Friday, 11 December 2015

My gift to you this Christmas

I’ve never really questioned the purpose of celebrating Christmas. Yes, I know it isn’t the actual day of the birth of Christ. But you know, it’s one of the things that you don’t actually question because you were brought up to do them. It was only until I found out that Sheldon Cooper doesn’t celebrate Christmas that it got me thinking. (Yes, Big Bang Theory gets me thinking, and laughing, all the time!)

For those who have not heard about the origin of Christmas, here’s a short summary for you. In Ancient Rome, the few days leading up to the 25th of December were celebrated in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture. This weeklong holiday, known as Saturnalia, was commemorated with hedonistic acts and lawlessness. (Just imagine the movie “The Purge”; lasting for a week, instead of 24-hours.) As a result, properties were damaged, people were hurt and women were raped. To put an end to this pagan celebration, the Roman church decided to commemorate the 25th of December as the birth of Jesus Christ. As Christianity was burgeoning as a religion, people largely accepted the Church’s decision. It became popular even in the neighbouring regions, and after more than a millennium, it is what it is today.

What we - Christians or not - celebrate annually is actually a political tool used by the Roman Church back in Ancient Rome. It isn’t the actual birthday of Christ. It isn’t a day mandated by God to commemorate. It isn’t, in fact, in any way, Christian. (Well, probably apart from its name – “Christ’s mass”.) Is there a point, then, to celebrate it?

I say, yes, yes, and yes! Christmas is the day that families put aside their busy schedules to come together for a meal. Christmas is the day that people remember, write cards and give gifts to friends and loved ones that they haven’t talked to in awhile. Christmas is the day that people look forward to and give thanks amidst a trying period. And finally (and closest to my heart), Christmas is the day that people think about Christ and His life on earth. Whether you’re a Christian or not, and regardless of the origin of Christmas, I’m pretty confident that at least a notion of Christ pops into your mind during Christmas. There are plays and musicals about His birth. Christmas choirs sing carols and hymns, worshipping the Lord. People exchange gifts, exuberating the Christmas spirit of giving, and reflecting the love of the Son.

Christmas brings out the kindness in people. Christmas brings people together. Christmas draws creation to its creator. Because of these, I say, it is worth celebrating, regardless.

This Christmas, whether or not it has a religious significance for you, give generously, let your loved ones know how much they mean to you, and catch up with those you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Pamper your loved ones with a collection from the series of JORD wood watches. I've partnered with JORD to giveaway e-gift cards worth US$25 each to my readers! (FREE SHIPPING WORLDWIDE.) All you have to do is to click HERE, fill up the form and wait for an e-mail with the gift card code. This is my gift to you this Christmas. Be blessed, and be a blessing to others.

Merry Christmas!

Photo shoot with my best friend, in Christmas colours.
(P.s. Our friendship keeps us warm amidst the chill in the (8°C) morning air!)


Thursday, 3 December 2015

Why I don't condone the Syrian airstrikes

It probably isn’t difficult to guess my political position by now – yes, I’m Conservative. Centre-right, albeit more towards the centre. Yet, I find it hard to swallow the Conservative Party’s decision to conduct airstrikes in Syria. No, I’m not a “terrorist sympathiser”, neither am I a Corbyn sympathiser. I hate terrorism to the gut; I hate how religion is being abused, how it creates stigmatism, and how lives are being taken so lightly. And that is precisely why I do not condone spending 508 grand to fuel the violent war that ISIS is trying to wage.

We declare war on terrorism. But terrorism is not just ISIS. Terrorism is not just radicalised human beings whom we ought to get rid of. Terrorism is an idea. You can’t kill an idea with bombs and bullets. In fact, you can’t kill it at all. What you can do, though, is to contain it. Not with threats of violence but by showing the world how absurd it is, by dwindling its support, and ultimately, making it crumble away. 

The aim of Islamic terrorism is jihad. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as a holy war fought against people who are a threat to Islam. It also defines war as an armed fighting between two or more groups. When the Conservative Party reciprocates to ISIS’ call for a violent war, it is precisely fulfilling ISIS’ raison d'être. A violent war cannot be waged if there is only one party involved. They are terrorists. They are suicide bombers. They are ever ready to put their lives, and the lives of their people, on the line. That is what they are “called” to do. But you’re politicians. You’re the government. You’re not called to fight this war, and neither are your people, nor your soldiers. You’re called to protect your people. You think you’re doing so, but you’re just fighting a losing battle. As Jessica Stern aptly points out, it is a huge paradox. “The more we fight it, the more its appeal grows.” You’re giving the enemies of the West an idea that they can relate to. Radicalised citizens are springing up all around the world. In Europe, in America, in Asia; everywhere.

In a propaganda video that ISIS reportedly released, they declared that your numbers only increase them in faith. They said that they are counting your banners, awaiting the fulfilment of their prophecy, that it would reach 80 in number. Why are you being so obedient? Why are you playing into their hands?

Of course, you shouldn’t be sitting back and doing nothing. But there are things you can do apart from taking revenge. There are things you can do with the 508 grand, apart from conducting the airstrikes. Among all the things that UNILAD has suggested, you could also, instead, fight this war against terrorism with investments in education. Win the hearts of young people, against the forces of terrorism. You could fight this war by investing in the lives of local Syrian people. Win their hearts with care and concern. Show them that you’re practising the democracy that you preach, that the tactics you adopt are different, that you’re not merely a party involved in the holy war. You could fight this war by sending more aid to the victims of terrorism, and to their families. It is support and comfort that heals, not revenge.

As French journalist, Nicolas Henin (who was held captive by ISIS), puts it, “The winner of this war will not be the party that has the newest, the most expensive or the most sophisticated weaponry, but the party that manages to win over the people on its side.” Frankly speaking, I don’t have the answers to how you could win people over. But all I know is that violence and revenge is not the way.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

My great #throwback with a twist

2001. The recess bell has sounded but Mrs. Tan is still going on and on, scribbling on the chalkboard. I hate it when the teacher ignores the recess bell. We’ve only got half an hour, and I need to get my Pokemon eraser today! It takes about 10 minutes to get to the start of the queue. At this rate, I’m not going to have any time left to eat! Ugh.

2002. It feels great to no longer be a Primary 1 student. Mom has also finally come to her senses. She agreed to let me go to my best friend’s home after school! I can’t wait to see her kittens, watch the whole series of Hamataro and buy my favourite Roller Coaster Potato Rings from the snack van. She said that it would come by her home at 4p.m. every day without fail. I saved up 70 cents from lunch, just so that I could buy it!

2003. I am so relieved that I’m in the same class as my best friend! They said that they would assign us to different classes according to our grades. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be with her anymore! We met another 5 amazing girls. Every recess break is like an amazing race. The 7 of us would split up into the 7 different queues to buy food and drinks from different stalls. I’m always queuing for the fish ball noodles. They told us not to share our food with one another because of the SARS outbreak. But who cares. Best friends do things together!!

2004. Our clique is drifting apart. Who should I stick with? Anyway, our form teacher said that she would be assigning us with a new sitting arrangement next week! I can’t wait to find out whom I’ll be sitting beside. Oh, how I wish I’d get to sit beside my eye candy. That would absolutely be a dream come true!

2005. All of us were split up. I’m in a new class with almost no one that I know. Thank God for this guy who has been in the same class as me since Primary 1. It’s getting difficult to hang out with my girl friends especially when our recess breaks are at different timings. Oh well, I’ll try my best to find them whenever I can, and we can watch the boys play football as usual!

2006. Being a senior of the school feels absolutely liberating. My form teacher made me walk bare-footed as I disobeyed her and wore ankle socks to school, again. She thought I would feel humiliated but guess what, I’m loving it! I can’t believe this is my last year in Primary school. I loved every bit of it and I’m so reluctant to graduate. Oh yes, that reminds me, I should start adding everyone on Friendster so that we can keep in contact.

2007. THANK GOD I managed to appeal into my dream secondary school. It feels slightly odd to be in an all-girls school but I guess it would be fun. Should I try out for the fencing team, netball team, choir, dance club, or cheerleading squad? Ah, I don’t know. I made a new friend and she introduced me to a Taiwanese boy band. Absolutely. In. Love. Right. Now.

2008. Being in an all-girls school is SO MUCH FUN. I’ve gotten used to changing into our P.E. shirts in class and shouting across the room for sanitary pads. I haven’t gotten used to the prefects, though. They need to stop asking me to lengthen my skirt, pull up my socks, pin up my hair, blah blah blah. Macs and Island Creamery are also our new favourite hangouts. My (new) best friend and I would go there almost every day after school to “study”. 

2009. Physics class is the most boring thing ever. What on earth was I thinking when I chose to do Physics?! The old couple exercising at the playground outside seems even more entertaining than my Physics teacher. I can’t wait for classes to end. Sports Day is in 2 weeks and the cheerleading team is gearing up its training. In my school, no one really cares about the track events. It’s all about the cheerleading showdown! I wonder how I can enjoy 5 hours of cheer training every day but I can’t even stand a single hour in Physics class.

2010. "A" Math class seems to be taking forever to end. 10 more agonising minutes and we will be rushing out of class to catch SHINEE’s comeback stage on Music Bank! Pfft. I need to stop my infatuation with Korean boy bands and start getting down to studying for my O Levels. The principal actually threatened to make me drop "A" Math if I were to fail one more time – can you believe it?!

2011. I made it. I never thought I would make it in life – by life, I mean “do well in your studies”. I made it to the scholarship programme!!! I heard that Junior College really isn’t a joke. No more time for fooling around. I’m here to study. I’m here to study.

2012. So much for studying. I AM ATTACHED. I know, I know, worst year, period, ever, period, to get attached, period. A Levels. Is screwing up my A Levels worth it? Wait, who says I can’t have both. Yeah, we can study hard, together.

2013. Damn. I should’ve studied harder for my A Levels. But at least I’m loving the army life right now. I fired a machine gun today. How cool is that?!?!

2014. I am finally achieving my dream of studying abroad! MANCHESTER. With the love of my life. What more can I ask for? I can’t believe I got to watch Ronaldo play live. And we’ve travelled to London, Lake District, Barcelona, Brussels, Amsterdam and Berlin. What’s next on the bucket list?!

2015. Santorini. Santorini. Santorini. Ever since my birthday trip, I haven’t been able to take my mind off the beautiful Greek island. It was so surreal. I wanna go back. I wanna go back.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015, 11:20p.m.
A significant proportion of my time is spent reminiscing and living in the past. It starts from as early as I can remember (when I was a little kid, chasing sheep in Switzerland) to just a month ago (Santorini, oh, beautiful Santorini). I think about how wonderful it would be to relive those moments. To once again cross paths with the people I (still) think about. Am I the only one like this? I look across at my partner, embracing the moment, embracing now – holding the X-box controller in his hand, punching his fist in the air as he celebrates his Fifa goal with our flat mates. Here I am, stuck in my own reverie, as always. Writing about the past, about my experiences, writing this. People have said that I’m anti-social. I try to avoid socials to the best of my ability, and I would rather walk home alone than have to engage in small talks with a random schoolmate on the bus. I tell them that I’m introverted. I tell them that it’s not a bad thing – introverts think before they speak, appreciate alone time and prioritise quality over quantity. I tell them that it grows with age. I convinced myself of that.

Yet, now and then, I feel like I’m missing the point. Am I? I keep dreaming about the past, and about how great it is, that I end up not living in the present. I keep thinking of the people whom I no longer talk to, and how it would be nice to be friends again, but have I even crossed their minds? Why, oh why, am I regressing into my own social circle, which consists of me, my cup of tea and the computer screen, journaling about the past when this moment, too, will become a figment of the past? A past that would eventually, if sustained at this rate, consist of no one but myself?

I don’t know.

Let me just shut the computer and watch Big Bang Theory with the rest of them.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

But He, I pushed away

Like the sun that never fails to rise,
He appears at the door (of my heart) every day.
I used to find Him a tad bit burdensome,
But the tactful me would still open the door.
I could have been a good host if I wanted to,
But not with deadlines, obligations, and a weary heart.
Yet, despite my half-hearted and insincere company,
He just wouldn’t leave me alone.

While, most of the time, I found it a chore,
There were times when I embraced His presence.
A shoulder to cry on,
A pat on the back.
A word of encouragement,
A sweet affirmation.
I wonder how He endured my tantrums,
My selfish cries and immature mannerisms.
Did He not once felt unappreciated and used?
Was He that naïve to give, and have nothing in return?

Then, there came a day when life threw lemons.
Lemonade, I did not make.
But He, I pushed away.
Carelessly, I spilled my words.
Heartlessly, I locked the door.

More time on my hand, I had acquired.
More space for myself, I thought I would have.
Yet, the peace in my heart was taken away.
My soul left in turmoil,
An unquenchable thirst.
His absence that ought to have brought me reprieve,
Sent raging seas crashing over me.
It wasn’t His presence that caused me great stress,
It was my self-reliance that left me in rags.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God,
And all these things shall be added unto you.”

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

I'll bare you my tears

I am someone who cries easily.

A few months ago, I cried when my father reprimanded me.
2 years ago, I cried when my Commanding Officer humiliated me.
3 years ago, I cried upon receiving my mediocre “A” level results.
7 years ago, I cried when my first cheerleading competition was cancelled.
12 years ago, I cried when the boys at school stole my Hello Panda biscuits.
15 years ago, I cried when a kangaroo snatched a bag of fries from my hands.

That is not all.

Even now, I cry after EVERY argument – whether I’ve won or lost.
I cry when people say nasty things about me.
I cry when I can’t think of a good comeback.
I cry when I’ve done something wrong and when I’ve hurt someone.
I cry when I think of people that I dearly miss.
I cry when I’m stress, when I’m sad, when I’m hurt, when I’m disappointed, when I’m angry.

And that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that, sometimes, people are watching. Because I’m utterly embarrassed, instead of ceasing to cry, more tears end up spilling out of my eyes.

“Stop being a crybaby.”
“Why are you overreacting?”
“Stop acting like it’s such a big deal.”

These are but the few things that I always tell myself when I’m stuck in an embarrassing and tearful (literally and figuratively) situation.

A couple of weeks ago, I got so frustrated at myself that I googled, “Why do I cry so easily?” Yes, the answers that I find on Google are usually surprisingly therapeutic when I’m angst-ridden. (This includes questions such as “why do I hate everyone?”, “why am I always tired?” and “how to get rid of period cramps?”)

I learned 2 things that made me no longer ashamed of my crying habits.

1. Crying is not a sign of weakness.

I know it is clichéd. You’ve probably heard of it before – so have I – but somehow, feeling ashamed of your tears seems inevitable. You’re afraid that others may think that you’re sensitive, overemotional and weak.

Every time I’m on the verge of tears, I would look into the light, bite my lips, swallow my saliva, and try not to blink – anything that would not give it away. Sometimes I succeed. I manage to hold back my tears, just in time to run to the washroom for a good long bawl. Sometimes I don’t. (In my mind) I would curse and swear at myself, punishing myself for the unwarranted scene that I’ve created.

I realised that I needed to stop. Crying is not a damn crime. I read the medical science behind crying: it is a mere release of the buildup of energy and feelings. It is not because you’re helpless, it does not mean that you’re giving up and it should not be something that you ought to suppress. People cry when they’re touched, people cry when they’re overjoyed, people cry when they’re sad, people cry when they’re embarrassed. It. Is. Perfectly. Normal.

2.  Crying makes you human. (and stronger.)

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before - more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” 
― Charles DickensGreat Expectations

I’ve never really noticed it but I always, always, always feel better after letting it out. Pouring out buckets of tears seems like the perfect metaphor for emptying my frustration, anxiety, and disappointments… The situation might not have changed (a single bit) but I’m renewed with greater fortitude.

Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, did not hold back his tears on National TV when he announced the failure of Singapore’s merger with Malaysia in 1965.

Abraham Lincoln, the President who led America through its civil war, did not stifle his sobs when he first heard the Battle Hymn of the Republic, a song written in the midst of the civil war, proclaiming God’s faithfulness in times of tribulation.

Jennifer Aniston, now happily married to Justin Theroux, shed heart-breaking tears over her divorce with Brad Pitt in 2005.

They may have seemed like tears of devastation but these tears were merely stepping-stones to a greater future. The psychology of crying reveals that it is a survival mechanism. It is a signal that you need to address something. It is after crying that I have the courage to apologise for my mistakes. It is after crying that I am able to swallow insults and accept correction. It is after crying that I can raise my hands and praise Him through the storm.

The next time you feel like crying when you’re in a crowd, don’t be ashamed of yourself. Don’t be afraid to let it out, for the one who isn’t afraid of what others may perceive of him or her is more courageous than the coward who judges at the corner. After all, it just shows that you're human.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Time robbed me of you

I'm turning 21 in 4 days. 

I've never really considered the notion of time; about how it is absolutely out of your control, about how it seals the past and opens a myriad of opportunities for the future, about how it is regrettably irreversible - at least not in this dimension. 

It may sound a tad bit melodramatic but the idea of being 21, and formerly stepping into adulthood, (sort of) scares me. Yes, I've recently started thinking about time. Most people who have gone before would say that I'm insane for worrying about my age. "You have a long way to go, young lady," some say, bewildered.

I don't think they understand me. I've always been a girl with big dreams; always trying to punch above my own weight, always fighting to prove that I can do it, always trying to be the perfect daughter, sister, partner, and friend. 

In 4 days, exactly 21 years would have passed since I stepped foot on this earth. That is 252 months, 7665 days or 183960 hours. And all I've achieved amounts to (almost) nothing. 

Yes, I've achieved my childhood aspiration of joining the army. I'm studying abroad like I've always wanted. I'm attached to the best person I could ever ask for. But most fundamentally, I've failed in being the best person that I should be to my family and friends.

They say that there are 5 love languages that exist between human relationships: words, services, gifts, time and touch, I've always been aware that my primary love language is time. I enjoy receiving words of affirmation, acts of services, gifts and physical intimacy but nothing makes me feel more loved than spending quality time. Yet, I've never really (in return) made consistent effort to invest quality time on the people around me. Those who have known me for years would know that I'm not proactive in striking long conversations, initiating text messages or calling for meet ups. I've always justified my (lack of) actions by my introverted nature - it's just not my style. 

I'm turning 21 in 4 days.

I remember the close friends that I had in primary school, secondary school, junior college, and in my old neighbourhood. I had once thought that these friendships were something I would hold dear for my entire life. It seemed doubtlessly possible. I spent almost every day of my life with them.

I was wrong. Time betrayed me and I took it for granted. As we parted ways, moved on in life and no longer met every day, we started to drift further, further and further apart... I wasn't just introverted; I was lazy. It didn't cross my mind that time would rob me of these friendships - I wasn't proactive and I didn't bother investing in them.

Time is such a beautiful thing. It allows me to create memories that would stay with me for a lifetime. Yet, it is at the same time so cruel, robbing me of the things closest to my heart when I've (literally) done nothing

It breaks my heart to know that the same people whom I could laugh and cry with are now friends whom I find difficult to say "let's meet" for no good reason. It breaks my heart that personal space used to triumph over family time when all I wish right now is to be able to celebrate my birthday with my family. 

It breaks my heart but at least I now know. Because of the irreversible nature of time, I cannot unwind what has (not) been done. But because I now know, I will make sure that every second counts.

Thank you JORD watches for reminding me.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Sun, Sand & Sea(food)!

These people are pretty much (apart from my family) my favourite bunch; and this photo pretty much sums up our friendship - we love each other very much. Well, almost. As such, we make it a point to embark on a short getaway every year, not just to any destination but one that promises good sun, good sand and good sea(food)! Why? We wanna do what we do best - lepak.

We went to Phuket, Thailand the previous year (Thailand is my absolute favourite - I cannot stop raving about Thai food, Thai massage, Thai...) but this year, due to the hike in airfare (yes, we stand guilty as charged for travelling over the SG50 holiday), we decided to sojourn in somewhere accessible by land. After much research and consideration, we figured that Penang and Langkawi, Malaysia best fitted our criteria. We stopped over at Penang for a day/night before heading down to Langkawi for another 3 days. 

We basically spent the limited time that we had in Penang scavenging for the (extremely) well-loved Penang food, starting from SEAFOOD...

to Bak Kut Teh...

to the famous Char Kway Teow made by the neighbourhood's beloved "Red Hat Auntie" (There she is in the 2nd picture!)...

and finally, more SEAFOOD!

Of course, we're not mere gluttons. We spent a portion of the day walking down George Town, exploring their street art and lepaking in a random cafe that we stumbled upon. To our pleasant surprise, it was run by a Christian family that migrated from Taiwan! They served us with utmost cordiality, patiently explaining the origins of each cup of coffee and sharing their heartwarming stories and testimonies. Do visit them when you're there or check out their Facebook page!

We were greeted by a breath-taking scenery upon arriving at our accommodation in Langkawi. Thumbs up to Langkawi Lagoon Sea Villa for an amazing scenery with a great price! Waking up to the sound of gentle waves slapping against the wooden stilts was incredible. Drawing the curtains to witness the morning rays caressing the calm waters, against the backdrop of a vast expanse of greenery, was even better.

Since we had 2 certified drivers, we rented a car in Langkawi. It was 150 MYR for all 3 days. Absolutely worth it! 

This was our first dinner in Langkawi and it made us absolutely (literally) speechless. We initially intended to visit Teo Seafood Restaurant for dinner due to its good reviews but ended up giving up on our search for its location/giving in to our grumbling stomachs. We settled down in another seafood restaurant that we stumbled upon on the way to Teo's (which we later realised was only about 20metres away) - Yong Leong Seafood Restaurant. The hotplate tofu, the sambal kang kong, and the cereal prawns were beautiful; but what completely exceeded our expectations (and made us all agree that it alone made the whole trip worth it) was the Nyonya steam fish. It was perfectly seasoned and strikingly savoury that it whetted our appetite for more the following day. For dinner on the second night, we made a unanimous decision to forgo our trip to Teo's, in favour of the Nyonya steam fish!

Apart from gorging ourselves, we embraced the carefree life that Langkawi had to offer. The Seven Wells was the perfect place to lepak while appreciating nature and having lots of fun!

On the way to the beach, we stopped by the popular fish & chips store, Scarborough Fish & Chips. I had the regular fish & chips, which was pretty decent, but the pan-fried barramundi that the boys ordered was lovely.

Frankly speaking, the beach (Tanjung Rhu) was a pretty huge disappointment. Water sports were limited and expensive, and the beach wasn't as beautiful as it looks in pictures. Nevertheless, when you're with the right people, you'd definitely be able to find something great to do - isn't it? We managed to enjoy ourselves (with a coconut) by the beach while the 2 boys went around murdering catching ghost crabs.

Cheap thrills, great food, the majestic sun and the perfect company are all you need for the perfect holiday!

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