a party, with lanterns

I’ve lived with my new housemates for five days now, and it’s been thoroughly good so far. Nothing earth-shattering, just little things like eating breakfast together bleary-eyed in the mornings, asking if anyone needs the bathroom before you shower, and swapping accounts of the day before bed. But it’s exactly those little things that make us feel known and valued and like we’re not alone in the world, far away from home.

Speaking of feeling known and valued, a lovely friend of mine, Emma, had a pretty special birthday party last weekend. Besides the usual food/music/conversations, she asked each guest to bring along a story, poem, song, magic trick, craft, or just any other creative thing to share on the spot with everyone else.

This past week it was Mid-Autumn Festival, so I brought along some Chinese paper lanterns, and told the story behind the festival. Other friends composed Emma a birthday song, read from this hilarious book, sang Bruce Springsteen and the Civil Wars covers, and put a broken matchstick back together (how?! These tricks always baffle me).

It was so fun learning about friends, some old and some new, through what they had brought. And it reminded me that people carry such fascinating interests and skills with them all the time, if only we have eyes to see.

Isn’t that such a fun, simple party idea? I had a great time.

lanterns

(Photo: from here, with thanks.)

Ps. In case you’re wondering how furnishing the house is going – I got given a bedframe that is (guess what) exactly the same model as the old one that got thrown out due to bedbugs months ago! Plus, two really great friends of mine have just moved in round the corner. Amazingness. 🙂

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majulah

(Mentos being very silly and funny)

Hey folks. I was going to write you a totally navel-gazing, soul-searchingly deep post about what it means to be Singaporean and all, but on this my country’s 48th birthday, I’m just going to relax. Submitted the third of my four fundraising course assignments yesterday, and I still feel a little like a new mum who’s given birth but her body hasn’t quite realised it yet. My brain is still all jumpy and thinking about word counts and ROI and LTV. I even woke up with the hiccups that I had while doing final essay edits last night! What.

So it’s time to properly wind down for the summer. The last of my stressful deadlines is over. You know, I used to never wind down; up until four years ago I’d never intentionally had a day off in my life. (Going on holidays doesn’t count – that’s like binge-resting.) And in some ways, that was easier, because boy, working is what I do best. When I’m achieving and producing, I’m worth something. It took so much more character and discipline to just start cherishing myself and my relationships, than it did to carry on staying late at the office.

But I’ve found that there’s a real wisdom in that, because that’s how the upside-down secret way works in life. Want to live? Die to yourself. Want to be rich and successful? Learn to be poor and childlike. Want to find freedom? Train to surrender and submit. Want to produce and contribute the most? Take a break.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” – Jesus, John 15.5

So as we celebrate Singapore’s great successes today, I’d like to invite you to remember that progress isn’t linear, but seasonal, and that most of what causes success to apparently just pop up all of a sudden is long, slow spiritual and character formation in secret. Perhaps you can use some of your long weekend to find that secret, still space.

I, for one, am going to find some bubble tea in Coventry city centre and harvest my friends’ garden (hello, courgettes and rhubarb! Nice to eat choo).

Have a secret, still weekend, everyone.

*

Also, I give you some more National Day-themed links:

Singaporean 90s-kid nostalgia.

Google loves us.

And ok not really National Day-themed, but Singaporean and close to my heart – include an ‘outsider’ in some way this weekend, won’t you.

Excerpts from my favourite Singapore film ever, here and here.

And, wah! Mr Brown got music video.

solitude, calling, and the internet man

sheep

Ok friends, and here we screech to the end of a rather bumpy week. I was alone at home for a lot of it because my exciting housemates are all away. Oh, and also because the internet man decided that this was the week he would come and fix us up, which meant having to work from home A LOT and wait (and wait and wait) for routers etc to appear. Hopefully, by end of today, we will have the internets and this will conclude THREE MONTHS OF SORROW AND AGONY (talktalk I am never talking to you ever again *£^%&*@gfthgft).

Anyway. Do you find that as you get older, you seem to develop towards the opposite extreme from your personality type? As in, e.g., you used to introvertedly suck up alone time, but now you can’t live without human interaction for even one evening? That is what I have discovered about myself this week. Hmm. Interesting considering what Bonhoeffer says:

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community […] let him who is not in community beware of being alone […] each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.”

Maybe it’s time for me to learn to be by myself again for a bit. Summer is a good time for that.

(Speaking of which, have you seen this comic about understanding introverts yet? Pretty good stuff.)

landscape

My other big reflection on the week is that no one has a full understanding of what I am called to do with my life except God. Not my friends, not my parents, not my church leader, not myself. And everyone, myself included, will sooner or later bump up against something in my life that they/I don’t think I’m called to do, but which is in fact right to do.

This is why following this particular God isn’t about rules, because sometimes obedience will look like steeling myself to defy the talking heads in my life, while other times (like right now with fundraising) it looks like everyone trying to nudge me towards this thing that I so feel inadequate for.

This is also why Jesus had so much to say about unity, I think. Because unity means that his followers keep on loving each other even when they are being led down completely different paths, encouraging each other to do completely different, even opposite things.

Practically, right now, here’s how this stuff is hitting me:

1. I want to learn to experiment again with fundraising, to unashamedly start from zero knowledge. To not let childlikeness make me feel inadequate, but to actually learn that this is the best preparation for learning.

2. I want to refuse to compare. How should I know whether these guys are supposed to be in this career or not, married or not, spending money on this or not? All I know is, I’m trying to follow Jesus, and presumably, so are they.

sweeping

Oh and finally, there’s been an awful lot of sanctimonious talk coming out of Singapore this past week. Pastor Kong Hee, Family Pledge, opine opine, waffle waffle…can we all just give our judging skills a rest now, please? Judging skills, it’s holiday time, ok?! You just sit yourselves right down and take a little break.

Have a restful, non-judgemental weekend, everyone.

PS. A coffee personality type chart that made me laugh.

(Photos: Are mine from a day trip to the Cotswolds.)

Wednesday Links

Interesting people:

Ellen Page: ‘Why are people so reluctant to say they’re feminists?’ | Film | The Guardian .

Ibrahim el-Salahi: from Sudanese prison to Tate Modern show | Art and design | The Guardian .

I’ve been thinking a lot about post-colonialism and Singapore, and how we really haven’t developed a post-colonial discourse in South East Asia. It’s almost like we’ve given everything up for the sake of moving forward, including looking critically back at our own past. But now, I’m looking at things and really really questioning if it isn’t really because of the past that we have the inequalities, the rifts, the cracks in our societies today. The British moulded our society to their benefit, and we’ve never really looked at that and been like, okay, this is what we need to do now to actually try and make it an even playing field. Because it’s still the Malay, the Chinese dialect, the South Indian people who are supposedly doing worse in schools, who can’t seem to be as employable, as wanted, as Singaporean as the Baba, the English-speaking, the culturally more Western segments of our society.

Fruit men

My father has a fruit guy he’s been going to for years. As a child I’d wander after my father, through the piles of longan and lychee, Thai mangoes and starfruit, and the fruit guy would say “Girl, you try this one”. My father calls him “Tiger Brother” in a dialect, I don’t know which. On Hari Raya, my father orders baskets of fruit from him, and loads up the car with durian, guava, oranges, mangoes, to be cut and served to my very big extended family after hours of visiting.

 

When I lived in Egypt, I had my own fruit man for the first time. He was a little, dark old man in a fruit store on the corner. He always seemed very amused at having three foreign girls with broken Arabic come to his shop. He had a kid helping him, sometimes, maybe a nephew, or a grandson. The fruits in Egypt are delicious. He’d let us munch on a banana each for free, and sell us whatever was in season. Gorgeous, perfect persimmons that he assured us weren’t from Occupied Palestine, figs that looked like hearts when you cut them in half that were so sweet they tasted like they’d been sugared, watermelons that hopefully hadn’t been grown in Nile water. He’d teach us the names of the fruits in Arabic, and test us on them the next time we came by. I’d recognised the name for figs from the Quran, and he approved. The entire area of Mohandiseen was apparently wrecked by the first revolution. He was an old man, and the wheels of revolution are still turning. I pray that he is safe.

 

Now, my fruit man is a fruit family. Thursdays they are at the market near the Prefectural Offices. The father smokes and naps at the side of the stall after all the office workers have gone back into their offices after lunch. He gives me free tomatoes sometimes.  The son never gives me a discount, but he tells me what’s good today. The mother never comes on Thursdays. She comes on Sundays at the Sunday market near Kochi castle, and talks to me. One week I came with a friend, the next week she asked me what happened to my friend. I generally come alone, I think she pities me for that. She checks to see if  I know how to eat the fruit. Loquat – no, yamamomo – not really, peaches – yes. I think she calculates the prices wrongly, sometimes, but I have to translate the prices to do it, so I don’t really bother to check. It’s worth it, really. Now cherries have started to come into season, and the peaches are turning perfectly red at their tips, the last of the loquats and yamamomos are at the corner of the stall, and we are in summer.

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!

because I am in a hungry mood…

…here are some weekend food links:

Peanut butter and chocolate — they sing, they jive, they do a little twirl. You want this fudgey smudgey brownie version.

Three words: O. Kono. Miyaki. I have been down a few streets in Japan where there literally were ONLY okonomiyaki restaurants. Please God, there had better be one of those streets in heaven. BIG LOVE. (Also, homemade yogurt panna cotta with walnuts and honey. WHAT.)

You want something festively weekendy to wash it all down with.

If you get hangry, maybe you need some of these.

And finally, dishes that grandmothers around the world make (including a few surprises!). My grandmother would make these ngoh hiang (Hokkien meat rolls) that were just out of this world. We once asked her what her secret was, and bearing in mind that this is a super traditional Hokkien recipe involving all kinds of only-in-Asia ingredients, she grinned and said…

ngoh hiang

Ngoh hiang (Hokkien meat rolls)

“…Jacob’s cream crackers.”

Cracks me up every time.

Happy weekend, guys!

(Photo from here – and a recipe too. With thanks.)