Tuesday, December 31, 2013
It is the time of the year where I will post my last entry before the clock strikes past midnight into the new year. In the first quarter of the year, I have decided to quit my full time job and go with my passion. Having crossed half a century mark, it is a risk I must say and I should know better. I have faced business failures and I won't want to be caught in a tight financial situation again. Fear not, I told myself. All I need is to manage my expectation and I should be fine.
I like to organise outdoor events and this is my passion. It is also my livelihood now. With times on my side, I have had organised quite a number of cycling and hiking tours in the one year period. Thanks to Sandy, I am pleased that I have the opportunity to collaborate with Star Cruises where we launched our first ever cruise and cycle tour which brought us to Phuket and Langkawi in October this year. Following our successive maiden run, our second cruise and cycle program will commence in March next year. Since beginning of the year, I have been advocating for a major outdoor event, be it a run or cycle event and I hope to get some strong sponsors to realise my ambition. I will continue to work on it going into 2014. Fingers crossed for now.
One of the most meaningful events I helped to organise has to be the "Ride For Rations" fund raising event where we cycled from Malacca to Singapore over 2 days. I am honoured and pleased to be invited to be the exco member of Bike-Aid Singapore. Our third edition saw a record number of cyclists and the biggest fund raised for the needy families under Sunlove Home. Working with great people in Bike-Aid who are volunteers themselves is one enriching experience for me. I am fortunate to have made acquaintance with them. It is such a pleasure to see every bit raised that went to a cause. I am happy to have played a humble part and we have bigger plan for "Ride For Rations" come 2014.
Another meaningful event is our ride in Thailand in Feb this year. It was a private initiative from a good fellow in Nicky Tay who brought some of us together for the gruelling 3 days ride from Bangkok to Sangkhlaburi in the rugged western region of Thailand near Myanmar. We raised funds for the home on a private basis. It was a chanced meeting with Dada (brother) from Baan Dada Home who has to take care of homeless children. Dada has to feed them, house them, school them and even send some to university. He has to do everything on his own and I am deeply impressed with his untiring commitments to serve the under-privileged. He lives a frugal life and he is from the Philippines but yet he is in Thailand helping the children who are mostly from Myanmar. It is my good fortune to have met Dada in person. Some of us are getting together in our bid to help Dada in his various fund raising campaigns. Again, I am honoured to play my part to help Dada and his children within my best ability.
This year has its fair share of negative things that had happened around me but I don't wish to share bad and negative experiences. Notwithstanding , we must always be positive looking and make the best while we are still living.
2014 should be another challenging year for me as I continue to follow my heart and seek new developments to spur myself. Bring it on, 2014!
Note from me: On the eve of the New Year, this contribution is from a good friend of mine who prefers to stay anonymous and I am pleased to post it on my blog.
A bespectacled old lady walked up to me and thrust a packet of dried herbs under my nose, and without waiting for any response from me, pointed at a date and said, “what’s this?” (in mandarin). In a flash, I looked at what I was wearing – a purple and pink sweater – and wondered if she could have considered me an NTUC staff. “Cannot be what,” I thought to myself. But then since the packet was still under my nose and her forefinger was still poking at “Nov” and she was still asking me, “what’s this ah?” I decided to heck it and told her (in mandarin) that it means the month of November 2014. She didn’t say a word of thanks and just shuffled away.
I also walked on my way but I was surprised at my subsequent thoughts. Initially, I was irritated at such an ungrateful and rude woman. Golly, do such uncouth people still exist ? However, I momentarily realized that she did not understand English and simply needed a stranger’s help. I swear I did not look like a staff member of the supermarket chain. At the least, my hair was in a mess and that would not have been part of the dress code. I figured it cost me nothing to say a few words so what’s the big deal even if she had been ungrateful.
I realized that in my younger days, the situation would have been different. I would probably have helped her too but then also probably grouched about her impoliteness and ill-gratitude for a long time. I think it would have been youthful pride.
These days, as I grow older (and hopefully wiser), I see many things differently. It’s no point “stewing” over such things. I have learnt to accept an imperfect world, because put it simply, I am also not perfect. I have learnt to accept my bodily aches and pains, my oncoming long-sightedness, my declining memory (and declining savings !), my aversion to crowds and my diminishing appetite. But I am being renewed inwardly every day, with new patience, new positivity and a new appreciation for the grace I receive.
For example, someone passed me a couple of clothes so that I could help her give them to Salvation Army. I was a little “kay poh” (dialect for being a busybody) and took them out for a look. Lo and behold, they were as good as new (and very pleasantly scented I must say) ! What’s more I could wear them too ! When I asked my friend for permission to choose some that I liked, she was happy to agree, provided I didn’t mind. Again, in my younger days, I would have turned my nose up at such hand-me-downs. As though I had no money to buy my own ! But these days, I think, why not ? There is nothing wrong, and they were still brand new. So what if they were bound for the coffers of the Salvation Army ? It would actually be Salvation Army’s loss that I “pilfered” the bounty. Have I become a scavenger ? Hardly. I believe I’ve simply grown up and learnt to view the world and the things around me with different lenses.
Sometimes, long-sightedness is good. We see farther ahead and become less focused on the inconsequential things that form the microcosm of our lives. We begrudge less and receive more. Grace upon grace, I hope that my eyes are opened increasingly to the kindness of others, despite the unkind world that we live in. In 2014, I pray that my God will continue to teach me to number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom.
Happy New Year everyone ! And thanks for listening to my “older view”. Cheers.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
The recent ‘Little India’ incident is a wake-up call and it shows that we can never take things for granted no matter how secure and safe our city is. We must always be vigilant and be prepared. Ours is a not a perfect place, definitely not but I won’t swoop this place with another place in any part of the world. If I hope to land a perfect place, it can only appear in my dream.
I remember I was 20 and was serving NS. We were sent to Australia for a month or so training stint. That year was 1982. In between training, we had one day rest & recreation (R&R) in this small town called Rockhampton. My army buddies and I were happily roaming the town. We walked past a pub and few white men who had a drink too much suddenly barged out. We did not even provoke them but they started to call us “names” and even challenged us to a fight. We were on foreign soil and we were definitely out-numbered. We just kept quiet, ignored them and walked away. They did not relent and continued to call us “names” just to provoke us but we just walked away. This was my first time experiencing racism on a foreign land.
My second encounter was in Amsterdam, Holland. I was on a course sent by my company. That year should be in 1987. I was checking out the place with a colleague from Korea. We saw a shop and entered together. The moment we stepped in, the white owner suddenly barged out from his counter. He said we smelled like ‘garlic’ and chased us out. He didn’t care whether we will buy anything at his store. I was very agitated with his behaviour but my Korean colleague calmly pulled me away. This is racism at its worse.
The third encounter is not about racism but about safety. I was in Paris for a holiday and that year was 2010. I was on the airport subway heading to the city and when my guard was let down for a moment, my haversack comprising my passport, monies, lap top and handphone, among others was snapped away. I was later guided to the police post at the central train station by a good Samaritans to make a report. The police tried to contact my embassy for me but could not reach anyone there. They then gave me the address and I tried to find my way there. After making many wrong turns despite asking many for direction, it finally took me a hellish 2 hours or so trying to find our embassy. I was so relieved to find our embassy but the notice that stuck onto the gate mentioned it has shifted to another place. My heart just dropped. Gosh, I was given the wrong address by the police. It took me another frantic hour or so locating our embassy and by then, it was way past office hours. Fortunately for me, I managed to catch hold of a Singaporean staff who happened to work late and she then helped to email to the immigration headquarter in Singapore for me. As I needed a police report to file insurance claim back home, I was made to wait at least 2 hours at one of their police stations for a report that took just 15 minutes. It was to be my first trip to Paris but the entire experience was nightmarish from the moment I touched down the airport. It is not safe to travel in the subway at all. It is dirty and ventilation is poor. The staff at one of the train stations was downright rude when I approached for help. I cannot imagine staying in this first world city without fearing being mugged.
Back home, one will never encounter a Malay or an Indian shopkeeper chasing the Chinese out or likewise, just because we are different from them. I can roam the street without the fear of being robbed. Our trains can be packed during peak hours but anytime, ours is much much safer and cleaner. Frankly, I am contented enough and I can’t ask for more.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
I should be among the disgruntled lot but when I dug deeper, I did not. It was tough growing up in the 60s and 70s with 4 other siblings. Our parents are illiterate and birth control was never their agenda as we popped up one or two years apart of each other. I am the second in the family. We were not taught values from day one as life was a struggle for us. The neighbourhood we were in was shady where gang fights were norm. I remember I was bullied by a teenage gangster who threw cigarette into my singlet for no rhyme or reason. I was about ten then. That gangster still lives around the neighbourhood but he is an old man now. I still see him on few occasions. One can forgive but will never forget. The flat we were living in was one-hall type with a common corridor shared by all. Even a fart can be heard from far. There is no room for privacy, we slept in the hall and sometimes my brothers and I slept in the kitchen. The block had since been demolished as our country progressed.
Tried he did, my father could not maintain a regular income to keep us going and my mom had to straddle with few part time jobs. It was a hard life. My mother’s focus then was to put food on the table and when the going got tough, she decided to operate a gambling den in our small flat. She is not a hard core gambler but by allowing our place to operate as a gambling den, she could earn overriding commissions from the gamblers. It gave decent income by our own standard. At any one time, there were more than 30 people squeezing in our small flat. Gambling will start at 1000 am and end at 1000 pm 24/7. They played black jack game. The gamblers were some neighbours, manual labourers, gangsters and even housewives, you name it. They had their lunch, their dinner and sometimes, supper at our house and the game will never stop until very late. It went on for few years. No police raided our place, not even once. I wished they had. It was stuffy, smoky and ventilation was poor. Door had to be closed for obvious reasons. I hated it very much and once tried to stop the gamblers from coming into our house but only to end up with cane marks on most parts of my body save for the face. Sheepishly, I once swore I wanted to be a policeman to nab all the gamblers but it was a pipe dream. As expected, our grades were badly affected. There was no proper place to study at all. Mixing with bad company was easy but it was the last thing in my mind and so too for my siblings. The gambling activity ended altogether until I went NS. By then, my mom realised too late that I am very anti-gambling. Life got a little better from there on. However, I find comfort that none of my sibling including me ended up as compulsive gamblers despite the environment we were in.
This was Singapore in the 60s & 70s. Had we not progressed and punched above the line in the last few decades, this little red dot will still remain a shady place where corruption is rampant, standard of living is low, education standard is low and worse still, suppressed under “bad governance”. The progress of our small nation is the marvel of many countries and it does not happen overnight. Rightly or wrongly, I should oppose the ruling government for the sorry stage I was in. I did not have the privilege to live in a safe and comfortable environment then. My parents were poor and we were deprived of many things we could have yearned for. Common sense prevailed; had the government of the day not recognised that we must forge ahead despite the many uncertainties ahead, do we have a modern Singapore now? They had the good foresight, the perseverance and painstakingly guided the country to that of a developed nation. No, I am not an “ungrateful piece of shit” who just enjoys opposing for the sake of opposing. This is the government I know, from LKY to GCT to present LHL. It is easy to oppose but I can’t find major faults to oppose. Our young nation is still very much a work-in-progress which is totally dependent on the outside for its survival. This is a fast moving world and if we think we have arrived, it will be the day we see us going down the trend. I can’t thank our government enough for giving us such a safe and nice environment to live in. March on, Singapore...march on PAP!
Sunday, December 01, 2013
After our run, me on left, Catherine, Dora, Howie and CK
It is the biggest marathon event in Singapore, probably in the region too. I first ran my first Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore event (SCMS) in 2007 where I participated in the 10 km run and since then, it has been a yearly ritual for me. It was my third half marathon run with SCMS. My first was in 2009 where I clocked 1 hr 56 mins, second was last year where I paced Winnie and this year's run was to be my third. I did 2 full marathons at SCMS too. I was hoping to clock my personal best for this event and if possible, go under 1 hour 50 mins - a tall order to say the least. To prepare for that, I had been doing more runs with my run kakis.
SCMS 2013 was scheduled on 1 Dec 2013, Sunday and as expected, participants were over 50,000 strong. The 21 km event attracted 12,000 runners and the flag off was at the bridge that will lead us to Sentosa. The 21 km route is definitely more interesting than 10 km or 42 km as runners can run into Universal Studios in Sentosa. If I remember correctly, the route has not been changed since 2009. I understand from the organisers that all the routes will be changed next year and the finishing point will be at the soon to be ready national stadium in Kallang.
Jac, CK, Catherine, Dora and her son, Howie and I had arranged to meet at Vivo City this morning at 0600 hrs to take group picture before the run. As usual, I arrived at our meeting point well before 0530 hrs. Only CK was there. It was already past 0600 hrs, I told CK that I will move off first while he waited for the rest to turn up. I wanted to move as front as possible so that I won't be blocked by slower runners after our flag off. It was always chock-a-block at the initial stage as the path to Sentosa is quite narrow.
At exactly 0630 hrs, we were flagged off. It was raining quite heavily the day before and though the ground was still quite wet. Fortunately rain had already stopped hours before the race. I had to be careful when overtaking some runners. The path is quite narrow and it was still quite dark. I saw a young lady in her cosplay makeover. She wore a long blonde wig and her dress was almost covering the ground. This made her run quite cumbersome but she seemed to enjoy it. I ran past her and then concentrated on my own pace. I was keeping a good pace at this early juncture, slightly over 5 mins. We ran into Siloso Beach and heading to Resort World Sentosa (RWS). The first water station was at 4 km mark and I took a sip and then poured the rest over my head. We ran into Universal Studios park. Upon entering, a male caucasian runner pulled out three balls and started juggling while running - much to the delight of the supporters who lined up to root for the runners. I was equally amused. The characters and staff were stationed along the park to welcome the runners. Music was played too and it was inspiring for the runners, I must say. I didn't stop to take pictures with the cartoon characters but gave hi-5 to some when I ran past them. When we ran out of RWS, we had already covered more than 10 km. I was still coping well but it puzzled me this time there were no pacers throughout. Probably the pacers were assigned for 42 km event.
At the 10 km mark, I took a packet of power gel and downed it with a cup of plain water. Yes, I needed the power gel to refuel and fortunately, I can get the power gel at the water point. The route can be quite challenging. We had to run up a slip road that merges to the main road after exiting Sentosa. I started to slow down my pace as I was not sure if I can last the final 10 km with a 5 min plus pace. I was still keeping well. It was a straight run from HarbourFront all the way to City Hall. Every 2 km, there was water station. The hardest part was the last climb near the 16 km mark. It was a long straight climb but fortunately for me, I managed to overcome it without stopping. When we turned to F1 pit building, the final 3 km to the finish, we were joined by the rest of 10 km runners. There were many runners at that point. I was still not pushing hard, probably fatigue did seep in on me. I had no idea how fast I had covered as there were no pacers. I was still hoping to clock a good time. When I ran past Esplanade, I started to open up my pace. After a short right turn, it was the final 100 metres dash to the finishing at City Hall. I looked out the clock above which showed 2 hours and few seconds before running past. I knew I did not manage to slice off my previous best of 1 hr 56 mins. It was 3 mins off my personal best time. I clocked 1 hour 59 mins but I am still satisfied with my time. The weather had been good throughout though it was threatening to rain anytime.
At the finishing with my hard earned medal
At the finishing, I waited for the rest. I managed to catch Catherine but missed out CK and Dora who had finished earlier than her. Howie was still missing when we managed to find each other. Jaq smsed to inform that she had a bad cramp at 15 km mark and therefore, she will be finishing later. We finally found Howie and all 5 of us took a short walk to Killiney Cafe at Purvis Street for our breakfast before heading home. We called Chua who was the only one among us to run the full marathon to check on his whereabouts and he was already on the way home. He did 4 hours 10 mins for his full marathon, his best time ever. I did not manage to clock my personal best this time but fret not, I will be back next year to attempt again.