My Family!

Merry Christmas!

I would like to formally write about my family, and start off with this lovely merry photograph of us at the Christmas Baptism last Sunday.

 

That’s my mum in the angelic white dress, looking as fine and young as can be; my half sister who’s one of the dearest littlest sisters ever (really mature and teachable for her age, I believe!); Jun the big brother who has ORD-ed (we’re trying to put new clothes into his wardrobe!); Hongmei with really strange eyes in this photograph for some unexplainable reason; Ming looking all proud and content; and myself beaming with joy! Now the background story of this photograph: SH just accepted Christ as her personal Lord and Savior as a Christian.

All I can say is, our God is really amazing – He really holds the masterplan in His hands! :)

When We Failed to Collect Our Log Cake

We were tasked to redeem our Christmas Log Cake from Coffee Club this evening for our dinner tomorrow, so brother JM and I decided to go to Vivocity to complete our mission. I had sampled one of their Christmas log cakes before (Hope, I think that was it. Chocolate and cream cheese.) and it was fabulous, so I was definitely looking forward to running that errand. I also convinced JM that it was mighty worth it, although going to either one of their outlets was terribly out of the way.

Parking was horrendous. We drove around the carpark at Vivocity for almost half an hour, when we decided that we would definitely have better luck at the HarbourFront Centre carpark. When we finally got a lot and made our way to Coffee Club, the lady told us that we could not collect our log cake because we had to place an order for it at least three days in advance. Well, after that sank in, I admit that we should have read the redemption voucher very very carefully before redeeming anything. Turns out, the word “order” was printed twice in the voucher sent to mum (once as “last order date” and once under T&C) so Coffee Club is definitely not to blame for the misunderstanding – although I maintain that they are partly to blame for our disappointment – because they could have stated explicitly that an advance order of at least three working days was required for the redemption to be valid. This is what the letter said: “Thank you for reedeeming a O’ Coffee Club Log Cake. [that means an acknowledgement.] Present this voucher to exchange for a O’ Coffee Club Log Cake at any of the redemption outlets listed below. [the only instruction was to present this voucher, not place an order].”

‘Twas our very disappointing and exhausting trip to the faraway land of Vivocity to collect our non-existent log cake.

Well, JM and I decided to embark then on our mission to do two other things: Dinner and Christmas Gift Shopping.

We went to Hans, found a seat, and things started to turn upwards from here. Despite the disappointment, JM was careful not to let that failed mission affect the evening nor his mood or mine. He was most happy to pay for his own meal at Hans but because he was such a dear, I offered to buy him steak for dinner. When he knew I was paying, he changed his order to chicken chop instead (Difference of $4) – what a dear. That made me evening, actually. I offered to buy him steak anyway, that would be what Mu Shi would have done.

A good, worthwhile meal for Mu Shi would be tagged not by price, but by the love and joy you have while enjoying it with your company. So we both ordered our steaks, well done, enjoyed it, talked a bit, and then did some brief Christmas shopping (picked out some post tags for colleagues to spread some love and joy in the staffroom) before going home. JM was very accommodating throughout the trip despite his flu and cough – he didn’t complain about having to wait for me outside SIX while I admired accessories; or grumble when I spent time browsing the shelves at the Page One bookstore. That really moved me, and I thought it was a perfect experience of kairos, time measured not by the running hours, minutes and seconds, rather by the value spent with your loved ones.

When we think of redeeming the log cake as the main purpose of the trip, which was how I saw it at first, it would be mighty disappointing. We didn’t accomplish our goal, we wasted hours in heavy traffic (and even an extra $3 at the Vivocity carpark!) and we have no log cake for tomorrow’s Christmas eve dinner. But when we look at it as a sister-brother trip out for a simple dinner to run a family errand, the evening was pretty much perfect. We had a good meal (cooked all the better because we were famished!) and we had a good time walking about albeit briefly. I think this evening, although short, did teach us an important lesson.

Mu Shi would always be ready to change his outlook of things and see things in the positive. He would look on situations as opportunities, not challenges or trials. This was an opportunity to spend some time with JM (appreciating the boy’s finer qualities ahem!) and I think in that light, it was well spent. Thank you Lord, and thank you, Mu Shi, for being our guide even after three months since your passing. Indeed your Godly examples stay with us in our memories as valuable life lessons.

 

 

 

New Desk

Our brother spent the entire day fixing up our new IKEA furniture – 2 corner workstations, 2 study desks and 1 extended study desk. All chestnut and cream in colour – I love the combination!

Now I have my personal study desk – magnetic note board; chestnut-coloured paper folders; book stands; computer; study lamp; drawers. I cannot, imagine a family any more generous and giving than mine. This is one reason I cannot wait to start work in 2012! :)

My POSB Everyday Card arrived in the mail today – that is another reason to smile and sing about. Finally! Rebates for SPC Petrol haha!

And this afternoon, brother, sister and I went for this public talk organised by the EU Centre about World, Folk or Local Music? Really I think what the speakers (Dr Tan Shzr Er and A Prof Barnard Turner) were getting us to think and talk about was how “music” relates with “identity” and “culture”, and to consider the fluid and amorphous definitions of those terms, as well as how music and identity (politically, social, cultural) are interrelated. I enjoyed the exposure to my otherwise very amateurish knowledge of songwriters and musicians, and I also welcomed the discussion on whether we should consider music to be embedded in another or fused with others.

Okay, way beyond our 1130pm curfew haha!

I love my new desk!

Family Outing to IKEA!

Our family made a trip down to IKEA last evening to shop for some new furniture for our study room hall, no, hallway. With limited space in our HDB flat, we decided it was time to revamp our study hallway (it connects the dining area to the family hall) to accommodate the four/five of us maximally utilising our space.

The boys did homework on our behalf by taking relevant measurements, and we headed off to IKEA for our family outing! Despite being laden with our task, it was a jolly fun trip because it is the first time the five of us could head out of the house with a common purpose. (Well, 2 common purposes, if you consider the IKEA meatballs.)

Two hours into the outing, we settled on what furniture we wanted. It was good fun seeing our two brothers work together carrying heavy furniture and pushing heavy trolleys. To do my part, I paid for dinner at the IKEA Restaurant – a definite family treat! :) Well, brother #1 did step on my toes with his untactful impatience, but I guess putting that aside, just going out as a family was a treat.

So in the next two evenings, they brothers will begin to set up the desks. Out with the old, in with the new!! (Or is it the other way around?) I have a new working desk whee!

As a side note, I recognise that our family’s financial situation is not the easiest, but mum did not let the burden of money get in the way of selecting a conducive, comfortable furniture for us. The ka-ching ka-ching price-tag was not the main issue on her mind, and getting a good working desk for the family was her utmost priority. I really appreciate that, mum. Many things cannot be measured with money, and this is definitely one of them.

Thoughts on Film: “Being There” (1979, Hal Ashby)

“Being There” is a film highly recommended by our late Reverend. There were (and are still) so many thoughts on the film that I really want to capture as much of it as I can.

Chance is a gardener who works for his master and benefactor in a huge house. We come to understand that Chance has never left the house and the only access he has to the world outside, is through television. When his old master dies and he is forced to move out of the house, Chance’s ignorant but simple gardening philosophies begin to impact the people and relationships he comes into contact with. For a start, a rich couple he eventually moves in to live with mistakes his name to be “Chauncey Gardiner” when he introduced himself as “Chance the gardener”. This comedic bathos is the premise for the rest of the film.

The misinterpretation of his name catapults him from a blue-collared labourer without a last name to an aristocratic well-educated gentleman. In contrast, his second polysyllabic name reveals the complexities of the world in which we live in, and Chance is thrust into. His newfound identity does not seem to match the simplistic nature with which he sprouts his thoughts and words. Despite this incongruity, his simple, although not childlike nature, draws people towards his supposedly deep wisdom and insight, his “down to earth philosophy”.

Experiencing most things for the first time, Chance’s reactions and behaviour are not informed or influenced by the social proprieties and ideological norms. As a result, he does not understand the existence of political temptations or relational complications, and is therefore not hindered by them. He calls the President “Bobby” at the end of their first meeting, is very forthcoming about speaking his mind, and always thinks the best of another.

One of the complicated situations posed by Chance in the Rand household is his strong friendship with Ben and the growing affection and comfort Eve finds in the proximity of his company. Not knowing love or betrayal, Chance does not realize the temptation he poses to Eve. His ignorance however, is what makes him respectable to her and what protects her from losing her respect, when he succumbs not to her advances. Her claim that “I feel save with you” is true on more than a single level in the film.

Ben Rand is the eyes of the audience in this film, for he suggests how we should understand the enigmatic character of Chance the Gardener. Ben Rand is perhaps the only character in the film who recognizes how Chance is different from the world – he harbours no ill intent; looks at death, the worst possibility, squarely in the face; speaks his mind without deception or scheme. These qualities in Chance that are rare amongst men in Ben’s social circle convince Ben that Chance is deserving of his high regard and trust. “You don’t play games with words to protect yourself,” Ben tells Chance after their meeting with the President.

Ben also tells Chance that “You seem to be a truly peaceful man.” Chance’s honest and simple nature, unadulterated by the evils and contamination in the world, allows him to preserve his goodness and steadfastness of character. The culmination of Ben’s praise for Chance is perhaps in the line, “You have the gift of being natural. That’s a great talent, my boy.” Here Ben is referring to Chance’s ability to remain true and honest even in his dealings with highly politically-sensitive affairs. Chance finds no eagerness or joy in appearing on national television, in reading what the papers write about him, or in finding out what the President speaks of him. Such political and national fame and recognition does not appeal to him.

To me, Chance the Gardener embodies also contentment and a simple life. Despite being thrown into an affluent world so different from the world he knew growing up, he is able to ward off the undesirable influences of wealth, reputation, social prejudice etc. because he cares nothing for them. Chance cares nothing for the matters of the world because he is content living on his own within the confines of the house as an attentive and faithful gardener.

Discontent fuels the emotions the rest of the men in the film face. Eve Rand had little friendship being in the company of her old and dying husband Ben. Needless to say she longed for a sexual relationship with and emotional support from another man, something her stricken husband was unable to provide. Ben Rand was discontent having to suffer from a grief illness supposed to be for “younger men”. He only finds peace and tranquillity to face the end of his life after he meets Chance. The President and those in office worry about the economic prospects of the nation; they seem to be battling a downward spiral until the President meets Chance, who persuades the President to believe that the nation will see spring and summer again after fall and winter. The attorney Thomas was filled with angst upon seeing Chance’s good fortune and rise to fame and social standing. We learn that it is because he was bitter at losing an opportunity to be a politician himself.

Apart from the Rands, the other characters do not seem to fully understand Chance’s simple-minded nature. The family doctor Robert Allenby eyes Chance warily even after Ben’s last breath, undecided of Chance’s intentions in maintaining such close relations with the Rands, although convinced he does not pose a threat. The President insists on finding out Chance’s background, although positively taken aback by his refreshing insight, suggesting a suspicion towards such a breath of fresh air. Similarly, the attorneys Thomas and Sally are speechless toward his idiosyncracies and strange behaviour. These characters seem unconvinced of Chance’s good and honest nature – their scepticism founded justifiably on the rarity of such character in the world they know.

What Chance is described and presented to be, we the audience are to think that we are not. Conversely, what Chance is not, we happen to be. The film runs on a serious, non-comedic tone, but Chance the Gardener is the Comedy of the film himself because his extraordinariness as an uneducated labourer stands him apart from the rest of the socially well-off, educated characters in the film. Furthermore, people, not Chance, conclude that a man in the “most expensive suits and finest underwear” can only be a socially powerful man. His words are therefore assumed to be laden with metaphors and underlying philosophies and meaning, when they are in actuality, the simplest truths Chance the Gardener knows of. It is disheartening that only a person decked in expensive suits is given the attention and respect every ordinary being deserves.

It is such a poor background that offers him the fortune of being untempered and unadultered by the world he is introduced to after the death of his master. The reversal of roles in the film is a sweet, refreshing change to the world we, as the audience, are so used to living in without question. It is also this reversal of roles that unsettles us – like it unsettles the characters in the film – because it presents to us how unconscious we are of our state of being, and how prone to the adulterations of the world we are exposed to. Is it only such a character like Chance the Gardener himself, who with his simple-mindedness, ignorance and lack of knowledge of the world, able to thrive above the world? Are we either to choose between being a “Chance the Gardener” in an unfamiliar world to stay afloat above its complications; or to be comfortably a part of the world but blinded by its complexities and unable to feel contentment?

The closing quote uttered by the President “Life is a state of mind” directs us back to Chance the Gardener, who manages to walk on water, and the choice we ultimately have to make. The scene is bleak, because there is only but one Chance the Gardener, to impress his philosophy of life on the world.