Monthly Archives: April 2011

perth day 9: I carry you with me.

Four final shots at our unofficial Perth Retreat Centre. Haha! :P

I’m glad I took the time and effort to write daily in the past nine days; now these wonderful memories are forever locked away and never forgotten (especially since I am so absent-minded). It has been a memorable holiday and certainly served its purpose of providing rejuvenation and revelation. With bated breath, I look forward to leading R-AGE, marriage preparations, restarting a new school semester next week and… My next holiday. (: For now, I believe I will enjoy re-reading these entries and re-living those memories:

Day 9 passed the fastest. Before we knew it, we already had lunch and completed last-minute purchases at Cockburn (pronounced “Koh-burn”, not “Kok-burn”) Gateway Shopping City. We returned home after that and Huiyi and I attempted to seal our luggages while Ervina and Chin Seng prepared for our last supper at the patio. No one could actually tell that I was feeling quite sad that I would soon be saying goodbye to the lovely people here; I honestly thought it was too melodramatic to display my emotions so I held myself back.

Chin Seng powered up the outdoor gas-powered barbecue pit and brought out gigantic tiger prawns and huge chicken wings while Ervina prepared a refreshing spinach garden salad with red wine vinegar and a lovely concoction of mint honey iced tea. Even Granny Aw joined in the action and contributed an avant-garde spicy cucumber and parsley salad of her own. (I’m pretty sure Huiyi and) I felt the love that has been so generously lavished upon us as we waited for dinner to be ready. Ervina gave thanks for the final time as we tucked in to a sumptuous spread. I shamelessly asked Granny Aw if she would miss me… And she said, “当然会,你们走了这个屋子没有那么热闹”. My heart practically melted.

We snapped our final photos before we gathered in a circle in the living room and held hands to pray for one another. I was so inspired by the way Granny Aw prayed – fervent and full of faith! With one final sweep of the house, we ensured that we had left nothing but good memories behind. We sat in their grey Mazda 3 for the final time, linked up with Ervina’s grandmother along the way, and drove to Perth International Airport.

There was a part of me that wished that there was only four of us at the airport. Maybe without Ervina’s relatives around, I might have actually expressed some emotions because I needed an outlet! I already knew that I was going to miss them both so much and even as I type this, I feel a heart-wrenching sensation at the core of my being. Beyond all the sights and sounds, this couple was undoubtedly the highlight of Perth and I’m glad Huiyi and I spent the bulk of our time in their endearing company.

I love those Love Birds so much more after this nine-day getaway and I’m sure it will be a good reunion when we do meet again. Lord, thank you for bringing me to Perth but more importantly, thank You for placing Chin Seng and Ervina in my life.

***

Darling, maybe someday
Forever I will stay
Lord knows that’s what I’m dreaming of
And I’m trying to find a way
But for now the wind keeps blowing
It carries me across the sea
So don’t you worry now, because

I carry you with me
I carry you with me

(“I Carry You With Me” | Tyler Burkum)

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perth day 8: top eight regrets of this holiday.

We have arrived at the end of our mini-sabbath… And it has been a good one that I am thankful for. Today’s programme was even more relaxing than yesterday’s. I slept in ’til the late morning while Huiyi and Ervina had D&M at a coffee joint in Fremantle. After that, we went to North Bridge Road (coincidentally also Perth’s Chinatown) to have lunch at the Vietnamese restaurant Tra Vinh. Then we headed to Coogee Beach to enjoy a beautiful sunset before returning home to enjoy home-cooked chicken and pork ribs curry prepared by Granny Aw. She treats me like her grandson. (:

So, I’ve decided to write something alternative on the eve of my departure from Down Under. Sounds untypically cryptic for me to write in a pessimistic manner, but here goes – my eight regrets on this trip (so far):

1. Oversleeping and missing the annual Anzac Dawn Parade today; not that I planned to go for it anyway…

2. Not reading any of the books I brought along; instead I bought three more at CS+E’s church.

3. Not dining at the famed Ciao Italia because it’s closed until 29th April; I need the tiramisu… NOW!

4. This is the biggest bummer of ’em all – not hanging out with Liang Zhi; I haven’t had quality time with him in years!

5. Not meeting up with Ps Benny as our schedules didn’t coincide; I was on a road trip on his free days.

6. Not asking Granny Aw to pray my recovery from Dercum’s Disease; I’m going to strike this out tomorrow though.

7. Earning a surface scratch on Liang’s car with a dustbin that I couldn’t see with either mirror; I’m flabbergasted.

8. Not applying medication to my huge ulcer below the tongue sooner; ulcers have a way of tainting any experience.

Less than 24 hours before Huiyi and I return to Singapore… I’m looking forward but I’m also feeling bittersweet. Won’t we all after a good break? (:

Rocking it out at Coogee Beach with air instruments…

perth day 7: it doesn’t matter where we go or what we do.

Top: Fremantle, 2007 and Bottom: Fremantle, 2011

Incidentally, I intentionally and instinctively posed the same way at the same place!

At around this time 48 hours later, I’ll be onboard the plane back to Singapore. It’s been a great holiday. I shall make the most of it and try to get some rest tonight. I’ve enjoyed attending Ps Benny Ho’s church (Faith Community Church) this morning, heading to the Love Birds’ church (Christian City Church International), eating at Little Creatures Brewery, walking around Fremantle, visiting the Easter Markets, having dinner at Nishi Japanese Restaurant and hanging out at home… It typifies the kind of holiday I’ve enjoyed – agenda-less and without programme or structure. I absolutely needed something like this.

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Amidst all the sights and sounds I took in today, I also made three observations:

  1. It doesn’t matter where you are located; as long as you’re beside the one you love.
  2. It doesn’t matter how funny you are; the one who loves you will laugh with you.
  3. It doesn’t matter what you say; the one whom you love hears what’s in your heart.

perth day 6: the jewel in any family.

I just received the “Never Let Go” updates from Yixian… 176 in attendance, 16 newcomers, 4 salvations, 2 re-dedications! Wow! God is good! Praise Him indeed…! Well done to everyone involved! Huiyi and I are really proud of you! In fact, she just asked me, “Are you a proud father?” And I nodded furiously! (:

***

I remember telling Huiyi that this holiday has passed surprisingly slowly; it feels like we’ve been here for a long time despite three more days on our itinerary. Normally time moves pretty quickly when you’re having a good time but time in Australia seems to pass at a different rate – and we love it.

I have written this entry on my way back from Denmark, a little town just about 100 kilometres off Albany. It had been a pleasant road trip. This incidentally is also the first time I’ve driven over 200 kilometres in one sitting. At the pit stop of our return leg, Ervina asked what each of our highlights were. It had to be the wind farm for me.

On a day with little activity (except driving) barring a visit to a berry farm, the West Cape Howe Winery and the Denmark Easter Market (which I’m told is the biggest market in Western Australia in the entire year), I’d like to talk about Chin Seng and his mother(, whose fitness is commendable for she could physically keep up with all our activities)…

I’ve always found it easy to speak with aunties and grannies and it was no exception for Granny Aw (I don’t actually know her real name). I have enjoyed breaking ice with this godly woman just by showing her my mischievous self (like a grandson would) and hearing her share her wonderful testimonies over meal times. Only moments ago, she shared a few more stories in the car. But what I’ve enjoyed most is to see that fire in her eyes and the enthusiasm in her voice when she shares what God had and has been doing in her life. I’ve been encouraged by her candid anecdotes communicated through four different Chinese languages – Mandarin, Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese. I told her that the next time she’s back in Singapore, she must make time to visit Huiyi’s and my grandmother, to tell them both how good Jesus is.

This morning, we woke up to avocado sandwiches prepared by Ervina and checked out of the beach house soon after. The visit to the berry farm was an anticlimax one as fruiting season had already passed. So it was a good thing that the winery visit was more eventful. I was glad to have finally visited a winery – now I feel more complete as a former marketing manager for a wine company. I enjoyed tasting a variety of wines and managed to pick up a bottle of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc at a pretty good price too.

In between those two places of harvest, we got a taste of the local spirit at the Easter Market. Huiyi and I aren’t big fans of such festivals; she’s convinced that she can’t find anything worthwhile in there while I’m just not fond of maddening crowds. So after a bratwurst sausage, we headed for the exit and went to enjoy our morning coffee instead at this establishment called Black Duck Cafe. Then we rejoined the gang for lunch at Bento Box, where Huiyi and I also bought matching Keep Cup coffee mugs that we would use in our respective offices and in future, our matrimonial dome.

We arrived at a local Chinese restaurant to pack dinner home. We wanted to head out to Little Creatures Brewery to have D&M but instead enjoyed it at the dining table over a few bottles of nice, cold and refreshing beer to bring the relaxing past three days to a wonderful finish.

There’s a Chinese saying that goes: 家有一老, 如有一宝. I admire the bond that Chin Seng shares with his mother; how they would converse in dialect; how he would, without fail, hold her hand to cross every road; and how he would lovingly reprimand his mother for things she would scold him for when he was younger – buckling up in the car, not buying unnecessary things and wearing enough clothes to keep warm, just to name a few. Prayerfully, may it be a reflection of Mummy and I two decades down the road.

perth day 5: in wide open wonder.

Gracefully powering Albany – taken by Huiyi on my iPhone 4.

You could never, ever, get sick of looking at the awesomeness of God’s beautiful creations – be it rock formations, waves crashing onto the coastline or just another sunset; Man could never recreate anything of this magnitude and yet God’s work takes place on a moment-by-moment basis, every single day of our lives! Is there a day that the waves would stop crashing or the sun stop setting? God is consistently faithful indeed.

To wake up from an 8-hour rest always feels good; to arise to the smell of baked bacon – that’s even better; and to walk out to bright sunshine, fresh air and air-conditioned temperature – I couldn’t ask for more. How could I not relax in such amazing conditions?

I already had a good feeling about today during breakfast – when Chin Seng and Ervina reminisced about their initial days in Perth and the struggles and victories they experienced, both individually and as a couple. I could relate to some of those settling-down blues as I experienced it in my first couple of months in Shanghai – those kind of days make you want to return home immediately.

I volunteered to take the steering wheel for most parts of today and in Australia, a driver’s best friend is Miss GPS. Our itinerary today were within close proximity of each other. We started our day with a brief visit to the strawberry park; this open-air one felt slightly different from the enclosed one at Zhao Tun in Shanghai; of the three strawberry farms I’ve visited (the other one in Cameron Highlands), I like the Shanghai one best – simply because I could eat the strawberries as I picked it.

Next up, Whale World, where we learnt about the history of the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company and how it played an integral role in the entire make-up of Albany; in short, the whaling industry made Albany. I’m relieved that these seemingly inhumane killings are now a thing of the past. Lunch served at the Whalers Galley Cafe was just as good as yesterday’s dinner; meals in Australia are costly, so I’m glad that portions are huge enough to share. The little wildlife farm at the back of Whale World (called Discovery Bay’s Walk on the Wild Side) felt like a repeat of the first wildlife farm we visited.

Sights and sounds started to get awe-inspiring when we made our way out of the man-made Whale World…

First, to The Blowholes at Torndirrup National Park. Wikipedia does a better job at describing it – a blowhole is formed as sea caves grow landwards and upwards into vertical shafts and expose themselves towards the surface, which can result in quite spectacular blasts of water from the top of the blowhole. There was a local who literally sprawled his body across a blowhole. What he did looked cool but honestly, it was a stupid thing to do for he could have gotten blown away by the blast!

Next, to The Gap and The Natural Bridge, also in the same park. No words would describe what I saw, so it may be better if you googled these two terms instead if you are keen to see what it looks like and how it was formed (since my photos are still sitting in my DSLR). We enjoyed these natural phenomenons against a backdrop of the setting sun and I must say every shot taken looked brilliant.

Finally, our day reached a literal high at the Albany Wind Farms, where we saw 12 gigantic (!) high-tech, sci-fi looking wind mills. From a distance, these blades looked like they were revolving slowly, but they are actually rotating at a speed of nearly 200 km/h! We also learnt that wind power accounts for 80% of Albany’s power supply; I can understand why after seeing these giants in action in front of a dramatic purple-hue sunset.

That more than sums up Good Friday… The girls are preparing a sumptuous dinner as I write this entry… Oh man, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into beef steaks, pork chops and potato salad over D&M dialogues… It’s going to be a great evening!

perth day 4: mentoring on the road.

I don’t normally fancy driving on road trips because I do not have good driving stamina; by about 60 minutes I’ll start to feel fatigued and would want to do a pit-stop – my last road trips from Shanghai to Hangzhou and from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur were no different. It certain didn’t help when my navigators started to sleep on the job. Haha. This time however, enroute from Perth City to Albany, I got past that dreaded hour-mark by singing to 五月天 music and engaging in good conversations with the rest of the passengers.

We discoursed a plethora of issues, be it inevitable topics like Grace AG, R-AGE and YAYP, to more interesting topics like:

  • Mentoring is dynamic (i.e. organic), not decisive.
  • Mentors are one-off, but mentoring is life-long.
  • Mentoring is complex – both systemic and seasonal.
  • Mentoring is about the process and the product.
  • What happens when meritocracy creeps into mentoring?
  • Who’s going to mentor those whose potential isn’t obvious?
  • Could mentoring success be derived from duplicity alone?
  • What is the sustainability and repeatability of a mentoring cycle?
  • What is the optimum age gap for mentors to retain their relevancy?
  • If Jesus had more than 3 years in ministry, would he have continued journeying with his 12 disciples or would he have “released” them to be disciple-makers and gone ahead to make 12 new disciples?

At the end of the day, I arrived at one conclusion, as cliche as it may sound, that human mentors are finite while God’s sovereignty is infinite. We as disciple-makers can only impact, invest and impart so much, and it’s not very much at all! Hence, I honestly opine that regardless of all the possible answers we could find from the above questions, it’s more important for any mentor to enjoy the entire journey, regardless of its outcome, and trust God to shape lives for His glory.

Well, back to the extraordinary mundane… (:

Today packed a straightforward itinerary; we had breakfast at home before setting off to Albany via a 420-kilometre/ 5-hour road trip; saw and fed Alpacas on our first pit stop; fed ourselves over lunch at Black Cockatoo Cafe; drove past Dog Rock and checked into our beach house destination at Barry Court; went for a walk at Albany Town Centre, had dinner of fish, squid and chips at The Squid Shack near Emu Point; went to Albany Creek to do some grocery shopping at Coles Supermarket; and finally returned to our single-storey bungalow. It’s 10:30pm as I write this entry and I am about to retreat to bed – finally, a good night’s rest beckons!

As usual, I always learn from Hunk (aka Chin Seng) every time we interact. This time, he imparted a life-and-death lesson into my system – about decisiveness on the road. Read that as metaphorically as you want… All I shall say is, by the grace of God, I thank God for allowing that overtaking incident to have taken place smoothly… (:

P/S 1: Huiyi and I celebrate our 40th month together today! It is a good Friday indeed. (:

P/S 2: We’re praying for “Never Let Go”! Keep up the good work, R-AGE! Invite friends!

P/S 3: I will post more pictures in my DSLR when I get my hands on a USB cable. For now, here’s what I found in a shop called “Thingz”. I didn’t buy it of course… Bottoms up!

perth day 3: a tiny glimpse of the great outback.

The first time I visited Australia in 2003, I went skiing at Mount Hotham with Daniel Heng and went to the Blue Mountains with Daniel, Ps Cuixian and Manrong. The second time I visited in 2007, I drove on the Great Ocean Road and saw the 12 Apostles. This time, I went to see the vastness of The Pinnacles and even went sand-boarding! I know this is over-mentioned but how can one not marvel at the awesomeness of our Creator when he or she has witnessed such marvelous natural wonders?

However, we nearly did not make it on this tour that we signed up for yesterday.

As usual, due to me waking up (slightly) late(r), we had to sprint from Coolbellup to Perth City and did not factor in peak hour traffic and navigation unfamiliarity in our planning. (Okay, actually Huiyi did, but I did not, but since we are engaged I used the collective – we – Haha!) So as we frustrated each other in the car, negotiated with an uncooperative Google Maps and took a wrong turn, we still managed to make it to the pick-up point just one minute late. The result of that however, is to pay for a day’s worth of parking (!) instead of the original plan to park at Liang’s apartment then walk to the pick-up location at Pier Street.

We have both learnt that when we quarrel, it’s like the rhino charging at a hedgehog – and both get hurt. So we naturally gave each other some time-out as we recovered from the adrenaline of chasing a departing coach. Things resumed normalcy once we woke up from a short nap in the bus.

Our first stop was at the Caversham Wildlife Park, where we saw, touched and interacted with three marsupials – the koala, wombat and my all-time favourite (for obvious reasons) kangaroo. At this point, I want to correct a common misconception. A joey isn’t just the young of a kangaroo, but of all marsupials; as long as the creature resides in a pouch after birth, it is referred to as a joey. I learnt that from National Geographic and the park guide confirmed it. I was tempted to introduce myself as Joey, but decided against it as it would be too cute and attention-seeking for a 28-year-old man. Haha! Man, I’ve really aged.

We arrived at the Cervantes Lobster Shack after another hour’s drive. I learnt some new things about the lobster industry. For example, conservation rules disapproves of catching lobsters that are either pregnant females, too young or males reaching fertility; lobsters caught with three or more missing legs are not included into its main sales but into miscellaneous categories like sashimi; the difference between lobsters sorted into Category A and G are 300 grams and a whopping 2 kilograms respectively and each category has its own market.

The older I get, the more curious I become; I could never imagine myself remembering or even being mildly interested in such trivial information when I was younger. Age seems to imbue a hunger for knowledge. Is it like that for you?

Finally, we arrived at The Pinnacles. We were accompanied by an army of flies as we walked into the centre of the attraction. Once we were about 1 km in, its vastness simply engulfed you. There were unique rock formations in every direction you looked. And I also witnessed the perversion of Man at work. While there was a rock formation that eroded into the shape of an erect penis, I also saw two smaller rocks at the base of that rock – obviously the work of mischievous visitors.

Next up – sand-boarding at Lancelin! Man, I have never seen so much sand in my entire life! The way the wind caressed the sand mounts was poetry in motion; the unseen wind was made visible with the presence of the fine white sand and that resulted in beautiful yet delicate sand formations. I could never imagine myself at the top of a sand dune but there I was, negotiating with the blistering wind as it violently stroked my exposed body parts. I froze a few times midway through my ascent as the sand got into my eyes (though I thought I had it protected by my Oakley’s)!

I felt as if the Spirit impressed upon my heart a few lessons about life from that novel experience of sliding down a 30 metre sand mount:

  1. 逆风的方向更适合飞翔. I can appreciate those 五月天 lyrics from another perspective. As the wind blew (the sand) toward you, you’d naturally want to turn the other direction, not knowing that doing that could actually get more sand in your eyes (as some would escape, run along the side of your face and get into your eyes). Instead, and this I learnt I when I scaled the sand dune the fifth time, face the wind head on and let the eyewear do what you paid it to do – protect your eyes from the forward onslaught. As we face seemingly insurmountable challenges in our lives, let’s not turn our backs towards these obstacles but tackle it from the front!
  2. When experiencing a mini-victory, don’t be too quick to celebrate. I think I’m a fast learner and besides, sand-boarding isn’t the hardest thing to do, so I thought I handled it pretty well on my first attempt and even slid quite fast. I also knew that Huiyi was taking pictures of me so as I approached the end of the slope, I raised my arms and let out a victorious “Woooh!”, loud and proud. And I ate sand almost immediately and toppled to my side. Haha! As I spit the fine fragments out of my mouth, I told myself to shut up the next time I slid down. Pride goes before a fall indeed.
  3. Learn to enjoy the uphill climb as much as you enjoy the downhill slide. My fitness isn’t bad but the 50-step ascent was literally more breathtaking than it looked. The first time I went up, I was so excited about sliding down that I forgot to check out the panoramic view from on top of the sand dune. I told myself to do that in subsequent climbs and so I paused for ten seconds longer (to catch my breath and) to take in the amazing visual spectacle before I took the plunge. Let’s learn to enjoy both the tests and trophies for each has its own set of memorable experiences and character-shaping qualities.

So there you go, my reflections on day 3, churned out on the return journey back to the city.

We are going to pack some chili mussels from Concas and purchase some soft drinks before we return to Leontes Way to prepare dinner and rest even earlier tonight. Can’t wait for the road trip!

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