Making Light of Things

April 2010 Archives

Singapore is more than just PAP

I took the train on the circle line yesterday night. The opening of the new line has opened up new worlds for me and my family, especially because our house sits no more than 30 metres from one of its train stations. We have endured 6 years of piling and drilling and cement trucks, but all that is in the past. We can now head to Suntec City, and buy dinner home, all in the same time it takes to walk to the nearby hawker centre.

What surprised me on the moderately filled train was that one of the seats reserved for the elderly or physically disabled was left empty despite quite a number of people standing around it. It was nice to see the restraint. As I moved into the train, a young man sitting down offered me his seat, seeing that I had 3 bags of groceries. I smiled but declined; I only had one stop to go.

I stood there wondering if the rare display of courtesy and class was because Singaporeans have adopted a more gracious outlook on communal living or because I was looking at life through the rose-tinted glasses of someone who was just given a brand new train set with which I could traverse new parts of Singapore.

Probably both.

With talk of the elections looming, our main citizen-run political websites The Online Citizen and The Temasek Review have both degenerated into a toxic mess of bile and lost all sense of objectivity. The Temasek Review even recently published a post “The PAP’s Greatest Fear: An Aware, Active and Adversarial Citizenry”.

An adversarial citizenry? What are we, 3 years old? An adversarial citizenry is my greatest fear. If we allow ourselves to be tangled in this web of unresolved pre-pubescent angst, we will miss the forest for the trees.

Our elected representatives (yes, yes some are there via walkovers…) by virtue of the post, represent us. But if we do not know what we stand for, we cannot blame an overly draconian hand. We cannot enjoy the comforts we have, head to the homes we have, use a computer we can afford, broadband that is available, to complain unreasonably about the government that was chiefly instrumental in putting all these things in play.

There are many of us out there who enjoy the greenery of our parks, drink freely from our taps and are thankful for friends and family we have here by our side. We cannot afford to be a silent majority while a very vocal, very bitter, technologically savvy minority dominates this side of the discourse. It’s absurd that the state-controlled mainstream media publishes prozac-induced fairy-tales far too often, but to knee-jerk to the other extreme isn’t balancing it out, it’s creating an environment of schizophrenia.

A blogger expressed this frustration best in his Rocksonesque blog post “oi cheebye, be moderate can?

Yes, the elections are coming. Yes we need to hold our politicians accountable for the promises they make. But there is a greater pressing need for Singaporeans to be able to answer this simple question:

Define Singapore.

We could complain about a whole lot of stuff. Most of which are valid. But surely there’s more we can do. I’m not talking about protests or demonstrations. I’m talking about leaving the reserved seat empty for whomever needs it, or offering to give up your seat for the perfectly healthy guy carrying groceries.

The answer to “Define Singapore” should be, “Yes we will”, and not some theoretical debate on some obscure blog.


Caleb going for x-rayIt’s odd how deep we sink during the low times of our lives, and how quickly the mind forgets them all when things get better. And yet it is in the remembrance of these times where we learn to truly treasure what we have and understand how futile our attempts to hold on to them. And ultimately at the heart of it all, that we depend solely on the grace of God.

Caleb was admitted into the hospital last week. He had been suffering from a fever that refused to go away. We had spent nights sponging his forehead trying to get the temperature down, and finally after a week Faith decided to take him to a pediatrician. It was recommended that Caleb be hospitalised immediately, so we did just that.

Because Caleb’s digestive system wasn’t taking well to the antibiotics, we had no choice but to supply his medication intravenously. I placed him on the steel table, where he was bound tightly with a huge blanket, exposing only one arm. He kept looking at the pediatrician, unsure about what was to come. And I was frantically fiddling with my iPhone, trying desperately to pull up an episode of Postman Pat from Youtube. The 3G network kicked in, Caleb was distracted for a moment, and the doctor slid the needle in without so much as a confused whimper. I glowed with pained pride — my brave boy.

His arm was placed in a splint so he couldn’t bend his wrist for fear the embedded needle would fall out. His other arm was also placed in a splint so his couldn’t claw at the arm with the needle. So there we had it: a boy who flapped his open paws, upset by the fact he couldn’t do the one thing he loved the most: play Plants vs Zombies on the iPhone.

I spent the first 2 nights with Caleb. Holding him, telling him that everything was going to be ok. There were moments I wondered if it was; the doctor couldn’t tell us what he was suffering from, and the fever didn’t subside. We had baths in the middle of the night whenever the fever got too high, and even then it only provided very temporary relief. The most difficult part of it all was having to constantly distracting him from the fact Faith wasn’t around. She was busy looking after Anne, and both of them also seemed to be coming down with the bug.

“Mummy. Mummy. Mummy.” went the endless refrain. Amid the tears, he would kick himself free from my grasp, trying to get to the floor. And there I was desperately trying to hold on to him, knowing that if I lost my grip, he would bolt, and the intravenous tube would rip the needle out the back of his hand.

That was only a few days ago, but it seems like a faraway dream. Now that the adrenaline has worn out, a new work week has begun and I have little time to collapse in a pile. Caleb has totally recovered and is back to his mischievous self. Anne and Faith are on the mend.

I put Anne to bed, kiss her on the cheek, think about my brave boy and my beautiful partner of a wife. And I take a moment to breathe it all in.

There’s a sweetness in the air, and I can scarcely grasp on to it as I could the elusive smell of flowers in the morning. It is the smell of grace, and of God’s mercy for today. We cannot hoard these things, but we can share them with others who are undergoing their own low tides in life.

We do not lose any light when lighting another person’s candle with our own.

Your Orientation, My Orientation

It’s been a while since I was in school, but I remember those days as the absolute best in my life. There’s a camaraderie you will only ever find in school. It is untainted by the hidden agendas brought about by status and station in life. Everyone is a student on this transient journey of self-discovery.

So when I took up the camera to document Temasek Polytechnic’s Freshmen Orientation, it was hard not to be drawn into the sheer energy of youth; exhibited in bold cheers as students of the six different schools within the Polytechnic rallied around their collective identities.

What the freshmen didn’t know was that while I was documenting their induction, I was learning about the institution I had become a part of only one week before. For the first time, I saw the students perform the traditional mass dance and go absolutely nuts cheering on their dragonboat team.

In the midst of the screaming, the shouting, and the tears they shed after orientation ended, I remember thinking to myself: there’s something special here.

There’s something special here.

A Day in the Life

My work desk

It’s the end of week one here at the new workplace. I’ve so many ideas, and the environment seems so perfectly charged to create amazing things. As with any workplace, we will inevitably meet the boundaries of what can be done, but it is in these constraints that we find a definition in design. Contrary to popular belief, total freedom is detrimental to design; the lack of constraints represents a lack of problems, and design is meant to solve problems.

That’s my design philosophy anyway, and I’m hoping to bring a little more structure into this fantastically creative team. It’s ironic that my previous job at MOE was bringing creativity into an overly (my opinion, anyway) structured environment. The time there has really helped solidify what I do, and I will always be grateful for the 4+ years spent there.

Guess I’ve jumped a little ahead of myself.

I’ve joined Temasek Polytechnic’s corporate communications team and will be overseeing most online communication efforts. My first mountain of tasks involve an overhaul of the online communication infrastructure. Content will likely be migrated across servers, central online services set up and put into play, the establishing of some formal processes — stuff most folks won’t think of as fun, but necessary for a robust platform for some flat-out gorgeous storytelling.

It’s the calm before the storm here at TP. The school term officially starts near end-April, but you can almost feel a tangible energy in the air. Some freshmen orientation programmes have begun, and it has been so liberating to be able to run down the hallways, Canon G9 in hand, and casually filming the power and volume of youth.

The school is located next to Bedok Reservoir. I’ve always remembered it as a drab gravel-covered path around a body of water we were forced to run around once a year during my secondary school’s annual cross-country run. But oh my goodness, the reservoir is gorgeous. TP’s rowing teams train in the water and there’s a huge regatta next Friday marking the end of the freshmen orientations.

The talent and tapestry is so extremely rich here at Temasek Poly. I’m truly blessed to be able to capture and tell the many stories crafted here in this oasis.


Anne kissing Caleb on their birthday

A few hours ago, exactly 5 years from that moment, Faith’s waterbag broke and Anne was born. I remember very distinctly those first few nights, totally unsure if I could last a single week of this incessant wailing, I penned down “Surviving Day Three”, a post of utter exasperation and fatigue.

This evening as I sat beside her, Anne asked, “How was your work?” My little daughter is now taking care of me, and everything — all the hair-pulling and sleep deprivation — is forgiven.

My daughter loves me, and that is God’s grace made sufficient for me.

A few hours from now, exactly 2 years ago, Faith’s waterbag broke. In the midst of epidural that didn’t work, Caleb was born. Truth be told, it took me a while to get to know and love Anne. I wasn’t sure if I had a heart big enough for both my kids. And over the last 2 years, in his own bumbly way, Caleb bowled us all over with his smile.

Tonight he read the words “bus”, “apple”, “orange”, “nose”, “ears”, “banana” and “hand” off his flashcards, learning a new word (“toe”).

Faith and I constantly look in amazement. There’s a little twang that comes with the reminder of how quickly they’re growing up, and that every moment lost is a moment lost forever.

I wish I wrote more, photographed more, tasted more, loved more, breathed in more of life. And I wish words were better suited to articulated the fullness that God has laid therein.

God watch over you, my two little ones.

« March 2010
Main Index
May 2010 »