7 December 2009

last stop...

dear friends and passerbys, this will be my last entry for the blog. it will shut down before the close of 2009.

thanks again for all the years of encouragement and support you have given in my forays into writing and reflection. i too have grown in ways i did not expect. some things however need to go if we wish to move further afield on the road to life.

we wish each other well on the road ahead esp in our search to find rest or in meeting our heart's desire.


4 December 2009

between the zeal and the rain

so much has gone into the reno of my home it's a little hard to encapsulate every experience in words. thanks to phil my designer-pal, everything looks ready to bless & welcome my family and friends come xmas eve.

john's car is a miracle worker...over the course of the past 3 months of so, it has accompanied me on trips to buy everything and anything from taps to cabinets, blinds, sinks, ceramics, plants, pillows, stereo and even a hanging chair. i learnt that a toilet sink can cost as much as 5k and comes with a butt-flush that the japanese enjoy oh so much. the wood grains came with poetry in mind...a harvest of canadian birch, oak pines and white bamboo in season to grace a home. a slice of scandinavian chic with an austere modernist bent in mind.

i picked up that abandoned sprig from prince horticulture. the unexpected finds from rainy days when roads are empty and you drive a little slower to see the little treasures others have left behind.  from top brands to cheapo buys, we traversed the eastwestnorthandsouth of singapore...phil's eagle-eye and smart ways with budget made everything worth the emissions and petrol exhausted. i leave him to do the choosing. i just pay (ouch) and look out for what's left aside round the bend, for my unknown corner.

con's sent that imperial walker all the way from san francisco! crazy and devoted gal ...she fulfils a childhood dream to have one of my own. still, i had to let go of some (thanks andy for fostering the millenium falcon & snow speeders) given it's only 86sq m... they should  find a 'little' space for themselves.

and there's my gang from 5th canticle who received a decent sneak preview into what's in store for future gatherings. i'm glad they like it. their words and encouragement and cleaning up mean alot to me :)

22 November 2009


I need to be in love
Songwriters: Bettis, John;Carpenter, Richard Lynn;Hammond, Albert Louis
song clip attached

The hardest thing I've ever done is keep believing
There's someone in this crazy world for me
The way that people come and go through temporary lives
My chance could come and I might never know
I used to say "No promises, let's keep it simple"
But freedom only helps you say goodbye
It took a while for me to learn that nothing comes for free
The price I paid is high enough for me

* I know I need to be in love
I know I've wasted too much time
I know I ask perfection of a quite imperfect world
And fool enough to think that's what I'll find*

So here I am with pockets full of good intentions
But none of them will comfort me tonight
I'm wide awake at 4 a.m. without a friend in sight
I'm hanging on a hope but I'm all right.


carpenters. two

encountered the carpenters when i was barely ten and grew to enjoy their music from the start. it will be a span of 20 years in-between before i would be willing to listen to their compositions again. mention the duo, and you'll receive a legacy of respect accorded to their artistry and contribution to song history. like their predecessors, the beatles, they left a permanent imprint on the music world and took song composition to a new level of vocal expression. it's hard to detect the same earnest textured confessional pieces these days...

it comes at a special time when i'm preparing to move out to my new pad, relearning what to discard and finding faith to reclaim what i've always cherished. was at my new place for many consecutive nights and days and am wondering how i should allow some nooks and crannies to speak about some longstanding motifs in life and the hallowed journeys that made me who i am today.

this piece by the carpenters was introduced to me when i was 13. raw, searching and unknown even to myself, i found a little affinity with the lyrics. its 'sense of home'...new promises, beginnings to life's changing horizons. much to unpack and acknowledge even as friends come and go away from your life while family and vocation remain constant. some of her songs were even perceived to be rather 'soppy' until one bothers to peel away the defensive statement and read them in light of different or untested chapters about life & living. Some take courage to confess and sing.

 bear with the cheesy late 70s pics from the two posts and enjoy the dark and bright depths within each composition.

As a child I was known for make-believing
All alone I created fantasies
As I grew people called it self-deceiving
But my heart helped me hold the memories

As I walk through the world I find around me
Something new, yet familiar's in the air
I feel it ev'rywhere
Like a child's eyes
On a Christmas night
I'm lookin' at you now
Finding answers to my prayers

(*) It's a new day for those good old dreams
One by one it seems they're comin' true
Here's the morning that my heart had seen
Here's the morning that just had to come through
Same old stage but what a change of scene
No more dark horizons, only blue
It's a new day for those good old dreams
All my life I dreamed of lovin' you

You're a spark of a long forgotten fire
You're a touch of a slowly growing wind
You're a taste of the ever-changing seasons
Telling me there are some things that don't end

We have left all the darkness far behind us
All those hopes that we held along the way
Have made it to this day
Like an old love song
Gone for much too long
You hear it once again
And it carries you away

Repeat (*)

It's a new day for those good old dreams
And It's all because of you

14 November 2009

coming back

I say your name
again. It is a key, unlocking all the dark,
so death swings open its hinge.
I hear a bird begin its song,
piercing the hour, to bring first light this Christmas dawn,
a gift, the blush of memory

carol ann duffy: over

picking pictures

reno's almost complete and my loft looks bigger than usual-thanks to the splash of gloss white  and quiet linears that broadened the contours of space. in-between, i have also been asked to look back to the past to draw inspiration to message my home for today.

there will be mirror to further expand the space. my designer-pal has asked me to select any picture of my choice to personalise what's there. i took time and rummaged through albums spanning several decades of life and what struck me are pictures of my taken with my menagerie of pets particularly blackie and bobby and the countless birthday celebrations my family took time to organise for one another. i may eventually settle for a sepia-stained picture taken with my sisters and brother and one with my grandmother and parents. without them, i won't be here today. their continuing presence imparts a sense of certainty and comfort even as other lives swish by amid changes in this country and the small neighbourhoods that surround our lives.  i asked for a reminder to anchor these constancies together. that will be the de-cal for the door to my storeroom. below illustrates side version of a bistro kitchen leading to a tree motif where all thoughts find rest.

on the same point, this time in the classroom, i closed my final lesson with a song and poem with my classes. it brings mixed feelings as we set each other free. i stand proud looking at their fledging sense of independence as well as their willpower to succeed in the pw oral exams. i will miss them in different ways too; the late hours of discussions and hammering the WR into shape, how they made me laugh in the middle of a sinus attack, their unexpected cards of gratitude, the pokey treats, last minute consultations (which always irritate me) and the many lines of gem and wonder that help them establish their mark as good students; intellectually resistant and persistent minds who are always willing to push the extra mile in their quiet and sometimes loud but collective efforts to give their humble best. i could teach and mentor them forever...but that will not do even as we said goodbye with open hands.

in thanksgiving...

26 October 2009

untended places

i picked this unit because of the view. on the left, i see tips of jurong port lighting the horizon at dusk, reminding me of old ports, grey coasts and distant lighthouses that haunted my earliest impressions of childhood. my 21st floor bedroom window opens up to much of the northwest...safti, kranji, choa and lim chu kang and jb further afield.

i've spent much of my life in the west; born, bred, educated and will probably die here. there was little appeal for the east when friends invited me to hunt for an apartment that would always receive alot of summer breeze from the sea. i enjoy staying in the west for the quiet it offers and the large swathes of green that seem to remind us of our jungle past. providence permitted another childhood fantasy to come true; to be near to the sound and comfort of railway lines, a tangible reminder, an assuring spiritual metaphor indicating a direction sought and gained...a path on which to travel on. i don't always find it completely and have sometimes even been denied of it. but this line of trains outside my window imparts a firm imprint of a past catching up with me, to validate what i've always felt from childhood and my teenage years...

i'll probably be in debt for life when i made the decision to purchase this flat. in this present state, the hacked walls, loosened wires and pristine floor tiles are a contradiction of sorts- laying an uneasy vision of a home to come. you need to work hard to peel the most out of a limited budget and remain unseduced by cheap buys. do i hold a neat dream or a huge mess on my hands?

  i have to wait patiently for this place to be completed between now and november. in time to come, i can look longer at spells of coming rain (not anymore on these globalwarming days) drenching the albizia and raintree beyond the window...

a day, complete

being planted in a new place allows me to rediscover what keeps me happy and fulfilled amid all the expectations that an invisible society places on you. it was last tuesday. and i had just concluded another round of OP rehearsals with 3 classes. we decided to prank around and captured these shots as little memories of us trying to find alot of fun amid the grading and call to self-growth that mark these cycles of college life.

i like my classes. never mind if my day starts at 530am and ends 6 or 8pm during more intense seasons. i look forward to meeting them. i miss being in the classrooms during term breaks. i guess holidays can sometimes be a call to return to self. so much of me feeling complete and integrated at work is sometimes 'determined' by my students and to some extent, the school culture which we are located within. like any interested student keen to try out strange experiences and learn from from fresh encounters, my pupils' desire to give their best to every small and minute detail for this OP means alot to me. in teaching and guiding them, i have also learnt to withdraw at times, esp if they become too dependent on my ideas. i want them to grow independent and own this project for themselves and not because of my bidding.

one day, the hour ended so well i decided to head to macrit alone for another long run at sundown... it was a day of thanksgiving that arrived unnoticed. the good lessons were warmly supported by cheerful and resilient learners that do their part and make your day worthwhile. i sat on one of the boardwalks and listened again to the first calling that led me here. i pray for grace to remain open, enough the sense the purpose that keeps me going, to find fulfilment within.

10 September 2009

gordon , melissa

once awhile, people return to bless your life. mel wrote me a card when she returned from taiwan recently. i didn't really teach her but a timely note dropped into her life led her to a new shore she always wanted to find. it happened the same way when i had dinner with my former student yesterday. he insisted on treating me. an old teachers' day gift, he promised.
it has been about 5 years since mel and gordon left college. about to graduate from nus and eager to explore new terrains, gordon had given some thought about teaching and served with distinction as an intern in a secondary school here. he was offered a scholarship and wanted to discern further, whether he was really ready to say yes. i saw myself in him- all 23 and open to what life may bring. sharing at depth about what teaching meant to both of us, i was led to recall times when i shared other stories and truths, the stuff of life which i have since forgotten. he affirmed our past and returned me home; a word that healed, a decision to forgive, patience to bear, regrets to carry and life broken whole, for others...when to find a friend, when to give, and take and how say goodbye. about mel, she was left in a corner after the release of results. fearful of a future she was not ready to see. i led her to another colleague who gave her courage to do her undergraduate studies in taiwan.
i left in both of them a part of my own searching life and now i glimpsed again the decisions gordon struggles to make even as mel revisits singapore with more than a smile etched in her heart. i retrieved my own past as i saw two futures on the same road i walked. stunned, the right words eluded me. but there was little doubt of why i was put into their lives, to guide them to paths i can never take.
as we parted, gordon said words i never expected to hear even as mel penned her thoughts in chinese (i struggled to decipher with all my might). i never understood what thanksgiving meant till i learnt to receive that day. i sat still in the cafe as gordon continue to speak. i looked beyond the life that sat before me...restoring what i lost even as he regaled and helped me to retrace the stories. i know why life brings a season of loss only to bear fruit in later years. the pain no longer there...the anguish, cast away.

that short hour stretched into night. i no longer see beyond the cold windows in that old favourite cafe. before we parted, i blessed him in my own unknown ways. i drove home that night, with the lamps lightening the long road i was burdened by. like mel, i left only to find back the reason to carry on living, if only to make a difference, if only to receive...finding the freedom that giving brings. and the deep gratitude, just knowing. and seeing two lives, released.

1 September 2009

cher's dae

A note from Mariya, a former student who has since become a teacher herself. I was surprised to find myself in her recollections - thought my goth lessons were 'ahem...' I hope reading this recollection will remind us of our own teachers who made and are still making an impact in our lives: to Mrs Lourdes Nathan (everything in pri school), Mdm Loh Lai Kuan (Econs), Ms Caroline Yeow (Lit), Prof Maribeth Erb (Anthropology)...and all who gave me another chance to know myself and discover all that I can do, learn, teach and serve with the grace God gives... Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. No, I'm not going to wax lyrical (or idealistic more like it) about the noble and virtuous nature of the profession. Like any other job, teaching definitely has its fair share of frustrations. Work doesn't seem to end, marking never appears to cease, juggling teaching and the other peripheral duties can totally make us flip sometimes. But I think in the end, what keeps me (and I'm sure many other teachers) are the students.
I've had several teachers in the course of my education that influenced me to choose this profession. These amazing individuals did not only teach; they educated. What I remember most are the life lessons, the sharing of anecdotes, the motivation, the support and the unwavering belief that we could make it.

The earliest memory I have of a great teacher is Mrs Amy Pang; my form teacher in Primary 1. I still hold Cikgu Saripah, my Secondary 4 Higher Malay teacher and Mr Salim Akbar, my Secondary 3 form teacher and upper secondary history teacher in high regard.

Most fresh in my memory were the Literature lessons in Pioneer Junior College. Mr Eddie Koh's Lit lessons were far from ordinary. It is safe to say that I went to school only looking forward to Lit periods. I remember the highlighted and annotated Dracula and Jane Eyre texts, discussions that turned my world inside out, the Gothic Lit tutorials that left me all bedazzled and craving for more. I remember analysing Alfian Sa'at's The Merlion and John Donne's religious and love poetry. I learnt the most about myself during those two years, doing Literature.

Various professors and lecturers in NUS affirmed my belief in the value of education. I never regretted majoring in Sociology. It totally changed my life, my beliefs, my mindset and my views towards many issues in life.Of course, tribute goes to both my parents, who have been teaching for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, Saturday mornings were spent in my mother's school's Homec Room, where I'll do my colouring and work on assessment books while she conducted her ECA. I also had the opportunity to work alongside my father when I did relief teaching in his school two years ago.
Some people thought that teaching was an obvious career choice for me, but I did give it enough thought before I took the plunge. You don't get rich teaching. You apparently function in this "protected bubble" - heck, it's just students; it's not the "real world." I didn't carry much idealism with me when I started, I think that's why I am able to keep going when things appear bleak.I did not choose teaching because it was the "last resort." I chose teaching because I didn't want to waste my knowledge; whatever little I have. I am not the kind of person who'd do volunteer work or sacrifice time for social causes; so this is my way of paying it forward. I chose teaching because I want to effect changes, however small, in students' lives.
I want to open their minds and get them thinking about things that they have taken for granted all this while (which is why I'm thankful that I'm teaching GP; never mind that I still have a lot to learn in terms of subject mastery).

To all my comrades-in-education (NIE coursemates, colleagues, friends, former teachers, my parents), have a meaningful Teachers' Day. When we're bogged down by things that detract us from teaching, remember the kids. :)

26 August 2009

lorong buangkok - a decade after

I covered buangkok as part of my honours thesis back in university. it's been almost a decade since the project was concluded. one of my pw groups here at raffles is covering the same site at this point in time.

was surprised to find this video on youtube. watching it makes me recall the lanes i walked, the mossie bites i bore and the rich stories shared when i interviewed the residents on-site.

i don't know if this place will be razed to the ground in time. when it goes, it may evoke alot more hard sentiments than expected...the same with the national theatre, library and stadium...the same with pulau seking and tekong and countless other landscapes that mean something to many people, even if they have not worked or lived here before. gone will be the ancient attachments to place, trees, relations and home... these places cannot be recreated once they are gone. the loss is irrevocable, permanent. our understanding of home goes deeper than the provisions and policies of HDB. it takes alot to be emotionally anchored to a place...the stories shared in these clips point to a part of my life which i still try to reclaim today...through the lessons shared in the classroom and my own academic interest in landscape, art and spirituality

19 August 2009

running again

i wanted to do stationary runs in the gym on mondays. i drove to macritchie instead. first time by myself, alone on the road. i left right after school. in my mind- been almost a year since i stopped outdoor runs, having confined myself to a threadmil. post-hospital fears. i was afraid the pain might return once i lay my feet on hard terrain. i stretched, put on my shoes and took a light jog round the boardwalk. i was alone most of the time, save the families of macques and the lone couple that walked by. i ran for 3omins and gradually acclerated with no sign of pain on heel, shin and back. i felt good...think i'm ok now. i trudged on sunlit routes, relished the crush of leaves on the base of my shoes. i jogged to the edge of a knoll, reaching the close of day, a simple happy man. and waters lapped quiet beside my feet. there is spirit in the leaves that rustle song... i smell evening in the air. so grateful i can run again.

24 July 2009

birch trees, seasons white

Late Spring
Coming into the high room again after years
after oceans and shadows of hills and the sounds of lies
after losses and feet on stairs
after looking and mistakes and forgetting
turning there thinking to find
no one except those I knew
finally I saw you
sitting in white
already waiting
you of whom I had heard
with my own ears since the beginning
for whom more than once
I had opened the door
believing you were not far
w.s. merwin (b.1927)

22 July 2009


be still, this time
as your note finds a place
in my hands
your words invite me home.
you used the word 'honour'
to remember me and the times spent.
i come back today, light one candle and pen you this prayer.
be still...
this grief now tears
for you

14 July 2009

blessing: prayer for new home

Constellations by rev lynn james

We find our way in the dark
using light from the lives of others.
Their sufferings and celebrations
are like constellations in the midnight sky,
orienting patterns above the horizon.
Tracing their paths through the night,
we connect our stories to one another;
circling together, we turn toward morning...

12 July 2009

in memory: ho yi xin (08S04) 1991-2009

i taught yi xin last year. she was a hardworking girl who put alot of thought into her assignments. once, i praised her eom and pi as one of the very best scripts received. she wrote about the journey of illegal migrants from myanmar and how to go about addressing their plight. she articulated her case well and penned her thoughts in flawless english. it was an original reading which no one talked about. she submitted many scripts and wanted that perfect piece. but she walked alone most times. her hands always clutching her bag, as if there was something else she wanted to unravel in her heart. once, she asked me where i studied, what i majored in uni, what i like to read. and in that second, i sensed she was looking ahead, eager to forge her own future. she was always a private person and did not share much with her classmates.

there was no time nor place arranged to mourn her loss. her life became ash in a moment...eighteen years of growth and struggle, gone.
Lord. may your perpetual light shine on yi xin always...
lead her home...to find the peace and acceptance she longs...



i read about their lives. and these are two persons whom i pray for. i hope to stand in solidarity with them as they battle the ravage they find within or the tyranny that opts to lock them in. there is only the fierce love that comes with dark suffering, and the gravity that draws its power from love; to feel for your own country and know what needs to be done for the children when daylight breaks.

may our classrooms not become cloisters to keep us safe from a greater world where justice and charity are borne with hope and pain...when knowledge and wisdom are understood in light of their ability to know and heal... our smile as a path to rest...delighted we will find courage to own our mission in the the years to come.

4 July 2009


ken's granny passed away on a tuesday. loved, loving...in dedication-

a sky crumpled and silent... and this cold rain. God may take the sun away. but the tree of grief still stands. we rest under. and pray. an imagined faith made perfect in memory. leaves fall and draw me to a faraway home. to our shelter and past. these albums, the pages of our stories, to be held and noticed once more. i read the lines you penned on its symmetry now that you are no longer there. listening, and missing you, i long to be a child again.