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Artificial Irritation

It's been some weekend on IRC. For those of you unfamiliar with IRC, it stands for Internet Relay Chat. I often frequent the #poetry channel on Galaxynet servers. It's almost amazing. I've been there a few years now, but these past two days we've seen the most interesting ways in which people can irritate others online.
Just Saturday evening I had to ban someone from the channel for being a public nuisance. As usual I tried to reason with the person, hoping there was a misunderstanding of sorts. After a short while, another operator in the channel (who wasn't as patient) decided enough was enough, and banned the person from the channel. In the next 48 hours, I would have two people tell me how stupid I was, for no apparent reason at all. One of them blamed me for putting poetry on the channel and told me to shut up. I looked at the channel name #poetry, and was utterly shocked and amazed at this person's lack of literacy. The other just muttered nonsense, saying he was drunk and all, and started insulting others in the channel.
Just when I thought IRC idiot weekend was over, it got extended to include Monday. A few hours ago, there was a smart-aleck in the channel who seemed to have tabs on everyone with a religious belief. He/she positioned him/herself as an agnostic, and apparently had an immense sense of ego. As usual, I just stated my beliefs, not criticizing the other person's belief. I got called incompetent, and the works. I just cannot believe how some people think they have the answers to the creation of the world, when in fact all of humankind live in constant discovery of the seemingly simple things around us. We have yet to even scrape the surface of creation, and yet we have people who deny the existence of God. It wasn't too long ago when the earth was thought of as flat, and we have people who question the nature of God.
I'm not forcing the bible on anyone. I believe what I believe, because God has been real to me in my life. I know there are so many things I do not know, and therefore I won't argue the theories of creation, for I know they are but a movement of hands who belong to one greater than myself. I do not say I know what is cosmic in nature, for my knowledge is so small, compared to the almost infinite universe we live in.
I'm enthralled by the works of creation that is all around me. I'm amazed at mathematic laws, at the consistency of Physics, at the wonder of words. We are discovering this as we go along. No one can claim to even have invented any of this. The word discover means only to uncover what is hidden. It has always been there. I was shocked at this person's lack of awe, when faced with infinity.
I also learnt something about myself. Despite my best efforts, I get defensive whenever someone judges me as incompetent or stupid. I get offended when I get slighted. I know some of you think of it as human nature, and you're probably right, but it's not Christian nature. I'm not being self-righteous, which is why I'm even telling you my weakness, but I know what I should be, and what I should not.
I always look out for friends online when I meet people that irritate me. I ask them urgently to hold me back, to help me. I've found new friends, and I treasure the old ones. They watch out for me, that the Hyde inside does not take full reign of the things I say or do. They were there for me these few days. Indeed they were godsend, to see that the worst of me didn't fully manifest itself. Thank you, Navelle, Nadir and Romzie for watching over me and standing up for me. I appreciate it.
So even though it seemed that it had been a horrible weekend, some friendships were formed, and others forged in gold.

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Search for a Church

Being a constant receiver of Ruth's Wit and Wisdom series, I must say it's the most weird combination of heartwarming, hilarity and innocence packed in one line. To those English experts out there, yes I know that the last line was a bending of your inflexible grammatical laws. I apologize for the intrusion, do forgive me my apparent lack of vocabulary…heartwarmth just didn't sound the same, and warmth was too broad a word. Those of you who don't know who Ruth is, she's a little girl in church who's shown the most enthusiasm in obtaining a hotmail account since Bill Gates. Oh, Bill is NOT a little girl, I'm sorry about that.
I've been looking for a church for some time now. It's almost like detective work, you need to ask the right questions, ask the right people, and have an instinct for what God wants you to do.
I've been to a few. I went to one that was pretty charismatic, the population made up mostly of college students. Another was a Methodist church that seemed to be run by women. And there was the Presbyterian church that had a short morning meeting with a really small congregation.
Don't get me wrong. I have no problems with college students, women or small congregations. The one thing that I felt uncomfortable about was that they asked for money upfront. I was reading Matthew when Jesus sent His disciples out into the world, that He told them not to bring money, much less ask of it. I'm in no position to argue this case, I know there are also places in the bible that state that a worker is owed his/her dues. It just didn't feel right to me.
I got a tip off after asking the Chinese food place I eat occasionally at, that there was a Chinese church at fifth and sixth (for those of you unfamiliar with American road systems, it's the intersection between fifth street and sixth avenue). I've looked for it before, finding only a First Baptist Church, with the Pastor's name in a small sign in front of the church. I'm not a linguist, but I was pretty sure that wasn't Chinese.
I decided to go there and try looking again this morning. I cycled there, looked at the sign, and wondered aloud to God where the Chinese church could be. I cycled aimlessly around and came to an intersection. Waiting for the cars to pass, I saw a car with two Chinese in it, dressed up pretty nicely. No one wakes up early Sunday morning and dresses nicely unless going to church! A low-speed pursuit entailed (hey you try chasing a car in a bicycle). I lost them at one of the turnings, and I decided to head back nearer my dorm. Passing by First Baptist again, I saw that car parked opposite the church. Then I saw a few more cars coming and stopping in front of the small building owned by First Baptist and used as an "educational center". More Chinese stepped out, and went into the building. I felt like I struck gold.
I spent the next ten minutes looking for a place to park my bicycle. I gave up, and just asked another Chinese passer-by. I brought my bicycle into the church and placed it beside the wall. They meet at the basement of this building, in a small and unflamboyant manner. It's a small gathering that reminded so much of church back home. The testimony by an elder sister was good, about how she overcame cancer, and what God told her through it all. It was the longest service I've attended since coming to Tucson, ending at around 1 in the afternoon, but I know that God doesn't ask of us what He's not prepared to give. The offering box lay inconspicuously at the side of the door.
Being new, I had to stand up and introduce myself. It's been so long since I was new. There was a sense of belonging though, despite the small differences. I felt amazed by God's hand, that despite being half-way round the earth, here were His people, worshipping Him in the same way, all through the years. I may attend this church from now on. Oh, did I mention the church had the entire service in Mandarin? Left the place with a headache, but at least I had my share of spiritual nourishment. Thank God.

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Friend in the Hood

Came back from playing a game of basketball, had a shower, and am now waiting for my food to heat up in the rice cooker. It's a beautiful night, and the full moon is shining brightly in the sky. That reminds me – I have to measure the diameter of the moon using trigonometry for my science lab report due Monday.
That's the kind of things we do here at the U of A I guess. Though seemingly pointless, it's the application of theories that so interests me. Now I see how things are used, abstract ideas made concrete. And for those of you who know me really well, a game of basketball always gets my thoughts going about life.
It's not the academic thinking that gets triggered. It's funny, but every time I come back from a game, I get very introspective. I begin to see clearly, about my life, about God, about my relationships. I know that basketball has little to do with these, but it always brings me back. I remember first playing basketball when I was 13. I went to school six hours early, in the wee hours of the morning, just to shoot hoops. There in the cool of the morning I often prayed to God while shooting my three pointers, and I remember committing the basketball game to God. It seems that He speaks to me every time I come back from a game. It's a most blessed thing.
Basketball at the U of A has been an eye opener. They play the game so differently here. They play much more competitively, and therefore the skill level is higher. Actually, it's not a higher skill level, but a different mindset that differs from basketball in Singapore. Back home, it was just a game. Here, every time I step on the court, there would be some session of arguing about a call – often including vulgarities and dark countenances. It seemed that every time I stepped up to play, my love for the game died a little.
I make stupid mistakes I never do at home. I fumble the basketball like I first played the game. I cannot play with that mindset – that if I were to do something wrong, my teammates would be upset with me. It's just too unlike my game, where shots were innocently fired, and friends made. Here, there was always a tension looming over my head like a cloud, waiting for me to make a mistake, to take a bad shot. A glare here, a sigh there, all these just throwing me off, every time.
Today was not such a day. I played full-court for around two hours. Oh, I made those stupid mistakes all right. I missed a shot right under the rim with no one guarding me. I passed the ball to the wrong person twice in the space of two minutes. The person I was guarding was a good foot taller than me. I ran back to play defense after my mistakes – and whispered "my bad" – which apparently means "my mistake" in these parts – to no one in particular.
"Hey no problem man…", I heard him say to me. He ran up and down the court with me, sometimes shaking his head at my mistakes, not in despair, but in jest. I may not have scored any, or done much. But I could feel it coming again, the love of the game that made me put so many hours into the game. Thank you, whoever you are.

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Away From Home Alone

It is Friday once again. It's almost funny, that I hope for Friday during the week, and when it comes, I hope for the week to begin again. It's not that I love school, it's just that the weekends aren't the most happening times for me.
Most people in the dorm that I speak to regularly have gone back to Phoenix, back to their homes and families, and girlfriends. The ones that stay behind do so because they have parties to attend, women to meet and drinks to consume. I'm being presumptuous. But I don't see any of them walking around wondering what to do. That's me.
It's a good thing I came up with the homepage, where I place my thoughts. It keeps me busy, and is a (sort of) relaxing thing for me to do. I intend to go to the Mall this Saturday, but like every other Saturday, the thought of taking the bus, and wasting a day on transport would probably turn me off again.
These few weeks have been cramped with tests and quizzes, and many Wildcats (term for the people of U.A.) walk around with a little stress on their faces. Justin (my neighbour) takes tests very seriously, and to be honest sometimes I worry for him. I guess he's just more goal-oriented than I am.
It's hard not to be. I've done well in the tests I've had till now. I'm afraid of it becoming a game, where people crowd around, watching, waiting for you to drop that ball. The pressure builds up every time you do something good, accumulating to the point you can take it no longer. I do not want to be trapped in that never-ending spiral. I just want to learn, to acknowledge the things I do not yet know, and seek them out. Grades, results, should not contribute to my sense of well-being too much. It's not right to be weighed by your test scores.
It's evening here. Good morning Singapore. I want so much to see the sunshine start to climb over the shadows, and onto the face of my beloved, sprinkling a glitter of magic dust over her eyelashes. The smell of tea, and half-boiled eggs on the table – and I'm home again.

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Utopia is Where You Make of It

After two months of living in a two person dorm room alone, news has finally come that a roommate will be assigned to me. Details on this roommate are really sketchy, and I'm certain some of it is wrong. At least I know THIS is wrong – One, my R.A. (resident assistant for those of you who have never watched Felicity) told me that my new roommate comes from England. Two, my roommate is here on a language course to learn English as a second language. I'm no expert on linguistics, but the word "English" had to come from someplace. I can't even think of another national language used in England. Maybe they switched national languages while I was having my fever.
I'm looking forward to the new roommate, contrary to what most of my other dorm residents think. Having been through the army back home in Singapore, invasion of privacy, lack of personal space, living with other's disgusting habits have become a act as natural as breathing. I look forward to showing someone around, taking care of the person, and watching out for him.
I miss home. It's funny, the scenes that come to my mind are that of Boat Quay and sitting there with my friends by the Singapore River. For those of you who know me, I've only been there twice, and I don't go pubbing. I guess I miss the hustle and bustle of the city beat. I miss Parkway Parade, the place where I spend most of my leisure time. I miss the convenience of having a huge mall just at your backyard.
I miss the possibility of meeting up with friends. I could just say on IRC "hey let's go to Geylang and eat Tao Huay Chui" and there was the possibility of it happening. It has never happened, because I have never asked, and that is because I've never thought of that possibility being taken away from me.
I'm not anti-Singapore, like a lot of vocal people I know. Coming here, it has only proven to me what I always believed. That the Utopia you seek you can never find in a particular place, but in everyplace. It is found in the falling of leaves, in the warm morning sunshine, or in the chaste evening snow. It is found where you want to find it, and finding it, you impress upon your heart a memory of joy that helps us move on.
For those of you not from Singapore reading this "Geylang" is a place in Singapore, and "Tao Huay Chui" is Soya bean milk. Maybe we'll try it together someday.

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A Letter to My Mum

Hi Mummy,
thank you for your reminders. I'll have to get a sieve before I can make the Chrysanthemum tea. I'll do that as soon as I get to the mall. I'm feeling much better, if you haven't already read that in my homepage.
I've just banked in my scholarship money and the balance in the savings account now stands at around ***. The bank has asked me if I wanted to see their investments people to invest it. I'd much rather you do these things, knowing myself, I'd spend too much time analyzing everything. I don't want the money to be stagnant here, earning the measly amount on interest. And it's tying up quite a significant sum you could much rather use. Only problem I see would be the rising US dollar. If you want me to send it back to your account, could you provide me with the details?
How are things at home? I speak to Min on the internet once in a while. She's always doing her literature. Don't think she's found a love for it yet, but at least I don't detect an insurmountable amount of dislike for the wonderful subject. Things are great here, I'm feeling so much better. I couldn't breathe in deep for the past few days, then this morning I sneezed and breathed in deep, and a muscle popped back into place. So everything is ok, except for a slight cough. I'll still stay away from basketball and heaty foods for the next week or so. God has really been watching over me. Haven't heard from you in a while. You must be pretty busy, or did something go wrong with your email connection? I had a job interview, which I recorded down in my journals on my WebPages. I decided not to go for it, even though the money offered seemed to be good. It's a sales job, and I cannot sell something I don't know about to a people I know little about. So I'll be back this summer. Oh, I've to get in touch with the lady at the travel agency, I'll do that by the end of this week…it's been a busy few weeks with lots of tests. I've done very well, but I don't want pride to get to my head (again all this is recorded on my homepage).
Well I've to go do some homework, and readings. You take care. And send my love to Mama, Auntie Lyn, Daddy and the two treasures at home. Tell them that I love them, and I love you.
your son.

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For Want of Simplicity

Just came back from the informational job interview. To think I was really excited about it. It took the people there a good hour before they told us the job. I felt a little funny when we were half an hour in and still talking about the money.
I thank God that the decision wasn't made more difficult for me. I had wanted to go back home to help out in the church camp. Didn't want to rule out this option, so I went for this informative session. They wanted us to sell student handbooks – sort of like school notes for American students who are in high-school. That's definitely one thing I cannot sell. I wasn't even educated here, let alone know the stuff in those books. I don't know about the Constitution, or who the past Presidents were.
Maybe I'll never get used to America. It's not that I don't like it – I do. I had to fill up a form during the session, and the questions went like "what is your greatest strength?" or " what do you consider your greatest accomplishment?" Maybe I'm too Asian to sell myself so bluntly. For the question "what do you think you can develop to enable you to attain success in your life?" I scribbled down "more Godliness".
I guess I want to live the idealistic kind of life Louisa May Alcott wrote about in "Little Women". A life so full of innocence, so full of life. Sigh. It almost feels like I long for the life I never had.

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A Reawakening of a Love Affair

There are some things I know I should do. This is one of them. For those of you
who have already read my update, you'd already know that I'm having one of the worst fevers of my life. It's not so hot as it would seem, but rather I shivered so badly I thought I tore a muscle in my back. I was unable to get up from my bed for a few hours.
It was really depressing. I'm not usually one to get depressed. I've always thought of myself as strong, as someone who could take whatever life and God gave me. I was wrong. I prayed like a little child, not knowing what was ahead. There is no description too great for what I felt at that point in time. I felt like going back to Singapore, back to where people would care for me, and make me feel better. There were points in time when I even thought there was a possibility of my being bed-ridden, for the pain was excruciating and near the middle of my shoulder blades. It was that bad.
Something drew me to read my bible. Not that I don't read my bible, but this time something drew me. I turned to Matthew chapter 8. It spoke so much about
healing of lepers, the healing of Peter's mom (who was also having a fever), the
healing of the Centurion's servant. Funny thing is, it wasn't all these that spoke to me. It was the end of the chapter, where Jesus cured a man of possession and set the demons into a drove of many hogs. The hogs, being now possessed, went right into the sea and drowned. The people of that town then beseeched Jesus to leave that place.
I am like the people of that town. So many times I've been happy with what I have, forgetting the Giver who provided all these. I chose the hogs over Christ Himself. I thought little of being cleansed, and more of the "wealth" that I've come to know in my life. Now, not being sure if I could even walk without hunching badly, I wanted Christ so much. Like the Centurion I knew that He had the power, with just one spoken word to save me.
I slept early (again, something drew me), at 10pm. It's now midnight. I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling. I had left my door slightly ajar, so if things got really bad, I could just shout for help, and not have to open the door. My neighbour knocked at that very moment, and asked me if I knew that my door was open. I don't know why, but that little concern overwhelmed me. I now knew that indeed, He is watching over me. I sat up. (Did you read that??? I sat up!) Walked straight down to the toilet and filled a bottle of water and walked back. I had slept for two hours. Don't think that was enough to do anything…been sleeping the whole weekend and only felt worse. And in that instant I knew that Jesus had spoken the word. And that He was by my side. And I thanked Him, not for the gift, but for the presence.
Coming to type this email, I had received another email from Huiling who said that she'd be praying for me tonight, in Michigan where she's at. And my IRC beeped, and another friend asked me how I was feeling, because I had set my screen-name to Elec_Sick. I KNOW that He cares.

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Empirical Evidence of a Logical God

The much feared science test was today. I wrote in my journals yesterday that I understood science much better – it's amazing what a little pressure can do to you. I wanted to study last night, but only got ten minutes worth of work done before my eyes started tearing. I set my alarm clock to 1am, hoping that two hours of sleep might somehow give me enough energy to study.
*breeep breeep* An arm reaches out, shuts the alarm off, and manages to change the alarms settings to 7am just before slinking back into bed. The 1am alarm was a joke. my body didn't even take it seriously. My mind, on the other hand, reasoned that I had around two hours between classes in the morning. My mind, obviously forgot about the time I take to walk from place to place, and the breakfast I had to eat.
One more hour. I arrive at the Physics and Atmospheric Sciences Building early, got seated down on any available chair, took out my notes…and oh my gosh…..it looked like greek to me. Slightly flustered and almost panicking, I pull out a few sheets in my notebook that I had not know existed. "Sample Exam"….I flipped through it, trying to solve questions. Only thing I accomplished was getting more flustered. I made careless mistakes, and things that once were clear…now weren't. Study study….
Ten more minutes. I'm just starting to understand things again…and I don't have enough time. If only…oh whaddahey, I'll just trudge in to face my fate.
On seeing the paper, I set out to do the first question. I remember having to do four out of five of the questions. I chose a simple velocity problem. It was a problem alright. No, it wasn't difficult. I just couldn't solve it for some reason. It took me a good ten-fifteen minutes to finally see my stupid mistakes and get it down. I could do three of the four calculation questions. Question number one was this historical question, about Ptolemy and his ancient friends, and covered scientific history all the way to Newton. I had intended to leave the historical question out, then I read the instructions – Do Question ONE, then choose three out of four. I had to do question one??? But…but…
Argh. Just scribbled a few names I could recall on the paper. Then I wrote. And I wrote, and I wrote. It all started coming back to me. Names, theories, everything started making sense again. By the end of it I felt so impassioned about Newton and his contribution to science that I scared myself. I was starting to sound like some physicist who spent his life trying to prove the earth went round the sun.
I only have God to thank for this. He really has been watching over me all this while. I don't know how I'll do for the test, but I do know, that God has given all of us a wonderful mind, whose sole purpose is to understand His. Whether it is by physics, literature, music or math, we see His creation. His beauty in nature, His nature in literature, His logic in math, His amazing symmetry in physics.
Thank you God, and thank you Dr. Donahue for not making it so hard to see the wondrous beauty that is all around us.

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An Introduction

This is my first journal, and I guess I have to begin with a short introduction. That's right, I haven't written my diary in a long time.
I'm a student here at the University of Arizona, and I came here from Singapore about two months ago. It's been tough, coming in the Spring Semester when everyone is already settled into their little niches, with friends of their own. I have made a few friends, but there's nothing like starting out in a new place with people who are as lost as you are.
Woke up today and boy did my back ache. Took me a while to figure out I was suffering from the flu, nasty fever and the works. The only thing that's helping me look straight at the computer screen right now is two Advil tablets and turning the screen brightness down.
It has been quite a journey I've been on. I had made up my mind to study in the United States quite a long time ago, when I was working in Chicago for an internship. I remember writing down a list, a list of 'good' schools that I wouldn't mind attending. All my friends made it to good schools – Cheryl went to the University of Michigan, Mark went to Duke University, and Joel went to Notre Dame. It was not a conscious effort to compete, but it was taken for granted that only these schools would be acceptable to me. My list wasn't long – University of North Carolina, Indiana University, Texas at Austin… Arizona was not in my list, namely because it had not made the Top tier as ranked by US News.
God would see to it that my pride would have to be in check. I missed all my application deadlines, failing to take the required SATs in time. The tuition fees would cost more than expected with the rising US dollar. I knew that God was wrestling me.
Going through college directories, Faith came across Baylor University, which I noted was not on the top tier. I dismissed it right away – not good enough, I thought. God bugged me endlessly about Baylor. I had problems sleeping thinking about it. It came to a point I broke down and almost shouted 'ok! We'll just do what You want!'. And then the peace came back to my life. He whispered to me in the most intimate way. I held my dreams in my arms, not wanting to let go, but finding myself unable to resist. God gave me back my list, and He allowed me peace, peace to choose whichever University I wanted to attend.
There I saw, that we've been fooled for so long. That the desire to be number one is so deeply encoded into our lives. We consciously or subconsciously compete with one another, and it becomes an endless race. I chose Arizona, leaving my application to the good Lord's hands – knowing that it was best for me.
So here I am, writing this to you, from a little room in Arizona.