Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reflections of the year

Besides Christmas, New Year is my favourite occassion of the year. It'd better be.

Although I do have some mixed feelings about the coming year, the prospect of starting over brings hope that things will get better. As usual, no resolutions from me but a chance to pursue dreams, begin new journeys and bid goodbye to the negative things of the previous year. It is also a time to count my blessings and be thankful for every little thing that I'm are blessed with.

Life is one big adventure and the choices we have are abundant but not without endless forks on the roads too. When I made the decision to take a break from work this year, I thought my world will come to a standstill for me but oh no, I was wrong. I have learnt some of life's important lessons that I never imagine I would've experienced at work.

Caught in the rut of everyday life, I was so consumed with worry and anxiety, that I have forgotten about my true nature. In April, I left earthly comforts aside and together with some friends, we joined The Pilgrimage Walk from Batu Caves to Maran covering 204km for 3 days. The journey was an eye-opener.
The Lesson : I should try to shift my values more towards people and relationship and less towards accumulating things. There are many things in life I don't really need. I've become more aware of what I take with me and what I don't.

Then I had another mind blowing experience at the Silent Retreat at Lucky Valley with breathworks and this time, witnessed a past life regression from Kim who travelled with me there.
The Lesson I learnt did not come from Breathworks or a past life regression. It came from the phrase 'LISTEN TO YOUR HEART'. But at times, I asked myself again and again "how do I know if the 'leading' is right?" Many times, I've got to learn it the hard way.

And there at the Hospis Daycare where I served as a volunteer, I met a group of new friends. I learned from patients and fellow volunteers the new meaning of life. Cancer patients who continue to battle so tirelessly in order to light up the lives of others and serving as an inspiration to always celebrate life - no matter how tough the going gets, humbled me.

I attended my first workshop with Hospis Malaysia on Palliative Care in August where love and compassion was once again emphasized to me. I learned the signifance of talking less and listening more, as Epictetus so aptly puts it, " Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak".

As for running, this year I ran two full marathons in KL and Pattaya. A few more half marathons but the ones I enjoyed most must be The Ocean to Ocean Relay Run in Thailand, JW Cameron Run, Penang Bridge Run and Powerman at Lumut (where I went just to support John and my other friends). And closing the year with a little boost for me was the recent Putrajaya 12hr Walk.

There we we enter into a brand new decade, may we continue to count our blessings, big or small.

"It is good to have money and things that money can buy, but it's good too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven't lost the things money can't buy." - George Lorimer

Friday, December 25, 2009

Of December, Birthdays, Christmas and the politics of presents...

I love December. It's my favourite month because of my relationship with Christmas. You see, I was born in the month of December and I thought sharing the same birthday month with Jesus and Ms. Cooke (my former Headmistress whom I adore and respect) is great!
My parents hardly celebrate birthdays. My pa never had his birthday celebrated, not even until the day he died. My sisters and I did a birthday bash for mom on her 60th. birthday and that was it. So, when we were young, we witnessed other kids celebrating their birthdays in grandeur while ours remained just another ordinary day. Yet we made no fuss about it. And personally, December remains as my favourite month because it's also school holidays. Less traffic jam!

I love Christmas - I love the colorful, blinking lights, the pretty ornaments that decorate a X'mas tree, Santa and his reindeer poised for flight from some rooftop.

I enjoy singing Christmas carols and listening repeatedly to the nativity of Christ, for it has a place in history.

I revel in the spirit of gift giving - a symbol of joyful celebration of birth and hope.

I am warmed by the traditions that surround the season - giving and receiving presents at the same time.

BUT the things that give me pleasure cause me great tension too. For whom will I get presents? What gifts should I buy? If I give someone a present and they don't have one for me, what does that mean? What if someone has a present for me and I don't have one for her? How does that feel?

Oh, the politics of presents!

I loathe how commercialized Christmas has become as I fall prey to some fashionable items too. As the years drift by, Christmas has lost its religion appeal (not that I am so religious). Still experiencing the economic gloom, I feel there's fear among those who struggle to find the extra cash to shop for gifts.

I am sad to find the meaning of Christmas now buried in the barrels of bath accessories, bottles of perfumes and the spread of food at the buffet table. As the year is coming to an end, perhaps it's time to reflect and contemplate. To spare some thoughts to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Some children who may be still looking for a pair of shoes to wear. Some poor souls who had gone without food for days. Or someone who is mourning for the loss of a dear one.

So this season - instead of worrying about what gifts to give, where to have Christmas lunch or dinner or what to wear, may we just give thanks for the simple things in life that we are blessed with...good health, family, friends and holidays!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Spirit Of Christmas

As Christmas approaches, and without taking any stance for or against the occasion, those who celebrate may experience Christmas and the days leading up to it as stressful. What was originally meant to be a time of stillness and peace has been made into its opposite by the human mind. The occasion we are celebrating at Christmas is, of course, the birth of Jesus two thousand years ago. In a deeper sense, however, Christmas represents the birth of Christ within the human soul, the arising of who you are in your essence – stillness, the unconditioned, timeless dimension of consciousness.

Just as Christmas is the celebration of light arising when the darkness is greatest and the nights are longest, the spiritual birth in the human soul often happens at a time of great despair and suffering. This is the dark night of the soul that often comes before the spiritual awakening. Once the awakening has happened, most people undergo a process during which the darkness within them, the unconsciousness of the ego, is seen more clearly and dispelled by the light of consciousness, the light of Presence. In other words: living in the Now dispels the darkness!

Collectively, Christmas comes to symbolize the spiritual birth on earth, the arising of a new consciousness in humanity. This is what lies at the core of all religions: the realization of enlightenment, the Christ within, or your Buddha nature.

Excerpt taken from Eckhart Tolle's newsletter.

May the spirit of Christmas deepen the stillness, love, peace and joy that we are.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Almost there!

This is my 3rd 12-hour walk competition but my first experience walking in Putrajaya. The previous two races were held in Penang where I completed 76km in 2002 and 80km in 2007. This time, my goal was to better those records. Therefore I decided to go for an ultra-marathon distance which is 84km.

A 12-hour walk works exactly just like the tortoise-and-hare race. It rewards the patient and penalizes the overeager. It takes a lot of perseverance and patience and certainly not a sport for sprinters. Each race (be it a 12-hour or a 24-hour walk) has taught me some valuable lessons over the years. I’ve learned discipline, modesty and self-control amongst other things through such an endurance game.
Putrajaya : December 13th. 2009
On arrival at Putrajaya, I could feel much excitement in the air when I saw the many tents being set up. Some non-competitors were there simply to have fun and decided to camp at the site while giving moral support to their families or friends. I was greeted with so many familiar faces including my friendly competitors from Hong Kong and France. It was also like a mini reunion when I met old friends like Shew Keng, Nan Yang and I was surprised to see Wai Keen (one of Julie’s student from the Supported Living Programme) present there. When I asked if he remembers me, he was quick to respond, “Yes. Yap Wai Mun!” He was there to support Julie and to prove that people with learning disability do have the abilities beyond their reckonings, given the chance. He succeeded by completing 28km which is indeed quite a feat.
Like Wai Keen, I believe there were many who came with their own personal objectives. Some were determined to better their previous record – some were just curious to find how walking for 12 hours feel like, and where it would take them – some came to walk with their family or spouse, merely to bond. Of course, some were there to win the prize money! Whatever it is, the fact that they have the courage to take on this challenge made them all winners with their own rights.

At about 7.45pm, more than 700 walkers gathered at the starting line. After a short briefing which no one paid much attention to, the race began….everyone was rushing and moving very fast especially the Kenyans. This is nothing unusual particularly in the early hours when everyone is still fresh and lively. I reminded myself to control my pace, preventing myself from walking too quickly or ‘over-performing’.
4th hour: 8pm – 12am
Although I found the right rhythm and started walking at a decent pace, I felt uncomfortable. I was battling with my inner self as I wasn’t sure if I had it right. But then, why should I feel this way? After all, this game is a personal one, ultimately there’s only one walker who really counts – ME. Then, I remembered I had John. My heart was filled with deep gratitude for John who sacrificed sleep to be there for me, as my manager and supporter. Well, let’s face it: how many husbands would do that for their wives? I look around and count myself so blessed and fortunate. While many spouses consider their ‘other half’ extremely insane to indulge themselves into such a crazy activity, John was at the race course throughout, monitoring my progress, checking results, attending to my every need and was never short of words of encouragement to cheer me up. The results revealed at 12am showed that I was ranked 6th position and had covered 27km after walking for 4 hours.
8th hour: 12am – 4am
After twelve, the atmosphere became somewhat quiet; the number of walkers was reduced as some had decided to retire or catch their 40 winks at their respective tents. Some walkers went to reunite with friends and refresh themselves while others were just resting their poor tired feet. With a goal in mind, I was relunctant to take any breaks. I was still concentrating to be as consistent as possible and entertained myself with a little old chorus in my heart: “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning. Give me oil in my lamp, I pray. Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning. Keep me burning till the break of day!” But it was still too far away from day break…
Due to an early dinner, the pangs of hunger hit me at around 1am and I made a request to John for some light snacks. I am normally not fussy with food but this time, I’ve got to admit that the food was lousy. However, I managed to grab half a hard-boiled egg and half a banana to last me until the end of the race. I was disappointed there wasn't any coffee when it was just about the only thing we needed most to help us stay awake! I took a sip of barley drink which tasted nothing but sugar water - yuks! Kilometers after kilometers I walked, almost imperceptibly at first and then finally passing Kenyan IrineJeptoo and my Malaysian compatriot Norazilah, both of whom I guessed were beginning to concede to the indiscretion of their earlier pace. I was thankful to friends eg. Adnan, Pheik Hoon, Teresa, Terence, Alex and Christina who kept my spirit alive by cheering and encouraging me each time I passed them. Later, Billie Kwok from Hong Kong (last year’s women champion) walked pass me and told me that she’ll be stopping at 50km and not continue anymore as she was tired. She was already at 2nd placing then. However, she encouraged me to keep moving. This is truly the spirit of sportsmanship and I embraced it!
By then, I was aware that the shock of each step radiating from my knees up to my hips and the strain slowing creeping from my spine, penetrating into my every nerve and sinew. Every kilometer took a little away not only from my legs and muscles but everywhere else. In spite of that, I was glad to be able to maintain an air of sangfroid. I motivated myself by drawing inspiration from whatever positive quotes that I could recall. “Every step you walk will get you closer to the finishing line.” “If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and never, never give up.” – Dean Karnazes.

It is certainly not easy, trying to overcome pain and exhaustion with clarity, alertness and stoicism when your brain kept telling you it’s time to sleep. Perhaps, this is what this game is all about. It aims to highlight to us the value of trying, enduring, persisting and fighting life’s hardship and that we can be victorious when physical and spiritual resources are mobilized. Sad but true that agony is part of this game. Yet it always humbled me to think that during a race like this, all of us are in this together regardless of age, gender, race, religion or nationality. We all struggled and suffered the same pain. But as an individual accustomed to pushing my physical limits, I had learnt not to be overwhelmed by pain, but to overcome it. Therefore I made up my mind to push myself to the edge of my pain threshold until I felt it no more.
12th hour: 4am – 8am
No results were being produced for the past 6 hours. I didn’t know why. There were some technical confusion or so it seemed. I had no idea where I stand and lost count the distance I had walked. Anyway, John advised me to just keep moving and I adhered to it.
By now, the pace I had been going at for the last couple of hours was entrenched in my legs until they now felt the need to maintain at that pace. After all, it still hurts just as bad no matter what speed I chose to go, so I might as well walk fast if I could.
Francis Hobert, Sports Physiotherapist for Kora Bouffilert from France instilled some confidence in me when he gave me a thumbs-up and a smile. I returned that smile to discover how powerful it has turned out to be. Suddenly all the tension seemed to ebb out of my aching body; every cell in my entire being were awaken!! Now with another 3 hours to go, I decided to increase my pace slightly.
When the results were finally released at 6am, John had already gone for his morning run around the vicinity of Putrajaya. I continued walking and was pleased that my legs were co-operative. When I saw some participants limping and afflicted with blisters, I thanked my own two feet for carrying me this far. Then Wendy Soo signaled to me with the latest results that I was at second placing. But it was Mohd Hanizam (the 4th 24-hour walk champion) who fed me with the details, he said, “At 10th hour, you are ranked 2nd having walked 70km with Isaac So from Hong Kong behind you covering 68km.” He advised me to maintain at that pace.
Final countdown : 7am – 8am
Finally, the daybreak and I felt lifted and was so good to be the first to watch the sunrise while the rest of the world slept. Having walked for 11 hours and realizing that I still have enough energy stored in my body to finish strong has to be one of the greatest feelings at that time. The ultra-marathon distance seemed achievable and I tried to do my own calculation to walk another 14km within the two hours that was left. Alas, I had forgotten what a failure I was when it comes to mathematics!! At 8am after walking diligently for 12 hours, I finally arrived at 83km; 1km short of my target of 84km. The ultra-marathon distance seemed so near yet so far.
Final results

I believe that in every race there is a defining moment for everyone. Some tend to think of that moment as being the first to cross the finishing line, for some it is to achieve a personal best, while many others find it absolutely satisfying just to complete the entire journey. My defining moment at the end of the 12 hours still remains a very personal experience for me. With age catching up, I found renewed strength both mentally and physically. And I also found comfort in knowing that I had fought well.

“The important thing in the race is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” – Pierre de Coubertin

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What price great run?

This is a delayed report on the Ocean to Ocean Relay Run which I participated on November 1st. 2009. This was the 5th Ocean to Ocean Run in Thailand, and my second year joining 3 other teams of 24 runners from Pacesetters Malaysia. Previously, we ran from Songkla to Satun but this year, the race course has changed from Lang Suan to Ra Nong. This relay run covered an approximate distance of 120km of which the 8 runners from each team took turn to run 3 times, each time about 5-6km.
This year - apart from Malaysia, the Run drew participation from other countries eg. UK, Singapore and Korea. Perhaps this is something the Thais should be proud of.

Prelude to the Ocean to Ocean Run
The bus journey from KL to Hatyai took about 8 hours with pit stop in Ipoh for supper. We had breakfast in Hatyai while waiting for the respective vans to come and pick us to Lang Suan. We boarded the vans based on the teams we belong and travelled together to the starting line at Lang Suan for registration. The journey from Hatyai to Lang Suan took us another 5 hours. It was indeed a long and tiring trip.
Upon arrival at Lang Suan, our team leaders : Gary, Peter Lim and Phua registered the teams namely : Impossible Team 1, 2 amd 3. We were warmly welcomed and treated with dinner. Organizer Dr. Ou Chai then briefed participants on the race's rules and regulations and what to expect. Although many of us are familiar to this event, I soon learned that it still pays to just listen.
Soon after dinner, we checked into PN Resort nearby and discovered that there was another party happening. Some of our team members joined in, helping themselves with a second round of dinner and beer by the beach while enjoying the breeze from the Pacific Ocean. We had some light-hearted moments together until about ten before calling it a day.

Let the relay began...
We checked out from PN Resort at 5am to the starting line for breakfast, provided by the Organizers. In Thailand, we were usually served with porridge, 'yau char kwai' or crispy bun, soya bean and coffee for breakfast. Each team was then given an ice box loaded with ice and water bottles.
The race started at 6am sharp with the first runner of each team dipping their baton into the Pacific Ocean. My team members were : Francis, Felix, Tai, Kim, Richard, Peter Teo, Gary and Nancy who came as a supporter.
As expected, the weather was as sunny as can be. Throughout the entire race, we shared jokes and had lots of fun teasing and supporting one another while competing friendly at the same time. We made friends with other teams from Thailand as well. Besides food and snacks, we were blessed with friendly faces, lots of smiles and laughter along the way which certainly made running under the hot sun bearable.

A scene which touched me was when we arrived at a little shop (hut) during one of our pit-stops and Kim decided to have her lunch there. Lunch was packed and provided by the Organizer. Since she was eating the packed lunch at this little shop, she was obliged to order a cup of coffee. To our surprise, the shop owner offered her coffee for free. He even offered chairs for all of us to rest there. And a huge bucket of ice water was placed in front of the shop for runners passing by to wash our faces or simply to cool down. I had been to Thailand many times yet never cease to be amazed by their hospitality especially where running is concern. While running along the way, runners can stop by at any of their shops or houses and we were welcomed to use their 'hong nam' (toilet). Some even treated us their homemade delicacies.

All of us ran through different routes, each one taking his own course covering about 5-6km each time. The running route could be rather challenging and more often than not, we need to tackle an uphill, sometimes more. As the fourth runner, I was fortunate to take one with the least hills and covered the shortest distance amongst my team mates.

Last 1km...
At sunset, we soon reached the last check point where the baton was being passed to Gary our last runner. The rest of us were to meet him at the last 1km and together, all of us ran towards the finishing line - the Indian Ocean where the baton was dipped into the ocean signifying the end of the relay. We were the 8th team to arrive at 12hr 44mins in the Mixed Team Category. Our other teams : Impossible Team 1 was placed 6th with the time of 11hr 54mins, while Impossible Team 3 came in at 13hr 28mins taking the 9th position.
I guess everyone enjoyed the race as much as I did. Like me, I'm sure running is another outlet for them to get through life's challenges and celebrate life's victories. In this particular Ocean to Ocean Relay Run, it is also a celebration of friendship.
There were no prize money. However, all runners were awarded with a beautiful medal, a nice jacket, running vest, dinner, interesting stories to share and lovely memories to take home .

I would like to thank Gary Goh for organizing and arranging everything from transport, accomodation, meals to race registration, van rental and massage. He did a superb job! We also enjoyed our stay in B.C.Badin Resort and the hot spring at Ranong. Many thanks!
My appreciation also goes to Krishnan for sponsoring a set of quality Adidas vest and shorts to each runner.
To my travel/team mates : I have no idea if we can still do this together again in another lifetime...THANK YOU ALL for the care, camaraderie, teamwork and another good memory for me to treasure in this lifetime.

What price great run?
A friend once asked me why do I have to pay to travel all the way to Thailand and to 'suffer' under the hot sun and then travel all the way back knowing there's no prize money? The same question was being posed to Dr Tan & Ngae who travelled all the way to run The Sahara Desert...they paid to suffer, didn't they? It's quite difficult to explain the 'feelings' to a non-runner. What price great run? Only an athlete will understand.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Penang Bridge revisited

It's been 6 years since I last ran the Penang Bridge Run. Running the bridge had always hold bittersweet memories for me; for it was here I recorded my worst personal time of 2hr 13mins and it was here, I achieved my personal best time of 1hr 49mins for a 22.3km run. And it was also here that I DID NOT START (DNS) my first marathon race ever after training hard for it. I soon learnt that I had 'overtrained' myself and succumbed to fatique and fever just the day before the race. To Penang I went - but to the clinic instead of the starting line! How awful!!
Later, I went back to run and race year after year the Penang Bridge Run with impressive timings and often with prizes, until they ceased organizing it some years back. However, PBIM was back again and this year, they made tremendous improvements over previous years!

The Penang Bridge International Marathon is by far the largest marathon in Malaysia and probably the most famous one too, not just because it is a run over one of the world longest bridges, but also for its captivating view of the sea on both side of the bridge with the sunrise on the distant horizon. This is the second year the marathon is organized by the Penang State Government under the revamped format.
As the Bridge needs to start its operation by 9am, the organizers brought the full marathon start time to 2.30am, while the half marathon at 3.30am. Honestly, I had never ran a half marathon at such an ungodly hour and I am game to try.

Pre Race Day
Unlike previous years where we drove to Penang ourselves, this year John and I decided to car-pool with Francis, Gary and Vijay (since we were all sharing a suite as well). On arrival to Penang, we headed straight to Queensbay Mall outdoor carpark to collect our race kits. Collection was a breeze and very efficient. After that, we checked into Krystal Suite which is located 500m from Queensbay Mall where the marathon would start.
Krystal Suite is huge; covering 950 square feet complete with a king size bed, a spacious lounge with sofa, tv and a study. The kitchenette is equipped with a microwave oven, mini fridge, coffee making facilities and dining table. However, there is only one toilet. Still, the rate of RM100 is dirt cheap! I would like to thank Agnes for helping me with the bookings.

In the afternoon, Kelvin Loh (a local runner/friend) gave us a surprise when he invited a group of us to his new house for tea. It was a Big Tea! We had such a great time filling our stomachs with his homemade dumplings, yam cakes, curry with special buns. Later, we even got to view a DVD on our recent Ocean to Ocean Relay Run brought by Amelia.
Then it was FOOD again for dinner and we spoiled ourselves with a variety of hawker fare. In Penang, it's all about food and hawkers food are too good to resist! At about 10pm, we decided to call it a day while John and Francis pampered themselves with a much needed massage.

Race Day
We gathered at the lobby at 2.45am and took a stroll together to the marathon site. By then the full marathon had already started. At exactly 3.30am, the half marathon male runners were flagged off by the Chief Minister YAB Lim Guan Eng. The Women categories started 15mins later.
I ran without any goal or expectation as I was still recovering from a very sore body and am under nutritional medicine. I took this trip as a 'Makan Angin Run' and as usual, started very conservatively. The weather was extremely good with cold early morning breeze and it certainly made running comfortable. The further I ran, I realized that I was going faster and overtaking many runners who had surged ahead of me earlier. The feeling was pleasant!
After taking the U-Turn at the bridge, I stumbled upon an excited and kind uncle who cheered me on so madly. He even alerted me on my placing. According to his observation I was the 17th female runner then. He encouraged me to run faster and chase the two female runners ahead of me. Suddenly, I realized that I was running a real race and not just a 'makan angin' run. Fortunately my feet could carry me fast enough to be able to catch up with the two ladies in front, only to realize that one of them is my friend, Agnes Tee. I paced with Agnes for about 2kms and towards the last water station, I signalled to Agnes to move ahead in order to pass another 2 runners in front of us. She did and so did I.
Just minutes later, the sight of Queensbay Mall appeared down the avenue and the finish gantry waited just around the corner. As I was running towards it, I was cheered by my husband John, Lok and son. Agnes finished 11th, with me slightly behind her taking the 12th position. This time, to be able to maintain my time of 1hr 54mins was not disappointed because I came without even a thought of making it to top 15. With a poor physical condition, I am therefore convinced that the mind is greater than the body most of the time. I was awarded RM200 plus a phiten Rakumaki tape.
At that moment no dish from the local cuisine is too rich for any proud finisher. On the way back to KL, we stopped at Sauk (off Kuala Kangsar) for a sumptous lunch.

Credits and Feedback
Overall, the event was well-organized. Firstly, the Chief Minister YAB Lim Guan Eng has our respect for being there as early as 2.30am to flag the marathon. Normally, runners had to wait for these 'big shots' who called themselves ministers but they are often late or don't show up at all. Sometimes they'll send their 'assistant' to do the job while preaching to public about living a healthy lifestyle through exercise!! But this Chief Minister arrived early and stayed until as late as 9 or 10am for the prize giving ceremony. He has certainly earned respect from the 20,000 runners who were present there on that Sunday morning.

I was very impressed with the mobile toilets. Not only were there many, they were clean. This is really something rarely expected in races. A cleaner was stationed there to ensure that the toilets were cleaned and sanitized from time to time. There were no queues and for the very first time, runners had the luxury of having clean mobile toilets. A Big thank you.

There were adequate refreshment stations. In fact, I found it a lot of wastage to be handed with a whole bottle of water during the race. Runners don't drink the whole bottle of water. Feedback were given to the organizers to use paper cups instead.

After the race, runners were treated with a hearty breakfast. Generous servings of spaghetti were replenished to ensure enough helpings for even the late runners.

Collection of race kits were swift and smooth. Some participants who paid a fee of RM10 had their race kits delivered to their house a week before the event.

The upgraded timimg chip system made it very convenient for runners. Runners do not need to return the chip after the race like we used to. Imagine..after having run 42km the weary runner has to bend down to remove the chip and then line up to return it and get our money refunded?? With this new ChampionChip, the hassle of returning the chip or getting the refunds had all been eliminated.

To the Organizers of The Penang Bridge International Marathon - Thank You and Well Done!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where God is...

At a morrocan village, an imam was thinking about the only well of the entire region.

Another muslim approached him and asked, "What is in there?"

"God is hidden in there."

"God is hidden inside this well? That is a sin! What you may be seeing is an image left by the unfaithful!"

The imam asked him to get closer and lean out on the edge. Reflected on the water, he could see his own face.

"But that is me!"

"Right. Now you know where God is hidden."

God is in each of us.

Taken from 'Traditional Sufi stories'.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Remembering Robert

I remember today...5 years ago.
The late Mr.Robert Kot was my ex-Managing Director of the Estee Lauder Companies where I used to work for the past 20 years. I remember he used to 'pick' on me and how I detested him yet deep inside, I treasured it. My General Manager used to tell me that "Robert only picks on people he likes, so you should feel damn fortunate!" Indeed I do, because all those 'pickings' had ultimately taught me so much more than I'd ever imagined. Many times, whenever I think of him...I missed him.

Today, I happened to clear some files and stumbled upon a hilarious poem that I presented to him on his 10th anniversary with the company. And memories of Robert came surging back as though it was only yesteryear and so alive!

He came from a trading background, we were told,
Into this company where cosmetics are sold...
To keep women from getting old.

10 years ago..
He entered into the world of the beautiful and the bold,
With Clinique the silver and Estee Lauder the gold,
Sales just grow and grow!
This is what we hope the future will continue to hold.

Our Managing Director, Mr Robert Kot.
A fortune-teller he is not,
Yet his forecast always seems on the dot.
Although he has ideas of all sorts,
We often hear him said, "I should be your last resort!"

When it comes to sport,
He enjoys bowling and golf.
Play with him and you'll be caught!
Of women, he is surrounded by a lot,
But only one he managed to tie the knot!

We sometimes called him,"Papa, Ah Sook or Ah Yeh"!
He looks serious but he actually cares.
Yet to make him angry, we never dare.

Every month we all dread...
When Marketing Meeting is near.
The answer are ready, so what have we to fear?
Like, "Sorry Robert, but the market is really quiet out there!"
Then try to act stupid and gave him that blank stare!

Then beware..when Robert stalks around!
Looking for boxes on the ground.
A penalty on every box to be found..
Pay to the Sports Club, you are bound.
Oh, what a Boss we have around,
Takes your money even when your every cents count!

If Robert ever were to go crazy,
It definitely will be very likely..
To be due to his friends, Fred and Barney.
Also known as Ling-ling and Allan Chee,
The three stooges go hand in hand,
Their laughter never end.
From jokes they made amongst themselves,
Only they can understand and no one else!

Have you heard what we heard?
That Robert when young likes to flirt..
So, Annie can not be his first!
Anyway he married her with a cert.
Come on, let's just pass the word..

Such was one of the scenes in our office,
Everybody just gossip as they pleased.
Then, a knowing twinkle appears..
Thank goodness and three cheers!
For our undeceived MD understands,
That gossiping in Lambang Padu is impossible to withstand!

Often in his life, we bring him glee.
We are all very thoughtful, so he'll see.
Like a zoo, we sometimes may sound,
So that he knows we are around.

No other company can he find like ours,
Women who are unique in our powers.
We maybe infuriating or irritating,
But never sneering and always forgiving.

The moments that we hold dear,
Is when our Boss is very clear.
To him, we are family and peers,
That he has shown in the last 10 years..

As the Brands all increase in quantity,
Surely his meassage for us would be..
That we all stay in unity,
As one big family!

"Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime;
And departing leave behind us..
Footprints on the sands of time." - HW Longfellow

Friday, October 30, 2009

Let fun & frolic freely flow...

Another week have passed and I believe I'm getting better although the pain still hit me every now and then. After some tests, Dr. Thong confirmed that my 'erratic' hypertension is the culprit. My medication have changed from Diovan to Co-Diovan and I've seen some improvements. Well, at least I'm spared from the terrible migraine which has been haunting me every morning for so many weeks.

Of late, we also made a new discovery...that I've an enlarged heart. And due to my high blood pressure it is not good at all. Nothing can be done, so I just have to be careful, that's all. My 92 year old nanny has an enlarged heart too. My god, we have so many similarities in terms of personality, character and even zodiac sign that at times, I can't help but believe that she had been my mother in one of my past lives! Now we both have a BIG HEART! But one thing she has, which I don't is patience. She has loads of it - I can't even come close to that. Anyway, I'm proud to be like my nanny. She has a KIND HEART and I know I have one too.

Yesterday I posted this on my face book : Wai Mun is letting fun, friends, food and frolic freely flow at the Ocean to Ocean Relay Run this weekend.
Yes, that's exactly what I'm gonna do. Live life, enjoy and embrace it!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Restlessness of the soul

For reasons unbeknownst to me, I've been physically suffering with pain for more than a month now. Body aches, migraine attacks, sinus infection, menstrual cramps and allergies were whacking my entire being all at almost the same time! No joke, some days the pain could be quite unbearable and was unremitting like the relentless bombardment of an abssessed tooth. I supposed as we age our body goes through a gamut of changes and these could be the sympthoms.

Then there's what was told to me, the perimenopausal stage or midlife crisis where the body temperature ascend without any apparent reason, creating bouts of hot flashes! Yes, at times I felt as if I'm on fire and yet my internal body temperature didn't change. I guess what heated up was just the temperature of my skin! As the name implies, natural menopause starts without my intervention; that's why it's sometimes called "spontaneous". But does every woman pass through the same menopause milestones?
My monthly cycle have certainly gone haywire, with twice a month and then missing the next but the following month came heavy flow, lasting for days. Then the cramps of my youth returned to attack me with a vengenance! I try every effort I could to avoid painkillers. After all, I'm allergy to NSAID.

Another issue is my blood pressure that became increasingly erratic. It went 155/103 one morning and 103/64 the next, and 166/83 another day.
Being an active person and one with a high threshold for pain, it is sometimes difficult to determine if this pain and hypertension my body is going through is normal and just part of the 'menopause package' or something else.

Within a week, I've consulted a GP and an ENT Specialist, and went through a series of medical checks : endoscopy, scan, chest x-ray, blood test and dozes of antibiotics that left me in a rather alpha state now. It didn't work well for me (the medication) cos' I woke up this morning with another full-blown migraine! But thought this was good enough to make me ponder, "Do I really need to go through this agony in order to understand the pains patients at Hospis are going through?" "Is Nature trying to mirror back something to me?"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Chess Game

A young man said to the abbot from the monastery, "I'd actually like to be a monk, but I haven't learned anything in life. All my father taught me was to play chess, which does not lead me to enlightenment. Apart from that, I learned that all games are a sin." "They may be a sin but they can also be a diversion and who knows, this monastery needs a little of both." was the reply.

The abbot asked for a chessboard, sent for a monk and told him to play with the young man. But before the game began, he added, "Although you need diversion, we can't allow everyone to play chess the whole time. So, we have the best players here; if our monk loses, he will leave the monastery and his place will be yours."

The abbot was serious. The young man knew he was playing for his life and broke into cold sweat. The chessboard became the center of the world.

The monk began badly. The young man attacked but then saw the saintly look on the monk's face; at that moment he began to play badly on purpose. After all, a monk is far more useful to the world.

Suddenly the abbot threw the chessboard to the floor. "You have learned far more than was taught you," he said. "You concentrated yourself enough to win and were capable of fighting your desire. Then you had compassion and were willing to make a sacrifice in the name of a noble cause. Welcome to the monastery because you know how to balance discipline with compassion."

The above story is taken from Warrior of Light

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Weekend getaway - part 2.

Our run was to start in front of the Century Pine Resort at Tanah Rata.

Since it's not a race. John and I ran casually, enjoying the cool morning air that money can not buy. Yet at the same time, struggling at certain part of the running course that took us uphill and downhill.

We finished together.

And we love this 'Strawberry Medal'. One gold and one silver - a perfect duo.

Overall, it was an enjoyable trip with good company, good weather, good run and good food. Couldn't ask for more.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Weekend getaway - part 1.

This is not my first trip to Cameron Highlands, but it is my first trip to Camerons with John. This trip is a short weekend getaway and the fun part is; it came with a 12km run as a package!

On the way to Camerons.
Brunch at T Cafe.

T Cafe is located at the main road of Tanah Rata above Marrybrown restaurant. This cafe's claim to fame its listing in Lonely Planet, the backpacker's bible. No wonder there were so many cards written by tourists complimenting on their food.

Yes, the food is delicious and very reasonably priced.

We chose :
Strawberry fruity scones
Banana Pancake
Apple Pie
Chicken Pie
Vegetable Soup and Teas; Strawberry & Highland

The cafe is also vegan-friendly and the needs of those with dietry restrictions can be met here. I also noticed that a variety of fresh fruit juices and milk shakes from the beverage list.

The lovely decor gave T Cafe a cosy atmosphere. They have books, magazines and scrabble too.

"Since business has been good, why have the Cafe's name change?" we asked.
Co-owner and manager, Terese Karon explained to us why T Cafe will be named Lord's Cafe, "It is to give glory to the Lord for His Blessings. Lord's Cafe is named to glorify His Name."
Amen to that.

We had noon tea at Ye Ole Smokehouse. Built in 1937, this Tudor-style hotel has a colonial feel.
The Smokehouse Hotel reminds me of a fine English country inn, especially with its latticed windows, wooden beams and comfortable furniture.

The oldest hotel in Cameron Highlands, the Smokehouse serves hearty English fare and is probably one of the most expensive places to eat in Cameron Highlands.

We ordered the famous Devonshire cream tea set which came with two hot scones, house-made strawberry jam and cream.

We were seated at the garden, feeling so relax and serene with the cool wind slightly carressing us...
We set camp at Star Regency Hotel & Apartment in Brinchang. The apartment is even bigger than our own, and we shared with other runners from Ipoh and PD. Unfortunately it has not been well maintained and rather dirty. But it is convenient as the Saturday Night Market is nearby.
Dinner : Steamboat
Carbo load : fried rice.
Dessert : moon cake

Friday, October 2, 2009

If in October you do marry...

The Chinese believe that after the month of the Hungry Ghosts in September, it is now auspicious to call for celebrations; be it birthdays, weddings or starting a business. John and I were not left out when it comes to weddings and this month, we received quite a number of invitation which will certainly burn a hole in our pockets!!

Nevertheless, it is still good to know that we still have many young friends. Hey, after all, we are still young (at heart)!
I found an old english poem in my drawer few days ago and thought it appropriate to post it here. Before brides had to juggle career schedules, availabilities of caterers, hotels, florists, musicians or airline tickets to find an agreeable wedding date, they may have used this traditional verse, author anonymous, as a guide.

Marry when the year is new,
Always loving, kind and true.

When February birds do mate,
You may wed, nor dread your fate.

If you wed when March winds blow,
You'll be blessed with plenty of cash flow.

Marry in April when you can,
Joy for maiden and for man.

Marry in the month of May,
You will surely rue the day.

Marry when June roses blow,
Over land and sea you'll go.

Those who in July do wed,
Must labour always for their bread.

Whoever wed in August be,
Many a change are sure to see.

Marry in September's shine,
Your living will be rich and fine.

If in October you do marry,
Love will come and riches guarantee.

If you wed in bleak November,
Lovely joy will come, remember.

When December's snow falls fast,
Marry and true love will last.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Turning shit into fertilizers?

This workshop is about facilitating hope in advanced illnesses, which I attended in August courtesy of Hospis Malaysia.

Facilitating Hope in advanced illnesses
Advances in medicine do not always ease the burden of suffering and may also cause despair to patients and families. Many still succumb to their illness despite the best medical intentions.

Hope is a multi-dimensional dynamic life force characterized by a confident yet uncertain expectation of achieving a future good, which, to the hoping person, is realistically possible and personally significant.
Hope is the bridge from the experiences of the past, accepting the reality of the present and taking the next step to the future to an achievable goal.
“If I can’t sit with despair, obviously I can’t facilitate hope.
If I don’t know how to use the medicine of hope for myself, how can I do it to others?
If I can’t change the situation, then I’m challenge to change myself.”
Ask, “What gives me hope? What motivates me?”

Here, we explored how we can facilitate hope, visiting all the 4 quadrants:
Physical – experience the world with security.
Emotional – experience the world with feelings, with self.
Intellectual – experience the world through good judgment.
Spiritual – experience the world with intuition. to find purpose in life. to have inner peace.
Hope blossoms with:
1. Presence of meaningful relationships.
2. Ability to feel light-hearted.
3. Clear aims.
4. Courage, determination and security.
5. Ability to recall positive moments.
6. Having one’s individuality accepted and respected.
7. Spiritual beliefs.

Yet if all else fails and there’s really nothing else left to say, it would be wise to just keep silent and lend a listening ear to the patient.

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one heart the aching or cool one pain,
I shall not live in vain.” – Emily Dickinson

One of my experiences came the day when Madam Tan Loy, a cancer patient at the Day Care Centre especially requested for me to massage her. The first thought that came to my mind was, “Ah, my massage must be good and making her so comfortable that she asked for me…” Pride swept over me immediately. While I was massaging her, I suddenly realized that my massage was no big deal. The big deal was Madam Tan Loy needed to talk to someone. The big deal was Madam Tan Loy needed someone to listen to her. At the end of our conversation, she told me that she will not be attending the Day Care for the next couple of months as she will be going for her treatment.
It was not by accident that Madam Tan Loy chose me. I'm sure she was there to show me an important lesson. Thank God, it did not take me too long to learn this lesson. To be a good listener is an art. I felt humbled by the experience and so much more.
Indeed, I’ve learned so much from patients themselves and they just do not have any idea how much they have actually healed me.

“A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.” – Henry Ibsen

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Topics of the heart

Last August, I was very privileged to be given an opportunity to participate in my first palliative care workshop organized by Hospis Malaysia. It was held at Wijaya International Medical Centre and was facilitated by Dr. Susan Marsden, a Palliative Care Specialist from New Zealand and Ms. Liese Groot-Alberts, a professional Grief Therapist also from New Zealand. Participants comprising mainly of doctors and nurses came from various parts of the country.

I was a little anxious when Eleanor, another volunteer who was supposed to attend this workshop with me couldn’t make it. I would be the only volunteer there. Later, I was relieved to meet some familiar faces: Harbans Kaur from Kasih Hospice, Mei Queen from Breast Cancer Women’s Association and all the nurses I knew from Hospis Malaysia.

Understanding Grief and Suffering
This workshop dealt with understanding the process of grief and suffering, the risk factors, managing anticipatory grief, dealing with patients as well as our own response to loss. Grief Therapist Liese shared with us her experience on grief when she lost her 3 year old daughter just 3 days after the arrival of her baby boy. Do friends congratulate and send you condolences at the same time? How does one actually cope with such a complex situation?
“If you want to help people who are grieving, you must first deal with your own grief.”
The morning was spent on understanding the human personality (ourselves). Dr Susan Marsden divides the human personality into 4 quadrants:
Physical – as how we know or interact with the world with our 5 senses.
Emotional – as how we know or interact with the world with the self and how relationships are developed.
Intellectual – as how we know or interact with the world with reason.
Spiritual – as how we know or interact with the world with our intuition and how we know our purpose.

Burn out and Compassion fatigue
Many times, we get too involved or engrossed with patient’s problems that we tend to forget about our own self. Compassion fatigue comes when we became burn out and too tired of being compassionate.
Sometimes, too much pain gets in the way and we can’t stay in the truth anymore.
We can also get burn out by the administration or structure with patients.
We went on to discuss the symptoms of compassion fatigue from the 4 quadrants:
Physical – bodily aches, allergies, migraines, tired, itchy eyes, sleep disturbance, low energy etc.
Emotional – temperamental, angry, aloof, stressed, anxious, frustrated etc.
Spiritual – negative, hopelessness, despair, confused, curious, lack faith, spiritual war, lack inner peace etc.
Intellectual – forgetful, lost focus, lack passion, under perform, procrastination etc.

The caregiver’s journey
More than an hour was spent reflecting on the journey of the caregiver. Doctors and nurses shared their experiences on their journey as care-givers. Their hopes and dreams. Their encounter with their first patient, remembering an important lesson and the impact or difference it made in their career. Later, they were asked to picture that patient writing to them reflecting on the care-giver they have become today.

On the second day of the workshop, we stormed our brains on understanding and exploring suffering. Suffering of families and others. The practical aspects of working with patients and families, and at the same time learning some communication skills.

Towards the end of this session we were required to discuss and ponder over the following questions:
1. What if the suffering is related to treatment decisions?
2. Does treatment increase suffering?
3. Does cure and increased survival reduce suffering?
4. Does over treatment and investigation cause more suffering?

It is absolutely apparent that although many healthcare workers are trying their best to deal with illness, they do not receive sufficient exposure in dealing with the aspect of grief and loss. Like me, I’m sure the rest of the participants have benefited from this module. Personally, I find this workshop extremely enriching and stimulating as it has opened my eyes to see the world at a different perspective. It has also taught me that the heart never lies – I have to learn to listen to my heart more. With this, I hope to be able to serve and help those terminally ill at Hospis in a more professional manner.

“What is as important as knowledge?” asked the mind.
“Caring and seeing with the heart.” answered the soul.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The power of non-violence

Dr Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and founder of the M.K.Gandhi Institute for Non-violence, in his June 9 lecture at the University of Puerto Rico , shared the following story:

I was 16 years old and living with my parents at the institute my grandfather had founded 18 miles outside of Durban, South Africa, in the middle of the sugar plantations. We were deep in the country and had no neighbors, so my two sisters and I would always look forward to going to town to visit friends or go to the movies.

One day, my father asked me to drive him to town for an all-day conference, and I jumped at the chance. Since I was going to town, my mother gave me a list of groceries she needed and, since I had all day in town, my father asked me to take care of several pending chores, such as getting the car serviced.

When I dropped my father off that morning, he said, "I will meet you here at 5:00 p.m., and we will go home together."

After hurriedly completing my chores, I went straight to the nearest movie theatre. I got so engrossed in a John Wayne double-feature that I forgot the time. It was 5:30pm before I remembered. By the time I ran to the garage and got the car and hurried to where my father was waiting for me, it was almost 6:00pm.

He anxiously asked me, "Why were you late?" I was so ashamed of telling him I was watching a John Wayne western movie that I said, "The car wasn't ready, so I had to wait," not realizing that he had already called the garage.

When he caught me in the lie, he said: "There's something wrong in the way I brought you up that didn't give you the confidence to tell me the truth. In order to figure out where I went wrong with you, I'm going to walk home 18 miles and think about it." So, dressed in his suit and dress shoes, he began to walk home in the dark on mostly unpaved, unlit roads. I couldn't leave him, so for five-and-a-half hours I drove behind him, watching my father go through this agony for a stupid lie that I uttered. I decided then and there that I was never going to lie again.

I often think about that episode and wonder, if he had punished me the way we punish our children, whether I would have learned a lesson at all. I don't think so. I would have suffered the punishment and gone on doing the same thing. But this single non-violent action was so powerful that it is still as if it happened yesterday.

That is the power of non-violence.

Things are to be used, People are to be loved.

While a man was polishing his new car, his 4 yr old son picked up a stone and scratched lines on the side of the car. In anger, the man took the child's hand and hit it many times not realizing he was using a wrench. At the hospital, the child lost all his fingers due to multiple fractures.

When the child saw his father.....with painful eyes he asked, 'Dad when will my fingers grow back?' The man was so hurt and speechless; he went back to his car and kicked it a lot of times. Devastated by his own actions....sitting in front of that car he looked at the scratches; the child had written 'LOVE YOU DAD'.
The next day that man committed suicide. . .

Anger and Love have no limits; choose the latter to have a beautiful, lovely life & remember this: Things are to be used and people are to be loved. The problem in today's world is that people are used while things are loved. Let's try always to keep this thought in mind: Things are to be used, People are to be loved.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

When in doubt...

When I am in doubt
I talk to surgeons.
I know they will know what to do.

They seem so sure.

Once I talked to a surgeon.
He said when he is in doubt
He talks to priests.
Priests will know what to do.

Priests seem so sure.

Once I talked to a priest.
He said when he is in doubt
He talks to God.
God will know what to do.

God seem so sure.

Once I talked to God.
He said when He is in doubt
He thinks of me.
He said I will know what to do.

I seem so sure.

Taken from Playing God by Glenn Colquhoun

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Silence is the language of God

Having missed the Winter Soulstice in December last year, I was privileged to join Dehyana for the 2009 Summer Soulstice Retreat at Lucky Valley this June. I had no idea what the Summer Soulstice Retreat is all about but I was told that Lucky Valley is a place with excellent qi and a perfect retreat for the body, mind and soul.

I managed to hitch a ride from Chee Wah at the eleventh hour and we arrived at Lucky Valley in the afternoon. After a hearty organic vegetarian dinner, we assembled at the Pyramid where we were greeted and hugged by Dehyana. She was like a goddess, ever so radiant and warm. After the introduction and a brief 'getting-to-know-you', the session was opened for us to share our purpose of being there. For me, my heart is open to learn.

The session ended at 12 midnight and we were each given this note:

Dear Retreat Participants,
The purpose of your visit to Lucky Valley Retreat is to learn and grow and listen with ears. Talking inside the Temple(pyramid) is okay because it is where we meet each day to learn and to grow through group participation. However, before a session begins if you wish to be in Temple, please maintain Sacred Silence and only speak when necessary. We're here to learn to communicate with our divine Self through the act of Sacred Silence.
When on retreat, we want to listen, with not only our natural hearing, but also with the "ears of our heart." We need to listen to the interior sounds and words of God within. To do this, we need to be quiet and silent. Therefore, there are times and places when it is good to talk and sing and laugh. There are other places and times when we need to respect the gift of quiet and silence.
The lunch room, our bedrooms, corridors, outside near any of the buildings; these ought to be places for quiet and silence. Sound travels easily through walls and windows, so we ask you to be sensitive to others who may be trying to rest or meditate or pray. If you have a cell phone, please turn off the ringer and set your phone to silence or vibrate. As an added courtesy to your fellow retreatants, please use earphones if listening to a CD or MP3 player.

Thank you kindly,

Oh my God, this is a Silent Retreat!! No talking for 3 days.

Why Silent Retreat?
When we are silent, we can listen to the silence of our soul. Our inner being speak to us and we can discover ourselves. Listening is a skill and it takes time to develop such a skill. We rarely take time to listen. How can we hear if we do not listen?
Only when we practise being quiet, going within, taking time to listen and creating the space to listen, will we hear.

What is a Summer Solstice?
A Summer Solstice is when the sun’s path across the sky, the length of the daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. The solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on earth although our clocks say different times. So it resulted in early dawn, late sunset, longest day, shortest night.
It is an astronomical event, caused by the Earth’s tilt on its axis and its motion in orbit around the sun. Because the Earth doesn’t orbit upright (tilted on its axis by 23.5 degrees), Earth’s northern and southern hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth almost directly.

Lucky Valley
Lucky Valley is situated in this God forsaken land in a small town of Pahang called Muazzam Shah.
The retreat is nestled admist 500 acres of fruit orchards, vegetable plots and herb gardens, cultivated on a previously virgin jungle (which still lines the perimeter of the land) lies a remote haven called Lucky Valley. It is also known for its abundant natural healing qi and alkaline water. Surprisingly, the retreat frequented by foreigners and local groups who normally come on organized energy-enriching retreats. As the qi is suitable for meditation, it also attracted many Tai Chi, Qigong or Yoga enthusiasts.
(pix:see these energy balls?)
The magnetic field in Lucky Valley is extremely strong. The centre piece of Lucky Valley retreat is the pyramid or temple. It is specifically built to harness the powerful orgone energy into the pyramid. Those who are sensitive to energies will be very aware of these energies, as well as other spiritual energies that are available there. Believe it or not, I could actually feel myself ‘floating’ while standing on the centre piece.

Food grown here are organic and free of pesticides. Our meals were vegetarian and wholesome. Oh, I love every meals here! Everyone is required to wash their utensils after every meal.

Lodging is as simple as can be. It is back to basics with no television, no hair dryer, no hot shower, no air-condition. We have an option of twin sharing or dormitory. I chose the latter and was glad to share space with Lynette (KL), Kam Lye (Ipoh) and Janet (Malacca). We each had a bed with a small pillow and blanket and yes, that’s about it.

Briefly, the Summer Soulstice Silent Retreat is about getting to know oneself. How well do I actually know myself? It is to stop looking at my neighbour's life and look at what is in front of me. Then I began to discover that everything is a mirror image of my mind and I carry with me along my life.
In the words of Thomas Dreier, he said "The world is a great mirror. It reflects back to you what you are. If you are loving, if you are friendly, if you are helpful, the world will prove loving and friendly to you. The world is what you are."

to be continued

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


My version of freedom and being free is...when you're given the liberty to do the things you enjoy doing anywhere, anytime and at the same time, get others to join in. And freedom could be just a few minutes of light hearted moment dancing at the train station!!

This video was made in the Antwerp, Belgium Central (Train) Station on March 23, 2009 with no warning to the passengers passing through the station. At 8:00am a recording of Julie Andrews singing 'Do, Re, Mi' begins to play on the public address system.
As the bemused passengers watch in amazement, some 200 dancers begin to appear from the crowd and station entrances.
They created this amazing stunt with just two rehearsals!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I borrowed this DVD from my friend Derrick and watched it twice before returning back to him. 'Okuribito' or 'Departure' is a touching movie about a cellist in an orchestra who has just been dissolved and found himself jobless.

He decided to move back to his hometown with his wife to look for a job and to start all over again. He answered to a classified advertisement entitled "Departures" thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agent, only to discover that the job is actually for a "Nokanshi". "Nokanshi" is a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. While his wife and friends despise his job, Daigo takes pride in his work and begins to perfect the art of "Nokanshi" acting as a gentle gatekeeper between life and death, between the departed and the deceased family.

'Okuribito' is a profound and sensitive journey into the heartland of Japan and an astonishingly beautiful look at the sacred part of Japan's culture and heritage. It also uncovers the meaning of life and living.

- It has taught me that every death matters, every person counts and grief, which is as inevitable as death can be beautiful and gracious.

- It has taught me to look at every job / task with respect. No job should be seen as unclean or disgraceful...even the lowliest task, if executed with reverence will ultimately be glorified and find its own rewards.

- Daigo the "Nokanshi" touches me with his kindness and courage. Although he initially really dislike his job, one could see and feel that he still performs with all his heart. When his wife persuaded him to quit and look for a normal job, he replied, "Death is normal. Everyone will die one day. You will die, so will I."

Finally, I fell in love with this instrument called 'cello'. Just listen quietly to this beautiful theme music by Joe Hisaishi : departures

Friday, August 21, 2009

Soli Deo Gloria

Soli Deo Gloria is an Italian word which means everything is done for the glory of God. It was the theme of Ms. Moey's birthday; celebrating her 60 years of joyous living begining of this month. One couldn't find another better theme that fits her so well. For Ms. Moey is certainly such person.

Her birthday celebration was held at Equatorial Hotel with family, relatives, close friends, church members and a few students which made up to a hundred people. John and I felt privileged that we were in her guests list. I am extremely extremely fortunate that our paths crossed. She has been my teacher, my friend.
I heard so much about Ms. Moey during my primary school days from my neighbours who were all taught by her. I finally met her in Form 1 where she taught me Bible Knowledge. My God, how she made us all memorized the Book of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles!! Yet she made it so easy, for I began to understand that she wasn't teaching a religion, she was actually teaching me principles of life. Ms. Moey always emphatized, "to teach is to serve, to teach is to touch lives forever, to teach is to touch eternity". And she has certainly lived by those words.
Therefore, how can I thank someone who has taken me 'from crayons to perfume'? I just can not thank her enough.
I recalled when I first step foot into the cooperate world, my company sent me to Kuantan for a sales conference. Although it was only a brief domestic flight, it was my first time boarding a plane. I was excited and rang Ms. Moey. The first thing she asked me was, "How are you going to the airport?" I told her that I'll just call a taxi. Without a second thought she proposed, "Come and stay with me the night before. I'll send you to the airport. It's too early for you to get a cab."
Can anyone imagine this? Yes, I did stay with her. She did send me to the airport. Then my colleagues all thought she was my aunt or sister. When I introduced Ms. Moey to them as my teacher, they all confirmed that I was very lucky to have such a teacher. She also took me from the airport when I returned from Kuantan. From that very day, everytime I take an early flight, my heart is always filled with gratitude and never cease to give thanks to a teacher who has demonstrated to me how easy it is to be humble, how simple it is to be kind. Indeed I am so blessed to have been touched by her.

To me, Ms. Moey has created an infinite influence in just one lifetime. The way she lives her life actually influence me to want to do the right thing - without even realising it. I believe this is certainly the most profound and indelible mark a teacher can leave on a student. And that influence ripples on...

Ms. Moey has always a special place in my heart right from the begining because she didn't just teach me, she inspires me, she has touched my life!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pictures of the heart

My first week of August kicked off with a big birthday bash for a great teacher and friend Ms Moey, the biggest ever school reunion and my first workshop in palliative care. It felt like going back to school and going back to work again. Of course, the highlight of the week was the long awaited BACK2BBGS alumni.

When one leaves school, one would think a chapter of one's life has come to an end. So I thought.
The BBGS alumni took place on the 4th. of August at the Bintang Circle, Pavilion Concourse where my Alma Mater used to sit once upon a time. It all goes back to September 2001 when she was torn and demolished to make way for the current shopping mall called Pavilion. I remember how BBGSians lamented and made a big fuss over it because it isn't just about saying a simple goodbye. Question like, "with no more school, will the BBGS spirit become a thing of the past?". Well, when I witnessed the crowd from as old as 80 to as young as 20 that gathered at the alumni that day, I instantly know in my heart that the BBGS spirit lives on. In corridors of every heart that she has touched...
For years now, the hazards and the necessities of life have taken us all down to different paths, yet many had taken precious time off their work and household commitment and travelled from all corners of the globe just to be back to BBGS. The feeling of pride in each of us is totally evident and can never be wiped away...
BBGS, we pledge to thee! But then, it wasn't just a pledge. It was this unshakeable feeling of love and loyalty to her that brought us back together, as Miss Moey so aptly mentioned in her speech. It was this desire to still honour and pay tribute to this great school that had shaped our lives. And if there's one thing my parents did right was they sent us (I am so sure my sisters will agree with this too) to BBGS.
One day my husband asked me, "Why? What's so special about BBGS?" It was a place where every student was given a place, a sense of belonging regardless of rich or poor, black or white, race and religion. It was a place where teachers were taught to love, to teach and to touch lives. It was a place where flaunting one's wealth or rank was frowned upon and humility encouraged. It was a place where we learned about love, simplicity and human kindness apart from Mathematics, Science or History. And a million more...
It is the place that taught us 'to bear the yoke in youth with steadfastness and careful truth. To delight in simple things. To forgive freely and love all we take our place as loyal women with our race.'
Of course for me, it is also the place where I met Ms. Cooke and Ms. Moey, both women of substance who had played such an important role in my life till today.
The arrival of our beloved headmistress Miss Cooke. As I stood in front of her to have her picture taken, she waved weakly to me. When I moved over, she asked me, "where have you been?" I was so shocked! "Does Ms. Cooke actually remember me? Maybe especially having built a notoriously infamous reputation with her, I guess it's difficult to escape her memory." But I just didn't know what to say to her, it was as if I had this big lump inside my throat. Ms. Moey helped me and told her, "This is Wai Mun." Even with that, I still stood there, speechless. In the end, all I did was held her hands and gave her a little hug. I don't understand why, but I count myself EXTRMELY fortunate to be able to get this close, while there were hundreds struggling and waiting for an opportunity just to say hello to Ms. Cooke. And that scene have been stuck in my mind for the entire week...honestly, I was just so thrilled!Every BBGSian rose to their feet and stood at attention as we sang the school song with pride. As the anthem filled the entire mall and voices soared in unison, precious memories of the school came surging and I thought for a moment my heart would burst. It was as if we were schoolgirls not too long ago, we sang the school song at our assembly every Monday. Ms Cooke would pace the stage, looking out for anyone who didn't know the school song by heart. Not only that, we had to make sure we shaped our words properly with our mouths or we might end up singing the school song or the national anthem over and over again like twenty times or more!
Reviving the Choral speaking conducted by an old girl Cheong Wei Lin.
Choral Speaking was an old BBGS tradition and trust me, it could only be heard at the grounds of BBGS. I remembered so vividly when Annual Speech Day approaches every year, every class could be heard practising Choral Speaking with utmost religious fervour. We were made to memorize the poem and recite it every day and night until nothing but perfection came out of it. Every pronunciation must be so precise and if anyone burps or sneezes, the whole class had to recite the whole poem all over again. Oh my God, we had so much fun!
Look at these loving hands...How weak and wrinkled they have become! Yet these are the humble hands that taught me, brought me up and moulded me in my growing years. They will always remain precious and special because these are the loving hands that left an indelible mark in my heart and in my life, and they mean the world to me!
Indeed, BBGS had given to me a warehouse stored with rich and happy memories in this lifetime which I will never forget and I will cherish forever.