If you are here because I ‘friend’ you on Facebook and you read the invitation, on my first post there, to come over ..


You have been conned.

(Please don’t ‘enemy’ me.)

I’m only interested in making all of you aware of my lil cosy secret place on the interwebs, the one right here.

(Please don’t ‘unlike’ me..)

See you again!

Have a nice day!

p/s: The surge of Facebook-referred visits here after a friend – hey Hau En! – advertised my website on her Facebook account gave me this devious idea. Please blame her. Please don’t hate me.

What I wrote about when I wrote about rainy days

Dili, Timor Leste, 15 July 2010 – It is now the dry season, and has been since June. As DJ Weather spins the sunshine wheel and twirls the humidity knob, the mountains turn brownish, the traffic whips up ever more impressive sandstorms, and I burrow deeper into the cave I call my darkroom.

(Which would have worked out perfectly if only I were a film photographer. And if only I am a fan of saunas. In my windowless room, the ventilation comes from the small mesh wire on part of the bathroom ceiling and the door itself — of course I keep it closed most of the time. So I hope no one begrudges the fact my otherwise spartan cave boasts the luxury of an air-conditioner.)

But we can’t defy or deny global warming, or maybe it is climate change, or perhaps some hacker was fiddling with the controls, or, hey, it was a happens-once-in-fifty-years freak event, in the face of nature’s wrath and waterworks. For most of the past week, Dili was drenched.

Lashing rain, rumbling thunder, sunless days, chilly nights. Puddles big enough to float a dozen A3-sized paper boats. Mud. Barefooted boys — and one intrepid girl! — splashing around, kicking a ball outside the church gates. Others flee, seeking shelter. Two schoolgirls huddle under the enormous umbrella of a street vendor’s store. More mud. A man asleep, sketched out like a cat, on the butcher’s cart, by the road, while rain cascaded down the sides of the roof, a mini-waterfall. A little boy sits by the curb, looking forlorn, soaked through, his feet immersed in a widening pool of water. Everyone hates squishy mud. People idle under awnings, squat on porches, clustered at the supermarket entrance, stranded, as I was, enjoying the air suddenly fresh, revelling in the tranquility of the moment, of time slowed by the quickening storm.

These were the best photos I never took.

Becoming an elder

I got mail from MOH last week. The envelope was fatter and more substantial than the usual government letters. It had the NTUC Income logo at the top left and the MOH one at the bottom right. But what twisted my sexy eyebrows was the “ElderShield” word smack in the middle.

What is this? 有没有搞错?Who you calling elder?!

Ok. My full name was printed on it, so it’s indeed for me.

Apparently, I’ll soon hit the age when automatic enrolment into the national ElderShield plan beckons, at a cost of $174.96 annually till age 65. The benefits are a monthly payment of $400 up to a maximum of 72 months, if I kena “severe disability” which means I cannot independently do three of the following six activities – washing, dressing, feeding, toileting, mobility, transferring. Wahlau, jialat leh. You wonder how much $400 can help if you really become that severely disabled and dependent.

The day after, Cable – my almost two-and-a-half-year-old nephew – greeted me when I reached home. “Ah pek!” So sweet right.

Then, for some reason, he started chanting: “Ah pek ah pek ah pek ah pek ah pek…!”

What is this?!

I’m far from being a conspiracy nut, but one possibility is that MOH has also informed him and the guy was trolling me. He better watch his attitude, or I’m writing him out of my will.

Meanwhile, MINDEF has yet to inform me I am going to ROD this year.

What is this?

No horse run

Saturday, April 20, 2002

Misfiring neurons
I think of the oddest things at the oddest times.

Like, now.

One perk (if I can phrase it that way) of being a teacher is getting to howl at the funny answers my students give sometimes. Of course, it isn’t in the slightest bit funny when I consider it in the context of how little they know about the subject, or how horribly mangled their interpretation of the question is.

Let’s call it a tragicomedy then.

Science test. One question consists of a cartoony picture of a boy on a bicycle. It asks what energy changes occur. (Primary 5 topic: “Changes around us”. Say, when electric and heat energy change to light energy in a bulb. Clear?)

A budding genius answered:

“Change to horse.”



My online photo gallery just emailed me a warning – my lease is up next month and it cannot auto renew because the credit card details are outdated. As said before, I won’t be staying on – US$40/year is a bit much – and no one ever visits anyway.

So I’m taking down all the photos. And came across this one – my work desk circa 2009, I think. And in probably the most creative-industry kind of job I ever had.

There’s a dual-screen setup, an ancient Powerbook I bought on the cheap (with a yellowed screen), a Pixar lamp, a copy of the thousand-page A Suitable Boy (which I got through halfway a year later in Timor), earphones, a can of Laotian beer, tea bags, photos galore strung up around the perimeter – some developed from film rolls – and odds and ends, and surrounded by books stacked high and all around, and this totally industrial hipster vibe (because the office was located in an industrial-warehouse building, duh).

It sure brings back the memories. Moral of story: You really should take a nice photo of every work desk you have. 

Three Gems

A friend, Derek Liang (some of you might know him as Yiquan), has just launched his novel “Three Gems”. It’s a pleasure to have worked on Derek’s book, and an honour to be asked to pen the foreword.

I have had the pleasure and honour of knowing Derek over the past decade or so. Back in 2007, we were fellow volunteers involved in organising the Deafinitely Boleh Carnival under the auspices of the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf). Back then, he was just one among many volunteers I encountered during my own stint in the social service and special education field spanning 15 years. But Derek turned out to be that bit different from most others.

It was only much later, upon reading the draft manuscript of the book you are holding now, that I realised the sheer range and depth of his voluntary tour of duty. From his university days onwards, Derek has given his time, effort and expertise to the special needs community in a diverse range of roles and with different welfare organisations in Singapore. Derek was a befriender with youth residents at the Singapore Boys’ Home, organised activities for and worked directly with persons with intellectual disability at MINDS (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore), and gave tuition to deaf and hard-of-hearing students with his school (Nanyang Technological University) as well as helped in projects with SADeaf.

This account of volunteering with often neglected, misunderstood and underserved groups, based on Derek’s real-life experiences, is an engaging one. It is also an important one which offers insights into their respective worlds, and shows the universality of the human experience in spite of all the outwardly superficial differences among us. From his vantage as a veteran volunteer, Derek also offers something novel – a rarely articulated and honest look at the ups and downs, as well as joys and disappointments, of the practical aspects and emotional journey of volunteering.

As a person, Derek has that quality of treating as equals those he worked with, and he is never patronising or condescending. Instead, he consciously tossed aside stereotypes, made the effort to see the bigger picture and delved into the smaller but equally crucial personal details – the unique circumstances, backgrounds and personal stories of the people he interacted. By showing how volunteering benefits the giver as much as the recipient, I hope Derek’s book inspires more to step forth and contribute to worthy causes. In its own quiet way, this book also pays a heartfelt tribute to all the volunteers out there who have been selflessly doing crucial work for little recognition and reward.

Lastly, I am proud to know Derek as a friend, a fellow volunteer, and – most of all – as a big-hearted person who serves others with respect and compassion.

50% of the sales proceed of the book will be donated to Prison Fellowship Singapore. You can support the cause by ordering the book.

Website: http://threegemsnovel.weebly.com/

eBook order: https://www.kobo.com/sg/en/ebook/three-gems

Softcover book order: http://threegemsnovel.weebly.com/order-here.html