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March 2000 Archives

Looking Eastward

Time really flies. It’s Thursday again and the dawn of another weekend. I just returned from my Science lectures and still in a state of brain drain and awe. We studied the behaviour of waves and how they are prevalent in every single aspect of the universe we live in. I also discovered that white light is made up of the interference of different coloured lights. I don’t think I can ever be a scientist, I just don’t have the persistence to pursue, though the interest and curiosity is there.

I’m one who has never found mathematics to be particularly interesting. Back home in Singapore we learnt it through hours and hours of practice and memorisation, and I guess back then my interest kinda got killed. Here I have lots of time to ponder of it, slowly examine it, and finally understand how it applies in our daily lives. I used to think that if I could calculate the amount of change I got from buying a hot dog, that would be enough to tide me through life. Little did I know that trigonometry, the branch of mathematics I found most useless, was a language used to describe everything we see, hear, touch and feel. I’m not about to think about becoming a mathematician, but I thank God that I see so much more clearly now.

It’s nice to know that in a few months I’ll be home with family and friends. Lucianna, a classmate from my English class will be visiting Singapore for twelve whole days in summer. I’d be most happy to show her around, though it would probably take a day and a half to see the whole of Singapore. Maybe we could go on foot rather than the bus. Even then, we should be done in a week. Singapore is small, but it is home. I often go on the Internet Chat rooms and hear Singaporeans talk about how they want to leave the “darned place” for greener pastures (also known as USA). They don’t know what they have right there. In a way, when you lose a sense of belonging to the place you were brought up, you lose a sense of identity in yourself. The place does kinda defines who one is. Dearest Singapore, leave your lights on for me, I’ll be home in a bit.

Bright and Cheery

I just got back my science test results today. I had expected to do very well for the test, but I guess I expect too much. I got a low A for this test and I know that I should be thankful, but a small sense of disappointment comes to me. I will look up. I will be thankful. I’ve always talked in my journals about studying for the love of discovery, and I’m not about to turn hypocritical on my own statements. I still love studying, and will try not to make it out to be a competition, though it’s hard in our society not to.

It was a beautiful day today, though the sky was overcast. For what I think was the first time, there was some decent music playing on the mall. It was a great atmosphere. Rays of sun peeping through the holes in the thick cloud, people sitting on the mall listening to the music. You’ll only get this in college, for that I am certain. In fact, I’m pretty adamant on being a college professor just to be able to work in such an environment. But I also believe that I need to work in the real world for a bit, because it’s not right to teach the next generation solely based on theories and philosophies, without having seen it work in the real world.

I get awfully enthusiastic when I talk about teaching others. It has always been a high for me. It’s not an assertion of authority or superiority, but it’s a marvelous feeling to see their eyes light up when they finally understand something. I’ve always got compliments or comments from others that I’d make a good teacher, but I’ve to go figure out what God wants me to do with this gift.

My roommate is moving out tomorrow to his assigned room. He was staying here on a temporary basis because he came really unexpectedly. It was nice talking to him and brushing up my mandarin, but after I found out that he’d save near three hundred if he stayed in another dorm for the one and a half months he would be here, I persuaded him to save the money. UA isn’t all that large. I promised to be around if he needed anything. Like Kieron, he called me the perfect roommate. I guess it’s just because I don’t live up to their worst nightmares of what a roommate might be. I’m thankful for their compliments. I certainly hope to be a good host. Maybe I could consider a career in hospitality…..

A New Roomie

I went to First Southern Baptist Church again today. It seems a place I can fit in, and I might just choose to go there. I feel bad for not going to the church daddy picked for me over here, but I feel worse that I have to be ferried back and forth, because the venue is too far for me to cycle. It’s funny that there are so many churches here with the name “First something something”. Did they win first prize at a competition, or where they the first ones to set up a church?

Reading through my classmates’ reviews of my English essay was kind of ego-boosting, but I know better than to be proud. What I have is from God, and I should be thankful instead. It did bring up a few questions though. One of my reviewers wrote that he hoped I was seriously considering a career in journalism. To be honest, it has been something I’ve wanted to do from a young age, but somehow never did trod that path. I also wanted to be a lawyer, though that was before I found out the words “good” and “lawyer” were seldom breathed in the same breath. Pilot…which I gave up after finding out I had a natural aversion to roller-coasters. Scientist…but I need human interaction, I can’t be cooped up in a lab all day. Broadway singer…though I have a natural voice for the frog prince. Soldier, poet, counselor, social worker, teacher. These last few I know that I will always be, and it need not be my occupation.

My new roommate, whose name is Chun Lang, has on the table an alarm clock the size of a soccer ball. I only hope the windows don’t shatter the morning it rings. It might be a good idea to wear my headphones to sleep. We’ve spoken quite a bit so far, and we get along well, though it lacks the natural camaraderie I found in Kieron. But well, to each man his own.

Oh I forgot to mention this…seems like the Hall personnel got the nationality of my roommate wrong again. Chun Lang is from Taiwan, not Japan, though some Americans think that all Asians look alike. It certainly is an improvement from the last time they told me Kieron comes from England to learn English as a second language here. For the longest time I was crossing my fingers, hoping his first language wasn’t Latin. It was hilarious.

School starts tomorrow, and here comes another week of learning new things, and opening the windows of my mind. “The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun”. In Arizona, that’s a bet you’re most likely to win. There is so much to thank God for.

Christmas in March

It rained cold rain tonight, and it reminded me of Christmas time in Singapore, where the rains would wet the streets at night, falling in large heavy drops that were icy cold to the touch. I spoke to Weihua, a Malaysian who hangs out with the Singaporeans here. We were intending to book airline tickets home, and that is what it is - I’m coming home soon. It’s weird isn’t it? I’ve always wanted to go to another part of the world and experience new cultures and lifestyles, and when I finally do, I miss my own. I even fear going home with an acquired accent, which would most probably be the root of jokes. Oh, whatever. To step on the soil I grew up on will be a good feeling.

I read up on my science book just now, and I’m amazed at how much there is in there that I’ve always wanted to know. The relationship between magnetism and electricity, how sine waves are found in every aspect of creation - sound waves, light waves, even matter. Amazing. It’s not easy to plough through the knowledge accumulated by an humankind throughout history, but it only goes to show that we have only scratched the surface.

My new roommate sleeps a LOT. He was sleeping when I came back from class at six, and it’s midnight now, and he’s sound asleep. I guess I should be heading to bed too. Goodnight all of you. May the Lord watch over you as you sleep.

Home Alone But Not Alone

It’s almost funny. Last night I was in bed and thinking it felt weird not having Kieron on the other side of the room, tossing and turning. He provided the comfort of another being in the same living space, and it was a comfort indeed. I just received a call a few moments ago from Tamara, the Resident Hall Director, who told me that she had to put up an unexpected student from Japan. So now I have a Japanese roommate. It’s apparently a temporary fixture, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a permanent one. Oh no, I’m not complaining. I came to USA for an international experience, I just had no idea it would be this intense an experience. My new roommate (who’s bags are here but I have not met) is a student here to learn English as a foreign language. There might be a little problem communicating, but it’s nice to have someone.

I’m currently listening to “When she loved me”, a song from the movie Toy Story 2. It was sung by a doll who was reminiscing the old days when her owner loved her. In that way I feel kinda like that. I was thinking about the times Kieron and I had, which though brief, was a wondrous time. I guess God knows the person I am, and provided. I know He does love me. I just wish I loved Him half as much as I want to.

I spent last night watching DVDs with Debbie, who came to Arizona from Indiana. We had a long chat after the movie, and it was great having someone to talk to on Friday night. It’s usually the night when most people go partying, and less social people like Debbie and I stay cooped up in our little dorm cells. It was nice to hear from a fellow non-partier, sharing life experiences gathered from different parts of the world. Despite the vast cultural and geographical differences, all of us are so much the same. Our hearts hurt the same way, we seek the same things. There must have been a God that created us, don’t you think?

Lord Jesus, there’s a hole in my heart that can never be filled. It seems so empty so much of the time, and I know it happens when I look away from You. I’m certain that You and only You can fill that void of my life. Forgive me for the many times I placed my eyes upon myself. Please shield me and protect me from the winds and the waves that buffet me, and take me in Your arms…and there teach me to be strong. That I may soar on the wings of an eagle, there shall I run and not be weary, walk and not faint.

Make My Life A Prayer To You

Make my life a prayer to You I want to do what You want me to No empty words and no white lies, no token prayers, no compromise.

I want to shine the Light You gave through Your Son You sent to save us from ourselves and our despair it comforts me to know You’re really there.

And I want to thank You now for being patient with me Oh, it’s so hard to see when my eyes are on me. I guess I have to trust and just believe what You say oh, You’re coming again. Coming to take me away.

I want to die and let You give Your life to me so I might live and share the Hope You gave to me the Love that set me free.

I wanna tell the world out there You’re not some fable, a fairy-tale that I made up inside my head You’re God - the Son You’ve risen from the dead!

I want to die and let You give Your life to me so I might live and share the Hope You gave to me I wanna share the Love that set me free.

Keith Green

Living the New Life

The parcels my sister sent finally arrived. I unwrapped them with a certain anticipation. I usually approach new computer games with more excitement, but this time it was just that thought that this parcel was wrapped by my sister’s own hand, with her own handwriting that touched my heart. To see Singapore stamps upon the label and know exactly what the scene in the post office looked like the moment the parcel was mailed (it’s always the same) seemed to bring new emotions I’ve seldom or never felt before.

I just came off a long six hour study session. Spent the first one hour teaching Sean mathematics. When the term began, I made it a point to teach those who needed, and wanted to know. Though gratifying in its own way, it’s also an energy-consuming task. I felt the temptation to decline Sean and use the time to study for my coming science test, or even sneak in a game of basketball at the rec. I thank God I didn’t do that. I know that I’ve been an undeserving recipient of grace, and should live with that sort of gratitude. What sort of Christian would I be, when I let a fellow human live in need, pretending that it didn’t matter? Too many “Christians” are quick to proclaim their faith, yet slow to show their works. It has resulted in a lot of resentment towards Christians in general. I still remember Pattie’s initial reaction to my post on the Arizona Wildcat, our school newspaper. She stopped reading the moment she read the word “bible” and responded with defensiveness. I can understand why. We as Christians have failed to be the “light of the world” or the “salt of the earth” as we are called to be. Instead we simply walk around with a name tag bearing the words “Christian”, whilst never changing our destination in life, or our purpose.

I know the words I say are not easy to swallow, but I say them more to myself than to anyone. I am guilty of so many of these. The times I walk past a homeless man asking for change, or decline a cry for help. That should not be the way to live. Remember the parable of the sheep and the goats. But also remember this, that we do it not out of fear, but we do it because we are a new creation - the old has gone, the new has come. Do pray for me, that I may in my time here add a new dimension to the beauty of this wonderful place.

It was amazing how fast

It was amazing how fast the rains came today. It was so bright and sunny in the morning, and yet it took less than an hour for it all to disappear. That’s how uncertain life is. We never really can tell what is going to happen.

The school came alive again. All the colour that was missing during spring break flowed out of classrooms, buildings, eateries. UA is not the place or the institution, but the students that make up this one huge living learning organism.

Going back to class was an ambivalent feeling. I was happy that I had a good routine going again, yet the freedom of time without obligation was nice. I only wish I had made better use of it. Sitting there, doing math, the brain felt alive again. There’s still so much to learn, so much to see and know. I’m starting to worry over grades and stuff, but I know I shouldn’t. I guess it’s the pressure of keeping the UA scholarship that gets to me. I don’t want to burden my parents financially, and at the same time, I fear so much of becoming a result-orientated, life-blind person. That would defeat the purpose of education, or even life.

Home is Where His Heart Is

I just got off the phone after a most wonderful one hour talk with Faith. The prepaid phone cards here are really cheap, and it’s definitely worth paying a little for such a beautiful time. We spoke about things the happenings back in Singapore, and my general day, which was good.

I went to a new church today. The First Southern Baptist Church. It’s funny how everyone wants to be first. :) I had a good time of learning during their Sunday school lesson and I think I’ll go there for now, or until God gives me clear indication where to go. I also cycled to Tucson Mall, which was a long way from Campus. I had initially thought it impossible, and this minor accomplishment was sort of like a small conquest for me. Now I feel that my bicycle can pretty much take me anywhere, and there’s a sense of freedom. I’m not about to try cycling to Chicago quite yet.

Faith told me that the young people (people around my age) seem to be fading away from Church back home. I feel a sense of sadness. I’m still so very attached to the brothers and sisters I’ve grown up with, and even though physically distant, there’s so much I wish I could do. There I go again, thinking I can solve problems of a higher realm on my own. I know that unless the Lord Jesus Christ move them Himself, no one can. I can sympathise with them. I missed church a few weeks ago, and I must admit that it was tempting to miss it again. To be able to sleep in, laze around, generally have the whole day to oneself was a luxury I haven’t had in some time. I forced myself to get up today, and I thank God I did. Because there is so much God wants to show us if we’d put aside the time for Him to do just that.

Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Changi, please do not fall into the trap I did. There is life in the body of Christ, and because you are the body of Christ you should exhibit the life. The end is coming when being a follower of Christ will become a hard title to live up to, and if we were to fall now, what would we be later? I love you all very very much. Please do not stop fighting the good fight. I need you all, to encourage me, to guide me, to keep me in the body. Let not the decay of the world get into you, for you are a new creation. The old is gone! The new has come. Be not a dog that goes back to its vomit, but be the salt and light of the world. Satan prowls like a roaring lion, waiting to devour us. We need to be alert and be steadfast. I’m depending on you because we are one body. May God be with us all.

To Him be all glory, wisdom and power. Forever, through His people.

A Return to Sanity

March Madness has ended for the city of Tucson. The Arizona Wildcats lost to the Wisconsin Badgers a few minutes ago. A whole year’s work, many hopes and dreams were lost with the game. I personally felt a sense of loss. It’s amazing how much hope we place on an activity that consists of putting a ball into a basket that leaks. Even now, I’m still feeling dazed and disoriented from the see-sawing of emotions that went on during the game. Hope I get it out of my system soon.

Zahid went to the Campus Health Center yesterday and found out that he fractured his foot. It’s not a major fracture, but it’s still a large impediment to everyday living. I’ll do my best to take care of him, and I hope my own strength and patience doesn’t wear out. Guess I have to rely on God’s strength and patience. It was nice to see how his friends rallied around to take care of him, and in a way there was a certain unity.

I went to Mount Lemmon for a barbeque with some of the Singaporeans in Tucson today. There was no snow to be seen this time, or great chocolate pie to be had, but the scenery was beautiful nevertheless. The shadows falling off the rock faces formed an intricate jigsaw puzzle. The intake of greasy food and ultra-salty sausages is not something I like to do to my body, but it was nice to hear English spoken in the native Singaporean accent again. To reminiscence with fellow Singaporeans the food we miss, the places we like to go to, the food we miss….yes we miss the food a LOT.

Looking at some Singaporeans who’ve adopted the American accent over their own, I fear for myself. I’m afraid to lose the sense of who I am. I may speak with an American accent, but only to be understood by my American counterparts. To speak with an American accent to your own people…I feel that it would be a losing of identity…I may be wrong to say that. But it does bring up questions as to who I am, and who I want to be. It’s still a question I have yet to find an answer for.

No Man is an Island

I decided to do some work due next week today. It didn’t take me as long as I thought it would. Spent the rest of the day at the recreation center, playing seven hours of basketball and one hour of table tennis. Yup, I’m aching but it feels good.

Zahid sprained his ankle real bad just as I was about to go home. He refused to go to the doctor, apparently fearing the many horror stories he heard. Where from, I do not know. Anyway, we managed to persuade him, as the ankle did not seem to get better.

While I was carrying him from the car to the dorm, I was reminded of my time in the army, when we performed the same thing on our buddies. The fireman’s lift was used to carry your buddy to safety should he get injured. I think it’s then we discover how much we need to depend on each other. Zahid depended on me today, but I was brought to remember the many that have carried me in my life. My parents, my two sisters, my cousin Matthew, my brother in Christ Erick, and the many, many others. Most recent of them would probably be Pattie and Sarah, whom I’ve never met, but whose emails fill me with hope, with joy and with friendship. I do so need friendship here.

I’ve always been comfortable alone, so I thought. I’ve never been the social animal, or the talkative child. I never felt a need for anyone in my life. That was because they were always there. Now here in Arizona alone, I miss the very ones whom I’ve depended on without even knowing it. Yusman and Haresh, my two closest buddies in the army. We used to go for movies on Tuesday when the ticket prices were lower. I miss them in a weird way. They are from different races - Yusman is Malay and Haresh is Indian. They are from different educational backgrounds. Yet somehow we’ve found a place in each other. We went through hell and high water together, never giving up simply to be there for the other. These are friends I want to keep for the rest of my life. They were the ones who helped me through National Service.

I thank God for the so many of you who have been there for me at any one point in my life. Thank you, mom and dad for being there. I’m sorry if it seemed that I never did need you, or appreciate you. I know now how much I’ve had, and how much awaits for me in your arms when I get home.

March Madness!

It’s amazing how much you can put in one day if you’re just willing to wake up a little earlier. I cut my hair today, played four hours of basketball, did some readings due for next week, did some grocery shopping. Had a fine day in all.

March madness has hit Tucson, and even though the students aren’t back from Spring Break, there is the hustle and bustle of families, high school kids, and LOTS of traffic. For those of you who don’t know what March Madness is, it’s the time when the basketball teams of 64 colleges vie for the NCAA championship. They have to win every match to progress to the next round. Like someone at the gym told me, “you lose at the dance, you go home”. The fever is in the air. Though the city of Tucson largely supports the Arizona Wildcats, we do see the occasional Tar Heel tee-shirt, or UConn, even Duke. To wear anything emblazoned ASU (Arizona State University) would be putting a bounty on your head. Tucson is Wildcat land. I’ve even seen tee-shirts that have a list of ten reasons “Why I go to the U of A”. Some of them go “U of A looks better on the butt of my shorts than ASU”, or “the wildcat is a symbol of nature’s beauty, while the Sun Devil (ASU’s mascot) strongly convinces me that the school advocates devil worship”. The list goes on.

Spring break is coming to an end, and it’s time once again to pack the schoolbags and go to war. I don’t particularly look forward to it, nor do I have any adverse feelings about starting school. It’s one step closer to going home.

The Tucson sky shines with the light of many stars. I may just go to the planetarium tonight for a glimpse of Saturn. Goodnight you all. Sleep well.

The Prodigal Returns

I’m sorry if some of you have come to my website to find no journal entry yesterday - there was none to be found. It was the one month anniversary of my homepage, and the FTP client I have been using expired. For the non-techno geeks, it simply means the program I was using for free to upload my journals onto the server expired.

I went out with some international students today, as part of a Rotary Club activity. I had to give a five minute speech and I did just that. We also went to the Titan Missile Museum, and had a tour of the copper mines here in Arizona.

The Titan Missile Museum is an old missile silo that is no longer active, and used to demonstrate what a missile silo was like back in the 1960s. Though excited to get out of my dorm room at first, the missile silo did depress me a little. It’s quite amazing how much we go through, how much effort we put in just to kill each other. We all share the same dreams. We ran on the same grass when we were children. Yet somehow we have so much hatred for people different from us. We live in fear, and make plans for retaliation, which is just a better-sounding word for revenge. Sometimes I wish so hard that there were something I could do to change all this, then realising that I have to become a politician in order to be in a position to, it puts me off. It’s just another arena of war.

The copper mines was interesting. It was amazing to see how large scale the operations were. They had trucks the size of buildings moving 300 tons of stone at a time. Again I felt that mankind’s insatiable greed was killing the earth. Maybe I’m just in a depressed mood today. I hope I haven’t depressed any of you.

I downloaded some music of the web, some Christian songs I heard as a young Christian. It has touched me so much, and I realise how much closer I want to be to Christ, yet as I grow older there are more and more obstacles placed in my path. I know that the Christian life is one of overcoming, is one of victory. I trust in His strength, but doubt my own. I yearn to be closer, to be nearer, as like I was when I was a young child. To believe without doubt, to trust without fear. I miss those days. I fear I’ve become jaded, and that the faith grows old in me. The Christian life is one of Life, and it lives on. It’s not an experience we get tired of. I’ve just been making the wrong decisions, too afraid to take the steps He tells me to. He has done so much for me, and yet I stand at the threshold, and fear. He does not ridicule me, or rebuke me, but takes me in His arms. He understands my fears totally, and I love Him so much for that. I still want to stand, but now I know that on my own I will only fall. Do pray for me, and for all of us who have turned away from the Light, and are blinded by the things around us.

It's been a rather uneventful

It’s been a rather uneventful day, but Zahid and I have tried to plan the week, so we wouldn’t die from boredom. We’ve borrowed a few videos from Blockbuster, so that should keep us occupied. There isn’t all that much to write about today…and I shall attempt to spare you my endless chatter. Have a good night everyone, and God bless.

In the Still of the Night

The dorms are silent, the school is quiet, the basketball courts are almost empty. Spring break has begun. Without the hustle and bustle of the crowds to distract me, I am reminded how far away from home I am. I used to think that I was quite happy being solitary, and to some extent I am right, but now I know that it is also true when they say no man is an island.

At least I have Zahid with me through all this. Zahid is also an international student from India, and it is his first time away from home. I guess he feels it worse than I do. He tells me that his life at home is a comfortable one, and coming to school so far from home has forced him to adapt, to change, to grow stronger. He no longer finds partying the source of all life, or alcohol its elixir. I thank God that I have been surrounded by like-minded people. We had a good dinner at Burger King’s last night, and had a good talk. I’ve also applied to share a dorm room with him for next year, so I’m hoping it’ll all work out great.

Sometimes when I think about it, what really makes friends stay? I remember so many friends I have had that somehow faded with time. It’s marvelous to meet them again, and though the joy of seeing someone I shared my past with fills me, the inevitable question comes to my mind, “what has happened? Why am I not sharing my present with my friend?” In an ideal world, friends would be like stars, an ever present light in the darkness. In the real world, stars get blocked by clouds, and sometimes even burn themselves out, never to shine again. A change of school, workplace, just the simple act of growing up drives us all apart, but it is amazing that when we do meet again, for that one moment we are transported back to the past, when we were young, when the masks of our faces were thinner. To the many friends that have come and gone in my life, do always know that you’re welcome in my heart, and I’m sorry if there were things I should have done I didn’t do, or things I did which I shouldn’t have. You are the stars that God has placed in my life, and I look upon all of you in totality with a sense of wonder. Thank you all for being there, new stars and old, guiding me. When I see the whole scheme of things, indeed like Javert sings in Les Miserables “stars….in their multitudes, scarce to be counted, filling the darkness, with order and light”. God has placed all of you in your places, and I will try my best to never let all of you out of my sight.

The Handiwork of God

Today has been a most wonderful day. I attended the optional language lesson, where only me and another student showed up. It was an informal time of chatting and good fun. I learnt a great deal about Gorillas and Chimpanzees, even though I should be an expert, having two sisters at home (just kidding). Our teaching assistant Katsutoshi Ohno was more than willing to help. Though his level of spoken English may not be perfect, his sincerity comes across in much louder tones. It is evident that he enjoys his work, and speaks with great passion.

The other student, Seajay was someone I didn’t expect to find at the class. I have to admit that despite my best efforts, first impressions (often wrong) still get imprinted in my mind. When I first saw Seajay, he came across as a rather large specimen of the American male depicted in the movies. Clad in leather jacket and a cap, it was easy to dismiss him another jock in a school full of them. Boy was I ever so wrong.

I spoke to Seajay today, and we spoke, and spoke, and spoke. For that one moment, I was invited into a journey that was fascinating and filled with the glory of God. It was the journey of Seajay’s life. He was a successful businessman by his late twenties, very successful by any standard. He had it all - cars, houses - anything material one could strive to have. One would expect him to live happily ever after.

I found it amazing that Seajay would speak to me with such honesty, that there came a point of time in his life that he knew he had nothing at all. That on a quiet night, he would look to God on the steps of Old Main, and find a Saviour who would save him. It was the most beautiful moment, I can imagine. As Michael Card put it “to look into your Judge’s face, and find a Saviour there”. Too often we as Christians live a life numbed to God’s leading. We fail to see how the ways of the world have made us dead, rather than alive. We stop being dependent on the Source of all Life.

I see in Seajay’s eyes the wondrous joy of a new life, and I see a seed being laid for this new life to triumph over the old. He takes so much joy in learning, and he absolutely loves the University - the hustle and bustle of a people going about obtaining knowledge. I have found someone who feels exactly the way I feel. It is an amazing work indeed the Lord has done. I stood in the presence of the handiwork of the Most High. No power on earth could change a soul like that. I stood in awe.

It is a reminder to keep the Lord in the centre of my life, to constantly seek Him, and search Him out. To not take for granted His grace and goodness. To redeem the time, like the bible said.

Seajay and I spent the whole afternoon together, and he brought me to the most beautiful places on earth. Being cooped up in my dorm room for the past three months, I was beginning to think that Tucson was the size of the campus. Tucson is indeed beautiful. We went to Mount Lemmon, the southernmost ski resort in the United States, and there was snow. At 8000 feet up, we could see for miles, with the peak of other mountains peeking over the clouds far out in the horizon. There was pure white snow on the ground, and children making snowmen and playing with snowballs. The green of the fir trees, the deep blue of the sky, and the stark white of the snow. It doesn’t look much better than this. We sat at a cafe at the top of Mount Lemmon and got some pie to eat. Seajay said that the pie alone was worth the trip. After one mouthful, I had no doubts about that. Chocolate laced warm pastry. My mouth waters even as I type it out. With vanilla ice-cream! We almost froze to death sitting outside in the cold eating that pie. The sun was setting, and the temperature fell real quickly.

The wonderful thing about Tucson is this : twenty minutes drive down the mountain, the temperature was a nice comfortable 23 degrees Celsius, and we drove with the convertible’s top down. Where else on earth do you get such diversity?

It really was a most wonderful day. The mountains, sky and snow were great, but the wonder of God’s creation in Seajay was awesome.

Cultural Differences in Giving

Again I apologise for my tardiness in updating this entry. I just finished a one thousand five hundred word paper for my English class. It was a long essay about the one topic you find ever so often in my journals - the topic of competition and how it affects the entire of humankind in the most detrimental way.

It’s funny though, that as I’m so impassioned about the need to remove competition from our society, I also have one eye on the Arizona-Stanford game on the television set in my neighbour’s room. We WON!!! We beat the number one team twice!!! I know….with all my conviction I still get a high belonging to a winning team. I hope to find the equilibrium where I can find my peace someday.

Sigh…I just got into an argument with Silas, who lives right next to me. He comes in a lot of the time, hoping to play a computer game on my computer. Most of the times I’m ok with it, but with the recent workload, I guess I haven’t been as nice as I’d like to be. While it’s logical that I need my space, and that it’s alright for me to expect that of Silas, I find myself ashamed of not being as “nice” as I’d like to be.

I guess it’s a different culture in America that I have yet to get used to. I see Andy jumping on Kieron’s bed, and I told him that we never ever do that back home. Silas comes into my room to get some milk, I told him he couldn’t because Kieron paid for the milk this time round. I would be totally fine with it if I paid. Andy and Silas then told me that in America, it’s the other way round. It should be ok with me because I didn’t pay for it, and not ok with me if I did. I don’t think I could ever do that, and I hope I’ll never learn.

Spring break is coming up, and already some of the people here have left to see family, or go on vacations. I’m almost done with homework due after Spring break and I hope I’ll find something to do. Zahid, who is an international student from India, has been someone I’ve been trying to take care of this whole time. He’s been feeling depressed and down, after a break up with his girlfriend and away from home for the first time. I’ve applied to share a dorm with him next year. I hope everything will go fine. There are some cultural differences between us, but we’re still Asian in thinking.

For those of you who have been reading my journals. I would like to tell all of you that I appreciate your interest, and I hope that my journals have been somewhat enlightening and interesting. It is an interactive experience, so I do hope that if you have any thoughts from reading it, you’ll email me, and it’ll affect my next journal entry, because you affected my life etc.

I have to go. It’s late. Maybe I’ll let Silas sneak in just one game. Am I too nice?

The Melancholy of Stars

“The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom’s dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun.” These optimistic words uttered by the young girl Annie in the musical of the same name have often given most of us hope. The sun did rise in the Tucson skies today, after a good break of almost three days. With the rains, there was snowfall in the nearby mountains, and some innovative college kids drove up to the mountains in the morning, brought down a truckload full of snow, and snowmen started appearing on campus grounds. It’s almost hilarious. Little snowmen standing by the road, in front of buildings, where everyone was certain no snow had fallen to the ground. Dressed in little scarves and some having AA sized batteries for eyes, it was a comical sight. Too bad it didn’t last as long as we hoped.

The weather’s still cold out here, and I’m wearing quite a bit more than usual. We were so cocky about signing a form to turn off the heat two months ago, many of us pretty sure the winter was oh so mild. Guess the winter just decided to pay a visit later. Now, shivering in our sweatpants, we are only thankful that the form we signed to turn ON the air-conditioning was only half-filled. BBBrrrrrr…..

There’s a certain melancholy in my heart tonight. The poet Neruda’s poem comes to mind “I write the saddest verses tonight. Write for example, ‘the night sky is full of stars…’”. I have nothing to be sad about, yet this melancholy hangs about me like a dark shroud. I suppose it’s because Spring break is coming. It’s one week without school, and for me, without friends who will be going back to Phoenix, and without my family or loved ones to visit and to hold. I’ve ordered some DVDs from Amazon.com and got a few books to tide me through this week. That should do the trick, I hope.

I could write the saddest verses tonight, but I won’t. For in Him I have so much I do not deserve. I close mine eyes, and He takes me for a walk, through His boulevard of stars. And there, may I see everything clearly.

Happy Birthday

Though it be March the seventh in Arizona, somewhere across the horizon in the small island of Singapore, the sun has risen on March 8th. It is Faith’s birthday, and it’s the first time in a long time I’m not spending it with her. She has been one of the most wonderful blessings I’ve had in my life on earth, always strengthening me and keeping my head up. It’s hard to think that such a day so many years ago, a baby girl was born that would change my life in the way she has. I can only stand back and thank God for it all.

I guess Faith has been like a passing name for some of you reading this. She’s my girlfriend of eight years, and having endured through thick and thin with me, I have found so much of a soul mate in her. I’ve always had the tendency to become cynical, due to an inherent ability I have to see “through” people. She taught me to trust, and believe in people, even if I did see their motives and predict them at an alarming accuracy. I learnt that if we believed in someone enough, more often than not the person would take a turn for the better. It is the duality of human nature, both earthly and divine, that makes us so uniquely fascinating.

I look in Faith’s eyes, and I am fascinated, every single time. I won’t make sweeping statements like she’s the most beautiful girl in the world, or she’s the most wonderful person in the universe, for I don’t know that many people. One thing I do know is that she IS beautiful beyond words, and wonderful beyond what my mind can grasp. If my soul mate who is human thrills me such, imagine being face to face with the One who created us!

Thank you Faith, for the many wonderful years together. We learnt so much together, were so blest by God in so many many ways. I know not what the future holds, but I entrust it to God, and I know that you do too. I know that if we place Him first place in our lives, even above our relationship, everything will be well. I thank God so much for you every time I’m with you, every time I think of you, and I know that He has made it totally perfect, that you would come in my life. You have made me so much of a better person, and so much of what I am is what God has done through you. I have not the words of the poet Neruda, nor the hands of the great painter Michaelangelo, but I share the heart of them both. And even then, my heart is not large enough to hold all the love that I’ve been given by God through you. Indeed, my floodgates burst open with blessing. Thank you dearest. Have a most blessed birthday. Hang in there, God willing, I’ll be home soon.

For you who are reading, Shaggy fell sick and it was inevitable that we had to put her to sleep. It is with a mixture of the greatest joy and melancholy that I pen this. I know that all things, ALL things work for the good of them that love God and are called according to His purpose. May we all abide in His arms.

My American Neighbours

I apologise if some of you have come to my website hoping for an update. It came pretty late today. Mondays are my longest days, but today the three hour science lab lesson was cancelled. I think Jennifer may have gone down with the flu. I’m hoping not. They sure have one colossal flu bug here.

Just came back from the recreation center after a game of basketball. It was a good time today, not just because we won, but because we were comfortable. I figured that attitudes were contagious, and I tried my best to show good attitude, and it rubbed off. I made it a point not to get mad or show disappointment with my teammate’s mistakes, and I worked hard on the court. When the element of competition is taken away from the game, people play better just solely concentrating on the task at hand, that is getting the ball into the hoop, rather than dominating others.

The skies have been grey the entire day, pouring down an endless barrage of rain. I don’t think it has rained so much for a long time. Even the students that have been here for a long time are surprised at the amount of water. It’s not even the monsoon season yet, that’s in June and July. Kieron, an architecture major, told me how the streets were not meant for such weather, and had insufficient drainage to lead the water away. Huge puddles formed everywhere. I had to wade through small lakes to get to the recreation center. Good thing I bought my waterproof nikes a long time ago. So with dry feet, a warm sweater and track pants, I write this before I sleep with a tummy full of pizza. It has been a good day, blest by God, and I am thankful.

Andy, my neighbour, sits beside me as I type this out, trying hard to study his chemistry, intermittently broken by chit-chat. He has been a good companion, and seems mature beyond his years. Silas, on the other hand, it quite the opposite. The gun-toting, trash-talking guy on cyberspace, playing shooting games online, he comes across as what we at home would classify as American. Brash and full of haughty words. It is so wrong to stereotype, and I mean anybody, because in doing that we have failed to see the depth of a person, the entirety of character. Silas, though full of youthful energy, is very much a man in the making, figuring out the world for himself. I am blessed to be in contact with these two fine young men, and in some ways I hope to influence them positively, and in other ways I hope to learn some things from them.

Spring break comes next week, and I have seven whole days to fill with activity. I have something planned for Tuesday, as I am required to introduce myself, my country and my viewpoint of Arizona. I don’t know yet what to say, there’s been so much I learn, about this foreign land, about the world in which we live, about God, and most of all about myself. I hope not to have bored you in endless repetitive chatter, but the magnitude of knowledge to be found is awesome. It is my hope that some of my enthusiasm rubs off on you, that you too might be awed by the wonderful creation that is around us, and that somehow you may look into the eyes of the Creator, who loves us so much.

Doggone No More!

It has been a totally uneventful Sunday. I was too lazy even to go to the nearby market by bicycle. I slept quite a bit today, taking a pretty long nap after a lunch packed with carbohydrates. Good thing I play basketball often enough to prevent obesity.

After speaking to Faith this morning, I found out that Shaggy is ALIVE!!!!!!!! She’s still at home, plodding away! My family apparently couldn’t bring themselves to put her to sleep. In a way I’m so thankful, but the question about whether she’s suffering or not still hasn’t been answered. I’d rather let God make the decision than myself. I don’t even want to think about euthanasia. I can’t even make the decision for a dog, let alone a human being. I know that God knows all, and should leave those decisions to Him. He knows what is best after all.

I printed out some soccer news for Kieron, and he was overjoyed. He left me a note “Lucian - You’re a STAR! Thank you very much for the print-outs!” Well, the little things we can do to make each other’s lives a little more bearable.

I’m still looking for a church that I can attend. Having been in Changi Christian Assembly for so much of my life, it’s hard to adapt to another church, and it’s a very important choice that will affect my life. I did write about the Chinese church that I attended, and though I felt most comfortable there, it’s difficult to serve in a church where my language skills are less than proficient. Maybe it’s God’s way, I have yet to know. Do keep me in prayer for this aspect.

I downloaded a whole lot of music MP3s, all songs from the 80s, that I haven’t heard since my childhood. It brings back so many memories of time spent with my nanny’s children. It is a time that affected me profoundly, and the music brings me back right into the thoughts I had back then. I think of little children now and wonder what their thoughts might be, and realise that we give them too little credit for their depth of thought.

Faith told me about Erick’s problems in the music ministry he’s involved in at school. It’s hard to coordinate so many people to serve the Lord. A few words of encouragement came to me when I heard about his problems though. We must realise that when we chose to serve, we gave up ourselves to the Lord. “He who loses his life for My sake shall find it”, so Jesus said. It’s not a literal death He was speaking about, but a deeper one. The bible is so full of paradoxes. When we give our lives to the Lord, we actually find it, and realise that we never were alive at all. When we serve the Lord, we cannot let ourselves get in the way. It’s not easy I admit, but with God all things are possible.

Loss

It’s a grey and windy day today. It looked almost like a downpour was imminent, but this being Arizona wouldn’t have it that way. This morning I struggled to hard to get the chat program working so I could chat with Faith. We eventually gave up, resorting to mIRC, a simpler, more reliable program. For those of you who use the computer only as a typewriter with a spellchecker, mIRC is a program that enables people to chat with one another over the internet.

I spoke with my sister today, and she told me that Shaggy, our dog, was finally put to sleep. Shaggy has been with us for so many years, and I remember the first time I brought it home from the streets. I fed it some food, and it followed me, and refused to go on living the life of a stray dog. She was so lean then. Over the years she has gained a considerable amount of weight, and in her last days she was literally blind, had problems walking, and (we thought) was in pain. It seemed only logical to put her to sleep. When I heard the news, my heart skipped a beat, and I questioned my initial stand. I miss my dog, even though she wasn’t much fun to play with, having come from the streets and still having the ghetto mentality. She was named “Shaggy” by my younger sister Louelle, who called her such simply because my auntie had a dog named Shaggy. Shaggy is by no means shaggy. She’s very short-haired, and it’s a total contradiction. I was told that she looked sad when she was brought to the vet to be put to sleep. Did I make a wrong choice? Was I too unfeeling then? I guess we’ll never know. Min (the older of my two younger sisters), tried to console me with the phrase “all dogs go to heaven”. I hope so. It almost amazes me how much of a child I am when you scrape under the surface. I’m here, away from home, highly independent, and feeling for my dog. I don’t want to be unfeeling, or numb. I choose to feel love, and pain, and other people’s happiness and sadness. Shaggy, I should have looked into your eyes and asked you. Now I can only hope I made the right choice.

The A level results were released today, and the future of our nation’s youth were drastically pigeonholed in one brief moment. For those not familiar with the British system of education, the A levels are equivalent to the finals of two years attendance at a Junior College, which enables you entry to a university. You are judged by your grades…’A’,’B’,’C’…..it seemed like these letters dictate our future, what we can become, what we cannot, and what people think of us. It’s sad that some parents value the grades more than the children themselves. While it can be said the parent wants the best for the children, the grade does not make the child, though in our society is sadly limits the child’s potential. So far, I’ve yet to have a friend who is truly happy with their results. A dark cloud seem to have loomed over their once sunny faces, and smiles obliterated into worried, wrinkled visages. My friends, treasure not the things of the earth, for they will all fade away. The triumph of good grades get so quickly replaced by the need for acquisition of good grades for a more advanced examination. It never does end. But God, who stands by all of us, has the whole world in His hands, and as He values the sparrow, He values us. Oh how much more He values us. It may seem easy for me to say all this, not being in the same situation. I say this as a friend, a brother, and also in the hope that if one day you see me sitting by the roadside in despair, you will say the same thing to encourage me.

Look Up, But Keep An Eye Out

The weekend came real fast. It seemed barely a minute ago I was getting ready for Monday. It’s dark out, and as I cycled back to my dorm from the basketball courts the sky turned a dark azure, with shades of deep turquoise where the sun was a moment ago. It gets lonely on the weekends, and it’s funny how I actually wait for it during the week, and when it does come, I find myself alone yet again.

I tried to call Faith over the Internet Phone, and somehow the Internet connection here in my room is not working. It’s so frustrating. It’s so close yet so far. I normally speak to her in the mornings but we’ve switched to using text based chat so I wouldn’t disturb Kieron as much. I’ve always known that her voice meant a lot to me, but only now do I know how much. It soothes me and keeps me company, a wonderful ring in my ear that touches my soul. Well I believe that God has a reason for everything, and I feel guilty that so many times I don’t seek His voice for company, choosing rather to look around at the things and people around me. I guess that’s the lesson I have to learn.

I received an email from the young girl I mentioned about in my journals on the 29th of February. She told me that she was thinking during class that if we spent too much time looking at the sky, we’d get knocked down by cars. Reality kinda hits us when we want to dream. It’s sad fact, but true. The best answer I can give to that would be let’s keep our eye on the horizon, where we can see the enormous magnitude of wondrous possibility that lie before us, and yet keep an eye out for passing cars. She doesn’t stop amazing me. We so often think that young people have little to say, but I remember clearly of myself as a kid. I had so many questions and concocted so many answers that would be relevant even today.

I have nothing much to say today, except a deep aching lies inside of me as I sit here in my dorm. I miss home, yet it is so unlike me. I’ve always thought of myself as one who was able to put that behind me. Maybe I’m not as strong as I thought. Who said it took a strong character to avoid these feelings anyway? In my opinion, it would probably be an unfeeling person, or one who felt little for anything. In so many ways, I have found my voice here in Arizona. It’s so much easier to bomb your feelings and thoughts when you don’t face people. It gave me a good chance to come clean and honest with people who have known me for the longest time, and indeed, this is who I am, and what goes through my mind. And I have found the most beautiful people because I voiced it out.

God bless you all.

A Walk in the Park

Today was a wonderful day. It had nothing to do with having the second of my two tests this week, or having to hand in an English paper due tomorrow. It was a beautiful day, because it was.

I went to Jennifer (my science Teaching Assistant, if you’ve been following my journals), because I was unable to do my homework due in the afternoon. I had so much on my mind yesterday night I couldn’t study properly. Science requires so much concentration, and with all the tests and papers in the way, I couldn’t muster up enough of that to read through the rather abstract textbook. Anyway, after solving a few problems, we engaged in unacademic chit-chat. She’s doing a PhD in Astro-physics, something I wouldn’t even dream of attempting. I cannot imagine anyone in Singapore wanting to study that, not because we’re not smart enough to, but because we’ve adopted an almost totally pragmatic view to life, and studies. It always has to be economically viable etc. It’s not wrong of course, for it’s only common sense, but there’s the sense of adventure when you choose to study what you love, to learn about things that may not make you money, but will fill you with such awe you find life worth living. Jennifer told me that her first memories of wanting to learn about astronomy started when she was about four, looking out of the window of her family car when they traveled at night, wanting so much to know why stars were so bright, how far they were etc etc. I looked at her now, and she has certainly come a long way since. How many of us have laid down our childhood dreams, only to let them die because we were afraid to take it up? Will mankind ever go beyond the stars, if our only aim is to fill our appetites? Necessity is the mother of invention, some wise person said. What would we have invented ourselves to be, if not for those who saw beyond necessity, and made it a necessity to know, to learn, to discover?

I am not an astronomer, neither am I here studying abstract art. I chose MIS due to pragmatism, and also the fact that I could be good at it. I know the need for money is important for our well-being, but we cannot walk with our heads to the ground, looking for every cent that someone else dropped. We need to look to the sky sometimes, and see the boundless possibilities that await us.

The grassy mall at the U of A

A few moments ago I sat at the Mall (a large patch of grass in the middle of the University), eating an apple pie from McDonald’s. It was something I had wanted to do for so long - sitting at the mall I mean, not the apple pie. The sky was the most wonderful blue, and the red brick of the school buildings held up against it creating a most picturesque scene. The many different people walking past, each seemingly oblivious to each other, were a marvelous blend of colour. Out of nowhere a Rottweiler popped in front of my face, wanting a sniff at the remnants of the pie in my hand. If you’d read about Rottweilers a few years back, you’d know what these animals are capable of. I patted its head, not wanting to share my apple pie with it. It was a most wonderful moment. There was nothing to fear, and I sat there like I were two years old, playing with my pet dog. Those of you who know my dog at home know that it’s impossible to pat it on the head without having your hand dissected from your arm. Its owner whistled and it plodded happily away. Bliss.

My English paper is due tomorrow, and I hear it whistling for attention. I plod away…bliss? Frankly, I’d much rather be here talking to you.

An Imperfect Reflection

Today was a rather eventful day. Kieron came home last night and told me about a preacher he saw at the Mall. For those of you not from the U of A, the mall is a large grass patch in the middle of the University. I saw that preacher today, and stood there a while to listen to what he had to say. He had a large video camera on him, and a microphone and speakers. He had quite a large audience seated before him. What he said wasn’t wrong, it was logical, and in tune to what the bible says. He offered an intellectual argument that Christianity was right, that there was a God. He got his share of opposition from members of the audience, but he did manage to logically pull it off, rebutting them point for point.

The truth of God will stand the test of time, I have no doubt about that. Jesus did say that not a single dot will be erased from the bible. I agreed with what the preacher said, and in many ways my intellect was stimulated. I can’t say I felt totally comfortable with the way and means he did what he did though. I found him a little blunt and insensitive, sometimes asking a particularly participative member of the audience to stop being rude and let others speak. I’m not sure if there’s anything wrong with that, it could be that I come from a culture where courtesy comes in the form of ‘giving face’. We try not to embarrass another. Another thing I felt, was that though some welcome intellectual argument, the belief in Jesus Christ that we have is not solely intellectual. When I say all this, do bear in mind I’m no expert at any of these. The preacher on the mall was well-read, thoroughly versed, and handled every argument with such conciseness and logic it almost seemed blunt.

I know that we are, like Jesus said, to preach to the world, but I feel that our lives speak a lot louder than our words. I may, through hard work and study, win an intellectual argument over an atheist, but have I brought him or her any closer to God? Or have I been caught up with winning the argument that I have forsaken the fact I have to love the person? Love conquers all. We who are Christians are called to love. In Jesus’ day, it was to heal the sick, lame and blind. We still need to do that today. Healing broken hearts and dreams, loving our fellow because love is of God. Not placing the importance of debunking intellectual theories. Arguments may bring one to question the theories of man, and embrace the truth of God. That is a possibility. But if I have not love, I am merely a clanging cymbal.

I judge the preacher not. I think he has devoted his time to a noble cause. He is willing to be the object of hate to some people, and I respect that sacrifice and commitment. Maybe God has His uses for him. For myself, I want so much to love with the love Jesus Christ showed. To love those outcast by society, to want so much to heal them, to touch them. I feel my burden there.

I know that many of you who read this know me very well, even from a young age. I’m sure my parents read this, and they’ve known me from infancy. I’ve not been a stellar example of a Christian, but I hope and pray that if I come to you in all honesty, and tell you of my struggles in my Christian life, that you will not ridicule or judge me, but have a clearer picture of what being a follower of Christ is.

A Quantum Leap

Wow. It’s the 29th of February, and it means the next time I type this out would be four years from now. I came back to my dorm during my one hour lunch break and went to the kitchen downstairs to turn on the television. I never realised how close I had become to Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt. They seem to keep me company every time I eat lunch alone.

I know that after reading many of my journals, it would be quite evident that you’d say “this guy has no friends,” or “he needs to get a life”. Maybe you are right. I have friends, or rather acquaintances. I do not know if I’d meet the same bunch of people again next semester, let alone after I finish my studies here and head back home. On the other hand, I’ve known Paul and Jamie Buchman for a really long time. I’ve seen them quarrel, seen them get back together. In so many ways perfect, yet in so many ways human. I remember falling for the character Jamie at one point in time, like the millions of male viewers who’ve seen the show.

I received an email from a young lady who visited my homepage. I was so amazed at the level of maturity I found in her short mail. She read my journal on “Childlike, Not Childish” and she wrote about how many people tried to cover up their true feelings but wished for the process of growing up to slow down. In her mail she reminded me of the beauty to be found in the eyes of the young, eyes that hold no grudges, eyes that are totally trusting. I breathe her writings in like fresh air, renewing me from the effects growing up has had on me. Becoming more cynical while calling it pragmatism, becoming more critical while calling it more analytical. Let’s not fool ourselves. A lot of us grow up uglier than we first started. To the dear girl who reminded me thus, thank you.

Attitudes are contagious, I found that out yesterday. I played basketball at the recreation center at night, and found that despite my poor level of play thus far, there have been people who have noticed me and wanted me to play with them, saying “he’s got skills”. I played with them, always bearing in mind that pride came only before a fall, and just played for the love of the game. What seemed like a pretty competitive team I was on, slowly softened and played for the sheer joy of it. We won, but we trod on no one. we lost, and we did not blame one another.

I had a good block on one of the plays, where I sent the shot of the opposing team way out of the court. The people watching screamed with exhilaration at the block with phrases like “he took him to school!” or “he totally dominated him!”. It’s not about domination over the other, or trying to embarrass anyone. I patted the guy I blocked on the back and said “sorry man”. He responded with a smile and said “Good defense”. These are the games I want to play, where the basketball remains a basketball, not anything more. We can have a win-win situation even in games, but it is so easy to compete to dominate, to win, and eventually to really lose.

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