10 cents plus 10 cents = Bun

10 cents plus 10 cents = Bun

Dear Boys,

Your dad isn’t lucky, he is just extremely observant.

I will not hesitate to pick up any coins I see on the floor, and I have picked up quite a fair bit of them. Irrespective of denominations, I will pick them up, primarily because these coins are the lowest, smallest member of a million dollars, and to ignore them, you ignore your destiny to be wealthy. More importantly, you need to treasure and value whatever small fortune that comes your way, it is an attitude of gratitude.

During a chit chat in the office with my colleagues, we strayed into this conversation, and one of my colleague remarked that she didn’t used to pick up coins, but learned how to appreciate them when she was a 10-cent short,buying coffee. She only had $1.10 and the coffee cost $1.20.

Tough life.

I shared with them my 20-cents worth of this perspective.

20-cents is because that was all we got to buy a bun.

Many years back, I had to walk back from from Jalan Eunos to my home in Bedok, with my mum. We didn’t have enough money to take a bus back, and walked a 6km journey. Thanks to google map, I can approximately retrace those steps and come this is estimate; I was probably 14 years old then.Picture1It was in the evening, and thankfully, it wasn’t too hot. We didn’t feel poor, despite of not having even enough coins to take a bus back! My Mum and I took it as a kind of stroll back, from my dad’s warehouse, in Eunos, back home.

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this cost 70-cents now!

As we strolled through the Kembangan district, admiring all the landed properties there, we came across a small attap kampung house, where a mama shop is. We wanted to get something to munch and we dig for what little money we had with us. My Mum dished out a 10-cent from her purse, I dug into my pockets, and lo and behold! Another 10-cents! Together we pooled together and bought ourselves a cream bun. By the way, I bought one just for nostalgic reasons, it costs 70-cents now.

Of course I didn’t tell my colleagues the whole story, I told them the 10-cents plus 10-cents part. I also shared with them, at no point in time, my Mum and I felt poor, lousy or sad. We were quite spirited as we share the bun, and continued our journey. My colleagues were, naturally, silent like vegetables. This side of Randy, they never knew and I don’t think they have ever heard stories of such ‘poverty’ in Singapore!

My past made me who I am, I know with a 10-cent, I can still survive and be happy about life. It makes me appreciate every little thing I have. Poverty is really a state of mind, and I’m thankful, I don’t reside in that state. I’m always grateful for all the small serendipitous gifts I get along the way, little kindness means a mountain to me. And major nastiness in my life, I hunker down and weather the storm, knowing it will pass. To me it is all the small things that matters, because when the time comes, it will be the small things that makes or breaks you. After all we are all made up of small things!

 

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Your Dad’s Lunch

Your Dad’s Lunch

Dear Boys,

I’m lucky to have your mum cook for me for most of my lunch. I do not need to jostle with the lunch time crowds, I can eat something that is to my palate. I know that what I put in my mouth is cooked by someone who loves me, and it is done with love.

This also allows me to lunch at places people normally wouldn’t lunch at, I am pretty much a walker and I walk to many places to have my lunch, in the outdoors, and away from Air-Conditioned places, a little breath of fresh air is always good, after being cooped up in the office, for hours on end!

When I was working in Raffles Place, I would, on a whim take a MRT train all the way to Marina South Pier MRT to get some view and have some sea and sun view. It is also a good way to get away from the maddening crowds.

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View of Marina South Pier

It is always good to eat out, alone; I like that, although it may seem anti-social. I find eating in solitude a very happy thing to do. I don’t really have to watch my table manners, I can also dwell in my own thoughts, think about things other than things in the office, gossips, work, sales, clients and other mundane stuffs.It is my own personal bubble for at least 45 minutes.

Sometimes, you need to hurry up to eat, because if your friends eat faster than you, you’ll be compelled to eat up your stuff and go. Then the whole gang will go wandering around the malls, like office zombies, waiting for time to pass and we can go back to the office, and continue tippy typing away, with our work.

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I think going out is good because I get to rest my eye, and see something else other than my colleagues, friends, office table and computer. I don’t want to delve on the scientific effects of this but it feels good. After a good lunch, I can go back to work, energized.

Collage_FotorIt is not really a big inconvenience, as I have been doing this for many years, your mum will cook an extra portion for dinner, so that she can pack my next day’s lunch, so technically speaking, my lunch is actually last evening’s dinner. Which was fine, I’d heat it up with a microwave oven (despite of all the health hazards associated with using one, I’m still alive and I’ll take my chances!), wrap it in the cloth bag I put my lunch box (aka bento) in and out I go!

These pockets of solitude isn’t hard to find, you’ll just need to head outdoors, Singaporeans are terribly afraid of the sun and will lunch in places that meets one criteria, air-con. So anywhere out, non air-con, chances are you’ll have a decent spot and space.

I like this kind of lifestyle as your mum will cook delicious stuffs everyday and I’ll always have something unique and sumptuous to eat. This sure beats the heck out of grazing the food court!

The Uncomfortable Truth

I had a chance to share a session with my NUS mates, and I took the opportunity to share with them what we need to do. The Martial part of Martial Arts.

What we do isn’t play play, at the end of the day we must be willing to use what we have learn to take lives. Martial arts has evolved from a very dark history, it was meant to take life, kill people. It is not for fun, exercise, or for other lifestyle benefits.

I wanted to bring this heavy, dark topic in and bring people back to why Aikido is Aikido. We do not have a competition system, where you do things to earn a point, you get a medal or win a championship. Yes we have rules, we have safety, but beyond that you can take what you learn over the edge.

Aikido, as an art of peace and harmony, I feel, is an overused cliché. At the present moment we live in a world filled with random violence. Incidences such as the Paris attack, Belgium bombings, Mumbai attack are real, and it can happen where we live. The authorities are still trying to come to terms with terrorists who are not keen to take hostages for negotiation. These terrorists are not keen to negotiate, they are keen to extract maximum damage and loss of innocent lives along with theirs.

It is not a matter of bravado, or being a ‘hero’, I told the class, but if I am in the unlikely event of having to face one of these terrorists, and I am able to stop them before they could do more harm, I would, kill the person, even at the expense of my own life. Perhaps, I might piss my pants, shit my pants, but I told myself, I must act, despite of fear. I must use all that I know, in Aikido, or other means necessary to kill the attacker. The terrorist must die, before many more people die.

The logic for me, is simple, if I let the attacker go, I know and did nothing, the person will talk towards the designated target, be it a shopping mall, or subway station, and detonate himself or herself, or shoot people there. My kids might be there, my family might be at the MRT station where the attacker is going to launch the attack, my friends, loved ones will die. The terrorists will kill indiscriminately.

So I think at this juncture, given our current climate and that the ISIS has proven that they are willing to attack anywhere and everywhere, anyone and everyone, we need to rethink what we can do as citizens, and as martial artists. I don’t think we can persuade them out of pressing the detonator, irimi tenkan, or kote gaishi, will be very much useless, when the bomb fragments starts flying, but we need to fight them at an ideological level. Aikido is budo, what we learned is skilled, applied violence, we need to use that skill to stand in the way of random violence. If we have once chance to do something to stop these people, we must act. Budo is the preservation of life, sometimes, we need to sacrifice our life so that we can preserve the life of others, including those of our loved ones.

Let’s roll!

This brings to mind that guy who brought down the plane in Sept 11 terrorist attack, Todd Beamer. Long story short, he knew that the plane will probably slam into some other area causing more deaths on the ground, so he rally up his fellow passengers and fought the terrorists and successfully brought the plane down on a field Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board, but causing losing no more lives on the ground.

It is not a perfect ending, as in life there isn’t, but when we have the courage to act, and stop bad things from happening, we can still do good in a world of bad. The irony is we need to do bad things to bad people, so that these bad people do not harm other good people. It is very simple writing it out, but I hope the NUS class that evening, understood the gravity of my uncomfortable truth.

 

 

The Dangers of Safe Aikido

I posted sometime back that there are no knockouts in Aikido (http://wp.me/pZbTQ-nT)

That would have implied that Aikido is a very safe activity. It truly is very safe, and we seldom leave dojo bruised and battered. But has it taken the awareness and sense of danger out of the dojo.

It is a difficult thing to inculcate into an Aikidoka, when all the Aikidoka has done is Aikido. There are a thousand and one ways to punch an person, and there are many funny odd ways for a person to attack you. The danger is real and unless you have a real respect of other arts, you will be blinded by the range of attacks you can be subjected to. Until you have been really punched at, you can never know what is punch feels like.

It is a strange thing, once you’ve sparred before, kick and being kicked at, punch and being punched at, your body will have an automatic response mechanism, you will be less apprehensive and more sure when you to get messy in a fight, you will also get automatically accustomed with distancing and awareness. This is something I feel lacking in the dojo I am training with. Despite of Harry sensei’s incessant reminders to watch our distance and other minor oversight that will cause a major mistake, nothing beats being really punched at to make the learning a little quicker.

It is easy to wax lyrical about doing a twirl to avoid a punch, avoid a kick. And of course certain people joined Aikido to avoid facing a punch and kick, but what happens when you meet real danger? When the danger is determined and highly skilled. Can you realistically think that a person will escape unscathed without a scratch? We can agree that definition of dangers will generally include kicks and punches too. I’m not saying that we have to simulate an all out brawl in an Aikido dojo, we just need to make sure that we get enough sense of danger for us to bring our skills to a more genuine level.

Published on: Apr 26, 2013

Simply walking and throwing stones

Simply walking and throwing stones

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Dear Wayne,

I came home last evening and wanted to go for a jog. You decided to tag along and instead of a solo jog, it became a dad/Wayne bonding time.

I set out to walk about 1 hour instead of a jog, since going out with you will not amount to anything more than a brisk walk, so we walked. It was nice to walk and hear you talk. You were babbling about some joke, and it was the best joke a 7 year old could tell his father. There was no fixed route, and rather a random affair, I let you make the choices as to where we should walk so you decided that we should cross Lorong Halus Bridge to go to Lorong Halus Wetland. Okay, so we did and we went to the wetland, which is about 7 plus in the evening.

This was fun, simple child-like fun.

We ended up throwing stones into the pond, listening to the sound of the ‘toom!’ as the stone hit the water, in the cool of the night. There were some long bushes ahead and with the sound of the dogs wailing, I knew there were some wild animals in the long grass. Without any form of protection, we just hung around the area throwing stones; I’m not gung ho to walk into a pack of wild dogs, with my son.

toom!” “toom!” “toom!”

It was a surprisingly nice and therapeutic experience, the entire works of it. picking up the stones, doing the toss, and see the stone hit the water on the far side. And to see my youngest son to that with a child like wonder, joy, and happiness.

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It was a very nice way to spend simple quality time, picking up the ‘biggest’ stones to throw into the water, without any care, and worry. Just throw and “toom!” I have to thank you for coming along, as had it been myself, I would have driven myself to jog, and do task oriented stuffs.

This was fun, simple child-like fun. We get so focused growing up, and getting old, we forgot the simple stuffs. This is the simple stuffs, no need money, just time, spending with one another, seeing who can throw the stones the furthest. Of course, you did, I can never throw a stone as far as you, Wayne!

 

For God, For Country, For Family

For God, For Country, For Family

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Dear boys,

After reading the book American Sniper, I realised that this is not your typical war novel. Sure it is about a SEAL taking on 4 tours in Iraq, chalked up the most number of kills for an American sniper. They called him The Legend. But this is not really about him making the kills, what I learned from this book, is the soldier’s tremendous pride in their country.

They have a strong sense of identity to their country, land and flag. They know that politics are dirty, and most of their US military policies are strategically flawed. This book is not about how much the SEALs hated the policy, this is about a solider who stills goes to fight a flawed war. He believes in his country and going to fight in Iraq meant that he will be able to protect his fellow Americans, and brothers-in-arms.

Chris Kyle, the SEAL, The American, The Father, The Husband

I think the beautiful thing about this book was comments and insights from Taya, Chris’ wife. Her inputs help align the story in perspective, he wasn’t just a SEAL, he was a husband, a father a soulmate. She sees that in him, but he don’t see that in himself. Like what Taya said it, Chris puts God, Country, Family in that order. It hurts her to think that family, her and her kids, Chris’ kids are lowest in that order. But this is who he is and to change that, he would not have been the man Taya loved.

For Country, For Family

But I think he argued his point well. In his perspective, without God, there will be no America, without America, there will be no place for a family, and he took to his job seriously, to kill, to protect his fellow Americans, and to do his duty, proud and patriotic.

Not a pro-American nationalist, just loving his country

This is something very important about the story behind this sniper, he is not out to promote US interests, he doesn’t sell US policies, he is just an elite solider in his country’s military. He served with pride, holds his country’s flag in honour and does what he can to protect his fellow country men. He would rather the other fellow dead than one of his fellow American die. He fights with this simplistic ideal that everyone with the Stars and Stripes on his arm deserves his protection.

In short he is fiercely patriotic, but not nationalistic. He loves his country and will defend the way they live, but he does not want to impose the way they lived on others. He is not interested in telling and selling how great America is, he is an operator, and executioner, he wants to bring as many Americans home as possible, and he will risk his life to do so.

Are you a Patriot?

I think Singapore and Singaporean hadn’t reach that stage of identity. We are only slightly more than 50 years old, the American history is more than 500. But I think to be patriotic, we don’t need to take such a long time for the history and legacy to build. We have what they have, we have our land, our flag, our Pledge, out National anthem, we have constructed a long of Singapore-centric identity, we have went through some tumultuous times. We went through highs and lows together. We have a story to tell, we must tell it proudly.

For us as a small nation, we need to push for patriotism. Plain and simple, we work DSC_0775hard, for God, for Country, for Family, not in any particular order. For me, I have this in front of me, in my office. I’m agnostic by choice so God for me is out. I work and strive, For Country, For Family. We must be proud to do our work as a Singaporean, for Singapore. We must be proud to hear our national anthem, and stand straight and proud. That is the identity our forefathers gave us, and we must carry that with pride. It was a gift from Singaporeans that came and went before us. They fought for the land we stand on and died so that we can continue standing on it.

I will probably die in the process too, fighting and striving so that you and your children and continue to stand on this land, free and proud that we own every single stalk of grass and grain. Every part of Singapore, is Singapore and it belongs to us, Singaporeans, it is time for us to stand, as individual Singaporean, and tell the whole world we love our land, we are proud of who we are, and we are willing to fight tooth and nail to keep Singapore, Singapore.

Our First Night 清明節-Qingming Festival

Our First Night 清明節-Qingming Festival

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Dear Boys,

This years 清明節-Qingming Festival is rather unique because your uncle U-Wei wants to do a night one, so that we can beat the crowds we encountered last year. (you can read more here http://wp.me/p3qQYz-8C).

We toyed with the idea of 3am, your mum said no, 2am, your mum said ‘no’. Finally we decided on 12 midnight, and from your grandparents’ place, we set off in your uncle’s MPV, 6 adults and 2 kiddos! To our night adventure!

We have a few hypothesis in the car, we were thinking will there be people? Will it be deserted? There were stories exchanged in the car that there are some friends we know who does that, there are people who does that all these years, all these times.

So what we are doing is not actually new, but doing it for the first time is still pretty darn exciting for us!

When we reached, lo and behold! There are people! Well, not many, but enough to make a crowd.

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There’s people! HUAT AH! they shouted!

The road was a little difficult to navigate in the dark, but your uncle U-Wei did well, and brought us to the spot. He parked and we are there!

With flash lights out, light sticks out, we made out way to your great-grandma’s spot and did our prayers. There was a bit of a confusion over the huat kueh, as we were wondering where did ours went, since we threw away the one there was there since morning.Your grand dad’s siblings came earlier to offer their prayers.

Anyway while that was being sorted out, your uncle has to go and take a dump, nature’s call at the most ungodly hour!. We were trying to figure out where the portaloo was, our lights couldn’t pick up the usual silhouette of a mobile toilet, so he has to go off to look for one, I went with him and, eventually the whole tribe went, since Wayne wanted to pee as well, leaving your grandma, grandpa and Ah Kim at the tombstone.

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Portaloo’s right around the corner…

So we got back after all the business is done, and began to absorb the night scene, it was about past 1am, and there are still people streaming in. There were bonfires from burning of hell notes and other paper stuffs for the dead. The scene was hardly eerie, in fact it was a welcoming relief from the mid day heat, traffic jam, and crowd. It felt so good that we wanted to do this as a SOP.

I think the idea is good, we have very bright torches, and there was a bit of moonlight. I’m a person quite accustomed to the dark and would actually preferred the light to be off.

Once we have offered our prayers, we decided to head off, careful to watch where we are stepping and without much of a hiccup, we got back to the car.

Mandai was our next stop, and like Lim Chu Kang, the crowd was sparse. We found a parking lot with no problem. Had we come during the day, finding a parking lot IS a problem.

Anyway we made our way up to the third floor where your great grand pa’s niches is located. This time we came prepared with masks to deal with the smoke and fumes. It wasn’t so bad this time around as there were less people, so less burning. There was ample space, for us to lay our offerings to our ancestors. There was no squeezing, people moving around people, jostling here and there. We can take our time, and it was actually quite a nice change

 But by the time we reach there, we are already quite tired, but we still made our way to Jalan Kayu to have a bit of prata supper before heading back, by the time we hit the sack it was 4.27am, and we slept for almost the whole of Sunday, only waking up about 2pm.

What a night adventure it has been!

(P.S. the huat kueh, we thought was there since the morning, was actually brought there by us. The morning folks didn’t bring any huat kueh. We placed it there, and the next moment we threw it away!)

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Not eerie at all, it was rather comfortable.