Thursday, 1 August 2013

Broken Hallelujah

It's a universal phenomenon: life always finds a way to break you at some point.

This band called The Afters has a song called Broken Hallelujah.

God, I'm not afraid of being broken...

Break me so I can be made stronger in You.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Faith Renewed

Once, I placed my faith in myself
But I was so alone
Then I placed my faith in a chosen other
But then I was so hurt
I could place my faith in close family and friends
But what would I do if they were gone?
If I place my faith in how I look today
That will eventually pass away
Or if I place my faith in my abilities and strengths today,
Tomorrow I am sorrowful over my weaknesses.
And if I place faith in what I own or will come to own
That can all be lost in an instant

Then I placed my faith in you...
And meaning, purpose, love and joy came to be with me

Monday, 15 April 2013

Beijing, the Earnest Young Man, and the 24 Pearl Rings

The Bird's Nest Stadium at the Olympic Park in Beijing, China.

I could write a travel blog specifying places to see and restaurants to eat at, at the major cities/towns/rural places/wilderness areas of the world that I have visited or will come to visit – however, these tend to be topics that have been fairly well flogged, and besides, there are plenty of good travel writers out there. Most importantly, that is not the purpose of my writing.
Instead, I want to talk about a young man that I met during my recent short visit to Beijing, China.
And 24 pearl rings.
And so the story begins…

It was Day 5 of the tour, and we had been everywhere – the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, the Ming Tombs, the Temple of Heaven, the Olympic Park (Bird’s Nest Stadium, National Aquatic Centre). We had ridden trishaws while visiting the Beijing Hutong alleys, seen a Shaolin martial arts as well as modern Chinese theatre performance.

We had been to view jade, cloisonné wares, silk, tea, and learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine.

We had gone shopping. We had eaten duck three times.

After a busy day of touring, the last stop of the day was a visit to a pearl store.
Our tour group of 24 people was ushered into a meeting room and a salesgirl came in to do an introduction. She was a dynamic and charismatic speaker who engaged the audience well. Following that, a pearl researcher/scientist was meant to come to give us a presentation.

After a delay, the salesgirl came back to apologise, saying that it was a busy evening with many groups touring the facility concurrently - hence all the researchers were engaged at the moment. She asked us for a little more patience.
After another short delay, the doors to the room opened, and there stood a nervous young man dressed nattily in a sweater vest and dress suit, looking a little shell-shocked.
He was visibly very nervous, and although he didn’t stutter, he was choppy in his speech initially. Straightaway, he had my full sympathy because I knew how he would have felt in that instance – like a deer caught in the headlights of a speeding car.
After a brief self-introduction, he went onto jade and pearl - the types and grades; how they are valued; how to tell apart the real from the fake.
For some reason, as he spoke he kept looking my way (or at least, in my general vicinity) while he spoke and asked questions of the audience, till I felt shy enough to start avoiding his gaze.
As he continued, he hesitated briefly before he said: “To be very honest, I only know so much, and I can only teach what I know. I am not as learned as some of the others, nor as well-polished a presenter. I was pulled in to speak to you on the spur of the moment, I did not have any prior preparation and I was taken aback by how big this group is.”
He seemed to rally after admitting this, and as he continued on, he steadily gained fluency and confidence in his speech.


At one point, a revelation. He said: “Put it this way, if you come back in a few years, this entire enterprise could be mine. I am currently only doing work experience here, but hopefully given some time I would be working here. If you come back to visit, you can always come to look for me."
[The above is a literal Chinese to English translation, however, reading between the lines and taken in account what is lost in translation, he was essentially telling us that this was a  family business that could be handed into his hands to manage, given a few years (as told in a Chinese roundabout fashion)].


One of the cheeky ladies in the tour group boldly told him that in order to remember him by, a gift would be required. As they bantered, the gift being negotiated increased from a jar of pearl powder face/body cream apiece all the way up to the boldest suggestion of a pearl necklace each.
[In Chinese business transactions, gift-giving and receiving as well as the bestowing and returning of favours, are an integral components. It oils the cogs of the machine, so to speak.  This occurs in the context of ‘guanxi’, or the business network of people you know.]

He considered the request momentarily before he said: “I am not calculative when it comes to friendships. The following will only a small gift of my esteem. I believe that in conducting business, one needs to look at the long-term scenario, the big picture, and not on momentary gains. I only ask that you not tell the other salespeople about my poor presentation today, and also not to let the other customers out there in the main hall know of what I am doing here. Also, for you to not forget me.”

A tray of pearl mounted on rings was brought around, for us to select from, one for each person, and 24 in all were chosen and taken. There were white, champagne, pink and black pearls to choose from.

Later on, as he warmed up to us, he asked questions about Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore (as my tour group members were from these three neighbouring countries), and began to interact with the audience a lot more comfortably. He had not been to any of the three places, and was curious about our home countries. He mentioned that he hadn’t travelled anywhere else besides going to university in America.

At one point while he was speaking, I was so touched that I could have cried, had I not controlled myself.

Not because I was given a pearl ring.

Far from it, I am a person who is not motivated by money nor riches.

I felt like crying because I was touched by how honest and earnest he was – I don't meet the likes him everyday. He is a budding businessman, but he showed that he is human too.

Later on in the evening, he came up to me, with a name card in hand, his Beijing mobile phone number and email address written on it.

I thanked him as I took it from him.

His name is Yan Liang, and I wish him all the best in what I believe will be a very bright future.



Tuesday, 5 March 2013



What does it mean to have faith?

Not necessarily to do with religion, it can also be a general secular belief that everything will turn out ok, that things will find a way, that things will work themselves out. Faith can also be in the goodness of other people, and it can also be in yourself.

I think faith is such a beautiful thing, and I love hearing stories about how people come to faith.

Faith can be such a strength in trying circumstances. It can be a life vest, a shining beacon, a sense of calm in seas of turmoil.

All faiths are valid because they come from the same place in the human psyche. No single faith is greater or more valid than another.

I think as humans we need faith because as a species we need to believe in something greater than ourselves. We need purpose and a point to our lives, and I'm not talking about something earth-shaking, it can be simple and down to earth - there often is something extraordinary in the ordinary (an example of a simple yet powerful purpose is a desire to help others).

Faith is hope.

We need faith because life is not easy. It is tough as nails at times, and we need what we can get to pull through. Support from other people is so important, but some people also draw strength from their faith.

Faith is also trust.

Being able to trust is such a fundamental human need. Trust in another person, trust in the big picture of things, trust that you or your higher power's ability to direct your life to where it is meant to be. To not be able to trust is to be in such a terrible place.

For me, I was brought up in a religious faith, but I never fully embraced it. Perhaps you can say I haven't taken that 'leap of faith' as yet, and for now my faith is more secular than religious, and that's ok. Maybe one day it will change, maybe it won't.

Religion used to be a great teacher of morality in times past, but I think that in modern times, this has been replaced by a more general 'barometer of goodness' that isn't attached to any particular religion - you don't have to be a religious person to be a good person. Also, there are certain implications in certain religious teachings that I think conflicts with basic human rights, which I find troubling.

Those issues aside, when it comes to faith, to each their own, because faith is such a personal thing as well.

So share with me your faith because it shows me who you are and what you believe in ;)

Monday, 25 February 2013

The Male Body

 (Taken from

The eyes - blue, preferably. Looking deep into them until I feel shy.

The feel of the lips. The roughness of stubble.

The solidity and circumference of the chest.

The strength and muscle of the forearms.

This size of the hands – the palms, the fingers.

The thickness of the wrist bones.

How the waist almost imperceptably transitions to the hips (what a contrast to a woman's curves).

How the hips quickly dip to the muscle of the legs.

The size of the feet.

The skin covering all this wonderfulness.

The sheer sensualness of it all.

This is what I love about the male body ;)

Sunday, 24 February 2013


Shyness is an old feeling for me.

Bashful, quiet, inhibited, reserved, reticient - it goes by many other names but is essentially the same thing.

It manifests as a feeling of 'otherness', of feeling out-of-place, of not being able to be fully at ease and show yourself as you are (i.e. wanting to disappear or maybe transmogrify into a fly on the wall), of holding back because you are afraid you might get hurt.

It is a feeling of fear which holds you back, and you are not able to interact naturally and put in your two cents worth.

It is that feeling of being 'under pressure' while in social situations - in which you feel unpleasantly overstimulated - so you react by doing your best to exit that situation and hence get relief.

It is that tendency of getting negative feedback from social interactions (mostly self-created as I understand it, none may been intended from the other person), hence leading to the tendency to withdraw. There is a sensitivity to criticism, real and perceived.

You can't enjoy the company of others because you are too worried about how you come across.

Of course, there are different degrees of shyness and different reasons why people may feel shy. Shyness may only be situational - certain scenarios trigger it. It may be something quite universal as well, in that we all have experienced it in at some point in our lives. It only gets tough when you feel shy often, and in many situations.

However, no person is an island, we all need other people.
I keep fighting it, as all shy people keep fighting it.

I have found that with maturity, however, shyness has become more situational and is not as all-consuming as it once was. I've also realised that there is joy in the company of others and also, I don't always want to be so alone. Also, oftentimes when I've fought off that shy feeling in order to muck in with others, I find that I am enjoying myself during that event, that party, that gathering.

I am not entirely certain that one 'grows out' of being shy and can entirely leave that behind - I think shy children become shy adults, it's just that with maturity one's functionality increases as one challenges oneself more, and also learns that the shy feeling is often worse than the situation itself.

There is a flip side to everything, and in my opinion, shyness is not all bad, it can be a strength in certain respects - it tends to lead to the development of certain strengths as well as sensitivities that can be appreciable socially:

1) You know how bad you can feel so you take others' feelings seriously - you are gentle with others.

2) Speaking is not your natural strength but writing can be - this is certainly the case for me. I am not necessarily the best talker but my strength is definitely in writing - especially when it comes from a quiet place whereby I can gather and organise my thoughts to best bring about what I mean.

3) Related to point 1 and 2, because you like to support people and because you don't necessarily like to be constantly talking, you make for an excellent listener. You can also be a good observer - you listen and you learn.

4) Because you tend not to mix as readily with other people, you learn how to rely on yourself and as a result tend to be very independent, which is an advantage in new situations.

5) Because you tend to be a late starter, and because by nature you seek quality rather than quantity - you take a lot of stock and seek depth and meaning in friendships and relationships.

6) In my opinion shyness can be somewhat correlated to an intensity of experiencing the world - this intensity is harnessed and best expressed in the arts - don't they say writers are depressed and artists are tortured? Emotional intensity leads to interesting stuff. Sometimes you feel so much that you just have to express yourself.

Fight on, shy people ;)

Monday, 18 February 2013


Mountaineering...the freedom of the hills.

It's as simple as that. Mountaineering is freedom.

Freedom to test your mettle, your courage, your strength - not just physical, but just as importantly, mental.
Freedom to test yourself against the elements.
Freedom because your existance is stripped down very neatly - you eat, drink, rest and climb.
It is about you. It is about the mountain.

This 'purity' is especially evident in modern alpinism, in which the challenge is how quick and light one can go. The focus today is on how much one can pare down one's backpack, versus the risk of leaving out that tent, that stove, those extra food supplies, the extra fuel. How much can you cut out before you make the risk unacceptable?

This is in direct contrast with the traditional version of mountaineering - massive expeditions in which large teams of climbers (including porters e.g. Sherpas in the Himalayas) ascend and descend various sections of the mountain repeatedly, establishing different camps at different levels, fixing ropes to act as 'vertical highways' of sorts, ferrying supplies from one camp to another.

Regardless, time has always been of the essence in mountaineering. Most mountains have a certain season of the year whereby success is closest within reach - if you miss out on that window of opportunity, you might as well go home. Questions that mountaineers ask themselves are: What is the turnaround time*?  If I am caught out in the elements - how fast can I descend? Can I navigate efficiently and lead my team up the right route on the cliff-face? Am I using my equipment well - those ice-screws, snow stakes, quickdraws, rope - but not overusing, which would slow me down?

In mountaineering there often are judgement calls to be made. Can you assess the current weather and how it is likely to change? Can you estimate that by a certain time the sun's warmth would make this area impossible to cross due to the hard snow melting into a slushy mess? Is that a proper bridge across the crevasse or is it just made of snow, as stable as a waking dream and ready to disappear like a puff of powder?

This is because mountaineering, adventure pursuit as it is, still holds this principle as true: ascending is optional but descending is not.

*Turnaround time: a time and distance goal that, if not reached, would mean that one would turn back regardless of where one was at on the mountain, because to ignore it would put one at risk of being in peril - e.g. dusk and the night descending while one is at the wrong part of the mountain.

On Ball Pass looking towards the Tasman glacier, Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand, 2009.