Singapore BW

Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew

How many people have the ability to be a talking point on mainstream and social media networks internationally? Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away in the early hours on 23 March 2015. Singaporeans woke up to this piece of sober news. His name floated about in the minds of many, as they go through the day. Few doubted if it is another wave of rumours. Since 2012, news of his death constantly popped up.  With a week of consecutive notices issued, confirming he was in worsening conditions, this piece of news could be a sigh of relief.

Surprisingly, more details of what the late Mr Lee did in his younger days are only made known now than when he was alive. I even came across a plot where Mr Lee challenged the CIA of the United States of America and exposed the bribe that was offered to him. Many leaders and pioneers paid tributes and commented on his achievements. There are others who painted him a tyrant and told of stories on how he had wronged many people when he ruled Singapore with an iron fist. Mr Lee was not just a founding father of Singapore, his wisdom and leadership were scrutinised and even applied in other part of the world. I was told that I can even find a city in China that modelled after Singapore’s infrastructure. Many world leaders look up to him. In the last few years, Mr Lee had spoken little. Each word was carefully hung on to. In many homes in Singapore, a memoir of Mr Lee can be found on their bookshelf. I am sure from now on, that corner will start to be filled with a few more books on the same subject and will almost become an altar for the late Mr Lee.

I grew up knowing Mr Lee as the Prime Minister of Singapore. Even when the subsequent prime ministers succeeded him, I always know that Mr Lee’s invisible hold on the country remains invincible. The tough foundations instigated for the country help set its economy onto an upward trajectory. A barren island which was abandoned and considered a burden is now the most expensive city to live in. All these happened in less than 50 years.  As the nation prepares to celebrate her 50th birthday in August, many Singaporeans hope that the late Mr Lee is able to witness this day and be there to grace the main national day parade. Alas, he left early, before the rehearsals begin.

I have lived in other countries by choice and in Sydney for last 5 years. In 2014, I was back, living in Singapore, as I had to be in Asia more for work. Throughout the year, I attended some national events like the National Day Parade and one of the Formula One Races. In those moments, being absorbed into the celebratory atmosphere, the pride of being a Singaporean ignited in me. The opening verses from We Are Singapore were echoing in my heart. I was fortunate to be travelling internationally for a bit in the last 20 months. Whether I was in big cities or small towns, whenever I mentioned I am a Singaporean, nobody questioned her geographical location. In fact, there were only praises and admirations for Singapore. Quite a few people mentioned Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

There was a time when people said that Singapore won’t make it, but we did.

There was a time when troubles seemed too much for us to take, but we did.

Towards the end of 2014, I was at a cross road and I made the decision to live outside of Singapore. Even when I was only in Singapore for 50% or less time, my heart yearned to be away. I always have my frustrations with Singapore and her ways of life. I fully recognise the accolades Singapore has accumulated and the great number of foreigners would want to live here. Even though I know I will miss some of the conveniences, I was set to return to live in Australia.  I do not despise Singapore. In fact, I am thankful to be a Singaporean. Growing up in elitist Singapore was not easy, but I was trained well. For one who travels, a Singaporean passport eliminates a lot of processes.

As I typed this article in my rented apartment in downtown Sydney, rattling on the successful Singapore, Mr Lee’s efforts has built, I really do not know what my true response should be. From the moment I read the news of the passing of Mr Lee till now, I have been feeling quite indifferent. I did my national duty to join the mourning atmosphere on my Facebook. I recognised the great works done by Mr Lee, yet I want to see a new and relevant management style for Singapore. Mr Lee had brought Singapore from obscurity to a world-renowned modern city. Whether he and his ethics were good, bad or both, he definitely deserves some credits and my respect.

We built a nation, strong and free, reaching out together for peace and harmony.

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broken

Broken Ego

Some years ago, you crossed great distance to join us,

All started well but soon you started wondering if you’re in a circus.

Jumping from one hoop to another,

You managed not to falter.

As you started to find your purpose,

The conditions just got worse.

You had enough and can’t take anymore.

This nonsense has to stop so as to stop the fall.

Your wings have grown yet they are broken,

Your dreams weren’t complete and aspiration forsaken.

You leave this place, not with pride but with broken ego;

So I pray that you’ll find hope, press on to reach your goal.

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cross

Still

My head is spinning yet I was not being tossed around. Not yet. The more I think about what I need to do, the more I am running away in the opposite direction. I saw all these preparations (to unclutter) coming and had an understanding how it would be. Yet when the time comes to carry out the procedures, I feel I am not ready. Not yet. I wanted it so much but now I wish that it is not going to be so soon. Not yet.

When I was living in Singapore, I wanted to work and live abroad. When I relocated to Sydney, I lamented why I do not have a job that allows me to travel non-stop. That instant has now arrived: I have to shuttle between Asia and Australia. However, I start to feel that this nomadic lifestyle is bringing about some hassles.

God has been good to me. He listens to what I want to try or have, even to those quiet whispers in my heart. I recognise that I could not have attained all these opportunities with my own merits. God has been continually providing for me, and at times, indulging me. He made everything seems so effortless, which demonstrated it has to be His divine interventions.

How should I respond? I accept. I learn to be thankful and contented. Whenever my mind goes into a frenzy mode, churning out the details that I need to work through, I have learnt to deliberately stop all the jazz and be still. Why would God not have taken care of the details, too? Of course He does! When He gives, He spares nothing. I should know. I have seen and experienced the fine touches of His blessings.

It is ironical that at the moment I attained my permanent residency, I will be spending less time in the country. Acquiring this privilege is not an easy feat these days; and definitely not cheap. The Australian bureaucracy really made the candidates jump through high hoops. It may be easier to come by the boats. Miraculously, I got it and the wait was not even long. Now that I have received this revered visa, I wonder what I wanted it for. I thought that it is good to have it and He made it possible. I supposed I can rejoice that I am no longer an alien in this great land down under.

Despite trying to use this writing to calm down, my head is still spinning. Casting my vision into the upcoming future I am beginning to see the fun parts – the good parts. I will not be fixated in a single location; at least, I will not stay long enough to see the uglier side of things. I get to be circulated around the regional offices.  A lot of excitements are building up. But right at this moment, I just want to be still. I need this moment to count my blessings.

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joy ride

Marrying Your Happiness

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I looked at the groom, standing at the altar, anticipating the crucial cue – the arrival of the bridal party. I wonder what was running through the groom’s – all grooms’ – mind at that moment. I suspect they will ponder, “Do I really want to get married?” and “Do I really want to get married to her?”

When the door finally opens for the bride to take the first step towards the altar and when the whole congregation stands to applaud, the groom should have answers to those million dollar questions. Unfortunately, there is no phone-a-friend option. Once her hand is in his, the qualms should have evaporated; hopefully, there is no residual doubt that may haunt him. After all, marriages are not governed by the Walmart policy: if it doesn’t make you happy, you can take it back and get a new one.

I read an article in passing and there was a mention that “marriage isn’t for you”. Apparently, one does not marry to make oneself happy but to make someone else happy. So rather than thinking whether you will become happier after marrying the bride at your wedding, consider if she is the one you want to make her happy every day, after the wedding.

While I grasp the concepts of marriage, I never quite see that as my thing – my calling. Perhaps I have not found the right partner that I want to walk life’s journey together. But I am fine and happily walking, climbing, crawling and flying solo. So what’s wrong with me? Maybe, there is nothing wrong with me.

I have attended my fair share of wedding receptions and I am glad the invitations have slowed down. (Unfortunately, the baby shower invitations are starting to pour; but that is another story for another day.) A lot of time I see that it was really about the wedding; ironically, not the marriage. The preparations for that one big day had consumed the couple’s enormous amount of time, resources and emotions. I wonder what could have remained after.  I suppose – and ideally – all that is to create a void so as to receive the joy that come happily ever after.

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magical

I’m turning 18! Again!

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I don’t recall since when birthdays start to bring worries, too. I supposed it began after the Big 3. Even when I was already at the wrong side of 20s, birthdays were pretty much just what to treat myself and where to dine.

After receiving the third strike from the guardian of time, the couple of months leading to September have always been peppered with moments of deep reflections. They surface out insecurities and disappointments that otherwise lie pretty dormant most part of the year.

Most of my woes are unfortunately just first world problems. The recent years of travelling have opened my eyes to see the contrast between the poverty and the privileged. I am a blessed child. I should count my blessings more often.

Signs of receding hairline and extra tyres around the waistline are common traits for the aging humanity. While they are the general acceptance for the majority, that doesn’t mean they need to be on the express train to the land of self-destruction.

Now that I live in Sydney, I grew old earlier. Luckily the weather here is cooler and hopefully provides some preservative effects to the body and the soul. At least a Sunday brunch here is not an intense affair like that of a Singapore food centre.

I still try to take the opportunity to wear new stuff. Birthday is still a good legitimate reason to splurge. However, I acknowledge that I need to improve the inner me more. My challenge is to start and more importantly maintain a healthier lifestyle. While I can’t get younger by age, I can have a younger body. It isn’t easy given that I have zero discipline but I’ll give my best shot.

Throughout the day, well-wishes flooded my phone and Facebook wall. I’ve been remembered by friends from all over. My friends, big and small, short and tall, rich and poor, are all beautiful people; at least in my eyes they are. As I always say, I’m attracted to good looking things only.

Now, I’m looking forward to having a good dinner with my best mate. Finally I’m at the same age as him. Every year, there is only that two days I can say I am younger than him. Being the senior one, he never fails to take care of me all the time and lavish me with luxury. I have him to blame for increasing my appetite for the baller’s palate. Today, I feel like I’m endorsing Gucci. But as a progressive being, I shouldn’t just stop here. Hermes, here I come!

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butterflies

Who gets to draw the line?

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Heart beats fast, emotions run wild,

It is an important matter, it is not mild.

Battling disappointments, his and mine.

What is fair, who gets to draw the line?

I know I have tried and put up a good fight.

Yet I still have not found favour in his sight.

I want to surrender and just leave.

But I still have things that I need to stay and weave.

I can’t end the story, not just yet.

Till I have put up a show, with all standards met.

I find comfort in the supports that have emerged.

Never have I thought I have so many allies that converged.

I am now ready to take on the new Mike.

Renewed and reaffirmed, I shall take the first strike.

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waltz

The Waltz of Changes

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When I popped the two red pills, I thought I will pass out fast. Two hours later, I am still wide awake and begin writing this. Waves of thoughts are surfacing and resurfacing, negating the influence of the drowsy formula. My headache seems to have lightened, but I am not sure if it is due to the effects of the pills. My heart is still thumping heavily on, keeping me unusually alert at 1am.

This morning as I was eating my breakfast and checking my emails, I saw a meeting invitation for a one-to-one catch-up session with my boss. As I was already five minutes late for it, I gobbled down my hot cross bun, but I could not manage to take a sip of the piping hot chai latte.

Once I was in his office, he closed the door. I took a deep breath and swallowed hard. It’s a closed door event.

After a brief song on justifications and considerations, I smelled a change happening to my career path. I recognised the familiar whiff of restructuring; the repetitive stench that happened every so often in my company. I told myself that changes are always good and I had been anticipating one to come my way. Yet when I was in that conversation, I had to fight the temptation to defend an unfavourable judgement. I held back with a forced grin. While one stanza of the news was not a sweet tune to my ears, the subsequent counter melody was soothing to hear.

He made it clear that he has decided on the changes that he wanted to implement. In his decisions, I found parts that I want but unclear of the exact implications.

Did I fail in my role? Was his judgement unfair? Does it matter now?

Did I win on my enthusiasm? Is that his cushion to the blow? Should he even care?

The waltz ended. The drama has just begun.

I went back to my seat. The chai latte has turned cold. I craved for a dialogue with someone, to pour out my jittering thoughts. But what can I reveal and who shall I tell? So I prayed.

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blue mansion

A Fairy Tale Night Out

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After Betty has fallen asleep, Charles decided to sneak out for a drink.

Under the spinning disco ball, he met Cindy. She seemed to be wearing a pair
of uncomfortable-looking, glassy stilettos.

All went well till the New Year countdown; Cindy just dashed out and disappeared.

Very quickly, Charles met Rozelle and she hinted that her penthouse is in the adjacent tower.

Out of the blue, Bella appeared and shouted “You Beast! How can you betray my sister with this long-hair skank?”

Before Charles could respond, he received a few punches on his face, leaving him looking like a toad.

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art dusk

The Rooster Crowed

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He was warming himself at the fire in the courtyard. A girl appeared and asked him if he knows the offender.

He muttered a denial and hurried away. Did I hear a rooster’s crow? Is it already dawn?

His mind is still trying to comprehend the night’s procession.

Looking up, he realised eyes were staring at him and the crowd was muttering something about him.

“He’s one of them.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’ve seen you with him.” “No. I don’t know him.”

The rooster crowed again. This time, Peter heard it clearly, broke down and cried.

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Time

Nearing 35

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In my teenage years, whenever I try to imagine what I would be when I grow older, I will always picture a 23 years old bloke driving a convertible down along a coastal road. That to me is an image of a well-accomplished adult. Hence, I cannot really understand or reconcile what became of me since 2002. Not only am I not well-accomplished, I do not own a car and I have yet to learn how to drive.

When I started pre-school, mum and dad were in their late twenties and I thought 30 years old is considered old age. Yet when I celebrated my 30th birthday, I felt like I was still a child. I believe one of the filial piety acts is to let my mum mother me, however old I am.  Her recent chants are “you’re not young anymore” and “you need to seriously plan and prepare for your future”. Yet, that is follow by the “have you eaten” and “don’t stay out too late” chorus. In parents’ hearts, they look forward to their children all grown up; in their eyes, their children will never grow up.

Friends around me have started to get married and I have lost count of the wedding receptions that I have attended the last decade. The ceremonies are pretty much the same (read: unoriginal). Good food and reunions are what I look forward to. These days, it has become impossible to meet up with school mates outside of these heavily-planned events. After all, weddings are still better events to host school reunions than funerals. Of course, there are the baby showers which I am usually and coincidentally out of town.

Having lived in cities outside of Singapore only makes me want to stay away from my own country even more. My first overseas stint was in 2008 when I was seconded to Bangkok. While I was only working full-time in the Bangkok office for half a year, the subsequent year of monthly travel back up, allowed me to nurture my love for this city of angels. Till date, whenever I have a chance to visit Singapore, I will always sneak in a side trip to Bangkok. I have now lived in Sydney for more than two years. Fortunately, there is a good community of Thai people and food here to continuously feed my obsession for things Thai. My best mate is Thai. To me, he is more Aussie than Thai since he lived here for the last decade. But I shall settle.

As much as I want a greater certainty on what is to come in the next few years – specifically if I will and can still stay in Sydney – I do not wish to force out a decision. I have been receiving remarks asking me to return back to Singapore. Yet ironically, these friends will not meet me more often than now even if I would to live in Singapore. Modern telecommunication and social media platforms have allowed me to keep in touch with people whether they are staying miles away or on the move when they travel. My conversations with some close mates never cease whether I am residing in Sydney or travelling in Laos; whether I am at work or in commute.

While I still live in denial and still looking forward to reach my ideal 23; the real me at 34, automatically inherit the mindset that I better start to plan for the future. Defiantly, I shall plan not to have any major plans for the next one year… till I am 35!

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