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the price of grace is the prize of grace.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” — Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

My trip to Perth in October was my third visit there. However, it was the first time I was stopped by the customs officer for a bag check. Australian customs are a lot stricter than Singapore’s and there was a platoon of inspection officers even though my flight touched down at midnight. The following is my account of what happened.

According to the customs officer who stopped me and requested to check my luggage for contraband items, a bag check is performed every 30 minutes on a random individual. And since I had nothing to hide, I decided to make conversation with him. I told him that it’s a great thing that the customs procedure was so strict because not every airport is so vigilant.

As I interacted with him, I observed that he’s professional and proficient in what he does; he knew by heart the contents of the declaration card and was familiar with the bags inspection procedures. He asked for my name and went to retrieve my declaration card, then he verified if I had filled up the card and packed the luggage myself.

I offered to help him as he opened my luggage, but he insisted on doing it himself. He was meticulous and checked every single corner of every available space (without messing up my belongings). He conducted the search under my supervision and as he rummaged through my things, he articulated everything that he was doing.

Once again, he asked if I had read the rules and regulations in the declarations before I signed on it. I nodded. Then he brought out the card and pointed to the section where it read that dairy and wood were banned. I nodded. Of course I knew that those were prohibited items.

But what I didn’t realise was that there was milk powder in the 3-in-1 coffee sachets I brought over and there was wood in Liang Zhi’s Gibson Les Paul electric guitar (7.8kg of wood – duh!) that I had helped him lug over.

I was caught off-guard at my negligence; I took these things for granted because they didn’t look dangerous or like a prohibited item. At least, that was what I had assumed.

Thankfully, the customs officer perceived that I had made a genuine mistake and that I didn’t do it on purpose. He asked what I did for a living and I think my occupation did help to prove my credibility and honesty.

Well, I readied myself to pay taxes for the guitar (and perhaps charge it to Liang Zhi later), as well as to have the eight sachets of coffee confiscated and discarded. I even said to him in jest, “Oh well, there goes my morning coffee for the next week…”

He flashed a wry smile, then he described the penalty of my error. The severity of my oversight hit me hard and I gulped at the seriousness of the offence. So I asked him what would happen from here and what would happen to me (and these items).

For some strange reason (read: grace of God), he decided not to pursue the matter.

“I’m going to let you pass this time but this check will be recorded. If you make such a mistake again, I can’t guarantee that you’d be let off the hook”, he asserted.

I was surprised by his demonstration of grace but I sincerely thanked him for dropping the case.

***

As I pushed my trolley out of the airport, I thought about the grace of God in this scenario.

All Bible-reading believers would know that the wages of sin is death – it’s spelt out clearly for everyone in Romans 6:23. And any responsible evangelist would have explained its severity – eternity without God. (I know reading “eternity without God” doesn’t sound as scary, but if you think about it, it’s a rather petrifying thought!)

Yet we take no heed to it, be it through taking God’s grace for granted or being negligent about our salvation. And when we get into trouble, all we can do is to plead innocence. But how innocent are we, really? A good number of us are callous and careless about abusing the grace of God.

Yes, I believe God will be like the customs officer – “This time, I’ll let you off…” But more importantly, what is our response towards His grace? I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve repented repeatedly about abusing the grace of God – I’m guilty as charged.

For me, I will take extra caution to ensure that I do not make the same mistake again when it comes to packing dairy or wood (or any other contraband items) without declaring it. I learnt, from my first-hand experience, that the grace of God shouldn’t cause us to sin some more, but to sin no more. What a timely reminder.

Innocent until proven guilty.

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a September stock-take and an October onslaught.

It’s always therapeutic to do a stock-take after an eventful week, which would have been impossible to pull off and not fall exhausted on my face, if not for the grace of God that saw me though. Warning: long post.

Monday: attended QC (Questions and Contributions) time and a monthly mentoring session with Ps Edmund Chan; ’til this day, I still thank God for the divine appointment in which He has connected me to Ps Ed; what a privilege and honour.

Tuesday AM: led worship at the Tuesday staff devotion with Ps Meng Cham; that’s how I will do it from now on – being accompanied by a seasoned musician makes it so much more enjoyable (because I won’t need to practice with my guitar!)

Tuesday PM: prepared for and sat through a staff meeting, which was a heart-wrenching experience and threw me off my momentum; I’m thankful for Ps Ronald who patiently listened to me rant and vent my frustrations. This forced me to come before the Lord that evening to seek His face. And I’m glad I did. The Lord spoke to me through Genesis 13 and Hebrews 6.

Wednesday AM: Caleb crashed at my place the night before and we watched Man Utd surrender a 2-0 lead to Basel and equalised in typical United fashion at the dying minutes. I struggled through the second half, to be honest. I’m really getting old…

Wednesday PM: led worship at the weekly Wednesday church prayer meeting (J333) with Rafael.; exposing youth musicians through my J333 duties gives me renewed purpose when I find my name on the worship leading roster. My next session is on 30 November and I’ll go over-the-top because I’ll be teaming up with Ps Ronald and the church will be praying for R-AGE.

Thursday: presented the 2012 R-AGE budget in front of the Head of Administration, accountant and finance manager of Grace AG on Thursday (my first time presenting with Excel spreadsheets); administration is really not my strength. Thank God for Ps Ronald who rescued me by answering on my behalf on a few occasions.

Friday AM: had a delectable dim-sum lunch at Royal China @ Raffles Hotel with Sheryl from Eagles, together with Daniel and Xavier too, and joined the Vantage Point magazine editorial team. (I just received my first email from them!)

Friday PM: sat through another staff meeting, and wondered what it would be like next year when I’m chairing it.

Friday EVE: spent time with some of my favouritest people on the planet at the GII Shepherds cell, and facilitated our Harmony of the Gospels lesson; Yixian said if we continued at this pace (in-depth but extremely slow), we’d take two years to finish the book.

Saturday AM: led the R-AGE 2012 manpower deployment discussion with Caleb, Keith, Kenneth and Rachael; yes, R-AGE leaders, we were deliberating over your fate next year! HAHAHA. I can’t wait to see youths lead youths!

Saturday PM: preached an apologetics cum evangelistic sermon (my first attempt) for the Same Same But Different evangelistic service at R-AGE@GII. I actually enjoyed my preparation more than my execution. It was intellectually stimulating to read in greater detail how atheism, pantheism and polytheism (among many other -isms) stood against theism.

Saturday EVE: chaired the Bare Bones 2012 coordination meeting with Nicole, Keith, David and Grace – who have proposed some spectacular ideas for the year-end conference. It’s gonna blow Grace AG away; everything is going to be significantly leveled-up! I’m delighted to be working with such exceptional youth leaders. Watching Man Utd defeat Norwich 2-0 capped my day.

Sunday: preached the same sermon at R-AGE@GI. I took the opportunity to clear up some personal administrative work while waiting to have lunch with Huiyi and Yixian. After a short nap to recharge my batteries, I resumed studying for my 60% News Studies paper (the next day), which I have burned midnight oil for in the past seven days. Little by little, I’ve conquered the paper.

Monday (today): praise God for a relatively easy exam paper! It’s different when you understand what you are reading and memorising instead of mugging just for the sake of. I managed to finished the paper with an hour to spare, so I brought forward my appointment with my hairstylist. It’s 4pm now (at the point of writing) and my head literally and metaphorically feels lighter.

I’m going to complete this blog post before I go ahead to prepare the slides for the R-AGE 2012 Ministry Action Plans (which I’m presenting to all pastoral staff tomorrow!) Then I’m going to head out to China Square to treat my family to a nice dinner of Crab Bee Hoon @ Don’s Pie Club. We’re celebrating my sister’s belated birthday (1 October), as well as my 8th 21st birthday in advance.

This week, I also managed to meet Caleb and Lucas for lunch and mentoring on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. I thoroughly enjoy investing time into young men who possess a desire to grow. Lucas’ huge appetite for growth reminds me of me, especially in the way that I pursue my mentors. I told him to never lose his hunger (okay, boy?).

After our  mentoring session over coffee in Starbucks@Tanglin Mall, he asked, “How do you do it, Bro Joey?” It being managing the many things on my plate. I couldn’t find an adequate way to answer him except to say, with all sincerity, that this capacity is a God-given gift; how could I take credit for the grace of God? I told him to ask God for it as well, because I think God will give it. (I didn’t tell him about the price of increased capacity though, but I’m sure he’ll figure that out himself.)

September has been an exceptional month in ministry. Besides starting R-AGE on the Spiritual Disciplines: Training in Holiness sermon series, I’ve also been planning for R-AGE in 2012 and meeting up with lots of youth leaders who might be serving alongside me next year. I am convinced that it’s my time with the Lord everyday that’s keeping me afloat.

I’ve also been reading non-stop throughout the week (and at an aggressive pace too). Besides the Bible during my daily devotions, sermon preparation materials and academic texts, I’ve also been feasting into Edmund Chan’s Cultivating Your Inner Life, Philippe Auclair’s Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King and Larry Crabb’s 66 Love Letters. I think I’m concurrently reading eight books – and I love the variety! This is effective for someone like me who gets bored easily.

On a more personal note, I’ve also been spending lots of time with Huiyi with our wedding preparation; we’ve reserved Sunday afternoons to visit bridal studios and photographers, as well as to plan for our big day. The highlight of these trips is to catch a sneak preview of my wife-to-be when she emerges from the changing room in glorious, gorgeous white; she’s gonna be the most stunning bride in all of Singapore next August – you have no idea how much we are looking forward to be married to each other!

I’d probably be packing my luggage midway when this post is published; Jetstar is going to take me to Perth at 5:45pm (Tuesday). I look forward to hanging out with Chin Seng, Ervina and Liang Zhi, but the highlight of my trip is to spend time with Ps Edmund and Ps Ann. I’ve been looking forward to this trip ever since I purchased the air tickets (super cheap!) a few months ago.

When I began my mentoring journey with Ps Edmund around this time last year, he emailed me his traveling itinerary and invited me to follow him on one of his countless trips; so here I am, excited and still starstruck, counting down the hours before I get to spend quality, uninterrupted and extended time with a God-given mentor, whom I’m sure will sharpen, challenge and inspire me!

October, I am ready for your onslaught!

Quenching my spiritual thirst with living water! (@ The Pinnacles, Perth, Australia)

V. the first idea – Perth.

I proposed to Huiyi on her 24th birthday (15 April 2011), but in the last quarter of 2010, after I confirmed with Chin Seng and Ervina (our mentors who migrated to Australia) that Huiyi and I would take a holiday in Perth in April 2011, I also informed Chin Seng that I might propose in Perth. He gave me his fullest support and graciously opened up his home to house us during our short stay there.

One of my closest friends, Liang Zhi, also resides in Perth and he was the one who got me started on photography. So I knew I could count on my three favourite Singaporeans in Perth to play the role of paparazzi for my engagement. I was seriously considering proposing in Perth and had sussed out possible proposal locations as well as Perth’s sunset and sunrise timings.

But I decided against it because there were just too many factors out of my control. Sure, an overseas proposal was special and romantic, but it was surely unrealistic too. Our hectic schedules didn’t allow us to plan our Perth itinerary in advance and not knowing where we were going to be on which day or what we were doing was risky. A lack of knowledge of the traffic conditions, a shortage of proper recording equipment and just a general scarcity of resources counted against me. And not being familiar with the proposal venue especially, proved to be my deciding deterrent.

Therefore, I canned the idea of proposing in Perth despite its allure but I used this vacation as a decoy to devastating effect.

In our conversations about Perth, I stealthily revealed how Liang Zhi was an accomplished photographer and how Chin Seng and Ervina owned a DSLR. As we scoured Lonely Planet for places to visit in Perth, I playfully but shrewdly hinted to her those places with great views of the sunset and sunrise. I was sure she got the hint. I reminded her to pack that denim blouse from Zara that I bought for her last year and assured her that the photographs would look amazing with that light blue fabric draped over her.

Well, let’s just say the proposal could have taken place in any of the following locations:

The clincher was this, “After we’re back from Perth, the first thing we should do is to start a joint bank account, okay?”

She nodded with excited anticipation. I smiled at her with a I-know-you’ll-love-the-proposal-I’m-gonna-blow-you-away-with-in-Perth look in my eyes. In my head, I knew I had fully convinced her of my grand proposal that was never going to take place in Perth.

And I did this a few times – never intentionally, always incidentally. But I was intentionally incidental, if you know what I mean.

Now, I can finally concentrate on planning the REAL proposal…

Next chapter: the second idea – Mapletree Business City.

an insight into why youths in Singapore should live overseas for an extended period.

By July 2003, the longest duration I’ve spent out of Singapore was 20 days on a post-graduation/pre-enlistment back-packing trip in Australia together with Daniel Heng; it remains one of my fondest holiday to date – not just because of the company but because of the new experiences, like how I saw and felt snow for the first time at Mount Hotham.

By July 2009, I had just returned from a 19-month work stint in Shanghai. It was by far the longest time I had ever been away from home. And as some might know, the first couple of months were miserable, but the rest of it was nothing short of momentous. It completely changed my perspective towards living overseas for an extended period.

A couple of days ago, I read an account of Victor Yen’s conversation with Shawn Lee and asked for his permission to share it wholesale on my blog (though I added some paragraphing for easier reading). It encapsulates my wholehearted endorsement to any young person who might ask me if it’s a good idea to have an overseas adventure, but on the conditions that they:

  • have saved up for it and/or their family can afford it
  • have a wise and mature head on their shoulders
  • are at peace with God on their decision
  • have responsibly taken care of their commitments
  • remember to return home

The bottom-line for my recommendation – open your eyes, get out of this bubble and discover what you’re missing. Either way, I hope you enjoy the following as much as I have… And if you do get the chance to go for an overseas exchange, employment or extended holiday, GO! (:

On “Swiss Standard of Living”
by Victor Yen

Had a fantastic night – dinner and chitchat – with my “youth” Shawn. I still think of him as my “youth”, having mentored him in a Christian cell setting when he was 15. He’s now 21 and just finished 2.5 months of backpacking Europe after National Service, couch-surfing his way throughout. The amazing thing? He claimed he did not spend a single cent on accommodation. Awesome stuff.

Among a whole lot of countries he visited, he just gave me a glowing account of Switzerland and her famous Swiss Standard of Living. I have never been to Switzerland and asked him many questions. And this is coming from a guy who did not do the tour-package thing. He lived with people, ate what they ate, castrated their pigs (yes, he helped out in farms) and got himself immersed in their lives.

This is what he shared:

Work / Life Balance

  1. They work 42 hours/week or 8 hours a day. This is a matter of law. If extra time is clocked, they are entitled to overtime pay or off-in-lieu. Lunch takes at least 2 hours.
  2. The minimum guaranteed leave they have is 3 weeks per year. But most companies give 4 weeks.
  3. Most people there have hobbies. I mean, real hobbies. They are passionate and spend time on them. For starters, according to Shawn, he hasn’t met anyone who has never skied. They are into archery and stuff. In Singapore, I dare say that if you grab a man on the street and ask him what his hobby is, you get a stammering answer at best on probably these 3 possibilities: “shopping” or “eating” or “sleeping”.

Education

  1. There are 2 tracks after elementary and high school education: academic or vocational. If academic, you go on to university. If vocational, you go straight to work. It’s called apprenticeship. 4 days/week you are at a car mechanic workshop / kitchen etc, in the thick of real action, with real paying customers. The remaining 1 day, you go for your theory lessons. The entire post-secondary education takes typically 3 years. What happens to these chaps upon graduation? Your guess is as good as mine. They become highly-skilled specialists.
  2. Shawn was staying with a family who has a 6 or 7-year-old boy. Wednesdays are rest days from school. What does the family do on Wednesdays? They bake a cake together.

Community

  1. Everyone is greeting everyone on their way to work, school or to the supermarket. He has not heard a single car horn in the month he was there. Pedestrians cross roads as they please, and cars will stop for them. Everyone waves and smiles at each other.
  2. According to Shawn, Switzerland is crazy safe. When he asked a local if there was any recent crime, the reply he got was, “I think we have a stabbing 2 years ago…”

Standard of Living

  1. An average clerk makes a respectable $5-6K francs a month. This pay may square off as average/middle-income in their countries but when they travel, the world is their playground. Oh, by the way, if you flip burgers full-time, your pay check’s probably $3-4K francs.
  2. If you don’t have a job, you can stand in a queue and get a cheque to feed your children. You don’t have to contemplate suicide during job transitions.
  3. He couch-surfed in a farm, where the owner got, wait-for-it, 34 hectares of land for $600K francs. On the land, there is a house and a barn. The rest of it? Forest. Man runs a b&b and guests get to take a walk in his private forest. Shawn said, “It’s pretty epic. I walked with him and he said, ‘This is my forest.'”
  4. Haagen Daz ice-cream costs $3.50 francs a tub. Enough said.

Hold on a second. This cannot be true, right?

  1. The thing is, the Swiss are not paying an incredible amount of tax. About 17%.
  2. The Swiss are not lazy people. They are incredibly productive and I think I’ve read that somewhere. I believe it boils down to passion and skill. They are very interested in what they do and they are very good at what they do.
  3. Ok, dining in a restaurant will cost you, so most people end up cooking their own meals. A Macdonald’s meal costs $19 but hey, it’s junk anyway. The beautiful thing is: necessities are cheap. A litre of milk is 60 cents. 500 grams of pasta is 35 cents. You can eat well even if you are on welfare.
  4. One interesting observation is people are independent. They jack up their cars to rotate tyres and change engine oil. This guy he stayed with is a one-man renovation team. He learns everything from DIY books, then heads to a giant DIY store and gets all the supplies. Before you know it, man’s drilling, cementing and sawing stuff.

Quick-a-side: This jolted my memory when I was backpacking US a few years back. This guy, who’s an estates’ maintenance man hired by an outdoors camp, saw a puddle of water on the ground. He told me, “Well, that puddle hasn’t subsided after 2 weeks.” The next thing I know, he’s on a John Deere tractor digging up the ground. Lo and behold, there’s a burst water pipe underneath all that dirt. He got into the ditch and fixed it, saving a chunk of the utilities’ bill.

This is the same guy who built an entire flying-fox structure. The camp director told him to explore building “a fun thing “over the water. The man read up and started ordering timber. Amazing. How many Singaporeans truly know how to do things? Most of us can’t even cook to feed ourselves.

There is also a huge gulf between a blue-collared worker here and a white-collared one. I can imagine that they would have problems communicating with each other. One is lowly paid, drinks beer in hawker centres and speaks Hokkein mostly. The other earns more, drinks beer at One-Fullerton and speaks fake American English.

The truth is blue-collared workers in Europe/US are able to communicate and work with anyone comfortably. They are on the internet and read books on landscaping. Can our blue-collared workers do that? Is there anything wrong with our education system?

The evening ended with Shawn sharing one last point:

When he asked the Swiss “How’s life?”, he got mostly a matter-of-fact “Yes, I think we have a good life.” How many Singaporeans are saying that?

*An Erdinger is 85 cents by the way…*

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 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!

perth day 1: high time to unwind.

Huiyi and I have arrived safely in Perth, Western Australia, and we’re looking forward to a good break with some friends here.

We have just checked into the Love Birds’ (aka Chin Seng and Ervina’s) home – lovely place – what a house to call home! And I got myself acquainted with the couch, while Huiyi made her bed on a spring mattress. I was unusually hungry and ate a bowl of noodles and a plate of bee-hoon (and one dark chocolate Tim Tam. HAHA). It must have been the flight.

Liang Zhi actually took leave and offered to pick us up from the airport (and spend the next couple of days with us) but he had to leave for South Korea with his fiancee on a last minute’s notice. I’m quite bummed that Liang and I won’t be able to spend time together as he’s one of my closest buddies and half the reason I’m visiting Perth. He has, however, generously offered us his Mitsubishi Colt and SIM card for the duration of our holiday – what a blessing!

Ps Mark Varughese and Jemima also offered to pick us up from the airport – what a generous gesture! – but over the weekend we couldn’t contact him to confirm this arrangement. We just found out via Facebook that his house was robbed and his laptops were stolen. Sigh – We hope the family is all right.

Hence, I had to ask the exceptional Chin Seng and Ervina if they were kind enough to accommodate to our last-minute request and pick us up from the airport; I asked Chin Seng just before we boarded the plane and he was so cool about it.

(I digress, but I seriously need a new laptop; the battery barely lasts for 45 minutes and I’m seeing a lot more rainbow wheels these days. I wanted to play Football Manager on the plane and could only last four games before the battery went into the red. Tragic!)

On the plane, we were sandwiched between two rows of Caucasians – fidgety young men behind us and a mother with two daughters in front of us who made such a ruckus. Honestly, it got a little annoying… But what got me thinking was how I seemed to be that tad bit more tolerant than usual. Would I have been more impatient if they were Chinese nationals? After all, these Caucasians didn’t behave very differently from a PRC’s typical social conduct. Was it because I was about to enter their country? Was it because I was taking a budget airline? Was it because I was tired? Was it because I didn’t want to create a scene since I was with Huiyi? Or was it because there was a deeper, unexplored meaning behind my hesitance to react? Hmm…

It won’t be long before we wake up to have breakfast with Su Ern before we head to Harbour Town (factory outlet$!) and Perth City itself for a free-and-easy walk-about. On a personal note, after being chased by the tyranny of the urgent over the last few months and the insanity of my relentless schedule in Singapore, I refuse to enjoy this holiday like a Choleric… Instead I shall attempt to bring out my hidden Phlegmatic in the next week. Yes, Huiyi’s going to be the 老板娘. HA.

But seriously, I think it’s high time for me to unwind and to receive a fresh new revelation from God in His Word. I can’t wait to spend quality time with Him… And with my lovely fiancée! (:

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