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My friend's birthday~ That friend was the dude I met while hiking up Mount Kinabalu last year. This year, he asked if I wanted to h...

The Chung family

My friend's birthday~
That friend was the dude I met while hiking up Mount Kinabalu last year. This year, he asked if I wanted to hike up again, and I said yes!!! (lol macam proposal)

This was us last year

And this was us this year - 23rd October
(which was also his birthday hence the first photo)
Clearly, not much has changed except for our hair maybe. 

Thankful for Xiangxi for helping my friend and I organise everythingggg, right down to the accommodation. Eventually, we hiked all the way to Laban Rata hut, BUT didn't get to summit Mount Kinabalu because of bad weather. That also means I may need to come back YET again because I haven't had the perfect experience climbing this mountain.

BUT.

I got to see amazing views this time around
And I count my blessings.
When I reached Laban Rata, I even said that if I didn't get to go up to the summit, I'm grateful enough because of the views I was given.

The point of this post isn't about my climb though - 

It's about Xiangxi's family.

This year, his siblings joined him on the hike - three others. He has two sisters and a brother. 

I'll leave you to guess which ones are his siblings.
They all have very distinct looks.

This was them celebrating his birthday for him up on the mountain. The rest were his friends.

What's special about their family is the fact that... they're still hanging out and doing things together as a unit even at this age. How many of us still do that?????

Having spent a few days with them, I felt the warmth and colour of his family. They were so open and caring to each other, as well as to others like me. Above all, they were happy.

While we hiked, they would sing. While we ate, they would bicker (endearingly). And while we talked, they would always have something to joke and laugh about. They were one of the closest families I had ever seen and whose company I had the privilege of revelling in. I enjoyed being with them very much.

I remember one day before our hike, their eldest sister had to catch a midnight flight from KL to Sabah and all three of them made sure to keep some food for her, and helped with her check-in. Things like that were simple, but it's usually the tiniest of gestures that reveal a lot about people.

I even got to meet their father. He too, was very open, friendly and kind.

What's amazing is that their father exposed all 4 of them to outdoor sports very early on in their childhood. They climbed Mount Kinabalu once as a family when the children were still in primary school and he showed me beautiful family pictures when I stepped into their beautiful home. I felt comfortable the moment I stepped inside their house. Yknow how sometimes a person wouldn't feel at home since it's someone else's? I didn't get that feeling at all. I felt instant familiarity.

I could see how love within the family helped raise the children into becoming secure and confident adults. 

I'm sure many factors played a part, but I strongly believe sports played a very big role in their upbringing.

I witnessed that when I went snorkelling with two of his siblings one day at an island.
It was my first time snorkelling, but for them - they've been exposed to this since they were kids! They're experts at diving.

I could see how relaxed, and confident they were out in the sea. And it reflected in the way they carried themselves in life. They were so in touch with nature and with themselves.

Which is what's lacking in Singapore... our kids don't go out to play that much. We stay indoors most of the time, especially so for kids of today. And our sense of worth is tied to academic grades and the schools we go to. Sure, we get the grades, but are our kids truly living?

I attended a talk recently about parenting, not cuz I'm expecting or anything, it was a talk about raising children since I was volunteering with an organisation for underprivileged kids. There was one part of the talk that said the Singapore government is still puzzled when it comes to refining the education system. 

The speaker said, "Our education system has form, but no substance".

We've got it. The form is there - the recipe to good degrees and graduates. But there is no joy for learning - there is no spirit in our children. There is no true love for learning that comes from within. Everything so far has been rote learning and our kids may seem knowledgeable but their brains aren't actually developed holistically - emotionally, socially, physically. And it's quite sad because what kind of adults are we grooming our children to be? What are they pursuing in life? Worse still, mental disorders such as depression and anxiety are on the rise among our youth. 

Something's got to give.

Which was why I was truly inspired by the Chung family. They're very confident individuals and very street smart. Something a lot of Singaporeans are lacking in. And I strongly believe it's developed through play. A LOT of playing. Our kids don't play anymore. Maybe on their phones, which only stimulates a small part of the brain.

The importance of 'play' became such a eureka moment for me. Again, I saw that through Xiangxi and his friends. 

I met some of them again this year

They were all high school buddies and Xiangxi happily chirped, "and friends forever". I know he means it. 

To him and to them, their friendship is solid and as I spoke to them, they recalled good fun times at school - where they played pranks on one another, where they made teachers cry - I felt their bond. It wasn't out of loneliness that brought them together, it was out of pure friendship. I loved listening to their stories and they were amazing. I wish I were their friend in Sabah too!

Malaysia may not have made it top in the PISA rankings, but I don't see my friends any less bright than I am. 

I am not saying the Singapore education system is bad. In fact, I think it's world-class and I would never want to study anywhere else if I had to go through it all again. I had the best education at NTU. 

I also do not see any sense in all play and no study. That's stupid. We still need to be intellectually stimulated by what we read in textbooks and have a vast breadth of knowledge about the world around us.

It's just that... our children are not developed in other areas that are necessary for survival. There is also a lack in character development.

If anything, that's my wish for the young people of today... and if ever I have the opportunity to effect such a change, it would be this: play more, live a little. I wish I had the chance to when I was in primary/secondary school/jc.

Having figured this out, it has helped me and the children I've taken under my wing.

I used to wonder how to inspire them to work hard in life. Do I bring them to the library? Make them read loadsa books? What can I do? 

But I realise... no, I take them to places where they can sing, jump and laugh a lot. That's what will breathe life into them - learning from their natural environment... 

where trees grow, fishes swim and flowers bloom

Here's me and ma twin I love to tell people that my mom and I have the same birthday. I must've been the most painful and joyful...

a quarter century old

Here's me and ma twin
I love to tell people that my mom and I have the same birthday. I must've been the most painful and joyful gift she's ever had!!

And I know this sounds terribly solemn, but I told my mom that when she's gone, my birthday would also be terribly sad because a part of me isn't celebrating together with me. They say mothers and daughters don't always get along, but I'd like to say that we always have.

The only thing I'd dispute is our horoscope. We're both Libras, but we are for sure so damn different. I am so much more like my dad in terms of personality... That's why I've never really believed in horoscopes *shrugs*

Btw it isn't my birthday just yet, it falls on the19th.

Which was why...

I was sooo surprised when they celebrated mine!!
It was just a simple cake, but truly, I think it was pure happiness that I'd felt last Thursday night. I couldn't stop smiling when my old wkw uni buds surprised me after dinner at old airport road's hawker centre. I'd always been good at sussing things out. So this one... I gotta give it to them ;-)

25... Think this is the best age to be - I'm enjoying my youth, I've got a bit of time, and I've some money.

Plus, I've my friends and familyyy

Old friends (jb outing last Sunday)
Older friends :-)

New friends...
And newer friends!!

Who also turn out to be crazy my colleagues

And as I grow older... 
and wiser...
and more self-aware....

I hope I also...

ALWAYS STAY A BIT INSANE
and remind myself that I don't know everything.
And that there's a big world out there.

Before I get excited, I must also remember to take one step at a time. That everyone is at their own pace at different stages, and comparison takes me nowhere. To do that, managing my expectations is essential. While achievements are good, a little bit of tension and hiccups are necessary.

Ommm...

It's good to be twenty five.

Am currently soooo obsessed with this song arghhh. I'll be groovinnn every single time I listen to this (which is basically every ...

Jeezers, I think I'm growing younger!!




Am currently soooo obsessed with this song arghhh. I'll be groovinnn every single time I listen to this (which is basically every minute of my life right now hahaha) Love old school song remixes.

Speakin of dancing,

LAST NIGHT'S F1 CONCERT WAS THE BOMBBBB.

With ma loverz
Sarah thiammmm -
the wkw spirit lives on in every one of us even after school la
this one needs no introduction teehhee
We were at Ariana Grande's concert (yeah i secretly love her songs it's such an embarrassment but still, she's soooo good. live as well)

Poor Huiquan was too squashed up with the mob that she had to quit half way to get some air at the back hahah.

Dustbin babies
Right after that, it was the Chainsmokers and she was BACK IN ACTION. I'm not so much a fan of them cuz so much electronic tech music. Still, we danced the night away sooo much fun!!! AM I GROWING YOUNGER??? I've been missing out on all this during uni days - broke and studying full-time - ain't nobody got time and money to be having fun then.

So now, I realise what I've been missin' out all this while HAHAH.

Still, never too late ;)
Out with Huiquan's colleagues as well - look at her cheeky face!!!

SO GLAD I CAME WITH THESE TWO
THEY'RE THE BESTTTTTT

And then the next day I had to work on a Sunday at 8am. Even before the event, I was working - I guess we can never totally be free from the shackles of society. 

Wow though, haven't had so much fun in a while aaaah!!

I had a chat with a Muslim colleague back in June when it was the fasting period. I was sitting beside him and wondering why the hell he was...

Why I don't have a religion (and my greatest fear)

I had a chat with a Muslim colleague back in June when it was the fasting period. I was sitting beside him and wondering why the hell he was sucking on a sweet, and I noticed an opened bottle of green tea on his table. First thing that came to my head, "wah this one rebel ah".

So dearie me just had to ask... with hesitation and a sense of trepidation... why wasn't he fasting like the rest of the Muslims.

He wasn't offended or anything, in fact, he was quite happy to answer me. "I'm questioning my relationship with my Creator". I was quite surprised by his answer because I had always assumed Muslims were always quite certain of their faith because most of them, in fact, almost all Malays that I know, were born into the religion. Cradle believers. Seeing how they're always so disciplined in prayer (every friday, and certain times of the day), I thought they'd never question. Were they even allowed to question??

He said he didn't want to fast this year because he wanted time off to think about his religion. I didn't get to ask what was bugging him, but as with all things intangible like faith, I suppose he was struggling in believing the Almighty's existence. He even cited how someone so pious like Mother Theresa questioned her relationship with God, suggesting that he wasn't alone in his thoughts. I read about her story too and understood where he was coming from.

Then it was my turn.

"What's your religion? Are you a Christian?" I shook my head, smiled, stretched my arms and said, "I'm a freethinker!" A bit too jolly I reckon haha. He smiled and said, "Do you believe in a God then?" I said that although I don't adhere to any one religion, I would like to believe that there is a God. That's the idealist in me talking.

I continued, "I don't have a religion because..." :

1) I've always believed that religions were man-made to quell man's fears - the afterlife. Therefore the creation of heaven and hell, good and evil, right and wrong.

2) Religions are backwarded. Traditionalist. And because most of them refuse to evolve with the times, and because they're guarded with so much sanctity, some people have chosen to "protect" the erosion of "morality". At all costs. Resulting in extremism and fundamentalism, which leads me to my next point.

3) Religion has caused so much death, destruction and war to mankind. More than race and the colour of your skin, I've witnessed religion having power over any other factor to tear relationships and breed distrust amongst people. Working in the newsroom where I get to read stories from around the world, I see people fighting every single day merely because of their differing faiths.

The latter reason has always troubled me, ever since I was in JC when I studied History. In our essays, we could never leave out 'Differences in ideologies' as a factor in all the wars that started. I think if you leave it out, your essay sure fail. Palestine and Israel, India and Pakistan - never-ending wars since decades ago unresolved till this very day. And right now, even Buddhism - one of the most peaceful religions - is at war with Islam, the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

But I can never understand why people have to fight, because at the end of the day, I see that all of us - men, women, homo, muslim or buddhist - we all meet the same fate when we die.

And if there is a God, I see him welcoming all of us with open arms. "Believer" or not.

I told my colleague, "When I see Muslims, Jews and Christians fight one another, I feel like telling them, your God is the same God. You're all fighting for the same holy site - Jerusalem. And your religious scriptures have so many overlaps, (Jesus was a Jew. Both Allah and Jesus were messengers. Various persons in the Koran and Bible have similar stories), why can't you see that you're actually brothers in faith?"

Please, put down your arms and stop killing yourselves. If I were God, I would wake up all of your ideas.

Then of course, there are the many other questions such as, if God were here then why would he want to cause so much death and destruction. why make us suffer. why this and that.

Haiya, I also dunno la.

My colleague laughed and he agreed with what I said earlier.

I asked him, "Do you talk about this with your friends?". He nodded. "Are they Muslim?" He shook his head and replied, "Catholic".

I wasn't told why, but I'm thinking it's not easy to talk about questions of faith with your own community for a fear of being judged. That you're a bad apple for even asking these questions. They'd say trust in the path that God has for you and your obedience will be duly rewarded.

But I sincerely believe that God wants you to question too. Otherwise, what's a relationship with God when it's blind faith? Each time you question is an opportunity for a relationship renewal. It's always a work-in-progress.

There are also a few more reasons as to why I don't have a religion. This, I did not tell my colleague simply because the reasons never crossed my mind at the time. But more importantly, they're reasons that are a lot deeper and specific than the three I mentioned above.

If you think that I formulated all of my ideas on my own without being open to explore, you are wrong. Because I have. Many times. I've lost count of the different Protestant churches I've been to - even in other countries like New Zealand and Myanmar. I have visited Buddhist temples, as well as Catholic churches. (I've never been to a mosque and hindu temple though because of a difference in cultures and a lack of friends from those faiths) But I have tried.

Here's what I think about my experience so far:

1) I don't trust all religious leaders. Despite the numerous times that I've visited churches and attended service, I find it hard to subscribe to Christianity, especially to charismatic churches because they're too complicated. The language in which they speak is convoluted and laden with unnecessary emotion. I listen to the pastor, and while there are various times when I walk away feeling inspired, there have been too many times when I call out their bullshit. Instead of teachings, they play on human vulnerabilities and exploit them. Then when money comes into the equation, religious leaders themselves fall into a spiral of lies, deceit and corruption.

2) I don't trust all the people who attend these religious congregations. Many of them think they have higher moral authority than everyone else - I don't agree. You're not a Saint and like everyone else, you sin and commit mistakes. Who are you to judge? What's worse is that I've seen church goers judge other church goers. I don't think God rewards the person who prays the most number of times or dresses the best on Sundays. Life is not a competition to win God's favour.

To me, a relationship with God is simple. Just you and him and nothing else in-between.

Finally, there is one last reason why I still haven't subscribed to a religion:

3) There is a part of me that believes that actually, out there, somewhere, there is no God. That, there simply is no reason to our existence. How we are created. Why we are created. That these questions will never be answered. If you look at the cycle of life - Taoism is right. Everything exists in cycles. We live, we die and another life is born somewhere. That the best we can do is live the best life that we have now, where each day is to be thankful for and time spent with people we love is precious.

While it is a scary scenario and one that I do not advocate, I am not ruling it out either.

Death has been the one question no man has ever answered since the dawn of time - and there is a part of me that concedes. I surrender to the unknown. I won't bring in the discourse of Science VS Religion because I see those two as disparate. I believe there is a spiritual realm out there, which science cannot explain.

Ever since I was young, as far as my memory can go, I have always feared death - not knowing what would happen to me and that I will never see my loved ones again. Because of this, I cry when I think about death. But it also makes me laugh because I fear nothing else - not bugs, not ghosts, not public speaking.

I will never say never though. One day, I might subscribe to a religion when I'm convinced. When perhaps, the fear of death becomes too overwhelming. Or if a spiritual encounter comes round the corner.

I told my colleague that Buddhism and Christianity appeal to me. Buddhism for its teachings and Christianity for the idea of a benevolent God.

He nodded with a pensive look on his face. I leave him be and we carried on with work.

I really enjoyed that conversation. And if more people are willing to talk about their religious beliefs, in a respectful manner, we're one step towards understanding each other. That's what the world is lacking, and that's what we need if we want to live together.

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