My 24th birthday candle

 

Natalie Langenderfer

So, I wrote this quote on my friend Fritzie’s wall a few monthsss back to encourage and affirm her. Guess what? On friday (my birthday) Fritzie tagged me on this post that her friend posted, quoting me! I was so shocked! Imagine! My wall post inspired and touched Natalie such that she felt the urge to share it and again, inspire at least 15 of her other friends along they way. I need to add that Natalie is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan and she met Fritzie when she previously came as an exchange student in Singapore.

How powerful can a few kind intention and modern communication channels are, huh? How far these thoughts of encouragement have reached! I am not even gonna start on how long ago Kubler-Ross wrote this. And the wonderful thing is how my intention have pervaded time, distance, continents, and have gone one full circle and returned back to me. What goes around really does come back around, huh?

It was even more special to find out about it on my birthday, on top of so many birthday greetings I have received. I believe that it was God affirming me and showing me His love, a thing I’ve been praying for. It was like the whole universe was conspiring to tell me how much the world appreciates having me around. All those greetings, especially this post, affirmed me that my actions can make a difference in the world. It seemed like He was showing me the people who I have touched in one way or another and the potential I had if I were to do more with what I have.

And, it reminded me of Matthew 5:13-16,

13 ‘You are salt for the earth. But if salt loses its taste, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled under people’s feet.
14 ‘You are light for the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden.
15 No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house.
16 In the same way your light must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven.

And, it hit me. To at least try and pay Jesus back for all the things He gave me and glorify His name, I need to spread the love (more) and shine my light. I need to stop hiding, questioning myself, and diminishing my value. I need to make myself “salty” and spice things up. I am God’s daughter and he created me to be a light for the world. So, this little light of my life, I’m gonna make it shine. (:

My stories from Pailin, Cambodia.

For two weeks in December 2012, my friends from NTU’s Catholic Society and I went to Pailin, Cambodia to teach kids. Personally, I think we gained more than we gained. Here are some stories I would like to share…

classes

These are the classes I teach.

The first 3 photos are from my morning classes. They were between 9-12 years old and they are the cutest bunch of kids ever! The boys can be rather naughty though but the girls were so sweet. The girls even bought extra food to share with me during their recess. I wonder what proportion of their allowance they have to fork out just to give that to me.  The most memorable moment was when they volunteered to sing “The lion sleeps tonight” song in front of class without me asking them to. Soooo cute!

But, one really sad moment was when I was teaching them feelings. I asked them, “How do you feel?” On this day, we were expounding on being happy and sad so the students went, “I feel sad.” and I went, “Why do you feel sad?” I thought he’d say, “I feel sad because I want to sing/dance/eat” because that’s what I taught them for being happy. However, one boy enthusiastically waived his hand while saying “‘cher! cher!” so, I thought sure! “Why do you feel sad?” and he went, “I feel sad because I have no bike.” I was standing their speechless. Before I know it, two more boys stood up to say, “I feel sad because I have no money.” “I feel sad because I want pizza.” and I really didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t sure of how true those statements were or whether they said those for the sake of answering a class discussion but hearing them come up with such statement is just so heart-wrenching and sad. It’s one of those moments I won’t forget.

The last photo is my evening class. I actually had to classes, both with students ranging from 17-41 years old. There were students, businessmen, and even monks who pay for extra classes just to learn English. Their eagerness to learn English is just so inspiring. They were filled with questions and were so eager to practice their English. They were so curious about Singapore and it’s culture. They even asked us why and how we went to Pailin.

For one of our lessons, we asked them to present themselves in an elevator pitch sort of way. Through that, they have shared their dreams and ambitions. It’s so heartwarming to hear them saying they want to be a farmer, a businessman, a seller, or a teacher. It sounds as though those were really big dreams but nothing can stop them. Moreover, it seems as though reaching those simple dreams would mean the world to them. In contrast to being in Singapore where we always race on being on top and being the best and yet, still remains unhappy. Anyway, the students and us been so close that we took loads of photos and even exchanged Facebook contacts on the last day. One even gave me the sweetest card and origami saying “Thank you, teacher. Don’t forget me. I am sad. Monica misses teacher.” and that just really tugged a really heavy string in my heart.

extra time

In addition, these are the kids I was hanging out with for my “extra-curricular classes.” The teens in the first photo were Carmen and my students’ last year. Initially, I was scared that I won’t see them and I was disappointed because it seemed I cared more than they for us. However, when they heard that we were back, they came back to spend time with us. They even visited almost everyday! One of the guy’s English has dramatically improved and I’m really proud of him. However, the other can still barely put a sentence together but oh wells. The cool thing is that they were the first ones who persistently trained me to learn Khmer as I teach English. Super cool! Most importantly, the idea that they remember us and still want to spend time with us after one whole year is just touching.

The guys in the second photo are from my unofficial English class. In between their school and their extra (English/Computer) lessons, they visit me to practice speaking in English. In addition, I also tell them stories about myself and the world and things they may never experience otherwise. Imagine! They were so eager to learn English with me that they actually make time to do so! It was just so heart warming. One guy (Lin la aka Mr hihihi) even wrote a prose (in the simplest English) to say how much he likes spending time with me and learning English from me. I was so touched!

The girls in the third photo were the sweetest girls. Their English weren’t so good because they don’t study in English schools but since I have been learning Khmer, communication still works. They both like to dance but have very different tastes in men. They are reallly good masseuse too. So cute!

The fourth photo was of one of the Samurai dance groups. I’ve grown quite close to them as well. Apparently, even all the way in Cambodia, I am still one of the boys. When we hang out under the tree, they joke around and treat me as one of them. Considering that we have to communicate in 2 languages is actually half the fun, by the way! One ought to try it some time! 🙂

And last, but not the least, the church boys.  They were the ones who help the Marist brothers in their daily chores. It really inspired that two boys were so touched by God’s love that one wants to be a Marist brother while the other wants to be a priest. They were also the ones I’ve grown closest with. I would have a different story to type for each one of them that I’d probably need another book. They were the ones who taught me those most number of Khmer that I think I learnt Khmer than they learnt English. Moreover, the things we talked about have even gone beyond small talk. We’ve gone from doing funny antics, exchanging jokes, and serious life sharing sessions.

Plus, I still communicate with some of them through Facebook until now. I think that being able to establish such a close relationship with the simplest words in 2 different languages that we communicate until now means a lot. And it is something I would always remember.

touching photos

These are some snapshots of their daily lives that I would try to preserve.

The children in Pailin have the purest rawest most pristine understanding of joy. These are photos after our swimming trip, arts and crafts session, bubble blowing, and random games. Honestly, I don’t even know the rules of any game but I just went along with them. Just look at the smiles they have.  They seem full of hope and contentment of the simple joys of life. Looking at those smiles makes us want to believe in the true meaning of happiness and that’s something I don’t often see anymore.  The memories I have while playing with them will always stay with me forever.

what we do

Aside from endless teaching and playing with the children, we had other activities too! We distributed shorts and shoes to the kids, brought them to the swimming pool, had arts and craft sessions with them, and even conducted a talent-time. These may seem really simple and even unnecessary but according to Brother Francis, the kids do not experience these kind of things when visitors are not around and at the end of the day, it is the time we spend with the kids (whatever the activity is) that stays with them so what we really should do is just spend time with them and talk to them in simple English to practice them. So, I guess, that’s a mission accomplished! 🙂

dear to my heart
 These are some of my most favourite photos with my most favourite kids. Each one I would gladly tell you if we ever get a chance to meet.

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And, of course, everyone’s all-time favourite kid, Hein! I always asked him to give me a hug every time he sees me.  Oh how I miss him so. He’s the youngest out of 6 siblings and either the village is too small or I’m too outgoing that I actually know all 6 brothers and sisters. If I’m lucky enough, the next time I visit Pailin, I would love to visit their parents to tell them how lucky they are to have such lovely children. Everyone’s humble and outgoing and has the ability to make other people smile at all times.

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This is one kid who truly deeply touched my heart.

His name is Mian. One day, we found him crying. Apparently, the other kids did not want to play with him because he is apparently “dirty.” Eventually, I found out that he is HIV positive and his parents do not stay with him. To comfort him while he’s crying, I accompanied him to sit under one of the trees. There I hugged him and stroked his back until he calmed down. Since I know he doesn’t go to school, I guessed he probably didn’t know English as well. So, in the simplest Khmer I know I told him, “Be strong. Don’t listen to them. I love you. God loves you.” I’m not sure if he understood me, if I said it correctly, or if he’ll remember what I said but eventually, he calmed down and agreed to play with the rest again. From then on, I always hugged him whenever I see him and that story will always stay close to my heart.

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This is one of my favourite shot from the place. The four guys are from four different cliques yet they seem to come together and spend time with each other when we are around. I’d like to think that our friendly company, the idea of learning English, and the vision of sharing God’s love can bring various people together.

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A photo of the kids waving goodbye as our van drives out.

All together, Pailin is now a place I fell in love with and I can’t imagine not going back. So, until December 2013 my dearies. Until I see you again. Good bye! 🙂

Photo credits to: Adi, Isabelle, and me.

Hamilton Wright Mabie Once Said,

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.

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And, I completely agree. I just love Christmas season. It is the time when gifts are exchanged and carols are sung. Thanks to the belief to Santa Claus, even the naughty kids choose to be nice on this time of the year. Even the idea of consumerism is built on the concept that people just love to give. It is the time when shortcomings and disappointments are downplayed and instead, love is shared. It feels like the time when all of us choose to have faith in humanity and decide to share all the love we have to give. It’s like when Baby Jesus was born amongst us, every single Holy Spirit inculcated within us choose to shine brightly for the people around us as well. So, sure! This Christmas, and for every Christmas yet to come, let’s shower the love to the world just as God showered His love to us through His son.

a butterfly.

If i were to be an insect, I would please like to be a butterfly, please. You see, butterflies go through multiple stages before they become the beautiful thing we see in our garden. Yet, they don’t perceive the changes they’ve gone through as a big things; they simply see these as a part and parcel of life. A worm. A caterpillar. In a cocoon. Wriggling. Crawling. Hiding until they bloom. They patiently go through the tough times and await for the day when they can fly and soar. Even though everyone else can, they can’t see how truly beautiful they are. Perhaps it’s because butterflies can’t see their wings. They are not self-conscious or judgmental. Instead, they are able to appreciate all the other beautiful butterflies around them. How I wish I can also make the world a better and much beautiful place for simply being there. How I wish I have endless faith in the goodness of people and the kindness they are capable of. Butterflies are small little things but their presence in the world is never insignificant. It has even been said that something as small as a flutter of butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway across the world and, I would like to make that kind of difference too. So, if I were to be an insect, I would like to be a butterfly, please. 

thy royal family

someday, i’ll share my bed with someone funky and funny. he’ll be humorous and spontaneous. whatever it is, it will be cool because none of us will be judgmental. both of us can feel free to do, say, think whatever he wants. but, if he’s the right guy for me, i’m sure we’ll both ensure to highlight the great things and use them to overrule the bad. either way, we will be partners in crime. he’ll be the first thing i want to see in the morning and the last thing i’ll see at night. and the best thing is, that’s exactly what he’d wants. we’ll share jokes and do stupid stuff just to ensure that both of us smiles at least once a day. if we have to, he’ll be have pillow fights with me just to relieve my anxiety and frustrations. i’ll remember how great he is and remind him of what he can achieve in times of doubt. we’ll both look forward for the sun to rise on our bedroom window and greet each other with a good morning kiss. he’ll be my king and i’ll be his queen. together, we’ll face the challenges of the world. we’ll allow our little princes and princesses to jump on the bed or, at times, even have breakfast on bed. also, our kingdom will be guarded by the most trustworthy dog. there will be no television in our bedroom so we’ll have to read books and share them with each other. but, of course, book reading only happens after we’ve shared what happened to our day. with this goofy bed mate of mine, everyday will be a happily ever after as we bid each other a good night kiss and cuddle to a sweat dream. someday….

 

no stress cafe

one day, i’ll have a “no stress café.” one where friends and possibly-more-than-friends hang out, spend time together, and get to know each other. i’ll make sure that it’s big and spacious to welcome and accommodate everyone. i’ll make sure there will be yummy scones, fluffy pancakes, and filling sandwiches-those which can fill both tummies and hearts. the service will be remarkable because we wouldn’t want you to worry about a single thing of course. the price will be low too because happiness ought to be priceless. it will be a space to reminisce about the past or to share tips on how to deal with life. it will be a space to talk about future plans on which dog to keep, which cake to eat, or what book to read. it will be clean, comfy, and relaxing. it will be a no stress café for me, for you, and for all.

Elizabeth Gilbert Once Said,

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. A soul mate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, and make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life.

A beach of glass pebbles

We always see our past mistakes and “dark days” as something to be ashamed of. But, you see bad things do not always lead to bad outcomes. Sometimes, good things come out of long days of hard work and a simple stroke of luck. Let me show you something that illustrates that good things do come out of a bad turn.

This is the Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California. Do you see all the beautiful and colourful glass stones? There’s actually a very sad and interesting stories to it.

In the early 20th century, Fort Brag residents threw loads of garbage over the cliffs above this area. All kinds of refuse went into this ocean: household trash, waste, glass, cans, and even old cars. In 1949, the area around Glass Beach turned into a public dump. Sometimes, when the trash pile became too much that fires were lit to reduce its size. Eventually, California realized that dumping automobiles, appliances, toxic substances and razor sharp shards of glass into the water was probably a bad idea and looked elsewhere for a dumping site. In 1967, the city leaders closed the area. Fortunately, there’s something bigger than us mere humans. Despite our obviously brilliant handling of the situation, Mother Earth had a few tricks up her sleeve, and spent the next 30 years tumbling away the jagged edges of our insensitivity. Over a few decades, pounding waves cleansed the beach until it wore down the discarded glass into small, smooth, coloured trinkets and left behind brilliant pebbles of polished glass which cover the beach today. Now, in Glass Beach, so much sea glass smothers this hidden shoreline that you might think a truck unloaded shimmering shards all over its rocky coves.

Since then, the place has become a beachcombers’ paradise and a living science lesson in one. When you stand on it, you’ll feel like a leprechaun standing on something more enthralling than a pile of gold. Years of surf have polished these gems to a muffles shine. While a soft tide glides over, the glass underneath your feet sparkle in colours of emerald, ocher, amber, and ruby. Scoop a handful and you’ll have a kaleidoscope of shapes and colours (and maybe some seaweed and metals and electrical stuff) at the palm of your hands! It’s amazing how nature works huh?

Having had said all these, it doesn’t mean that we have to throw our trash into the ocean, accumulate them, and burn them. Sometimes, not ALL the time, things just come as a blessing in disguise.

Photo credits

A list.

This is a list of things i still wanna do for the rest of my life + things i would do if only i had no fear. so, these list will probably never be completed. but, i shall try to. I will try to.
  1. Leave myself a letter in a library book then, look for it twenty years later.
  2. Master a “plucking” guitar song (no strumming).
  3. Live in a hotel suite for a week.
  4. Milk a cow. Drink the milk.
  5. Own a pet dog. (for more than a year)
  6. Shoplift. Then, return it.
  7. Dine-and-dash!
  8. Live outside my homeland for at least a year.
  9. Complete a puzzle (500-piece?)
  10. Donate blood.
  11. Give a stranger a kidney.
  12. Create a signature dish. Be known for it.
  13. Baseball: hit a homerun.
  14. Break the car window shield with a baseball bat.
  15. Shoot with a gun.
  16. Learn how to jumpstart a car.
  17. Drive a vespa!
  18. Teach (basic) English or Math in a foreign country for half a  year.
  19. Write someone else’s life story without mentioning myself.
  20. Backpack + roadtrip.
  21. Sail a sea.
  22. Play chess until I unexpectedly beat someone, then quit forever.
  23. Live at a high altitude (mountain, rooftop, penthouse).
  24. Have a week-long silent retreat.
  25. Make a movie, even a short one.
  26. Sex on the beach – the cocktail.
  27. Sex on the beach – the act.
  28. Sex in a body of water.
  29. Be a bartender.
  30. Guest in a TV show.
  31. Learn proper sign language.
  32. Compile my old blogpost, poems, photos into one book.
  33. Get married.
  34. Get a tattoo.
  35. Be a (cool soccer) mom.
  36. Change careers.
  37. Drive a car…in Manila, Philippines.
  38. Fly off to Italy/Spain/Paris without telling anyone until I get there . Stay there for 2 weeks.
  39. Bull-riding.
  40. Bungee jumping.
  41. Mountain climbing.
  42. Skydiving.
  43. Paragliding.
  44. Para-sailing.
  45. Do a flip off a diving board. Nail it!
  46. Sing (with actions) on stage, in front of a crowd.
  47. Confess my feelings to the guy I like.
  48. Burst and scream at someone I’m pissed at.
  49. Get really really really high (but not in Singapore).
  50. Have a super duper romantic al fresco dinner date (even a picnic sounds good) wherein we will slow dance to a live music under the stars.
  51. No planning. Just list random things and blog it. —-DONE! (: