‘Together’

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Familiar music streamed into my ears as the cool twenty-second story breeze rushed in through the open windows. I had just taken a short afternoon nap and had been woken up to a string of familiar National Day theme songs and local medleys. Even now the music still rings on from the sports area in the distance. Ah, National Day is coming soon.

My brother walks by and hums ‘Together we make a difference’ as the song continues to float melodically through the air – in English and Mandarin. I hear a young child scream a line from the song probably a few stories below us. National Day is coming soon.

In school, we have an inter-class competition and part of it requires us to dress up 5 Singapore icons to win points. It is hard to believe that National Day is just a few days away, and that it is our nation’s 50th jubilee year!

I miss belting out to the familiar national day and community songs just like how we used to as a kid in Primary and Secondary school. There was a certain liberation that came with being appreciative of, happy with and proud of being Singaporean when we let our hair down and groove to the music. I wonder if that day will come this year.

There is just too much to say Thank you for should we make a list of what we are thankful for. A clean and green environment, a well-established education that groomed us to be high-achieving and skillful individuals, the conviction in ‘lifelong learning’ and the multi-racial multi-cultural environment we have grown up in, the access we have to religious and cultural practices, a stable government and economy, a secure community where safety is prioritised, great leaders who were our forerunners in this project of nation-building… and now this responsibility has come to rest on our shoulders.

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The Twenty-Ninth of May

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In my thoughtless candidness I announced to a fair number of close buddies that my birthday was coming, and received perhaps more than I bargained for. Many people were in the mood for celebration and three groups of colleagues burst into song in the middle of the office and left me very abashed.

Not many people knew about it, but those who did were very thoughtful. It was a day when I realised how blessed I am by a loving Heavenly Father. It felt as if He was reminding me how He loved us through all the sweet gestures by my colleagues and some students. I truly felt that the most precious gifts and birthday wishes were not the slices of cake or gifts received, but the simplest and most thoughtful gestures from the relationships I most cherish. Let me recount a few of these.

There was a sweet girl I have been trying to build rapport with for the longest time. She shares with me whatever is within her zone of comfort until I probe further. After asking me for my birthday for the longest time, she texted me to say that she had left me something in my pigeon hole (cupboard). It was a sweet little plushie key chain with a handwritten note, in her usual scrawl: “Thank you for being a great teacher/friend.” That little gesture and note just warmed my heart. No theatrics or surprises, just a simple gift from the heart.

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The Secondary 4 students were also celebrating the end of their Elective modules with a miniature fair. At each booth teachers could order a clay art figurine, a balloon art, go for a manicure or simply watch a hip hop dance performance. I took the time to mingle – I would not admit it in front of them but this batch of students I feel something different for, probably because they are the first cohort of students I taught. The ones I made all the silly mistakes with, and the ones we grew up together with. A boy offered to make me a balloon and I asked for something “special” – other than the usual flowers and penguins going around the table. I searched for a Frog and he twisted one (two, the first actually exploded when I tried to dab its eyes on it). The sweetest thing.

After learning it was my birthday, another boy asked me for my favourite animal. Without much thought I said, “kangaroo”. He began searching for a tutorial online and twisting the balloons into shape – and failed. When called to go back to class, he burst the one he was struggling to make, and promised to give me one before the end of the day. A half hour later he texted me to say my kangaroo was done and he was waiting outside with a pink kangaroo and the words, “Happy Birthday, Miss Ho” written on it. So so sweet.

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The next day I received a surprise treat from a colleague who dropped by with a cup of Starbucks Caramel Nut Crunch. (And just at the time when I was craving for some coffee too!) I felt truly moved – to be remembered not just on the actual birthday itself but the day(s) after as well.

And today, the most careless brazen fellow in class actually came for his Parent-Teacher Conference with a box of KFC egg tarts. His mum said he remembered it was my birthday a few days ago and thought it would be nice to get it for me. Sometimes the most unexpected people can do the sweetest things.

I also realised that I am probably in a very blessed environment. A place where there are people who appreciate you and care about working with you.

Makes me think twice about alternatives.

Plain Vanilla

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About a week ago I turned twenty-six.

It was a long day at work, and the enrichment programme we planned for at school turned out a partial disaster. As I left the office, I thought of how to spend my evening. Original plans to meet a friend for a quick get-together meal fell through, and I found myself stranded figuratively, at school, without any plans for the evening, but with no desire to go home early. So I bought a ticket to Star Trek, paid to watch it a second time, convinced myself that it was that good, and had pasta for dinner in the theatre. Sad life? True story. It sounds pathetic hearing my recount, but my day wasn’t that bad.

You see, my birthday had already been celebrated too many times. One week ago, some old teacher friends surprised me with a birthday cake from Rive Gauche (my favourite cake shop), card and earrings from Chomel at a dinner get-together. I thought it would be awkward meeting them (and their spouses or partners) after so long, but they were wonderful and reminded me of how loving and good our God is.

At school, some colleagues surprised me with very sweet gestures of kindness and goodwill. By the end of the day, my desk was piled with chocolates, goodies and presents. I wasn’t moved by the physical gifts as much as the thought behind those gifts, from people I may never have expected to show such love. A colleague gave me a plush bear! And my co-form teacher who has become a friend, decided to play a joke and buy me a PINK BARBIE STATIONERY SETIt was hilariously embarrassing to say the least, especially when he said, “I was looking around the store for something to get you… and it just screamed you.” Thank you very much -curtsey-. Because mum and sis are spending the Summer in Vancouver for a summer programme, other friends and families from church extended their goodwill and kindness. My aunt bought me a rabbit plush toy, which I am calling Apricotwith his home next to my pillow. A dear sister painted a witch’s boiling cauldron on a bag (thank you very much again) as an artistic birthday gift. My dad who resides in China, sent over a bouquet of lovely peach roses and a rich chocolate cake. I had five chocolate cakes in all. At one point, I had four cakes sitting in my fridge (gasp).

But these are moments of abundance, joy and blessing. Each gift, card, note or greeting a representation of a friendship or relationship stemmed from love and appreciation.

Thank you, for reminding me that a world bigger than textbooks, students and red pens, exists. That is perhaps the most significant gift I received this year.

 

 

 

World Beyond Me

The past few posts have been really selfish and possibly even arrogant. Tonight I wanted to try put into words the unspoken care and support God has given me through fabulous people I often take so much for granted. 

On Wednesday I had a dinner appointment with some old teacher friends. I was expecting a possibly awkward gathering given that four of them would be bringing their spouses or partners to the dinner. But I was left absolutely speechless when they surprised me instead with a cake, card and birthday earrings from Chomel. I have never felt so shamed and embarrassed at being so selfish before; and at the same time, so moved that Roomie See and those wonderful people were so genuinely caring and supportive. 

This evening as I was battling a prolonged bout of flu, I asked my brothers what they would like for dinner. Mum and sis had gone abroad for a month for a summer programme at Regent College (whee!), and I was to help stay above it all and make sure the house doesn’t fall apart. Tonight, they whipped up a meal for me because my birthday is a few days away, and the youngest brother would have to go back into camp tonight. They banned me from entering the kitchen and prepared a generous plate of pasta, cheese sausages and egg – how could they assume I have the same appetite as they? 

Despite a few nasty downers, the week has been looking up because there are just so many reasons to smile, and people around you remind you of those reasons. Thank you Lord, for this beautiful world. ;)