Our Neighbour- The Kwoks

Mr and Mrs Kwok

Dear Boys,

People often say that ‘Friends are the family we choose.’ There’s nothing much said about the neigbours living next door to us.

While we have many good neighbours, which is another topic that’s too long to write about, I just want to tell you both about the ‘Kwoks’ well, that’s what we call them.

Hit off at first sight

I remembered when we first got our house keys, we were of course excited about it, and from what I can recalled, The Kwoks was here first, they moved in slightly earlier than us, and has pretty much settled down.

It was quite an occasion, and we did made some noise, and left our front door open, which is typical, then The Kwoks, kind of peeped in, when they got home and we welcomed them in, that’s where we hit off.

They were genuinely very nice and we could click, just like that. It was really a rare thing that both of our families got off so well. They brought a kind of comfort and warmth into our new home that very day and both your mum and I liked them, for their down to earth, unpretentious personality. They weren’t proud or trying to act like they were superior in anyway.

Both Mrs

As both were stay at home mum, your mum and Mrs Kwok hit off. Although Mrs Kwok was a good many years older, she could communicate with your mum, and there is no generation gap whatsoever. Over the decades, both families has shared many things, and none of us kept a score. It was pure goodwill where we lend each other stuffs, cooked and shared food, and even shared purchases in this age of online shopping.

We got so close that your mum even taught Esther, their eldest daughter tuition during her primary school days and right now as I typed she has completed her ‘O’ levels, how time flies!

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Mr Kwok and Esther during Wayne’s 5th birthday

Looking out for each other

It was kind of unspoken, we were neighbours and we shared things. We even share the shoe rack outside our house. The shoe rack’s ours but we straddled it between our door and theirs so they also put their shoes on our rack. It wasn’t overbearing on both side thankfully. They didn’t hoard the rack, and they knew not to put too many shoes on it.

When we go for our respective family holidays, we will lookout for each other and help to clear any flyers stuck to our doors. Sometimes, they’d tell us when they will be away and even if they didn’t, we would know they are gone for a short trip and just clear their flyers.

When you boys were younger and your mum needed to rush off to get somethings done, and leave the both of you at home, Mrs Kwok would gladly babysit the both of you until your mum is back, and sometimes, we would tell her that you both are at home and she’d keep her door open in case you boys needed to shout out to her for help.

And of course, we do, trust her with our house keys, when we need to.

Shared values

It helps we bind at first sight and it is pure goodwill on both sides. Like everything in life, there are good and bad stuffs, even with neighbors, we are thankful there is more good stuff to share with them than the bad. We are both constantly and unconditionally helping each other, and looking out for each other, which is more than we can look for in a neighbour as awesome as The Kwoks

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Window for Everything

Window for Everything

Dear Wayne,

I remembered vividly, you were the runt in the family, and as your parents, we were always so concerned about getting enough food into you. But you ate so little when you were a baby.

So one of the afternoon, we were giving you milk, and half expecting you to not finish the bottle. But to our surprise, you managed to finished the whole bottle! That was a moment of celebration.

Well, our happiness was short-lived.

 The next moment, you gave it all back to us, milk vomit.

I never forget that cheeky look you have on you face, almost like telling us, “Hey dad, I finished the entire bottle, and then I didn’t!”

That was an epiphany, I used till this day as a parenting story.

You cannot force things.

Now that you boys are old enough, you are developing the maturity to choose you actions, and hopefully the favorable consequences that follows. It is not always the case, as some things can’t be forced.

Just as much as we tried the best we could to make Wayne drink his milk, when he is not ready to take the full bottle, he will not be able to take a full bottle, period. No amount of forcing can help us better the situation, we can either try our darnest, and just get upset over the failure of the reality to meet our expectations, or we can release ourselves from expectations and let the reality show us how things really are.

This is pretty much the story of the Human Race, sum up in a Dad’s attempt to feed his child one full bottle of milk when the child isn’t ready for it. We are always trying to push our luck, and despite of our best effort, it often don’t go our way. Sometimes is does, more often than not, it doesn’t.

Letting go.

So learn to let go, do what you can, and sometimes, when you are not ready, you simply cannot do it. You can try, put in effort, learn and explain it, it will not happen the way you wanted it to happen.

It is a judgment call, I guess, and there is really no correct answer to it, sometimes, you might be over-doing it, trying too hard; sometimes, you are not trying hard enough. Whatever it is, use your experience and see for yourself, if too much is just nice, and too little is overbearing.

Handling and Training with Weapons

Handling and Training with Weapons
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My collection of SOGs

We live in a very safe world, and generally we have not seen violence and conflict on a global scale.

That’s not such a bad thing, for obvious reasons, but safe has made people staid.

Violence are still aplenty but living in constant peace has lulled the most of us into thinking that we no longer need to fight, and we can refrain from violence, or leave violence to the hands of ‘specialist’ such as soldiers and law enforcement folks, to take care of and deter violence.

That is how a civil society ought to be no doubt, but as martial artists, we must constantly acquaint ourselves with violence and the tools of violence.

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An Oriental Scimitar

Tools of Violence

Anything can be used as a tool in the application of violence, a hammer, fork, newspaper, mobile phone, keys; anything can be improvised as a weapons. More specialised ones such as firearms, knives, nunchakus, batons and others, are of course dedicated to the sole purpose of maiming and killing.

Aikido is primarily an empty hand art, we do train with bokken, tanto, and jo. These are mostly wooden training aid that helps us understand how Aikido moves in relation to the weapon’s design and integration to our body, and geometry of movement.

It does bring about an awareness of extension of striking range, the cutting edge of a blade, the design of a sword; it cuts, of course, but the hilt can be used as a striking surface, in the hands of a skilled and innovative swordsman.

Remington 870 shotgun used by SAF

Familiarity breeds respect

Peace has brought about a more aloof approach to weapons. People these days are alien towards what a weapon can be, and no one sees a gun, except in a Hollywood action film, or in Singapore’s context, handle an actual one (unloaded of course!) an Army Open house, or in a typical adult-age Singaporean taking national service with the military or the police. So we are very limited in our exposure to how firearm or weapons work, we are not sure nor will we be confident about how to handle them when we actually need to use one.

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A Sniper rifle used by SAF

It doesn’t mean we need to own a firearm to know how to deal with one, we just need to be constantly aware that we will one day be at the receiving end of a firearm, no matter how remote that possibility with be. We might be dealing with a knife welding crazy person (with a higher probability!!!), someone might charge at us, at random, with an ice pick, a hammer, a chair, a beer bottle, a brolly, you are free to imagine what improvised weapons one can use to inflict harm on you. What do you do?! WHAT DO YOU DO???!

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H&K 416 used by SAF

See one, know one

I happen to have an aligned interest in knives, and collect a few of them. This also helps me understand what a blade is capable of, while I cannot say that I am very trained in using one, nor disarming a knife assailant. Owning one, (in my case a few), helps me build confidence and respect for it.

Knives obviously have blades, and are build for a purpose of cutting. A kitchen knife has its obvious place, but it can still be used as a fighting knife. A purpose build fighting knife, on the other hand, is designed not for the kitchen but to withstand the rigours of penetrating a moving living meat which is very unwilling to die or get injured. In short, it is less likely to break under duress.

  • Ice pick, sharp in front, so we need to know what to avoid.
  • Hammer, well, that is something else.

Of course we cannot specifically train against each and every known weapon out there, it is not the reason for our training, or weapons training. We have weapons training to ensure that we orientate our mind towards a weapon when we see one, and apply the appropriate measures against it. We are also training ourselves to handle one, so that we can be advantageous in our fighting.

Knowledge is insurance

Statistically, we most likely will never encounter an armed attacker, so why train with knives? As martial artist, we must always ask ourselves is the art we are in limiting our dimension in fighting? Sure, there is no perfect art out there, but we must seek to perfect our art, and always be open to the potentials of other kinds of attack. Aikido as an art, is limited in its repertoire of locks, throws, and pins. There are some limited application in weapons training, and as an Aikidoka, we must use what little we know about fighting and combat, and expand that experience and knowledge so that when the time comes for us to count on our martial arts for combat and survival, we will not be caught in an ‘Oh Shit!’ ala Deer in a Headlight moment.

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blunt ornamental blades, still deadly in trained hands

Biking, driving, trucking and walking

Biking, driving, trucking and walking
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My second MTB

Dear boys,

There is a lot of controversies these days about the use of road space. Some say share, some say they pay road tax, and well others, simply pirate the roads. E-scooters are a boon or bane?

The biggest machine your father has operated was a truck, 10 foot-truck to be exact, which I rented when we needed to move house, a long time ago. I was also a motorcyclist, I love mountain biking, I’m very much a wheel guy, not so much a ‘ ball’ guy, both being round in their own way.

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My first motorcycle

I’ve stopped riding my motorcycle many years back, as it was no longer the safest thing to do. I remembered back in the days, after finishing my night class, I would ride the CTE back home, around 10-ish and the traffic being light, I can just cruise, it was a good feeling. These days there are so many factors that can get a motorcyclist maimed and killed. There is no luxury of a cruise, you have to be on the defensive all the time. Recent news and stats says motorist finds the road no longer safe.

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Bandung Traffic

My earlier trip to Bandung Indonesia opened my eye to how congested their roads are and how lucky we have it here. We have well organised roads, 2-3 and even 4-5 lanes roads, for Bandung, as an old town, at best, traffic around the city make do with a 2 lane road, 2 for each directions.

The amazing thing is that, they can make do with that limited shared space, as I wrote in my last blog. It was an amazing concoction of cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, motorcycles, and even an occasional bullock cart.

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Driving a rented car in Gold Coast

Back to Singapore

I don’t drive so often, we don’t own a car. But I bike a lot, and I have a pecking order in terms of giving way. The largest will always give way to the smallest. And the smallest denominator being a pedestrian, the largest, well it can go as large as an aircraft carrier. You get the idea. So when I am on a bicycle, I have to give way to a person walking, and if I am driving, I have to give way to a cyclist, and the pedestrian and if I am operating a big ass truck, I have to give way to the smaller folks.

It’s a logic that the larger the machine you operate, the more responsibilities you have towards others, and no one operate in silo or vacuum, we will always have a impact on other people, in good or bad way. So when we have a larger machine, we need to exercise greater care and responsibilities.

Passenger jet vs fighter jet

Of course that is just being generalising, a passenger jet needs to give way to a fighter jet, in the case of my logic, but a fighter jet can shoot down a passenger jet. Sometimes, my rule of thumb doesn’t work but it does gives a gist of the kind of responsibility one has relative to the machines they operate.

The point is…

We cannot clamor for space. Space is always shared. Cyclist have to understand that road kills. And even in large numbers, there is no safety. One wayward car can careen into a group of cyclist, kill and maim a good part of the group. A speeding E-scooter can crash into a family, injuring the elderly, bruising the kid. Who is going to bay for blood, when the unfortunate event has already occurred?

Give way and prepare to stop

More specifically, give way if you can, get out of the way of those who can’t give way. Sometimes, as much as a larger vehicle wants to stop and give way, there are inertia and it can take a while for the large lorry to come to a complete stop, by then it would have mowed down whoever and whatever in its path. So be alert and get out of the way of large vehicles if possible. Those who are driving a large truck, give way where possible.

One thing my driving instructor taught me, which stayed till now, when in doubt, stop.

It is a good mantra, especially when I’m cycling. I’ve seen cyclists and motorbikers trying not to stop, as they will lose their momentum and balance, so they want to keep a minimal level of motion. I get that, I bike too, but when in doubt, stop, and push.

Its not a cool factor, if there is an old man walling in front and just for me to preserve my motion, bang into the poor guy, stop, get of if necessary and push. It’s just biking, and the road space is shared, whosoever wants to walk and travel at whatever speed, it’s their wish. Everyone goes through life in their own pace and speed, and try not to be in such a hurry to get from point A to point B, you end up in hell, and killing other people in the process.

Last but not least

We cannot wish away the e-biking trend. I do not like these battery powered wheel-chairs. They are fast, convenient and extremely lazy. If you are on a bicycle, you still get a reasonable bit of exercise, even on a motorcycle, you have to be generally fit to operate one. An e-scooter? It’s the laziest form of transport. It’s so convenient it is bad for health.

Nonetheless, it is here to stay, and since there is so much brickbat about it, I have a couple of rules, simple rules.

  • Anyone operating an e-bike above the weight of 7 kg, needs a license, they need to take a damn course to get some general feel and understanding of sharing the road.
  • Any e-bikes which can travel faster than 10km/h, capped at 15 km/h, needs to have a helmet, front and rear lights, helmets on, light on at all times. (this is a rule of motorcyclist, by the way)

Singapore is going to become car-lite soon and these things going around isn’t going to stop growing in numbers, so we just need to be mindful, the pecking order, and the road space is shared, no one owns them, well, I guess the only one who really own the road is the Grim Reaper, anyone wants to challenge that?

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LGBT- Your dad’s opinion

LGBT- Your dad’s opinion

Dear boys,

This is going to be a sensitive topic.

Well, actually it isn’t.

Maybe your dad is looking at it from a simplistic point of view.

Anyway here it goes.

I have no idea what LGBT was during my early years. All I can remember was, I was a Sales Assistant in AA Fashion, selling women’s clothing. It was just a sales job and I was 17 years old, waiting for my national service enlistment.

So it was retail sales, and this young boy, sells clothes, women clothes. What a place to be in. Anyway it was just a job, and I was doing it to kill time, waiting for my call to the Army.

My Thai ‘Female’ customer

One of our regulars was a bunch of Thais, who likes to buy our clothing in bulk. My supervisor at that time, Jessie and another senior, Sharon, knows them and usually serves them. I don’t know these Thais well, but I know them enough to see that they are transvestites. And having not understanding of them, I don’t want to have anything to do with them.

They somehow knew that, and at times can be quite cheeky about trying to get me to ‘serve’ them, or help them with packing their bulk purchases. Jessie, and Sharon will always try to be firm with them, and in a way, protect me from their ‘harassment.’

That was that, I don’t really have any opinion about it.

Well, the LGBT issues.

I don’t really care about this recent ‘repeal 377A‘ thingy, and I guess they want to sort of legalise gay marriage of sorts. Personally I think it is somewhat politicized, so let’s not go there. It is a deep dark slippery road with no end in sight.

Here’s what a Dad can says to you boys.

LGBT exists, like it or not.

You cannot hate it away, nor pretend it is not there, nor uses the law against it. It simply exists.

So what do we do about such individuals in society?

Well, I am obviously not LGBT in the truest sense, and I don’t think you boys will end up gays. But it is a conversation your mum and I still have and holds true to. Even if you boys turn out to be, we will still love you the same.

Look beyond sexual orientation and see love

I’m not interested in the men screw men part, or women beds women part, which to some can be repulsive. As long as all these sexual acts are done in the privacy of a 4 walls, with mutual consent, it is not my business to interfere, just as much as a man and a woman makes love in public, which is just as lewd and immoral.

Keep sex personal. If a couple wants to show Public Display of Affection, I have no qualms about it. Men can kiss men, women can kiss women, that’s fine. Just as much as a man can kiss his dog and a woman can kiss her pet cat. but again, if you would like to copulate your pet dog or cat, please stay indoors.

It is about relationship, and love

Perhaps it is too simplistic for me, but it is a choice I make. As long as a man loves a man, and cares for each other, for better or for worse, in sickness and good health, till death do us part, I’m fine with that commitment.

How many heterosexual couples have we seen stuck to a dead-end and sometimes abusive relationship. Men beaten by wives, and wive abused by their husbands, isn’t that more worthy of persecution than see two men in love and taking care of each other?

Maybe there is something deeper I am missing out, but now that I am older, I do see some lesbians holding hands, one woman being woman, and the other woman trying to be masculine. I’ve grown old enough to accept that. they have their lives to live, and to choose the lesser road traveled, they are already living with a tremendous identity crisis, and burden. LGBTs has been long ostracized by societies, and they get what they got, just because they are who they are. I don’t think that is quite fair. It is not easy living our ordinary lives, and to have the label LGBT hanging over LGBT doubles that difficulties.

Why we still hangs on to criminalizing LGBT 

Honestly, I don’t have a good answer, I’m not a lawyer, historian or any sort of extremely educated aristocrat, or academic, or politician. All I can think of is to protect the larger population’s equilibrium. Most of us are not LGBTs, and we are the majority, and the majority likes a constant, and flux are seen with apprehension and trepidation. LGBTs are odd, they appear to go against nature. (I’m not going to touch on the religiousness of the matter!), men simply do not have a sexual relationship with men. So people become influential and uses their influence to fight for and against such issues.

We need law to protect the general population, in the event that LGBT spreads like a plague and infect our children!

So just as much as 377A exists, so does LGBT. we cannot hate these 2 existentialistic issues away, they will be there, and we will still need to live with our lives.

Love is love

Personally I see love as universal. Irrespective of race, language, religion nor gender orientation. You just need to love a person, an animal enough to care for that being, and to a certain degree, die for that being. Love is always fair and we need to leave people alone to love themselves and the people the love.

My Thai Transvestites Customers

Thinking back sometimes, I wish I had the maturity to handle those Thai customers. I mean, they went the whole nine yards, and did the boob job and cut certain organs away to make themselves more womanly. Thailand are full of such people and they must have lived an amazing life.

Back then I was too young to make friends with them, learn from them and absorb their humanity. I’m sure just by being their friends and making them a little more accepted by me, will not turn me into a gay. Love is love, and it doesn’t turn men into gays, not women into lesbians.

I hope you boys can look at these LGBT issues with maturity and let them be in your lives, these are ordinary people living an extraordinary lives, who are always constantly under the threat of prosecution for being them. I’d let them live, just as much as they’d allowed me to be me.

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The Best Big Brother

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Ian and Wayne

Dear Wayne,

You have an awesome big brother. Really, no bragging.

He loves you unconditionally and in such a pure and naive manner, he can never hurt you on purpose. He has seen you grown in your mummy’s stomach and he was so ecstatic when you first came out.

Born to be your Big Brother.

Honestly, I don’t know how he does it, he took on the 大哥 role like fish to water. He knows when to protect you and look after you. We didn’t have to teach him much. He has always been there to look out for you.

Your Brother the Hustler

We will never forget back in 2009 when we went to the Central Fire Station for a kind of outing. There was a little girl coming over to your pram to check you out, your big brother wouldn’t let her touch you, and he puts himself between you and the little girl.

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Girl: cute baby!
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Ian: He’s my little brother!

Backing each other up

As the both of you grows up, there will be conflicting priorities and there will be conflicts, despite of our best efforts to make peace out of the both of you. You both need your space to grow and you will have your own priorities. Sometimes those priorities will clash, but whenever you can, please try to come to each other’s aid as much as possible.

Bath time

A couple of evenings back, you brother asked you to accompany him for his bath, well, he is kind of a scatty cat and he likes your companionship while be bath. You were on a game or something and refused to keep him company.

He came out and did a tit-for-tat when you ask him to help him with something.

I have to intervene to find out what was going on.

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Ian and Wayne 2011

The bottom line

You both are brothers, and as far as my memory serves me, your big brother has never asked of you to do unreasonable things. And he will always comes to your aid, without reservations. You have to do likewise for you.

Right now, you still have your dad and mum to come in and intervene in such instances of conflict, by the time we are dead, I don’t want the both of you to go at your throats, because of a tit-for-tat. Being brothers is more than quid pro quo, you must drop whatever you are doing and go to each other’s aid. Because like what I’ve said before, there is no one else out there, it’s just the both of you against the world.

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Never Bring Your Work Home

MjAxMy1mY2ZkZDg5ZWY4NDY4MDdkDear boys,

You will hear a lot of work-life advise in your life. Some say this and some will say that. It all depends on what works for you and what kind of a person you grow up to be.

You can either learn to take stress well, and be a tough guy, and be a Type A personality, that’s fine.

If you both gets married and have kids, you must make sure that you have a spouse you can talk to. Whether you choose to talk to your spouse or not, that is entirely a different matter.

Well, actually it is not that entirely different, becoming husband and wife and being in a marriage is building new habits, and the old ones evolve.

What I’m trying to say here is, at this stage of my marriage to your mum, I’ve learned to open up a lot more and tell her a lot of things. It didn’t used to be like that; in the past, I hate being on the phone, as part of my job requires me to be on the phone 6-8 hours a day. Enough of phone conversations!

These couple of years has evolved and I’ve taken to calling your mum ever-so-often, and you boys would have heard me calling home during lunch time and have a quick chat with your mum.

So what do we talk about?

Mostly work stuff, for me and also some work stuff for her and maybe somethings about you boys.

There will be people out there telling you not to bring work home, and when you leave the office, leave the work in the office. It means that you need to sort of compartmentalize some parts of your life and when you go home, you take off your ‘office manager’ hat and put on a ‘husband’ or ‘dad’ hat. Well I wish life is as simple as that!

Psychologically, it is quite impossible to draw a clear line as where your work ends and your family begins. sometimes, you get so heated up with a home argument, you are still carrying that anger into the office, and vice versa. And sometimes, our work and colleagues become our bona fide ‘relatives’, and we start to treat them as such.

What I’m saying is you need some skills to de-personalise your work and profession to be able to not bring work back.

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That’s not my practice. I have full transparency with your mum, and she does the same with me.  

It helps in our relationship as she knows what I am doing in my work. Its not so much about trust, but having someone to share your stories and also your woes. We are married and there are times where we have to fight the battles alone. For me, I sometimes fight those battles, with the full blessings from your mum.

Bringing work home also helps the “You don’t understand me!” department. While this will still sometimes occur, it is mitigated because there is a lot of banter. It’s not really a conversational technique, as it is something unique within a marriage and it differs from couple to couple. It is such casual banter that allows us to weave context into our relationships and when we misunderstood each other, we can pull out past banters ‘records’ and cross reference to help us work between the confusion and ambiguity.

That’s said, I don’t usually bring my family to work, despite of the fact that my wife and you boys are a very big part of my life. It is again a judgement call dependent on the kind of people I am working with. There are colleagues who are family oriented, because they are parents, husbands, wives who can relate to me. If such a connection can be explored, then I’ll sometimes share a bit more. But more often than not, I’d like to keep my personal, family life away from work. After all work is work, you can always find another work, but you cannot find another family.