Category Archives: Commentary

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

What’s Next?

An historic event occurred on November 9th, 1989: the Berlin Wall came down as thousands of citizens took their sledgehammers to a construction that represented a generation of oppression, tyranny and death and reunited their nation.

Twenty-seven years later, in a country that once fought against the ideals that raised that wall in Berlin, votes were being counted to elect the 45th President of the United States. While many around the world sat in shock at the final result, myself included, perhaps it should have come as no big surprise after all. Only a few short months earlier, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in what was known as “Brexit” referendum. Most of us assumed that would never happen either. And now, look where we are.

I have been struggling to articulate my thoughts about the events that have unfolded in the past 24 hours. Being in Sydney, the polling booths were only just beginning to close from the east to the west coasts during our late afternoon. I had resisted the temptation to watch the election coverage until around 2pm. And then as the counts started rolling in and it became apparent that we were not going to be seeing the first female President any time soon, I picked up the phone and called my friends in Chicago. I began to cry.

All afternoon, I watched my Twitter feed light up with tweets expressing shock, horror, outrage, disappointments. I was among those expressing such thoughts. The most common expressions were: “What is happening?” or “How is this possible?” Occasionally, my twitter exchanges would be interrupted by “eavesdroppers” who disagreed with us, accusing us of supporting corrupt government/liar/baby killers, and so forth. Many of those people believe that January 20th, 2017 is going to be the dawn of a new great era in America. Continue reading

Daffodil Day: A Spring Awakening

Cancer sucks. No point beating around the bush. It’s a reality. Each one of us has been touched by this terrible disease directly or indirectly. If you, like me, have been lucky enough not to have lost someone in your immediate family to cancer, then chances are you probably know someone close to you who have: a neighbour, a friend, a teacher, a colleague or a distant relative.

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In the past decade, I have lost a school friend and family friends, and watched close friends grieve while they lost their parents, and I thank God that my own family is healthy.

Today is Daffodil Day – the Cancer Council’s annual national fund-raising day.  The daffodil signifies the arrival of spring, new life, vitality and growth which makes it the perfect symbol of hope for all those who have been affected by cancer.

2016 marks the 30th anniversary of Daffodil Day and my first time volunteering to help sell their merchandise in my local mall. I had been looking forward to this day for weeks and it proved as fruitful as I had hoped.

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Post-Olympic Blues

Every four years, I find myself glued to the television watching sports that I know nothing about but somehow find myself an expert in. Some of these sports seem like activities I did in the schoolyard or friends’ backyards: trampoline, badminton, table tennis, handball. How many people knew which sports are included in the Modern Pentathlon? (Which leads to the question a friend of mine asked: what was the Ancient Pentathlon?)

Here’s a sample of my armchair commentary:

Platform diving – “Oh, that landing was terrible!”

Swimming – “She didn’t have a strong enough push off the starting blocks!”

Hockey – “What kind of refereeing do you call that?”

Long jump – “Watch that takeoff board!”

The reality is that I am as unfamiliar with the rules of pretty much all of the 28 sports that featured at the 2016 Olympics in Rio as the millions of people who watched around the world. Still, this two-week event dominates the news around the world and captures the imagination of even the least sporting of audiences. Why?

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One Day

IMG_0556On August 3rd, 2015 (exactly twelve months ago as I write now), I set off on a much-anticipated holiday to London. It was a trip that I had put into motion twelve months before that, when a few friends and I agreed to meet there to see British thespian Benedict Cumberbatch return to the stage to star in Hamlet. It was unusual for any stage production to start selling tickets a year in advance but Cumberbatch’s popularity was on the rise (and continues to do so) and the anticipation for his return to the stage was beyond belief.

I love travelling and seeing the world. It is one of life’s privileges that I do not take for granted. These days, travelling seem to require a little more care and thought. I remember my first solo trip some twenty years before, when my biggest concern was being mugged or losing my traveller’s cheques. Getting lost was not such a big deal as you know you can always rely on some friendly locals to help you out. The world has changed a lot since, some for the better and some for the worse.

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We Are Australian – Happy Australia Day

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch atop Sydney Harbour Bridge in April 2014 - Photo credit: Bridgeclimb

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch atop Sydney Harbour Bridge in April 2014 – Photo credit: Bridgeclimb

I often joke that, had Les Misérables been set in England and not in Revolutionary Paris, Jean Valjean would have been sent to serve out his prison sentence in sunny Sydney instead of the galleys in Digne. It is a well-known fact that the first European settlement of this British colony (then known as New Holland) consisted of English convicts. These days, British tourists (and other countries near and far) arrive in droves on a daily basis.

Australia Day is celebrated on January 26th to mark the landing of the First Fleet and the raising of the British flag in 1788. Despite past controversies over the treatment of the local Aboriginal people by the white settlers, this day is usually celebrated by the sights and sounds that Australia is famous for. As it is summertime, a “barbie” or a visit to the beach are common on this day.

For my family this year, however, we decided to do something a little different, not the least due to inclement weather that has lasted all day (nobody like soggy sausages). We decided to celebrate Australia’s cultural diversity, of which we are contributors of, being migrants ourselves, and went to my local Shanghai dumplings restaurant. We stuffed ourselves silly, just as we would have had I been doing the barbie, but with no clean-up afterwards. I tried to tell my 12 year-old nephew that dumplings are just like sausages – you never really know what’s inside. Then we came home and watched the Australian Open Tennis.

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