holiday miracles

museum of copenhagen

Miniature model of the city from 16th century, outside Museum of CopenhagenRosenborg palace and rose gardenRosenborg palace and rose garden

My dears, I hope you have had very excellent summertimes (for those of you who do have such seasons) and that the back to work season isn’t hitting too hard.

Just recapping my holiday highlights, and this crazy wonderful thing happened to me in Copenhagen that I really had to share on here:

So when you go to that lovely city, the tourist must-see is this beautiful old amusement park called Tivoli. Everyone wants to go there, especially at night, because of the gorgeous lights, and on Fridays, they have really good free gigs by famous musicians in the park. However, because it also costs an arm and a leg to get in, I just wasn’t planning on it, and neither was the friend whom I was staying with.

Dragor - a pretty seaside town south of Copenhagen

Dragor – a pretty seaside town south of Copenhagen

little mermaid

The entirely underwhelming little mermaid statue (who, incidentally, turned 100 on the day that all this happened)

On my last day in the city, I was on the way to the Museum of Copenhagen to view a Kierkegaard exhibit, and on the way, passed by a square where stalls were being set up for a Singapore Street Food Festival. Now, I am nothing if not hungry, and so went back to check it out for dinner.

I got to the front of the ticket queue, and it turned out that they had stopped selling food tickets two people before me. I had this conversation with the cashier:

Me: (gasp) You haven’t just stopped selling tickets, have you?!
Cashier: You can come back tomorrow…
Me: But it’s my last day!
Cashier: (pause) (maybe realises that I am actually Singaporean and far away from home) Okay. I’m going to sell this girl a ticket.

old archery targets

Old archery targets on the ceiling of the Museum of Copenhagen

So I’m sitting there, eating my chicken rice made by none other than the celebrated Wee Nam Kee, who has flown in for this very occasion, when a Danish couple sit down by me. They’re discussing where to get drinks from, and we get into a conversation. Turns out they heard about the food festival from their Singaporean friend, who then comes over and joins in. I discover that they are all Christians from Hillsong Church Copenhagen.

They start telling me their stories, and it just gets curiouser and curiouser – the Singaporean girl, J, has moved around to wherever she feels God is calling her to for about the past ten years, working for lots of different churches and Christian ministries along the way. She’s the first Singaporean I’ve ever met in my generation who has made such similar life choices to me. We also have a mutual friend (my best friend from primary school). I have the gradually growing feeling that God has set us up…

And THEN. Eventually the Danish couple, who are lovely and radiant and kind and sweet, ask:

“What are you doing this evening?”
“Umm, I don’t really have any plans…”
“Well, this famous Danish musician, Mads Langer, is playing a gig at Tivoli, and we have a pass to take a guest in for free. Wanna come?”

Mads Langer in Tivoli!

Mads Langer in Tivoli!

At this point my jaw is on the floor and my eyes are bugging out of my head. But I still decide that, heck, when life is crazy good why not make it better still for someone else.

“Umm – I don’t suppose you can take TWO people in for free, can you?!”

(They talk among themselves in Danish)

“No – but we can pay for one of you!”

So this is how my friend, whom I’ve been staying with, and I get to see Tivoli and go to this incredible gig on our last night in Copenhagen.

These things, you just can’t make them up! How like God – fun, funny, surprising, overwhelmingly good and incredibly last-minute.

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In other news, these. Are great.

Also, does anyone know where you can watch Ilo Ilo in the UK?

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a song for your summer

For the sound of your summer, there can be no other than the esteemed Ben Howard. What an awesome music video!

Have a summery, hanging-out-y, playful weekend.

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In other news, a friend has demanded to know what exactly my community house‘s “season of high challenge” consisted of, as soon as possible – so, here’s the reveal…

Some of us in the house were really challenged by this story, particularly Jesus’ words to “sell what you possess and give to the poor”. So we gave away all our income for a month, keeping it a secret from most people, and lived ‘by faith’, i.e. just on what we happened to receive.

At the same time, we also really wanted to keep being more and more hospitable as a house, so we decided that we would keep having friends over and feeding them whatever we had. We also didn’t want to start behaving in a poor way, i.e. just hoarding and trying to make whatever we had last as long as possible, since that doesn’t require any faith, so we ate as much and as good quality as we normally would.

Some things I learnt during this time:

  • ‘Not having anything’ (or rather, thinking we don’t have anything) is immensely freeing and a great stimulant to creativity. It is nowhere near as scary as I thought it would be. It did, however, feel nasty, all stripped down like fasting (which I am really bad at). Which leads me to…
  • My spirituality is flabby. Quite often my comfort does not come from God; it comes from new clothes and £3 hot chocolates in cafes. Loving money and ‘stuff’ is a stronghold that needs to be contested regularly
  • However, God can totally be trusted to provide. Quite a lot of free stuff appeared during this time…
  1. Petrol – the few people we had told decided to fill up our tanks! So we had enough to go places
  2. Food – always enough to feed ourselves and any friends we had over; lots of timely leftovers from various shindigs
  3. A replacement bedframe and mattress when I had bedbugs! – my parents had promised me a new mattress ages ago, so it was time to cash in; my housemate had a spare bedframe
  4. Lifts – quite a lot of them just when they would have been nice (and sometimes necessary); from people that we knew, who happened to be driving by
  5. Fun! – Charlecote Park, a cool art installation project, Coventry cathedral secondhand book sale, a barbecue, getting kidnapped to go and see As You Like It by the Royal Shakespeare Company, seeing Watford FC play live (!) etc etc
  • Manifestly, God is in the business of providing beyond the stale-crusts-and-water lifestyle
  • He is also a big fan of hospitality
  • If your finances aren’t in shape, it’s hard to bless other people
  • I don’t tell God nearly enough what I want
  • These things are better done in community. Much better. It’s amazing how powerful community is to keep people alive and happy.

On reflection, I have realised that while my feelings associated with this season were of misery and there not being enough, the fact is that there was always enough, and then some. It’s just that my idea of what is ‘enough’ is a lot beyond what is actually needed to have a perfectly adequate, enjoyable life.

We don’t seem to be any the worse for the wear, and it’s definitely gotten under the veneer of my religion (the stuff I say I believe) to show me the condition of my faith (what I actually believe). Feels like just the beginning of a much longer process of faith adventures, cultivating a simple life and growing in trust…

jiggery pokery fakery

Been more aware of various kinds of fakery in my life and around me recently, and they are starting to grate increasingly. This can only be a good thing.

It all reminded me of this song, which is incredibly catchy and convicting at the same time:

(Also, what a hilariously cheesy silly music video…whacky and random before whacky and random became cool.)

I have decided that my summer ambition is to get back to the basics. Resting, reading, being reflective, getting real, raw even. Especially, if not only, about my need for God. My own dreams and my abilities to deliver them are much too small; and I am too damaged and insecure on my own to offer anything like enough to anyone else. Powering up…

Have a restful weekend.

Singlish office romance

Does anyone else find Singlish really funny? Not in a kind of snooty “I am so fabulous, darling and above this” way, but in an affectionate “this is just where I come from” way. It makes me giggle a lot.

Anyway clearly, some other people think Singlish is funny too, because they wrote a song using it. My housemates have been in stitches over this song this past week. It is the tale of Charles and Chelsea who find love in a Singaporean office.

HOWREVER HOWBOURRIT, indeed.

Happy weekend, lovelies!

Dada

In Malay, dada means chest. Wikipedia tells me that “The origin of the name Dada is unclear; some believe that it is a nonsensical word. Others maintain that it originates from the Romanian artists Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco’s frequent use of the words da, da, meaning yes, yes in the Romanian language. Another theory says that the name “Dada” came during a meeting of the group when a paper knife stuck into a French-German dictionary happened to point to ‘dada’, a French word for ‘hobbyhorse'”.

I teach a teenager who suffers from a heart problem. His teachers are worried he won’t be able to get a job because he won’t be able to drive. The first couple of months, I wasn’t worried about him at all. I wanted to bitchslap this kid across the room because he was unbelievably uncooperative, uninterested, and dismissively rude. Then one day in class I talked about how I really liked Radwimps. Not a lie, because I do like them, but not entirely the truth, because I don’t know as much about them as I would if I really liked them. But I knew they were a popular band, and I figured Backstreet Boys wasn’t going to cut it. This kid suddenly woke up and started spouting random information about the band I could barely understand. A couple of weeks later, after I had asked some of the other kids for their music recommendations in my weekly letter, he cornered me and made me write down all his recommended Radwimps songs. This kid even started singing some of them. Made me promise to listen.

Teaching is an art, but a lot of good teaching is destructive. You try and break down the concepts that kids come to school with. You try and break down their ideas about what teachers are. You try and destroy that part of yourself that tells you it’s easier just to deal with the kids who will do what you tell them to do, who will not make you feel like a fool, who will react the way you want them too.