is that the air-con doesn't reach the quiet corner so it can get quite stuffy there, especially for people who perspire like crazy like me.

On the bright side, even though there's a lack of powerpoints and the internet is the slower Wireless SG instead of Starbucks Wireless, there was certainly a plus point for the day! I discovered a new drink that I like!

New favourite drink: Caramel Mocha! I used to love the dark bitterness of Iced Caffe Mocha, and the savoury sweetness of Caramel Machiatto, but this drink has combined both. Omg! *slurps*

Location's a little far from Bugis MRT station, but still okay. Service and music were fine. I didn't like the crowds but I think it may just have been cos it was Sunday afternoons. Students are getting richer.

CBT (Coffee Break Therapy): Starbucks @ Wilkie Edge

Somehow, I haven't managed to have chances to visit cafes for sometime, so today was a little treat for me. After church, I wanted to find a place to sit down and focus on some work, so I went to the Starbucks nearest my church: Wilkie Edge.

Wilkie Edge is a new development right on the edge of town, about a 10 minute walk from Dhoby Ghaut and right next to Peace Centre. It houses Citadines, a block of serviced apartments and another floor of Kaplan's (a private commercial school). Besides that, there's only a bank, a Korean food cafe, a restaurant, and Starbucks. As you can tell, there are not many people in the building.

Unfortunately, well-located Starbucks' don't stay unknown for too long. When I went today, it was packed full of students. Wonderfully, Starbucks really knows how to cater to its crowd. It really is no longer a place to drink coffee; it's a place to surf and read.

Rarely do you find a Starbucks where you can really sit and get some work done, but I must say this was one of them, even though the barrage of students and books really makes it feel like a cafe in a school. I like this cafe cos it's quiet, there's no music played on the 'other half' of the cafe and there are really plenty of powerpoints for laptops. In fact I think there's at least one for every table.

Strange, but the internet connection here wasn't too stable today. I could connect on my iPod, but it took more than half an hour before I managed to log in to MSN even though I could get some stuff displayed on my browser. I had to buy my coffee at full price cos their NETS machine wasn't working, my new credit card hadn't arrived (the old one broke) and I didn't have enough cash so I couldn't buy the coffee passport (which gets me every coffee for $5).

I liked my Sunday. :)

Week away from home.

Cannot have too many reflective posts. These posts are just random ok.

I'm now at NSRCC (National Service Resort and Country Club), slacking and surfing Internet. haha. Tomorrow is staff retreat day, I decided to stay over cos I'm lazy to travel all the way home from this ulu pulu place after helping to settle the logistics today. Yawn.

But this place quite a lot of red tape. Sian. I need to show my NS 11B cos I booked it as a NSman rate. But I seriously dont know where my 11B is, which means I got to go home and dig all my cupboards to find it. Good luck to me.

Still looking for the elusive cafe with the best ambience and coffee. Sigh. Maybe I'll find it in Melbourne.

ieat Makan Session

And so after some anxiety in the signing up process, Jialin managed to get us down for the ieat Makan Session at Beijing Hand-in-Hand Restaurant hosted by the cool food blogger of ieatishootipost.

It was a very interesting experience. It was cool to finally hear Leslie Tay's voice instead of reading his words, and see him in person instead of on a picture or in video. And he actually sat next to me explaining how the makan sessions were organised. And gave hints as to how to stand a better chance of getting into the list. Haha. Celebrity blogger sitting beside me leh! Heh. Cheap thrill, I hear you say?

Too bad Jialin and Larry were separated from Gin and myself. So we were at a table on our own with 8 other strangers. The food was above average but not wow-inducing, I would have liked more servings of some specific dishes though.

Yet it was a very interesting to sit at a table with 8 other people who don't know each other, but each totally focused on food. And these people know their food, I tell you. There were some who were totally focused on taking photos, others who were explaining why a certain species of long beans are used and not another kind, and then there were the rest of us who were just ooh-ing and aah-ing through dinner. And oh, there was the lady who would stand up, take a mouthful with her chopsticks and chomp on her food still standing. Now that's a food-lover.

Seriously, it's a joy to eat with people who also love to eat.

Love, Me - Learning to Sign (Part 3/3)

Learning to sign, for me, took a few steps. I remember trying out various ways of writing my name, but invariably all these ways included my given or my family name. Some do sign with names that they have given themselves, but that perhaps represents something else.

In terms of form, I remember I had tried to imitate the form of those who I deeply respected. I had tried to do that with a teacher whom I had a crush on in Primary 4 (who I knew as Miss Yap), I tried it with a teacher who worked hard for my class who I respected in Primary 6 in another school. And the one that my final signature looked most like, was my dad’s.

I have a strong feeling that my signature which involves my given and family name, represents where I come from and who my parents wanted to be. My surname means I come from somewhere in Swatow, China where my grandfather first came. I am the descendant of a coolie who carried 50kg sacks of rice at the Singapore River and a seamstress, aged almost 20 years apart and who married each other during World War 2 to escape Japanese atrocities; especially soldiers who liked to rape virgins. Their efforts at earning their keep produced a man who would eventually spend the most part of his life in stability as a civil servant, and who would also become my father. I don’t know very much about the people who brought my mother into existence.

These two significant people, then, wished for me to have certain qualities; namely to be upright and compassionate. Li means standing up straight, and ren means a kind of a wise, compassionate, controlled and transcendent love. As I think, I have come to believe that to be able to bring the two together requires deep wisdom to meld and synthesize two qualities that are often perceived as conceptual polar opposites: that of justice and of mercy. And I want to pursue that wisdom.

And so everytime I sign, I am reminded of where I come from and who I am supposed to be.

Beyond that, I realized that over the years my parents’ signatures, which spell Tay and Tan respectively, have somehow developed into wordforms that are incredibly similar to each others’. Interestingly, the first half of my own signature looks like their wordforms that have evolved into each others’, even though in my signature it spells something else. And then the second half of it is something that I added on to lengthen it, increase the difficulty of imitation and differentiate my signature.

This reminds me that however much modern day individualistic psychology tries to convince us we are unique individuals, we cannot escape the reality that we are also an extension of those who came before us. If I were to think of parents who start out with young children, I can’t help but think that most parents have little idea who they really want their kids to turn out. The truth is, perhaps they don’t have that much control. I don’t think my parents ever imagined I would become a social worker. It would already be a blessing for a young child to have parents who at least knew what they didn’t want their child to turn out being. Interestingly, parents who take enough effort to bring up their children in a specific direction, would usually be good enough people to render wanting their children to be somewhat like themselves.

But in the process of growing up, which in some ways culminates in needing to have a signature of our own, each of us adds extensions of who we were supposed to be. We do this to make ourselves better, more special and difficult for others to be us.

I have my extensions. There are things at which I am better than they are, like writing or knowledge of certain areas like psychology, techie stuff and maybe insight into life. But there are areas which I would never be able to emulate them; like my dad’s humility and industry, my mom’s eye for detail and concern for people. Extensions are just parts that build their existence on that which was passed down; they cannot exist independently. I am in some ways like my dad in temperament and in my way of dealing with problems, and I think I inherited some of my mom’s ability to care for people. As I go along, those qualities become mine, not merely a hand-me-down. I learn that they are good and I own and embrace them. Others which are rotten rags unwittingly passed down, I learn and try to throw away. I may not always succeed, some of these rags seem to be permanently sewn onto my skin. And yet, there are parts of me which I have that they don’t; like the ability to connect deeply with people.

And so, each time I sign, I remember that my signature represents me; all of me. Parts which I inherited, parts which I brought from my own journey to add-on, parts which were thrust on me which I then decided to own; parts which were thrust on me sometimes as expectations and sometimes as hopes. It represents I give my word to honour that which I signed off; and I stake it on my being.

With that, “Love, me.” now means a whole lot more.