and it was brilliant. (:
Yay, TFG! (Tuesday Family Group)
What inspired this: we read Acts 6:1-7, about how seven godly persons were chosen to take charge of the daily distribution of food so that no widows in the community would go hungry, and the apostles could focus on preaching the word. And how the ministry flourished as a result! So we took some time after reading the passage to reflect on and share about the specific roles that God has called us to serve in - and, also, calling out how we saw each other serving!
I’ve been so stressed out lately, caught up with menial tasks and administrative things and schoolwork that I need to get through - and panicking at how all of it has been keeping me from doing things that I need to graduate and land a job in seven months. In light of all that, so many things in the passage just spoke to me:
Basically, to me, it felt as if God was saying, “I see you, Hui.”
Along with many other things of course: “so you better do your work better, ok?” or “Keep a clear head, and get planning/get practical!”
Still, the first statement - however self-centred it may be of me to privilege it above everything else - is the one that inspires in me the strength to follow through with all the rest.
Just got back from a get-together with my JC class, 2AA2 ‘06, at Judith’s house, and realised I haven’t laughed so hard for so long in a very long while.
(JC = Junior College, which is the Singaporean equivalent of the British sixth form, or the last 2 years of high school in the USA.)
I may have mentioned previously that I’m one of the proud singers of the Pembroke Chapel Choir, run by our beloved Senior and Junior Organ Scholars, Laurence Lydon-Jones and Sam Baker respectively. Our wise-AND-wacky chaplain, Andrew Teele, also must be mentioned for his awesomeness. All and any Oxford students who might be reading this post are warmly invited to Evensong/soon to be Mid-Afternoon Song services on Sundays during term time!
Every Sunday of term, we rehearse in the late afternoon - with a cake break somewhere in the middle of rehearsal! Very important, deserves mention - give the Evensong service, then adjourn to the Senior Common Room for a glass of sherry or orange juice (your choice). The evening then finally comes to a close with dinner, just for the choir and service attendees in the Forte Room, adjacent to the main Hall, where the rest of Pembroke has dinner.
It’s one of my most social times of the week, and therefore one of my favourites, of course, not only for the music, but for the company and conversations. Contrary to popular belief, the weekly slice of some variety of cheesecake is not the highlight - we’ve unsurprisingly gotten tired of it. (Anything but cheesecake, please!)
Tonight, I sat at one half of an 8-person table, circled from right to left by Ellen, Adam, Mike and Mike’s wife, Fiona. All five of us were markedly experienced and interested in international cultures - Ellen is from central Pennsylvania and spent her summer in Florence learning Italian; Adam is a “farm-boy” (He has sheep! And pigs and chickens!) Japanologist (thus having spent a year in Japan/travelled about East Asia) from Surrey; Mike and Fiona live in Swindon, spent quite some time in the USA, and their daughter is headed to Japan in March; I’m from Singapore, attend university in Greater Boston, and have visited Japan a couple of times - so we spent much of our conversation sharing about Japan, the USA, Britain and (hurrah!) Singapore.
Mike and Fiona were very generous with their Britain & Ireland travel suggestions (the list: Edinburgh, York, Blackburne-Blackpool, Brighton, Cheltenham, Harrogate, Dublin). We learnt a lot about Japan and Japanese generalities from Adam (naturally), such as the slips/passes that train stations give out when their trains are even ONE minute off-schedule, so the workers can pass those to their bosses as proof that they were late because the train was late (!), the typically low alcohol tolerance of the Japanese, comfortable youth hostels, Starbucks being everywhere, and the myriad of Japanese dialects and regional accents, with one especially for old Japanese men (they all sound the same, and are similarly incoherent!). Ellen explained Pennsylvania Dutch to us (mix of German and English, NOT Dutch! ‘Dutch’ was a misappropriation of ‘Deutsche’) and about the Amish community, how different sects have different customs, how those who sell milk are mandated by federal law to refrigerate their milk - so they do have electricity in their barns and may hence possess higher-tech items such as laptops and mobile phones (they just don’t use them in their houses) whilst the Amish who don’t deal with milk won’t, how the Amish are sometimes confused with the Mennonites (who dress similarly but have different rules, may be more “relaxed” about the social activities they’re permitted to pursue).
Here’s my contribution:
“Everybody should come to visit Singapore!”
“Isn’t Singapore the place where they’ve completely banned chewing gum?”
And to my surprise, I got this response:
“That is such a good idea.”
I’m being honest here. And this wasn’t just a single person either - a discussion arose about chewing gum, how remnants of it are found everywhere, on every single slab of pavement, how the British government spends millions and millions of pounds cleaning up chewing gum every year, how when you go to Disneyland/world you’ll always see the poor cleaning staff having to scrape it off the floor - and a general agreement was reached on what a brilliant idea it would be to just ban it and save all that financial cost and effort.
It suddenly occurred to me that I never got this response in the USA, nor do I really ever expect to. Banning something like chewing gum - very fundamental, for some of my dearest friends! - would just be unthinkable, on any level. It’s essentially a curtailing of freedom of consumption, is it not?
In Singapore, we don’t even think/talk about it anymore. It just kind of is. When we want gum, we take a drive up the causeway, and bring some home from Malaysia. The ban doesn’t stop us from consuming it; it just makes us conscious of it enough to not throw it on the ground, leave it stuck under desks (one of the things I DON’T miss about dear old Tufts), or between MRT/T/Underground doors. Best of both worlds!
Funny how even chewing gum can be a legitimate thinking/talking topic.
Love Sunday meals with the choir!
…And I had no good reason. And that was the point.
The learning point, I mean. The reason why I did not regularly write was the same reason I did not regularly practice music, I did not regularly exercise, I did not eat at regular times or eat regular things, I did not sleep at regular times (1am-5am being the paper-writing night norm), I did not wake up at regular times, I did not write regular update emails to family and friends nor regularly update photos on facebook nor generally live the regular life of a 21 year old, and I’m still reeling.
Michaelmas Term may have been been crazy for most, but I’m pretty sure how crazy it gets depends on how crazy you are in dealing with it. On that score, I’m mad crazy.
Cue Nadine. For two blissful days, my life was normal. Sleeping and waking, eating, hanging out with people, conversation - it was glorious. For two days, I wasn’t a vagrant soul in this world, holing up in my (nonetheless beautiful) room watching Friends on my laptop at obscene times, listening to the birds’ first chirps while the sun’s still down (for the record, they start at 3am). I was walking about Oxford, having company in my room, talking and laughing and enjoying the view from atop St. Mary’s, eating at Jamie’s Italian (ha! Take that, Jie!), and just generally having a good, healthy time.
(Credit goes to Yuanhao for the photo! And for the Oxford co-hosting. :D )
So thankful for comforting, organised old friends, who inject a little necessary sanity into my life/me. You didn’t stay long enough, Nad! Come back soon!
Tonight was Kiwi’s 21st-birthday-send-off party, and it was such a wonderful time of catching up, laughter, and good food to boot (mm, that shepherd’s pie really hit the spot). Clare and Hazel had me in stitches for a good portion of the night, cracking up over the random-ess things - such as whether or not women should get engagement rings (“I don’t see the point in it! It just ends up buried in your drawer.”“It’s the one with the diamond! Diamonds are FOREVER!”) - and talking with Yuanhao about Oxford shifted my level of excitement about the coming school year back up into notch 8/10. It’s been a while since I’ve so enjoyed a (non-Choir!) large group gathering, and thanks really goes out to Kiwi and his family, for organising and hosting this heartfelt get-together.
Checking in with old friends, getting to see how much they’re growing, and getting to hear about all the great things they’ve done or are up to is such an inspiring, renewing thing, every time. Really spurs me forward.
This is my first 4-day week at work. Today was my rest day. I expected it to be quiet, and it started out as planned: I spent the morning sprawled out on the living room couch, reading for next semester. Then -
“Hui, what do you want to see in Thailand?”
“Hui, book your tickets for Shanghai now! Singapore Airlines is having a promotion”
“Hui, do you want to go to Ikea?”
And just like that, my mum and I made plans to visit Bangkok, I booked a return ticket to visit Auntie Bee Lan in Shanghai with my godparents, and I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening shopping for a shoe shelf (and some clothes/shoes, of course) with my mum and sister. Even I’m amazed.
And that’s not all! After dinner, my sister and I embarked on the dusty task of rearranging the furniture in her room to make space for the shelf. Ah! Many a furniture detour later, both of us were sniffling, even with our Magiclean dust mop at hand. And we haven’t even assembled the shelf yet.
And I thought I’d just be studying.