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.

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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.

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

New York City: 9/11

December 1995: my first visit to New York City. The Big Apple. So much to see. The famous World Trade Centre was definitely on my “must-see” list. However, I never got past the lobby. Being holiday season, the queue to go up to the observation deck snaked through the lobby and I was short on time. “You can always come back next time,” my friends suggested. So we left. There was never a “next time” for the Twin Towers.

After the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001, “Ground Zero” became almost sacred ground. It was the resting place of almost three thousand people. When the dust settled (literally), discussions began about the best way to honour the victims, including the First Respondents who perished during the rescue efforts.

One thing was agreed – that new towers would not be rebuilt where the old towers stood. Instead, a 9/11 Memorial with two reflecting pools featuring North America’s largest man-made waterfalls, would take the place of where the original towers were.

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April 2013, construction in progress behind the reflecting pools

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