The Race To Be…Second…?

During the 2016 US election, the now-President based his campaign on the promise to “Make America Great Again” and on inauguration day, the newly-minted 45th POTUS declared he would make “America First”.

In response to this promise, the Dutch news satire show, Zondag met Lubach, decided to make The Netherlands Second. For the geographically-challenged, their campaign highlights all the best things about the Netherlands. (Author update: unfortunately, due to copyright issues, this video has been removed from YouTube. Boo!)

Shortly after the Dutch video went viral, the bid to outdo them began. The Germans joined in with their version and before you know it, a string of other countries around the world began to vie for this “enviable” position of becoming second – Iran, Italy, Luxembourg, Denmark, Portugal, Austria and the list goes on. Even my own country, Australia, decided to join in following the controversial phone call between POTUS and our Prime Minister. However, we threw in a twist: our message was less about “Making Australia Second” and more about “bomb Australia last”.

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Feel Good February

fgf-web-banner-1500x300Welcome to February, the shortest month in the calendar year. Summer is in full swing in Australia and doesn’t seem to want to let up. This means we have more beach and outdoor time. People are generally in happier moods when the weather is warm and the sky is blue.

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FGF founder Linda Pang

But moods are constantly changeable. In the current political and economic climate, we are hit by negative views and news on a daily (hourly may be more accurate at times) basis. There seems to always be something that makes us angry at somebody or something. It only takes one single word, action or inaction from someone to turn a good day into a bad one.

img_7366By the same token, it doesn’t have to cost you anything more than a brief moment or a simple gesture to show kindness to someone and make their day. And when someone is feeling good, there is a greater likelihood of that person making someone else’s day. It is on this simple idea that my friend, Linda Pang, founded Feel Good February back in 2015.

img_7308To kick off Feel Good February for 2017, Linda invited volunteers of all ages and from different backgrounds to participate in a craft morning, where we collectively brought our artistic and creative skills to create cards, paintings and jewellery which we will then leave at random public places to brighten someone else’s day.


So if you find little gifts around Sydney packaged with small orange cards, pick it up, keep it and pay it forward. Remember, it doesn’t have to cost anything to be kind! Of course, you don’t need to be creative or artistic to make others feel good. For more ideas on random acts of kindness or how to start your own “Feel Good February” (or Feel Good Everyday), go to their Facebook page or website. You can also find them on Twitter and Instagram. And please do share with us your own stories of kindness any time!

In the meantime, have a great February and hope you’re feeling good!

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Bucking The Trend

Many years ago on Mother’s Day, I told my mother that she should be giving my sister and I presents instead of the other way around. My logic was simple: without us, she would not be a mother. Similarly, on my birthday, I should be giving her and Dad presents because I would not be here without them. After all, I had nothing to do with my being here. Of course, I was just being cheeky – we all know we should be celebrating our mothers every single day, am I right?

This year, Australia Day and Chinese (Lunar) New Year occur 2 days apart. Normally, my family follows the very Aussie tradition of doing a BBQ on Australia Day. If it is a hot day, we would jump in the pool, make up some ridiculous games that usually end up with someone (me) getting a cramp or pulling a muscle, but always laughing till our cheeks hurt. Chinese New Year is traditionally celebrated with family dinner on the night before the new year, a time for everyone to down-tools, put the past year behind us and start afresh.

Over the past several weeks, my family has experienced the loss, half a world away, of a close family friend and then a family member. Both took us a little by surprise. So we decided to keep our celebrations a little low-key this year. A friend asked me the other day how I was going to be celebrating this year. I replied: “Well, we are going to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. We are going to a Chinese restaurant on Australia Day and then we’re going to a steak restaurant for Chinese New Year.”

Buck the trend. Dare to be different.

Why I Joined the Women’s March on Sydney

January 21, 2017.

I am not an activist. I never cared much for politics, politicians or the monotonous drivel they always tended to spout. I was never part of a student union while at university. I never joined any protests or rallies or attended any town hall meetings. In fact, I daresay decades of listening to people go on and on about things that neither affected me nor interested me made me into one of millions of apathetic people who inhabit this earth.

I never considered myself a feminist either. Not because I didn’t believe in women’s causes such as gender equality, anti-discrimination or planned parenthood. I just never felt personally impacted by these “issues”. When I was a kid, I climbed trees and my father taught me how to fly a kite. When my sister and I got our driver’s license, he taught us how to change a car tyre because you never know if you might get stranded in the middle of nowhere with nobody to help you (mind you, this pre-dated the arrival of mobile phones). Our parents taught us to be financially independent so that we never had to rely on “marrying rich”, or marrying at all.

20170121_105743Reflecting on these issues now, it occurs to me that the reason why I was so apathetic is because I have been blessed – though some might just want to call me lucky – or maybe I was just too blind to see all the discrimination and inequality happening around me. It never occurred to me that I might not have got a job because I am female or that I am an immigrant; or that perhaps I was getting paid less than a male counterpart. I am not homeless, nor do I live with any kind of physical or mental disability that might challenge my day-to-day existence. I don’t have any illness that requires costly medicine or treatments. I have never experienced domestic violence, sexual violence, or indeed, any act of “random” violence or acts of terrorism.

I am blessed and never before have I been made more acutely aware of just how blessed I am until recently.

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Pause. Breathe. Reflect

It has been a long hot summer in Sydney and we have barely hit the halfway mark. As much as I love sunshine, fresh air and the great outdoors, I also despise heat. For anyone sitting in colder climes reading this, you are probably ready to throw darts at me or, worse still, just stop reading. Moving on.

I am lucky enough to live within a short drive of a beautiful beach in Sydney and as the heatwave continued to drive us out of our minds, I decide to head to the beach. Normally, my beach bag consists of sunscreen, beach towel, hat, and whatever book I am reading. As I was only planning on spending a couple of hours there, mainly to take my first dip into the ocean to kick off 2017, I decide to leave my book (currently catching up on Winston Graham’s Poldark series) at home.

20170113_125545With many locals still on their summer break, the beach was busier than usual for a weekday. After dumping my beach gear on my small patch of paradise, I jumped straight into the ocean. The water temperature was perfect. I look up into the clear blue sky with barely a whisp of a cloud that resembles a very long, fluffy piece of fairy floss. I look out to the ocean to find a few small sailboats taking advantage of the wind conditions.

All around me are people of all ages – swimming, sunbathing (me being concerned they may not have enough sunscreen on their backs!), sleeping, chatting, playing. I am not a particularly good swimmer – I just enjoy being in the water – so when the waves start to become a little big for me to manage, I decide to swim back to shore. Continue reading

Goodbye Annus Horribilis and Hello to New Beginnings

2016 is over. Finally. While most of us usually approach December with “I can’t believe how quickly the year has gone by already”, it seemed as the year was drawing to a close, everyone was happy to just get through the year and hope for a better start in 2017.

david-bowieTwelve months ago, the world mourned collectively for the loss of music icon, David Bowie. Whether you were a Bowie fan or not, you knew the words to at least one of his songs. His final album was released only a week before his death, so the news of his passing came as a huge shock to everyone except for his family.

alan-rickmanA mere four days later, we bade farewell to Alan Rickman – the thespian with the voice that could at once seduce, threaten and command you. Kids grew up knowing Rickman as Professor Snape in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series while their parents loved him as terrorist-thief Hans Gruber in Die Hard or the cheating husband in that “other” popular Christmas movie, Love Actually.

 

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For Rodney: Sing Like There’s Nobody Listening

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Just over two weeks ago, I was shocked by the news that Rodney, husband to my late friend, Mary, and father to their two little girls, passed away suddenly from heart failure, apparently a genetic condition.
Although I did not know Rod very well, I remember having a very long phone conversation with him about a year after Mary’s death in 2011. He told me of the day-to-day difficulties of living without Mary. It was not just coping with the grief and being a single Dad – the girls were always going to be his first priority – but dealing with “simple” things like the phone company and untangling any financial commitments they had as a couple.
yesterday-is-history-tomorrow-is-a-mystery-today-is-a-gift-thats-why-they-call-it-the-presentIn the five years since Mary’s death from cancer, friends and family were kept up to date with the family’s progress on Facebook (thanks Mr Zuckerberg). We watched from afar as the girls got through kindergarten, first days of school, birthday parties and other special occasions, even just regular occasions, and seeing how happy and healthy and well-loved they were.
Just two nights before his death, Rod posted photos of their young daughters decorating the Christmas tree. If I am still struggling with Rod’s sudden passing, I can only imagine how devastated his daughters must be feeling.
Life is fragile and should not be taken for granted. We never know what could be around the corner. Lives can change at the blink of an eye, for better or worse. Live in the moment because you may not get another chance.
So, dear Rodney, you are reunited with your beloved Mary now. May Bruno Mars be always on your playlist. Rest in peace now. Your legacy will live on.