I want to share a story about ‘collective idiocy’ that involved your father.
When I was an Army recruit, my training camp was back in Pulau Tekong and when it was time for us to book in, we have to find our own way back to Commando Jetty. So when it was time for us to book in, it is no surprise that you will see many botak (bald-headed) recruits on the same bus, since we are all booking in at the same time.
So this fateful night, we were on the bus, and heading towards a common destination, we all have to alight at the same bus-stop and of course we need to press the bell so that the bus driver will know there are passengers who were alighting.
What happened was a matter of group-think towards collective stupidity.
We all, the recruits in the bus, knew we are all alighting at the same stop, and we all waited for one of us to press the bell, and anyone of us can, but no one did!
So we looked wide eyed as the bus zipped past our stop and everyone started pressing the bell in frantic. Too late, the bus driver simply ignored us, and take it that the bell we pressed was for the next stop.
So the bus alighted at the next stop and the whole group of us has to dumb, dumb walk back to the earlier bus stop and towards Commando Jetty. No one said a thing about the incident, we didn’t have to, we all made a fool out of ourselves, and now thinking back more than 21 years later, the whole incident seems petty hilarious.
As the youngest member in our family, you will invariably do more apologizing than the rest of us. Cognitively you are still developing and learning the social ropes in the family, there are still rules and protocols that you might not be familiar with. In conversation, you sometimes forget to take turns in talking and interrupt at the wrong time. There are also life skills, concepts and ideas that are too mature for you to learn and you will offend us, or upset us ever so often.
Bad about Feeling Bad
You can’t be help it but feel kinda crappy at times, being the ‘loser’ who have to say sorry more often than us. Sometimes your 12 year-old perception of things simply doesn’t bode well for your argument and your reasoning sometimes is just…unreasonable.
I remembered vividly when you were much younger, we have to force you to admit that you are wrong and apologize. You did apologize, but I can tell you were going through the motion, as you are still unsure what you did wrong and why you are apologizing for.
You will feel bad, and I can accept that, but I don’t want you to stop trying, testing and pushing your arguments. While many a times it is outright wrong; sometimes, you got it right, and gave us a fresh new perspective on how things should be handled.
So keep trying, because you are the smallest in the family, everyone and everything looks larger than life, you want to puff yourself up and felt measured, you want to be counted, as part of the ‘big people club’, making mistakes and pissing people off. Your best intentions often leads to unintended consequences.
This is part of being the newest kid in the block. I was also the youngest in my family and I too have such challenges, although I wasn’t able to figure it out until I was much, much older. It can be tough being the youngest because we always feel a constant need to fight for attention, fight for our voices to be heard.
There are times where my opinions are not take seriously, because people thinks that because I am the youngest, my opinions will not be considered. Or people will say things like: ‘Kids, be seen, not heard!’ I’m sure you felt that to many times, and I hope our efforts to reason and argue with you, make you see the flaws of your own arguments, help you build better premises and assumption.
You are not Stupid
Apologizing more often don’t mean that you are stupid, an self depreciating assumption you make about yourself, thinking that everyone is smarter than you. It’s stupid to feel that you are stupid when you are not stupid. You are still learning from trial and error, our feedback and reasoning to build better and stronger reasoning, in the end of it, you will become the smarter of all of us, because your learning curve is steeper, you have to swim faster to catch up with us.
Right now, your brother is already somewhat completed his ‘O’ levels, his knows physics, chemistry and all those secondary school things. You don’t and you always look up to him and marveled at his level of knowledge, thinking how smart your 哥哥 is; you are also smart, just not as smart as a 16 year old.
You fail to take reference to your younger peers, are they as smart as you?
We are not asking you to compare, although you always try to measure up to your nearest competitor, your 哥哥. It’s pointless, we keep saying to you, just be the best version of yourself and we love you just as much. You are original and authentic in your own way. You have a take-no-prisoners, don’t give a rat’s ass attitude, which is unique to you. That is fine, that will also means you will offend people, which is fine, just learn from it apologize and reconcile with the hurt you sometimes unwittingly caused.
Joel’s Ah gong did one heck of a job with his garden. He took an empty piece of land and turned it into a little oasis that everyone can enjoy.
More importantly, he has build something to be left as a legacy. All of us will leave something behind when we die, the question is the what we leave behind. As your parents the biggest legacy I have and will continue when I die is the both of you, this is the most direct form of legacy. You will continue my genes, my stories and carry on my history. you will tell you children(if you plan to have children) about my stories, and your children(if your children plan to have children) will tell their children about my stories and yours. Legacies usually goes from word of mouth to word of mouth.
Sometimes having a legacy means that you leave your work undone, for people to continue. Work can be large or small. Mr Lee Kuan Yew left us the entire country as his legacy for us to continue, that is a monumental task!. For Joel’s Grandpa, his garden will be his legacy.
It is a beautiful piece of work, and it is all him, he got the land from his Resident’s Committee, did the planting, and segregation, there is a little pond, some chilies plants, there is a small corner for cactus and it is all well spaced out. It is a simple piece of joy to walk in it and it will be a spot for everyone to enjoy! He is still working on it and every little plant and flower has been touched by his green hands.
Of course, he couldn’t have done it alone. But if he hadn’t started something, then other people can’t follow. His garden draws fellow gardeners there, to help him, and also to work and make the garden nicer.
And gardening is a never-ending job, if you do it well, it can go on and on. There are constant challenges, in making sure the plants are watered, pests, kept at bay. When the plants bear fruits, you can distribute it to the community. when plants whiter and die, you grow new ones. and when Joel’s Grandpa dies, his garden will continue and someone has to take over the task. To keep up the good work. and when people look at how magnificent the garden is, they will remember the person who first bring about its fruition.
We will also remember him, because he has given us place that we can enjoy.
This is a throwback to our visit to Dakota Crescent before it was torn down. Our visit was inspired by a 2016 MediaCorp TV Series Hero (大英雄), it was quite an enjoyable show, and we want to capture some sights before it is gone forever.
Recently there was another article by Channel News Asia that reported the fate of the old residents of Dakota Crescent and how they are doing in their new flat and many of them missed the good old (pun intended) days where time literally stood still in their neighbourhood.
We climbed to the second floor of Blk12 and marveled at the greenery protruding out from the corridor, the uncle was really a passionate green finger, and from the photo, you can see the myriad of greens protruding from the railings
The Schindler Lift
Man that is real old school, we took it up to the level 6, and while it was very rickety, it did it’s job, creaking and squeaking from more than 5 decades of use and abuse. It’s arthritic old but it still worked!
I felt that it was really a rare privilege to take that lift, knowing that we will never get a chance to do so any more, and back then, having 5 people in the lift is already a technological marvel.
The View from the Top
From some of the top floors, we caught some views, as well as peeped into some of the unit’s interior.
The view was actually not very spectacular since the flats are not high rise, but the feeling of standing of these long gone monuments gives us good memories to tell stories about.
We were quite surprised that despite of the place being vacated and vacant, it was pleasantly clean and neat. There is still a sense of order, as well as nostalgia when the occupants left their old abode. You can feel a quiet dignity in the air, knowing that these buildings stood the test of time, built homes, laughter, sweat and tears, families, friends, memories and played a very integral part of Singapore’s nation building.
Street Directory 2007
Thankfully I managed to save a Mighty Mind 2007 Street Directory which I can pull out a map of the entire Dakota Crescent neighborhood, as you boys can see, back in 2007, Mountbatten MRT was still U/C (uncompleted)
You can compare this to Google Map 2019 and you can see that in 2007, Dakota Crescent stretched beyond Blk 32, as of today, the plot of land after Blk 32 has been turned into condominium, called Dakota Residences.
Google Maps View
Amazingly you can still get a very good view of the entire Dakota Crescent on Google Maps, dating back 2019, you can see a top view of the unique shape of the flats and where Blk 12, Blk 16 and the rest of the blocks are sited. Of course by then, Mountbatten MRT is already up and running.
Time and Tide
At the end of it all, boys, sometimes these places have to give way to development, and while it is unfortunate, the needs of the future will always takes precedence over the needs of the past, and while we need to carefully balance our memories, we must make sure we are not too caught up in the past, we cannot look forward and prepare for the future.
I’m really glad that we managed to capture some memories of Dakota Crescent and these are hopefully some of the highlights of your childhood.
You cannot imagine how pissed he was. What makes him more pissed was he remembered exactly where he lost it.
It was on a cycling trip where Andy and I were taking cover from a storm at some shophouses just in front of Commonwealth MRT, and it’s my usual practice to wear glove for wet weather conditions, and I’ll usually remove my ring when I wear my glove. So my practice was I took out my ring to wear around my neck using one of the sport necklace your dad often wears. What happened was along with the ring, I also hung my mask around the necklace. I remembered that we are about to move off after the rain receded slightly, I unclasped the necklace to keep my mask, the ring must have fallen off.
That was EXACTLY what happened, and I only realised that I lost it during our return leg, cycling somewhere near Kallang Way Park Connector (PCN) when I ran my hands around my necklace checking for my ring only to realised that it is no longer there. I’ll usually randomly do a pat-down equipment check but this time it was already too late.
I still got to give it a try, so once I got my bike home, I hailed a private hire ride to get to Commonwealth in a feeble attempt to find the ring. By then the spectacle shop whose space we occupied in the morning has already open shop, and put out their roll-out display counter. The nice Auntie helped me look around but, alas, it was gone.
Andy sent me the pictures he took and I confirmed my loss. It was still on my neck at Commonwealth MRT, and by the time to took the next picture at Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) at Clementi, the ring was no longer there.
Philosophical about loss
What the F can I do? Except to self console myself about the sheer stupidity of the loss. The self reproach, self berating and mentally beating myself for being so dumb and careless, losing an item which I’ve kept so carefully with me for the past 18 years.
Of course, I came up with the ‘nothing is permanent‘ statement to console myself, and justified the decision I made 18 years ago not to get a flashy (and expen$ive) bling bling as a wedding ring, after all it is ceremonial. It was a good call, because had I lost a ring that costs me thousands of dollars, the level of self hatred for me will be relative or many times more of that amount! While the ring is just an extrinsic material, it still makes me angry that I wasn’t able to keep it with me, due to my carelessness.
What Facebook said
I wasn’t ready to write about this, as I was still quite sore over the loss, until I saw this in Steven’s Facebook post, and what best way to live this experience that to really lose something you had for such a long time. What the hell, get over it, and get to greater things in life, and stop whining over the proverbial spilled milk.
The loss eats into me, because I am usually a very careful person, that said, I think generally the same can be said for most people, except that I really, really, really, do take care of things and I take a certain level of pride in that, and to lose my wedding ring, is a huge bruise to my ego. On top of that, I was half expecting your mum to lose hers before I lost mine. ha ha, jokes on me.
Your mum’s reaction
Part of the reason why I was super pissed was because the ring really symbolizes my marriage, and I was mostly expecting your mum to be pissed with me.
She treasured the marriage more than the ring, while the loss affected her, I’m sure, but she didn’t lose the husband, only the ring. And it matters to her that she still matters to me, and that’s all it mattered to her. There is no point having and wearing a wedding ring, if the love, commitment and marriage is no longer there. The ring would be just hypocritical lip service if we as a couple no longer find a meaning in being husband and wife.
It was a huge relief for me, but deep down inside while I loath my loss, I also knew that I can always get another ring, expensive as hell to get as a symbol, still bearing the same risk of losing it again, sooner or later.
Many years ago, I read somewhere that the actor kept a box full of his wedding rings, he had it made copies of it, because he was prone to losing them, taking them off to play a certain character in his acting career. While I am not as rich to buy a chestful of rings, I should learn from his attitude towards marriage, after all he stayed married to Kelly Preston from 1991 to 2020, where she died of breast cancer. Wedding rings can be lost and replaced, but he kept only one marriage, till death do they part.
24 hours, that’s all we have in a day. Let’s not break it down any more than that, being day and night. Given this fact, how much practice can we humanly squeeze into a 24 hour? When I was younger, I tried that for about 2 weeks, continuous, 6 days a week. Well, it didn’t quite work out for me, my body couldn’t be stimulated any more, and was rather jaded by the entire experience.
Realistically, there is only so much training we can put into a day’s work. I have to be a father, husband, colleague, son-in-law, sometimes a son, a nephew, a friend, a BFF at times. the list goes on. In all these roles that we have to play, I have to be an aikidoka. as if I hadn’t had my plate full. Then again without Aikido, I don’t think I can synthesize all these sometimes conflicting roles effectively. These role can scream, ‘Me!” ‘No! Me first!”, and they often still do. I used to get frustrated that I cannot train as schedule because I have to attend to my husbandry function.
Over these years, I’ve come to accept that futility, I can never ‘be enough’ of anything, neither can I be everything. I just ‘be’. It sounds so cliché again, but that is the fact. it’s the part where I can’t pen down more that what I already had. Because time is always scarce, I really have to make the best of every minute and second of my existence and not waste it on trivial whining or bickering. I used to panic when my ‘me’ time gets robbed from me by other seemingly trivial matters, now I simply move it around the slot, on a modular approach. and really, I’m already doing what I can, at any point in the day and time of my life, what else can i ask for? I’m already fortunate enough to receive Aikido training, lucky enough to have a supportive wife (even though she understands little about Aikido), and I have peace in this country for me to be free.
Free is who I am in my spirit. I may not practice Aikido physically 24hrs a day, I never stop thinking about Aikido, how it works, and how I didn’t make it work. What could have been done better. What lessons I can learn out of it. Although admittedly this is no replacement for hard physical training and conditioning, but that is what I can give at this point in time, I am appreciative of my mental faculties for being discerning about Aikido. of course when i do get the opportunity for hard physical training, all this thinking does helps as these wisdom do help me sort out my ego. Who I think I am, and who I am, never mixing fact and fiction.
So I seldom lament about the lack of physical training, because the training has left the dojo and got ‘downloaded’ into my head. and when the time comes for physical training, I say ‘BRING IT ON!’
Yesterday, you both started an argument, when 弟弟 wanted to concentrate on his Math assessment and he needed the 哥哥 volume down his music in his earphones, while in the study room.
I didn’t came to know what happened, I found your mum talking to the both of you sternly, the air in the room tensed with accusations and simmering anger.
So I thought of sharing my best tried and tested number one method of winning at Q&A (Quarrels & Arguments)…
DON’T START ONE.
Well, easier said than done, I agree, like many things in life, it’s the execution, actions and behavior that matters more than rhetoric. Until you both mature to better understand the nuances and tensions that runs in life, I’ll have to talk the walk, while you both learn to walk to talk as you grow.
Don’t Start One
Many times in life, you’ll walk into a situation you didn’t plan to walk into, and suddenly you find yourself difficult to walk out of it.
Sometimes we are ‘caught’ with a perspective and because of the ensuing conversations and exchanges of idea, you unwittingly felt attacked or felt a need to defend your view. Sometimes such a conversation build up over time and the tension stacks on one differences after another, and it can spontaneously combust into an all out argument, which gets everyone pissed off.
Don’t start one requires you to be very sensitive to the trigger points which leads to exposing a person’s insecurities. Avoid those trigger points, avoid people’s insecurities. Many times we felt a need to ‘help’ others with their insecurities, DON’T. Their insecurities are there long before you get to know them and will be there still, long after the world is dead and gone. If there’s anything, anyone can do about a person’s insecurities, it is the owner of that specific insecurities. You deal with your own demons, and they deal with theirs.
Of course you’ll get people trying fix you, thinking that they can help you with your insecurities, and they can’t, since the road to hell is paved with good intentions, learn to look out for pseudo-Samaritans who wants to help you exorcise your demons so that they can avoid facing theirs. The world is full of such people. When you meet one of these many goody-two-shoes…
Thank them and walk away, there is nothing for them to fix, and I’ve come to a point in life which I learned to deal with my own s**t. There is usually not many people in this world who can help you the way you can help yourself. Sometimes all these helping can lead to frustrations which leads to Q & A.
They can never see your point of view the way you do, and sometimes words fail you when you try your best to explain and you don’t succeed. Those who are truly able to help you, will sit with you, leave you alone, or listen to you with no judgments.
Q & A between brothers
You both are going to get into a lot of Q&A in future, for sure. In fact, the both of you are testing grounds to thrash out opinions and perspectives. There will be opinions which both of you argue to stalemate, or simply cannot agreed upon. So what to do?
Always remember, the both of you are brothers, and long after your parents are dead, it will be the both of you, back to back, against the world. While you both can argue, you both must lean on each other, and never let anything, anyone tear you both apart.
Let’s go, Let it go
Nothing in this world is worth the bond you both have as brothers. Never let an argument break that brotherhood. It’s really not worth it. Like your argument over 哥哥’s noisy music with 弟弟 studying, if you let that simmer and fester, the ill will unresolved will eat into the good you both have build and years after this innocuous incident, you’ll both drift apart not know what happened. Just think about it, is it worth it? Arguing and keeping scores over a small tiff?
There’s a Chinese saying which will be helpful here:
Forbearance in the short term, helps you see ease in the wave, forbearance in life helps you see the entire ocean of calm. In short, back off, each belligerent take step back, give some space.
I’m not asking you both to endure the s**t you throw at each other, that would be lip service, but as you grow in life, you’ll know what to bear with, what to give in and what you both can argue about and comes to a good outcome.
Q&A solution to a Q&A problem
The best way to get out of a Q&A is Q&A, Quit (arguing) & Apologize.
Between brothers, it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, who started it, who escalated it. Between you both, deconflict by saying ‘sorry’, give in and give way, then the healing can start. Sometimes there is no resolution that you can achieve even after a heat argument, once either one cooled down, please apologize first. Never let small puny differences put a wedge in between your brotherhood, if that happens, you both will swallowed by the waves and drown in the ocean.
On Wednesday, Harry sensei focused predominantly on Shihonage (四方投げ), specifically, yokomenuchi-Shihonage. There was just a couple of us, Renny, Daniel, Me, James and Brenda. Initially, sensei showed a method of shihonage, and we worked on it, then he changed the techinque slightly seeing that we, the students somehow are having some difficulties with the technique. Initially what was apparently a ‘wrong’ technique for the start, evolved to something that was ‘right’.
That is the essence in the difficulty in teaching Aikido. had it been a modestly beginner student, the change will confuse the beginner. ‘I thought it was supposed to be like this!’ or I’ve heard so often, ‘I thought this was incorrect!’. Well, where shall we start then?
The technique is living, and unlike a kata, which has a fixed form which the student has to follow, relentlessly. How can we teach Aikido when your uke is ever changing? Big, small, fast, rough, male, female, you name it, it keeps changing. Techniques has to change with your partner.
For an Aikido teacher, he has to observe his students as well, because everyday, different students turn up. there are some regulars, some not so regulars. Not only that, some regulars might not be in shape that evening to train. Everything, and every element that the student brings to the dojo has to be respected. As much as possible we try to be neutral when we put on the white gi, the reality is that we carry a massive baggage to the dojo, and to ignore that is to be an ignoramus. An Aikido teacher has to ensure that the technique is living, and changes and adjust accordingly to the mood and the quality of the students that evening.
Hence by the time we are through with our Aikido that Wednesday evening, the Shihonage we ended up has been fine tuned and ends up ‘different’ from the shihonage we first started out. And it is still the same ‘shihonage.’
As you both know by now from my previous post that your dad has been cycling for a long time, all terrain cycling (except water and air!), especially mountain biking!
Well, I guess when you put your feet to the pedal, it is one of the most liberating thing to do as an individual, there is no place you cannot go on a bicycle. Since I took this Marin back in 2018, I’ve been many places in Singapore, and still not bored of it.
In our tech and digital world, this is one of the things I consider to be analogue, humanistic. Sure you can run, but at that speed, you can’t go very far in a daylight, without getting too tired. On a bike, you get speed and you get the view. That relationship with your environment is spontaneous and real, it engages all your senses, and you cannot totally switch off while you’re riding without getting into serious hurt!
Freedom comes with Responsibilities
Whether you’re cycling alone or in a group, you take care of your own s**t, that’s one thing I learn Mountain Biking, because in the ‘swapah’ where you bash through the bushes, you have to fix your own problems, and issues. Chain break, fix it, puncture fix it, so I has taught me from a very young age to prepare and be ready for any and all situations that might arises during the trip. You really have to own that situation you get yourself into, dig your way out of it, cos no one is coming to rescue you.
So it has become a habit for me to pack well, balancing needs and wants on a 2 wheels, water, tool kit, first aid, and other little luxuries for wet weather. And whatever happened on the road, it is all you, your responsibilities. There’s often a lot of bad calls you have to make, and you just have to suck it up and do it.
Adulting The Adult Thing
Adulting is quite a new word, and it basically means:
“the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.” (from Google)
I guess that would means a kind of a sarcasm perhaps, but I think that’s what cycling is to me, in a good way. It’s really not a big deal as a cyclist to anyone on the road, but to the cyclist, me, every place I explored gives me that life experience full on, and I can randomly go places and explore new roads, on an MTB, I can even spontaneously go off road and check out where the trail goes. It is an accomplishment that is quite mundane to others but very intrinsically satisfying for me. So while it might sound mundane, it adds to my world perspective and gives my life background and stories to tell, myself and you boys.
Zen and The Art of Cycling
A long time ago, your dad used to ride a motorbike and this was one of the book he read that is closest to the subject matter. Now that your dad is no longer on a motorcycle, cycling is the next best thing (and safest) for me to experience life on the road.
Unlike a motorbike, you need a level of fitness to cycle, since you are the engine, passenger and mule all rolled in one, you have to be fit to go the distance. It is not only about physical fitness but a level of mental resilience as well. Mental resilience on a bicycle don’t come from being tough, but knowing when to be tough, when to accept fatigue and when to enjoy the ride.
Enjoying the ride often means getting into a cruising speed, and listening to the sound made by the wheels rolling on the ground. Feeling that wind, or even sometimes the rain! Night time riding can bring about a different sensory experience as well!
Going the Distance
As I do the distance, my on-the-road experience evolve and takes a different relationship. I often have to take the same road but every time I roll past the same spot, the feeling is always different. It is as if the road is your old friend, patiently waiting for you to pass by again. If you have a specific memory, self conversation, incident or flashback on that same spot, it helps to trigger a familiar feeling in you, so that inconspicuous spot to others, is actually a special meeting spot for you.
As Singapore is constantly changing and evolving, some of the same old spots might not exist anymore, so by going on the road, you get your internal map ‘upgraded’ with new topographical details. New park connectors are being build all the time and there are new connectivity across the island that can bring us to more places on a bike. What better way to know this island home of ours?