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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

Month

January 2014

An anniversary

One year ago, I woke up to find a text from my mother, telling me that she had to cancel her flight to Canberra because she was experiencing acute pains around her diaphragm.

Unknown to both of us then, it was the beginning of the death setting in.

I’ve been dreaming about her a lot this week. She’s always alive, healthy, strong. Sometimes, she had already gone through the death and we sit and talk about present things and present times, and I’m filling her in about what we’re doing about her house, and what’s been happening since we last caught up. In my dream last night, she had just gotten out of the communal shower at a church camp while I was waiting for her in our room, so I could get my turn. She was telling someone I know about how she had survived her cancer, and how she had never experienced such pain as she did until it reached her hips and legs. In that dream, I had the foreknowledge that she was about to get her second round, and she was going to die from it – but she didn’t know that yet.

I miss her from the deepest core of my being.

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Mirror

It’s Australia Day today. And although I’m not Australian, the day has gotten me thinking a lot about my own nationality.

My decade in Australia is a continuous education on what is considered Australian and — more importantly — what’s UnAustralian. It’s not a saying we use in Singapore – we don’t go around saying, “You have never queued over half an hour for a bowl of [insert favourite hawker fare] – you are UnSingaporean.” But I’m pretty sure that there is some similar Holy Writ engraved in the hearts and minds of its inhabitants.We might intrinsically agree on a few tenets and values that even the country’s pledge doesn’t quite cover in its depth and breadth. We embrace Western living conditions and white-picket-fence ideals, but cling to Eastern work ethics and traditions frozen in the time of our mass emigration. We champion meritocracy, can be rather suspicious of welfare, and believe that the fittest deserve to survive. But we also love Big Government, even though we push against the grain. We are easily bored, because we want constant stimulation and regard Variety as the natural and healthy by-product of industrious minds and hands. We are proud of what we have achieved in spite of our pint size, our short history, and our love-hate relationship with our neighbours.

We are a multicultural melting pot, but we certainly don’t seem to have the warm fuzzies when it comes to our colonised past.

I don’t know if I’m grasping at straws here, but there is just something about being slagged off by an ang-moh that really gets under a lot of Singaporeans’ skins.

This post, by the way, has been stewing for a week. I’ve glossed over the Anton Casey furor (primarily on Facebook), and the few finger scrolls I’ve had through the comments section of articles and posts have left me feeling decidedly sick.

To the rest of the world who might not know what I’m talking about, I’ll try to summarise. Anton Casey, a British National married to a Singaporean, had been living in Singapore for 12 years before some of his boofhead Facebook posts went viral. They are mostly outlined in this News.com.au article and he basically castigated everyone who took public transport on a regular basis as poor and smelly, but what the article doesn’t quite capture was the sheer furor and backlash on social media. And because there really are only 3 degrees of separation between any 2 Singaporeans (or it darn right feels like it), Anton’s personal details such as his residential address and employer (past and present)  got circulated online. Despite an attempt to smooth things out with the help of a PR firm, it all culminated to an immediate termination of his work contract, and a hasty departure of his family (wife and 5yo son) to Perth.

And don’t get me wrong – the guy had been incredibly offensive and arrogant on Facebook. A complete douchebag, if you were to put it in ‘Straya terms. And I wondered how a man living in an adopted nation would have the gall, the cheek to rubbish away the “plebs” – the very backbone of the nation who made it possible for him to swan in and make a decent porsche-owning, air-conditioned living. All that is true.

But the harrassment and the death threats. The running of a man and his innocent family to the ground. The venom and the spite. Two wrongs have never made it a right.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I live in Australia now, but I still introduce myself as Singaporean. And if I ever get asked about our curtailed freedoms – our censored media, our paternalistic government – I’ve always blithely pointed out that as a woman, and as a Christian, I’ve felt infinitely more protected and safer in Singapore than I do in Australia.

The Australian media, for the large part, is antagonistic towards Christianity. Australian society, to a large extent, is dismissive of Christ. And because Facebook has come into our day-to-day in the decade I’ve lived here, I get confronted with deeply offensive and hurtful messages about my faith daily. These messages are often unfair and inaccurate, mostly delivered tongue-in-cheek, and might come from a place of experience and hurt as well.

I say this, because if you were to change the context of what Anton said… if you were to change it to a YouTube video of a panel of witty comedians in a popular quiz show… if you were to change the subjects from faceless commuters in a borrowed country to gormless Christians in a hired community hall, there would be no public vitriol. Because this already happens publicly, daily.

I’m not discounting the fact that there are lousy examples of Christianity to be found. Of course there are. And I understand that there are fundamental beliefs and values that different camps cling to and fight for. I know that groups of Christians can be militant about their own beliefs — even to the point of warring within the brotherhood. But my point is when anyone excoriates a group of people with such vehemence, they often become the very things they hate. Arrogant. Self-righteous. Narrow-minded. Hypocritical. Judgemental.

The reason I struggle for self-control NOT to yell back is the reminder that Christ told me to Let It Go. Turn the other cheek. Offer the tunic. Go the extra mile. It may sting, it may not be fair, our innocent loved ones may be affected, but the instruction is clear: we do not strut ever.

In the case of Anton Casey, we took a man with a loose mouth and lousy discretion, and delivered a crushing, disproportionate response. And he wasn’t even the first.

Is that what it really means to stand up for Singapore?

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Jumping to The Wiggles while nursing a sore head.

Yes, the lady at my First Aid course for littlies was wise indeed. She basically suggested that the majority of injuries, though slight, can be catastrophic for little ones. Especially when they haven’t had their nap.

Like Subject A above.

Thankfully, nothing heals such grievances faster than cartoon-character encrusted band aids, and a cold pack.

Arddun just bumped her head on the rounded edge of our coffee table. Out came the cold pack. But the true measure of outstanding recovery is how vigorous the after-dance gets…

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Love is… sheltering your daddy as it starts to rain.

Arddun has been dying to use her umbrella in the proper way – that is, in the rain. We’ve been having scorching weather for a week now, and Arddun’s Thomas the Tank Engine umbrella has had a couple of excursions in the open to shield its owner from the blinding sun.

But this evening, the relentless heat broke. The clouds rolled, the thunder rumbled grudgingly in the distance, and Arddun celebrated EVERY ONE of those grumbles with a spirited rendition of I Hear Thunder.

And she got to use her umbrella, just as it started to spit. Praise God.

Water play

Blowing bubbles is something that just doesn’t get old with Arddun. Except lately, she’s coordinated and big enough to blow her own bubbles without getting too puffed.

Trouble is, she’s gotten into the new habit of talking herself through the steps. Which has the unfortunate side effect of using up precious bubble-blowing air.

What she’s saying:

“First, put your stick in the mixture… shake it around… take a deep breath [DEEP BREATH]… and blow!”

The other thing I love about having our own yard (a sheer luxury in Singapore that is practically a given here) is keeping cool on very hot summer days.

Arddun in her wading pool
Taking a big bow, after a mighty splash around her wading pool. Also very thankful for neighbours who planted a tiny tree in their yard which has now grown enough to give us marvelous shade in summer afternoons.

Summer lovin’ with Aunty Kerri

Tony’s sister Kerri came to stay with us for a week, which threw routine out the window in the best way possible. I haven’t done the touristy thing for years now, so it was lovely to revisit the usual tourist haunts – the gallery, the museum, the War Memorial. We even took a leisurely cruise on Lake Burley Griffin and had a rundown of Canberra’s odds and ends from the skipper with the driest sense of humour.

Arddun, Kerri, Penny and Hayley on the train at Cockington Green
With Aunty Kerri, (Grand) Aunty Penny and Hayley on the train at Cockington Green

(Hayley had just been advised by her grandma that it is best to keep her arms and legs in the train by “waving like the queen”.

Arddun did not get the memo.)

Kerri posing as wonder woman
January, as Kerri and I have both determined, is a fabulous month for preparing for change. Still bringing 2014 on…

It’s been building up to a proper Summer, which means sweltering burns of up to 40°C. We have therefore rediscovered ice-cream in a big way. A former colleague owns and runs Stripey Sundae in Gold Creek, and Arddun and I had such a lovely maiden visit with Kerri last week, that we got the Mother’s Group over yesterday for a glorious icy-cold binge.

Arddun eating salted caramel ice cream in Stripey Sundae
Salted butter caramel ice-cold goodness
Kerri and Arddun sitting on the bed
Thanks for visiting, Aunty Kerri! Come back soon!

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Tony’s sister, Kerri is in town. It’s been 9 years since she last stepped foot in Canberra, so it was a lovely excuse to go visit the galleries and stand next to street art.

We went to the Portrait Gallery for lunch after church yesterday, and Penny and Graham joined us – a double happiness. I keep forgetting how I adore the shop in the Portrait Gallery. It’s filled with books of whimsy and fact, and is the one gift shop I would specifically journey to, just so I can score some quality gifts for special people. I mean, how many gallery gift shops can claim to have that sort of place in people’s hearts? Not many.

This is one of Canberra’s less questionable sculptures, probably because it was funded by Federal money and not the ACT government. Arddun was completely fascinated by these giant metallic pears. And because Tony’s sister is in town, we finally have another pair of hands willing and able to take a family shot.

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