Saturday, December 24, 2011

A review of my 2011...

This will be my last entry for the year as I am leaving for South America in a few hours time. Year 2011 is a challenging year, and a lot of things did not go as planned. There are periods where it had been an emotional roller-coaster ride. I had to be mentally stronger. The philosophy of "Letting Go" has been very helpful. However, I also acknowledge that my trivial problems are insignificant when I took a few steps back looking at the bigger perspective of life.

Overall, it has been a good year. I am very grateful to be alive.

There are lessons that I have learnt:

1. Fear is the scariest when I chose not to face it.

2. Trusted people are like gems in my life.

3. Dangerous people: highly educated, intelligent, rich and well-connected, but without integrity. Especially those who appear to be friendly and kind.

4. Always ASK. Ask for help. Ask for favour. Ask questions. Ask for your rights.

5. Have a to-do-list and deadline. It instills self-discipline.

6. Learn to say "NO".

7. Simplicity is Beautiful. Less is More.

8. Be a dreamer. Live with No Regrets.

9. Meet more people. It keeps your ego in check. Humility.

10. Letting Go - the antidote to a lot of problems.

11. Be Grateful always.

(Dad & Niece)

I am really grateful for my family and my friends.
Thank You.

Charity: Riverkids Project

"Riverkids works with children and families in danger of abuse and trafficking in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We identify children at high risk because of extreme poverty, drug abuse, alcoholism, gambling, child abuse or other children or family involved in trafficking.
Then, we talk with the families to work out what help they need and what will keep their children safe.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as getting the children enrolled in school. Other times, we need to provide emergency shelter for abused children and urgent medical care to prevent a greater crisis. For our families, selling their children is a desperate solution to complicated long-term problems that can’t be quickly solved, but instead need patience and compassion to find practical solutions like vocational training and family counselling.
Our community centers are within walking distance from the crowded and dangerous slums our families live in. That makes it easy for the families to ask for help during an emergency, and makes our centers part of the local community. We hire staff from the local slums where possible too."

I was born in Southeast Asia like these kids, but I am fortunate to be born in a rich country. Just because I was born in the right place, my future is likely to be better. I might not be as smart or hardworking as these kids, but I was given the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe environment. Sometimes, it is like a game of tossing coin - born in a poor or rich country. I am just lucky.

I hope to do something more than just donating money in the future.
It's a season of sharing. Let's share our blessings.

One New Experience Each Week - ZoukOut

Lately, I haven't been trying out new experiences, partly because my list is getting shorter, the to-do-things are getting tougher and I am busy with my South America trip planning... 

Finally, I went for my FIRST Zoukout experience (partying from dusk till dawn @ beach). I wanted to go to the first Zoukout back in 2000, but I was in the wilderness of Australia in my army attire serving the nation. In fact, I dropped the idea of going to Zoukout for years, until last year when I realized that if I still did not go for Zoukout, I might be the oldest participant in a few years time.

Last year, Zoukout was a sold-out event as it was celebrating 10 years anniversary. I was at the venue, and I was so desperate that I was willing to pay $180/ticket when someone offered it (however, one of my friends did not want to pay such money, so I dropped the idea).

This year Zoukout was rather boring, but I was glad that I went, as I have no more desire to attend another Zoukout.


Desire (aka Craving) is a very funny animal.
When I did not have something, I wanted it so badly.
I would work really hard to get it.
When I gotten it, it did not bring that kind of happiness that I expect.
Then, I would continue to search for something else.
It was a never ending game...

For example:  The Zoukout experience

I was willing to pay $180 for a ticket last year. But after this year experience, I might think twice even if someone offered me a free ticket.

For example:  The clubbing experience
Recently, my younger cousin was updating her FB that she was clubbing every weekend. I could understand that phase of life, as I used to club every weekend more than 10 years ago. After been there done that, I found it quite pointless to club EVERY weekend. It is a waste of money, time, energy and LIVER. At the same time, I am glad that I went through that phase, and I could understand why people do it.

For example:  The gambling experience
More than 10 years ago, my friend and I went on-board a gambling cruise ship. I gambled and lost all my money, and had a strong desire to fight the odds and win back my money. I thought of borrowing money, but I did not. My friend was in an even worse position, he borrowed money and lost thousands of dollars (that was a lot of money for a 20 year-old dude). Interestingly, he managed to recoup his losses and made some money. I asked him to stop, but he continued gambling as he felt really lucky. As expected, he lost every single cents. 

After this experience, I could understand compulsive gambling and the gambling addict mindset. It was quite a good albeit scary experience - Greed, Fear, Desire, Hope. I am thankful for losing my money, as it was a good lesson.

For example: The Dead Sea experience
Prior to visiting the Dead Sea, I had seen so many photos of people floating on the Dead Sea. I really wanted to experience it badly. When I was floating in the Dead Sea I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It was really magical and I have never experienced anything like that before. 

When I left the Dead Sea, I remembered vividly my thought was "So that was it??". I have no more desire to spend more time on the Dead Sea.

*If you haven't experienced it, you should do it at least once in your life* =) 

Desire is both satisfying and frustrating.
I guess, I am just being human.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Charity Water

Millions are deprived of Clean Water.
Let's do something for them.

If we lived a century ago, witnessing clean water flowing out of a tap would be a miracle. 
Have you taken your clean water for granted?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

David Attenborough - Wonderful World (BBC)

What a wonderful world... The World is awesome!!! 
At the same time, i just felt that we should be responsible and stop exploiting it for own benefits. 
Think of other species and the future generation!

The 50 most inspiring travel quotes

Some of my favourite quotes 

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

 “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” –John Steinbeck

 “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

″A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” – Moslih Eddin Saadi

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

“The journey not the arrival matters.” – T. S. Eliot

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton

"A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not why ships were built."

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.” – Fitzhugh Mullan

Be comfortable.
Sleep anywhere
(Taken at Indian Train Station)

I do not know a lot of things in life, but at least, I know that traveling is definitely one of the best ways to be ALIVE. I learnt so much while I was traveling. I learnt to be less judgemental as I am more aware of my ignorance and lack of knowledge. I learnt that a simple kindness in a foreign land is heart warming and it could linger in the heart for years. I learnt to appreciate differences between cultures and people, at the same time, realising that deep within, everyone is the same. I am humbled by all the amazing people I met. I learnt to appreciate hiccups as part of the journey, and quite often, it makes the trip memorable and a good conversation topic.

Most importantly, traveling reminded me that I am an insignificant sentient being in this wonderful big world. While my existence does not matter, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate this beautiful world. I am also aware that my time is limited....


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Talk by Ajahn Brahm (Dec'11)

Recently, Ajahn Brahm celebrated his 60th birthday. I really hope that I have the good fortune to listen to him for many years to come. I have been to many talks, and it is rare to find a teacher as good as Ajahn Brahm.

Below are some of my take-ways: 

 - Put the cup (worry) down and be Still

- During meditation:
 Let go of things that make you move -
The Past and The Future.

-We miss out a lot of things in life because we are moving too fast.
Be Still and appreciate the beauty around you.

-Stillness is the medicine we are looking for.

-When people shout at you, give yourself 5 seconds of Silence before you react.

- When surrounded by enemy. Drink a Tea. 
Life is always changing

- In Silence, you see more.

A tribute to an extraordinary lady - Teresa Hsu

(7 July 1898 – 7 December 2011)
Aged 113 years old

Despite her near-celebrity status for her tireless work in caring for the less privileged, Ms Teresa Hsu had shunned the public eye - up until her death last week. 

Ms Hsu died last Wednesday at the age of 113 - she was Singapore's oldest living person - but news of her death only emerged this week in a posting on the website of Heart to Heart Service, a charity which Ms Hsu had set up. 

"In accordance with her wish to depart quietly and peacefully, and her instructions not to make any announcement to the media, as well as not to conduct or perform any rituals or ceremonies that will cause disturbance and inconvenience to others, she was cremated on the same day," said the statement by Mr Sharana Rao, a colleague at Heart to Heart. 

"She has further instructed that no claim be made of her ash by whosoever."

Teresa's mother said 
"We ate yesterday.
They haven't eaten for two days.
They have more right to the food."

After eating grass to satisfy her thought of hunger, Teresa said to herself
"As long as I'm able to
let nobody need to eat grass."

"I will still share my rice bowl.
My bowl of rice with you. 
This is now my life.
to share what I have with those who are hungrier than I.
Even equally hungry, 
we share half a bowl."

"In life there are always problems.
You solve your problems to the best you can
and you accept the rest." 


I remember watching her (100+ years old) on a TV programme where she was still helping people 20-30 years younger than her. I was really amazed by her energy and passion. She really walks the talk. I read that she became a nurse at the age of 47 years old, even the school only accept people below 25 years old. I am glad she persisted.

It is really amazing that she was still thoughtful and humble by requesting for a simple funeral.
She lived a simple & humble lifestyle - Meditation, Yoga, Vegetarianism.

Amazing Lady.
Amazing Life.

Thank you for making this world a better place.

Thank you for inspiring everyone of us.
Thank you for being a role model.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Article "Comfortable with the face I've earned" by Dr Lee Wei Ling

I really like Dr Lee Wei Ling's last few paragraphs on her article on Sunday Times (4th Dec'11). She was talking about being comfortable with her appearance and her general attitude towards life...

"I have not yet developed the ability to be totally detached from life's vicissitudes, but I have learnt to remind myself that desire of and attachment to worldly things bring suffering. I have this become fairly successful in curbing some of my attachments.

If I believed in reincarnation, then I would feel that I had many more lives to struggle through before I attained nirvana. But I don't believe in reincarnation, and I am convinced that I am a transient on this planet.

This means that if I don't want to suffer too much in this life, I must continually remind myself that while I should aspire to help other humans, I must also be willing to be detached when detachment is the only option.

I don't resent the misfortunes that fate has brought me. I accept them as lessons in life that only personal experience can teach. Indeed, I believe I am fortunate rather than unfortunate to have learnt these lessons."

Friday, December 02, 2011

What are your childhood dreams?

After watching the last lecture by Randy, I started to ask myself what are my childhood dreams? Have I fulfilled them?


When I was in primary school, my grades were so bad that my mum told me (I was 9 years old) that I had to complete at least my primary school education so that I could get a job in a factory as a production worker. And because of our very difficult financial situation, my mother had to join the workforce in her mid-thirties as a production worker. For a while, my dream was really to become a production worker.

This dream was never realized. I have never worked in a production line before (fortunately or unfortunately).


When I was in secondary school, my dream was to be admitted to University. It was really a faraway dream for me. And coming from a lousy school, I used to feel inferior when I met students from good reputable schools. I used to think that they knew more than me until I participated in the National Mathematics Olympiad and was ranked 100+ among the top 2000 students in Singapore, which put me in the top 1% percentile nationally for Mathematics. I was the only student in my whole (lousy) school to receive such recognition two years in a row.

This dream was realized when I completed my University education.


When I was in junior college, my dream was to go overseas for university education. I did well for my first year exam and was selected to be part of the Scholars' club in the school. I also did well for my A levels exam (not straight As), but good enough to be invited for Overseas Scholarship Interviews. Unfortunately (fortunately) after receiving all the rejection letters, I sank into mild depression, as I knew I would never have opportunity to study abroad. I was offered a local scholarship, but I did not accept it.

This dream was realized when I spent one year working in the San Francisco Bay Area and was taking courses at Stanford University. That was the best year of my life.


There are still many dreams of mine that I didn't realize (yet).
Working in Wall Street, Living in London, Becoming a Fund Manager, Financial Freedom, Setting up a Charity Foundation, Teaching in a Rural School in Himalayas etc...

My Life is far from perfect, but I come a long way.
From a dream of becoming a production worker to studying at Stanford University.
I am already very fortunate and lucky. 

Sometimes, I was frustrated that my fullest potential was not realized yet.
But looking back, (fortunately, I started from a low base) I am already very thankful and grateful for all the blessings.

I may not fulfill ALL my dreams, but I take solace in the fact that some of my dreams have been fulfilled and I am taking incremental steps towards fulfilling my new dreams. I will never succeed, as new dreams kept surfacing. I may not be successful, but at least I tried. 

Tibetan Kids
(Taken on 2005 at Xiahe, Gansu Province, China)

These adorable kids were collecting recyclable items on the street to sell. When I gave them some sweets, they were really happy and started to pose for me. 

Looking at them, I knew that Life is never fair.
Why are they on the street when they should be school?
What are the dreams of these children? 

The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch

I watched this last lecture in late 2007 when Randy Pausch was still around. I thought that since he was so positive and optimistic, may be a miracle might happen. Despite knowing that his odds was low, I was still saddened by the news of his departure.

I wrote about it in 2009.

I read his book and watched his lecture again, there are still so many lessons to be learnt. Below are my key takeaways:

"The brick wall are there for a reason. They are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something."

"Never lose the childlike wonder"

"People are more important than things"
--> Randy poured coke onto the back seat of his new convertible car, to tell his niece & nephew that it is okay to mess up his things. Later that evening, his nephew vomited in his new convertible. Don't get upset over things.

"Don't complain, just work harder."

"Why do pancakes need to be round?.... We (Randy & his nephew & niece) were always making weirdly shaped animal pancakes."

"Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time & energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won't make us happier."

"It's not how hard you hit. It's how hard you get hit and keep moving forward."

"Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer."

"If you want something bad enough, never give up."

" Someone asked Randy 'Wow, you got your tenure early. What's your secret?'
He replied 'It's pretty simple. Call me any friday night in my office at ten o'clock and I'll tell you.'
Hard work is like compounded interest in the bank. The rewards build faster." 

"No regrets, give it the best shot"

"Showing Gratitude is one of simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Movie: 那些年,我們一起追的女孩


The movie resonated with me because the director is around my age, and he is sharing his love story for this girl during his schooling days. I could relate to a quite a lot of things and there are so many subtle lessons in the movie, especially this sentence 

" Some things are destined to be futile..."

So... it would be wiser just to enjoy the journey...  since a lot of things in life are futile. 

Looking back my schooling days, I have no regrets studying hard... fortunately, I played quite hard as well. But I wished I was more rebellious... I wished I had challenged the authority more.... and played even harder!


In my secondary days, I was the vice-head prefect and I led my fellow peers to boycott the system, by not performing prefects' duty (as we wanted to step down and concentrate on our final exams). The school was in mess for a while, and the disciplinary master was very angry with me. In the end, I was given C5 (bad grade) for ECA --- after contributing my 4 years of dedicated service to the school and leading the prefectorial board. 

On the hindsight, I am happy for my action. I was supposed to be a model student, yet I revolted because I stood firm on my rights. More importantly, I earned the respect from my peers.


When I was promoted to junior college, I could not bother with school activities because my past experiences. There was an opportunity to do overseas volunteer work - building a school in the impoverished part of Inner Mongolia China, during the June holiday. Most of my peers were busy studying and preparing for exams in July, but I decided that this was too rare an opportunity to be missed.

In the end, my July exams results were the worst grades during my junior college days. Academically, I was in the top 5% in my cohort, and my teachers were lamenting that I was getting complacent and lazy.

On the hindsight, I don't really care about the July exam grades (I did well for my final A levels exam).
I still had vivid memories and lessons from the trip.
That's more important!

Having Fun with the Kids in Inner Mongolia, China



It's the experience that really matters!!!

Take more risks
Be foolish
Be embarrassed
Be spontaneous
Break more rules (those that doesn't make sense)
Question the Authority
Live without regrets!

So.... go out and have fun now!
Experience Life!
Be Alive!

Lessons from Life Reports (NY Times)

Taken from: New York Times

"The most common lament in this collection is from people who worked at the same company all their lives and now realize how boring they must seem. These people passively let their lives happen to them. One man described his long, uneventful career at an insurance company and concluded, “Wish my self-profile was more exciting, but it’s a little late now.”

"The most exciting essays were written by the energetic, restless people, who took their lives off in new directions midcourse. One man, who was white, trained an all-black unit during World War II, was a director of the pharmaceutical company that developed The Pill, and then served as a judge at an international court at The Hague. “Career-wise, it was a rocky road,” another wrote, “but if diversity is the spice of life, then mine resembled hot Indian curry.” Nobody regretted the life changes they made, even when they failed."

"Many more seniors regret the risks they didn’t take than regret the ones they did."

"An amazing number cherished their marriages of 43 years or more. And, for almost all, family and friends mattered most."


Such an insightful articles.
Sometimes, we do not change because we are afraid & fearful...
Fearful of the unknown
Fearful of failure
Fearful of embarrassment
Fearful of being judged
Fearful of change

By the end of the road,
would you regret that you did not take more risk?

I have certainly taken some risks in my life, 
things might not have worked out as I planned (yet).
Always need a bit of optimism. =)

But it's okay, at least, 
I wouldn't say "I should have done it".

Life is a journey.
This is Life.
Enjoy it. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book: The End of Poverty - How we can make it happen in our lifetime

I first came across this book in the bookstore in Kathmandu, Nepal (One of the poorest countries in the world), but I felt that the subject matter is too heavy to ponder on a trekking trip so I didn't purchase it. The following year, I was on a business trip to India (also one of the poorest countries in the world) and I decided to buy it in the airport.

It was a good book - with Jeffery Sachs sharing his experiences in Bolivia & Poland, and shedding his views on the rise of China and India. It was a heavy topic and the problem is mind boggling. Sometimes, too heavy that I wanted to stop reading.

Some key takeaways from the book:

"The key problem for the poorest countries is that poverty itself can be a trap. When poverty is very extreme, the poor DO NOT have the ability - by themselves - to get out of the mess."

"When countries get their foot on the ladder of development, they are generally able to continue the upward climb. All good things tend to move together at each rising rung; higher capital stock, greater specialization, more advanced technology, and lower fertility. If a country is trapped below the ladder, with the first rung too high off the ground, the climb does not even get started."

Reasons why Communist China is the booming (currently the second largest economy in the world), while the rest of the Soviet and economies are not doing as well.

"1. The Soviet and Eastern European economies had massive foreign debts, whereas China did not.
2. China had a large coastline that supported its export-led growth, whereas the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe did not have the benefit of large coastlines and the resulting low-cost access to international trade.
3. China had the benefit of overseas Chinese communities, which acted as foreign investors and role models, whereas most of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe did not have comparable overseas communities.
4. The Soviet Union was experiencing a drastic decline in oil production at the outset of reforms, but China was not.
5. The Soviet Union had gone much further down the road of industralization, using technologies incompatible with Western (US, EU & Japanese) technologies, whereas China remained at a low level of technology and could more easily adopt Western specification."

On why Malaria has reached an epidermic level in Africa but not the rest of the world:
"...Malaria is largely a tropical disease, and if warm weather is a prerequisite, Africa has it! ..... The force of transmission of malaria in Africa is roughly 9 times that of India because of the difference of mosquito species..."

"Corruption is the Culprit....corruption is Africa's venal sin, the deepest source of its current malaise..."


Jeff's insights have led me to think deeper about the problems facing this world. But why do I care about extreme poverty - since I am not affected by it anyway and I am not rich to make any significant changes. I would not have any material gain by spending my time thinking and donating money.

My analogy is a person who is suffering from Depression, needs someone else to help them out of the situation. Similarly, in extreme poverty, they also need a helping hand. 

Everyday we have heard so many negative news around the world. The world is in serious need of people who could show empathy, love and compassion, otherwise the world is hopeless. I believe that by doing small things within our limited abilities, we could make this world a slightly better place. 

The world is in serious need of people who cares.

One of the organizations that I truly believes could alleviate poverty is

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Biggest Risk in Life

The Biggest Risk in Life is not taking any risk and play safe.
When your life is over, you regretted you have not lived.
You regretted that you have not taken more risk.
Because at the end, a lot of things that you fear doesn't matter.
(Embarrassment, Fear, Failure, Social Expectation etc..)

Life is a short trip.
Make it a good one.

As Steve Jobs said
"Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."

Potala Palace
(Taken @ Lhasa, Tibet)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

An evening with friends...

I really enjoy this kind of gatherings.

Meeting at a friend (XF)'s place.
Preparing a simple dinner together.
Eating and chatting over dinner.
Teasing the kids of a friend.
Washing the dishes together.
Playing a round of Mahjong game.

That's it!
No fancy dinner. No loud music. 
Simple, yet very enjoyable.
It's perfect way to spend an evening.

Preparing Dinner in the Kitchen (with small fish tank)


My friend's place is decorated with swarovski crystal ceiling, designer furniture, expensive paintings and antiques (ie. 1000 years old Bronze Figure). 
Those things are really beautiful and unique (and really expensive).
But when I saw the innocent and adorable look of 10 month-old Shannon sleeping soundly,
it dawn on me that none of the expensive things is as beautiful as that moment.

To me, it validated my belief that physical things will never be as beautiful as other invisible things in life.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Think Different with Steve Jobs' Narration

Watched this video umpteen times,
but it never fails to move me.

The Crazy Ones 
who dare to be different and changed the world.
Thank You.

Graham Hill: Less stuff, more happiness

As I grew older, I am embracing this idea of "Less is More".
More Time...
More Freedom...

Sunday, November 06, 2011

French Buddhist Monk Matthieu Ricard

Taken from the Article:
"Dr Matthieu Ricard, 65, is the Dalai Lama's French interpreter and a monk in Nepal's Shechen Monastery, from the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. He completed his PhD in cell genetics in 1972 under the supervision of Nobel Prize winner Francois Jacob at the Institut Pasteur, in Paris. Though he moved in rarefied circles as the son of celebrated French philosopher Jean-Francois Revel and abstract water colourist Yahne Le Toumelin, he moved to Darjeeling in India to study Tibetan Buddhism at the age of 30.
Garbed in burgundy and saffron robes, and carting a laptop, Dr Ricard loves the secluded life, yet is globally connected. He travels with the Dalai Lama, attends the World Economic Forum in Davos, runs humanitarian and heritage projects. Last year, he counted 70 airline boarding passes.

'Personally, I feel wonderful looking at Himalayas from my hermitage. It is 3m by 3m with a big window facing the mountains. There is no heating, no hot water. It's paradise,' he says.

'The only reason I come down is to serve. 
Compassion should be put in action, otherwise it is sterile.'"


I got to know about him when I was in Kathmandu 2 year ago searching for a book to read during my 2 weeks Everest Base Camp trek. I was fortunate to chance upon his book "Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill.", which is one of the best books I ever read. 

May be it is his scientific and philosophical background coupled with Buddhism philosophy, I found a lot of wisdom and clarity in his book. I am grateful for that.

"...The fact is that without inner peace and wisdom, we have nothing we need to be happy. Living on a pendulum between hope and doubt, excitement and boredom, desire and weariness, it's easy to fritter away our lives, bit by bit, without even noticing, running all over the place and getting nowhere. Happiness is a state of inner fulfillment, not the gratification of inexhaustible desires for outward things." - Matthieu Ricard

In another words, if you want to find lasting happiness outside of yourself, 
it would be a futile effort eventually.

One New Experience Each Week - A Taoist Temple Dinner

My father has been attending the Taoist Temple Dinner in celebration of a deity's birthday for many years. The last time I attended such event was may be 15-20 years ago. It was never my interest to attend such an event. 

This year, out of curiosity, I decided to attend and try to understand it.

I asked one simple question: Who is this deity?
Then, I realized my parents did not know anything much as well. They just followed the family "tradition" to support this temple, as my late grandfather had been a supporter of this temple.

I decided not to ask more questions.

The Taoist Temple

When I was younger, I would follow my parents and burn incense as a form of offering without questioning. Now, I decided not to follow the worship practice unless I have a clear understanding of the significance behind each practice and ritual. I still bow in respect, but I have my doubts and questions. 

It is not surprising that Taoism is losing ground among the younger generations.

The traditional puppet show.
It is a dying trade, and there is no audience anymore.
Quite sad, but that's part of change. 

Dinner Celebration with Auctioning of items like Martel Wine.

The crowd was made up of the older generation (those in their 50s & 60s), in fact, I was a rarity among the crowd. I was commenting to my dad and his friends that such an event might last another 10 years only, as the younger generations are not supporting it. They were quite defensive with their response. 

I left the event with a lot of unanswered questions. May be that is not important, at least, I understood why my father never fails to attend such an event. It is a community gathering - meeting up with old neighbours and friends. 

My dad asked if I could get involved with the temple, as part of our family "tradition", since it started with my late grandfather many years ago. 

My reply was "I would rather spend more time on volunteering work".

Monday, October 31, 2011

Remembering my maternal grandma...

It has been a year since my first Buddhist retreat
Recently, I recalled a lesson that  Thich Nhat Nanh  taught us.

Firstly, Thich asked us to imagine what are the things that we are proud of that are inherited from our parents.
I inherited my height and mathematical mind from my dad.
I inherited (learnt) patience and kindness from my mum.
I am grateful towards my parents.

Then, he told us to think deeper about the qualities that we inherited from our grandparents.
I have never met my maternal grandfather.
I started to think about my maternal grandmother who passed away when I was 8 years old.

I started to cry when I thought of the hardship that my maternal grandmother had to go through. She single-handedly raised 4 young children in a foreign land (She came from China), as my grandfather (an alcoholic) died when my mother was young. She never remarry and learned from scratch to run her own small business. She was very thrifty (in fact, stingy towards herself), and would rather spend money on her children. She made many sacrifices to raise her 4 kids, but she passed away before she could enjoy life.

I cried as I felt that Life was unfair.
Despite making so much sacrifices and enduring so much hardship, 
she did not enjoy the fruit of her labor.
She was a very strong and determined lady. 

Then, Thich said that all our forefathers are with us now.
Look inside of ourselves.
They are inside our DNA and Genes.

I took comfort that she is living inside of me as long as my blood is flowing.
I am bringing her with me when I was traveling the world.
I just hope that I could be as strong and as resilient as her.
By living a good life, I am honoring her.

We should be grateful towards all our forefathers.
Whenever we think that we are great, 
think of the qualities that we inherited from them.

Let's be Grateful.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

On Being Judgmental

HIV Ribbon
- a symbol for both drug prevention and for the fight against AIDS

A few months ago, I attended the volunteer training course for HIV/AIDS patients. One of the prerequisite of being a volunteer is that we should not be judgmental, and we should not ask sensitive question like how do you contracted the HIV virus.

A doctor shared a story about his conversation with an middle-age female volunteer (of a certain religious faith). The volunteer was commenting that the patients had to blame themselves for being promiscuous and unable to control their sexual desire. Then, the doctor asked the volunteer if she had experienced such a strong urge and sexual desire before? The volunteer said that she did not have strong sexual desire. Then, the doctor told the volunteer that she has no reason to judge them, as she does not understand what they are going through.

That's so enlightening!
Before we make any judgment on anybody, 
perhaps, we should ask ourselves if we could truly understand what that person is going through.

One New Experience Each Week - Istana

I was thinking of procrastinating the Istana visit and spending my Deepavali Holiday lazing around. May be I could visit the Istana next year. This is the exactly why I had never visited Istana - it will always be there. Then, I asked myself... what if I am not around next year?

Main Gate of Istana

City Skyline from Istana

Statue of Queen Victoria - A Remnant of the British Colonial Rule

Mr Lee Kuan Yew (First Prime Minister of Singapore) said at his wife's wake that one of the happiest moments in his life was strolling in Istana with his wife in the evenings. Indeed, Istana is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the manicured "lawn" and beautiful garden... But not everybody have the privilege to enjoy the peace and tranquility of this place without a crowd.

Newly elected President Dr Tony Tan

The main building

I love the greens and the weather was cooling.
So what's the best way to enjoy the moment?

Strolling on the green barefooted....
Feeling the softness of the ground...
Walking freely...

When I got off the green and got back to the pavement,
I overheard someone commenting
"Oh... the ground was wet and muddy..."

I was thinking
"Ah....h Singaporeans...."