All posts by John Orange


Hello 2018!

For no particular reason, I don’t seem to be in the festive mood everyone else is in these few weeks. Now that I’ve eaten my last meal for the year and decided not to do the New Year Eve fireworks countdown at the Sydney Harbour, I think it’s appropriate to do some reflections on what 2017 has brought.

I’m trying to remember what my 2017 resolution was set out to be. After a full minute of intense recalling, I questioned whether I made one. Hence, by default it would be complete 2016 resolution, which again, I’ve no recollection of. This doesn’t seem like a great start to begin the last evening of the year with.

The last two months was a blur. I didn’t expect that working for a luxury brand can be this hectic. Given that it’s the time of the year when people were buying and spending on their loved ones and themselves, the retail world’s cashier tills were ringing non-stop since the turn of the month. The crescendo leading to the Christmas season was greatly amplified on Boxing Day. Having to adapt to the new world of Christian Dior and the whole “smile, serve and sell” song and dance completely drained me out. Having said so, I’m glad I’ve a job and quite a good one.

From January to September, I had quite an easy time at my previous employment with Kiehl’s. It was a job I was very grateful for and this appointment became an uncanny resolution to my desire to work for the almighty L’Oréal and the skincare industry. Even though it seemed like a big jump from my puddle of casual roles I was working in, I knew quite early, that it was probably one of the easiest role I will ever have. If I hadn’t been presented new opportunities, I might have lingered on for a while more. When it was time to leave, I was hit with a plethora of emotions, but I couldn’t be more amazed how divine the time of departure was. Counter-intuitively, the relationships I had with my ex-colleagues became even stronger. The camaraderie shown in the last few months, and especially over a ridiculous situation, made me very proud of my team, to the point I felt bad leaving them behind. But they knew it was better for me, and thus, unwaveringly supported me to stepped up into my new role.

I dared say the last few years, and especially this last one, the world of retail have provided me with new insights. I’ve encountered intelligent leaders and incompetent managers, appreciative patrons and appalling customers, and laborious team mates and lazy workers. Above all, I learnt not to judge whoever walk through the door, as there were many times my initial predictions were wrong. An unassuming customer can end up purchasing all the products I’d recommended without resistance; and an elegant-looking patron can stoop so low to compromise their integrity in order to pursue an unrighteous gain. While I have seen it all, I believe I will continuously be amazed by what consumers can do.

In the last one year, I’m fortunate to have gain a lot of acquaintances and a lot have moved beyond just “hi-bye-I-know-you-work-here” connections. Living in transitional times where the traditional structures in career progression are being redefined, building a larger network may very well be the insurance to job insecurity. Learning to adapt quickly and being grateful when there are earning opportunities are not just for this awkward season, but for as long as I have to bring food onto the table. I don’t believe these are being taught in school and having a degree or two doesn’t qualify one to immediately have a job or preserve his job.

Overall, 2017 has been great. Despite not being in a joyous mood, I still look forward to a great 2018. Now, what shall my 2018 new year resolution be?



First Winter Snow

With a divine stroke,

Two individuals were brought together.

When the ice broke,

They found a friend in each other.


It’s amazing how quick and strong the bonds were built.

Shared laughter, related interests and common obstacles helped foster the guild.


Soon the sparkles dimmed and reach a constant.

But true relationships should endure the toughest moment.


One day in an open discussion,

A difference in beliefs challenges a status quo.

Out came words and confrontation,

That seemed so blizzardy cold.


The sudden mismatch of expectations…

The attempts to spell out logical explanations…


So what should the two do?

At this point they can’t just let the winds uninterruptedly blow.

But the skies have yet to open for the first winter snow.


Seasons come and go.

Are there any true stories of eternity ever told?

Should both be left with only what their history manage to hold?


Have the past investment of time and resources been all a waste?

Both could be entering into a new phase?

And it should not amaze!

Just hope that the process can be wrapped in kindness and grace.


Come what may and let it go.

They’re not just titles of song sang by pro.

The lyrics describe life’s intricacies and the melodies rightly echo.


Wait… It may not be all over.

After all, nothing lasts forever.

Hope for that moment that replicates their wonderful beginning.

Pray for faith that carries both into the same understanding.


night lights

I live on George Street.

I live on George Street. The entrance of my apartment faces World Square but my windows open to a gorgeous view of Darling Harbour. Every Saturday, I get to see the short burst of firework display.

As I do not drive, the convenience of walking to places is perfect. Many times, I can just walk to meet clients. The church I attend is just two blocks away. Chinatown, Thai Town and Korean Town are within a kilometre radius; and this keeps a Singaporean happy with such easy access to authentic Asian food.

As the date for the closure of George Street creeps up, I started to wonder more what will become of Sydney city. Till the light rail is functional, the only way to commute up and down this road which starts at Railway Square and ends at The Rocks is by foot. I will no longer have the option to hop on a bus and ride for a few stops to Circular Quay.

The health enthusiasts will echo the benefits of walking. While it is possible to walk and I have done that, but is it healthy to walk that much and all the time? The environmentalists will praise the reduced carbon emission till they checked out the overcrowding on Elizabeth Street where a big part of the traffic are started to be diverted to.

To be fair, Sydney climate is generally suitable for walking. I tried walking 100 metres in Singapore in the open; I had to dodge into the nearest building to cool down and avoided a heat stroke. I exaggerated. I would not need to walk in the open for more than 50 metres in Singapore. At the least, the foliage of the trees planted on every walkway helps block out direct sunlight. There are many underground malls that link one area to another. Perhaps, if Sydney city has a proper and sheltered walkway or even better – a 2.7 kilometre of underground shops beneath George Street – Sydneysiders will be happy walkers.

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.


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.



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.

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.


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!


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.


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.