Category Archives: Commentary

Friendliness To Strangers Is Not A Crime

“Mornin’!” How often do you, if ever, pass by someone on the street, look them in the eye, smile and offer a friendly greeting? It seems lately that we are spending more time with our eyes cast downward as we walk than looking up at what’s in front of us.

All around us, politicians, lobbyists, protestors, and the news, are all-too-eager to point out our differences instead of our commonalities. Suddenly, we are all strangers deserving to be looked upon with suspicion. We don’t like looking someone in the eye anymore, just in case we see something we might not agree with. It may be true, or it may just be in our imagination, but by giving credence to those fears, we start making them true.

I was a volunteer at the Sydney Writers’ Festival earlier this year. During one of my shifts, I was sent down to the shuttle bus stop to assist festival-goers with bus tickets or act as a walking information booth. While I was standing alone at that cold bus stop, I would greet passersby with a smile and a friendly “good morning”. On many occasions, people were caught by surprise that a complete stranger would talk to them. Sometimes, they would return my smile and continue on their merry way. Other times, they would just look annoyingly back at me, as if I dared to interrupt whatever they were daydreaming of.

Well, I think we all need to take some time to look up at the big, wide world ahead of us. Make eye contact. Say “hello” or “good morning” to all the strangers you pass by in the morning on the way to work. Maybe give you bus driver a smile next time you get on, instead of just rushing on. Believe me, if your cheeks start to hurt from too much smiling, it is a good thing. Give it a try. Because friendliness to strangers is not a crime. Don’t let it become one.

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It’s OK to not be OK

IMG_20170511_182157_524You cry for no reason. You feel sad, more often than you show. You can’t get out of bed. You feel like the world is against you or that nothing is going your way. You feel like nobody would notice if you weren’t there. You feel anxious about the smallest things.

Have you ever felt like this, or something similar? I have. I know several people who have or are going through these feelings right now. I bet if you’re reading this that you have, too. Furthermore, I bet you know someone who has felt like this. They might even be sitting right next to you or in front of you right now, with smiles on their faces, chatting away breezily, and you’d never know anything was wrong.

20170209_120150It’s nice to see a lot more open discussions about mental health in recent years, but the stigma attached to mental illness is still strong. I’m not saying that having a bad day here and there means you are mentally ill. In fact, I think it’s perfectly normal to have a bad moment or a bad day now and then. Nobody’s life is perfect. I would tend to think there’s something missing in your synapses if you were just happy all the time.

I’m not an expert on mental health so I am not going to be prescribing any miracle cures here and I won’t be dishing out any medical advice*. A close friend of mine is currently undergoing chemotherapy to treat Stage 2 breast cancer. I have accompanied her on several occasions to her treatments. After her first treatment, she gave me a flyer prepared by the Breast Cancer Network Australia titled “Helping a friend or colleague with breast cancer”. In it, they suggest things like making a meal or baking a cake, or driving her to her medical appointments, helping her with her shopping or just a simple visit.

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Checking In

140611-ybb-check-in-app-banner-1170x315pBelieve it or not, we are already past a third of 2017. Yes, it is true! At the start of the year, I set a few simple goals for myself that I had hoped would become a lifelong habit rather than just the usual “New Year’s resolutions” that are usually discarded and forgotten soon after they are made. Well, to recap, here are those goals:

  • Worry less, especially over things I have no control over
  • Write more, starting with #PostAWeek2017
  • Explore a place or experience something I have not done before at least once a month

So, how am I doing so far?

On the “worry less” front, I am not doing so well. I would say this is a big “F”. Sadly, “adulting” is difficult. There are endless bills to pay, decisions to be made, and the realities of life (sickness and death) to deal with. At times, the temptation to stick my head in the sand like an ostrich is too great and I retreat into my imaginary life. But then the alarm goes off and I know it’s time to get up and remind myself that there is still a world of endless possibilities. I just have to focus on those instead.18209003_10155404189741454_3576625733858078065_o Continue reading

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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