Idealism vs. naivete (in my humble opinion)

How does one draw the line between idealism and naivete? Idealism is probably holding on to certain principles fully aware of their place in the real world. Idealism entails conscious, calculated decisions to take risks and go against the tide for the sake of asserting certain principles. Naivete is when one can only see in black and white, totally unable to navigate the grey areas in order to find a place to make their ideals work in the real world.

Day 2 at Taupo: Have Wings, Will Fly

Perfect day in Taupo after yesterday’s gloomy, rainy and windy day. Praise God for perfect weather!

I am seeing wings all around me. Seagulls, swans, ducks, sparrows, and a floatplane. They are all very obliging and posed for my phone camera.
I am also taking in another breathtaking scenery of the Great Lake Taupo.

Photos do no justice but here goes:
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Day 2 at Taupo: Sunny Winter Day, Picturesque Grounds, and a Breathtaking Brunch

Photos do no justice. But of course I had to take some. Huka Falls Resort is simply breathtakingly gorgeous!

I am so glad my last day here was sunny and cool, so I walked around after checking out and had brunch at the lovely Cafe Pinot. Everything was picture perfect! What a sense of beauty and freedom. I will let the photos do the rest of the talking.

The view from my studio. I could wake up to this everyday! I was so delighted to be awakened by sunshine streaming through the curtains and birds chirping.
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The road leading to the resort’s Cafe Pinot, vineyard, and Fletcher’s Church. I felt so free and relaxed roaming the grounds!
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The currently barren vineyard. It’s winter after all. But today was a good winter day 🙂
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Ah, Cafe Pinot. True to the receptionist’s word, it was so easy to find. And the stroll from the reception was pure bliss all the way.
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Lovely place, but how could I not sit outside…
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With a view like this? 20140714-030306.jpg

And this? 20140714-030446.jpg

That’s why I spent 1.5 hours finishing this. It was a heavenly place to enjoy solitude.
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The wide green space I strolled through on my way to Fletcher’s Church.
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The lone flower I encountered on my way back to reception.
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One of the last few photos I took before leaving Huka Falls Resort for Lake Taupo Yacht Club, where the spiritual retreat cum conference I am attending would be held.
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What can I say? There’s beauty everywhere in New Zealand. A haven for the introverts and the contemplative. And oh, adrenaline junkies too, with the popularity of extreme sports like sky diving and bungee jumping. But I won’t be attempting those!

Why Me?

This is a very old piece I wrote 7, 8 years ago after visiting a soup kitchen and then joining the other volunteers to hit the streets and distribute food packets to the homeless people. That experience caused me to ponder how people (including myself) most commonly ask “Why me?” when undesirable things happen to them, but not so much when they get the better end of the deal in life. So I thought a paradigm shift might do myself good, and I should start asking “Why me?” when good things happen instead.

This post has been pre-scheduled. But looks like I will be having wifi connection quite regularly during my trip! 🙂

—-

It was raining heavily the other night. I was pleased because that meant a cool night at home, curled up under cosy comforters with a good book and music running from my computer till my eyelids decided it was time to call it a day. Concrete walls filtered the roar of the thunder and rain, making it sound like a distant calamity from which I was sheltered so well, cocooned in the haven called home.

Why me?

The nasi lemak (rice cooked with coconut milk served with hot, spicy, and sweet sauce, anchovies, hard-boiled egg, and cucumber) seller at the street corner outside had to be content with his makeshift stall, and at times the wind threatened to blow the flimsy plastic roof off. He had not anticipated the rain and storm and was therefore clad only in a thin T-shirt and pants. It must have been pretty cold out there for him.

And what about the homeless mentally-challenged woman I used to see wandering around the suburb where I live? Where would she be seeking shelter?

Down in the heart of Georgetown, the elderly trisha riders would be sleeping in their vehicles as for many of them, that was what they called their homes. They probably had to find some spot where the wind would not feel so harsh. What about those suffering from rheumatism, surely the chill and moisture in the air would aggravate their pain?

Why them, and not me?

I was having dinner the other day with my cousin. My aunt had prepared a sumptuous meal for us, and the portions were so big I found myself thinking of whom I should invite over. There were huge assam (tamarind) prawns, a baked eggplant to be savoured with authentic kampong-style sambal belacan (a hot and spicy dip made by pounding or blending chillis, tamarind juice, sugar, salt, and shrimp paste), cuttlefish and hard-boiled eggs in hot and spicy sauce, stir-fried vegetables with a generous sprinkling of fresh tiny prawns, and a fried fresh water fish so huge, it had to be cut in two.

We did not manage to invite anyone over, and had such leftovers I decided to bring a lunchbox to work the next day. My generous uncle had also sent a 5 kg packet of rice over from his rice mill.


Why me?

One woman from the drought-stricken Hebei province in China wrote that the weather decided where from or how their next meal was going to come. More often than not, they reaped less than what they had sown.

Closer to home, under-privileged families from the squatter areas downtown make do with simple meals of mostly vegetables as meat would be too expensive. Their rice has to be rationed carefully to make it last as long as possible. One teenage girl shared that she only has two meals a day – there is no breakfast for her as she is not attending school, her siblings eat at school under the food subsidy program for the poor.

In a world full of extremes, why do I keep finding myself on the better side when we are all basically the same?

I shake my head and feel pangs of emotions at the suffering of others. But the person at the other end of the spectrum of life could have well been me.

I do not know why God has chosen to shower such grace, mercy and favour on me. One day I will get to thank Him face to face, and I will probably ask Him why.

In the meantime, I hope that the next time that limping beggar with the gaping wound on his leg approaches my table at my favourite eatery, I will remember the simple fact.

That the person at the other end of the spectrum of life – could have well been me.

All Alone in a Foreign Land

Wait, am I really alone, and is this land that foreign?

20140712-200939.jpgHere I am, in Taupo, New Zealand, holed up in my cosy studio at a lovely resort on a windy, wet, and wintry night, sipping hot chocolate and (I hate to admit this since it is not likely to be fulfilled tonight) longing for a piping hot bowl of soupy ramen. I wonder if it’s the Asian in me, or if it’s just the cold weather.

20140712-201231.jpgBack to that question my title has sparked… I guess I am not really alone. I had lunch with the girl who sat next to me on my bus journey from Auckland to Taupo, and learnt that she was born in Hong Kong to parents who are originally from India, and lived there for 8 years before moving to Auckland, and is now studying to become a vet. And the two of us ran out of McDonald’s as if chased by thugs when we realized we had gone past the time limit the bus driver had given the passengers for the lunch break pit stop.

20140712-201409.jpgThis morning I chatted with two New Zealander ladies who stayed at the same hotel with me near the airport. We took the same shuttle bus to the airport – they to catch their flights while I to catch my bus to Taupo. They kindly (but mistakenly!) told me that I should get down at the domestic departure terminal but it turned out that my bus was going to depart from the international terminal! So I missed my bus and ended up taking a cab to catch up with the bus at it’s next stop. It was a pretty close call as I had only 15 minutes to do so – but thankfully the cab driver knew the place and got me there on time, even getting down with me to make sure it was the right bus. He had moved to New Zealand five years ago from Punjab, India, and looked quite a lot like Ted Mosby! Just imagine Ted with slightly darker skin and longer eyelashes. Life in New Zealand, according to him, was nice. “The pace is slow and people are friendly, the weather is just right.” Cost of living? “Not very cheap, but mostly just in Auckland.”

Oh yes, knowing I was in a hurry to catch my bus, he even waived the two dollars from my 42-dollar fare because I lacked small change.

So all alone? Not quite, I guess.

So this brings us to the next part: foreign land. Sure, this is the very first time I am setting foot in New Zealand. But somehow it doesn’t feel that foreign or strange. It feels like meeting a stranger for the first time only to discover that we have a few things in common. The first thing was the diversity. The immigration officer checking my passport and asking me those questions about my visit was Asian. And walking towards the arrival hall I was greeted by Maori sculptures and music. I come from a diverse country too, so that made me feel at home right away.

New Zealanders are also a friendly and happy lot. It was 11 pm when I went through immigration and customs, and the officials were cheerfully greeting and welcoming visitors and returning New Zealanders! And the lady at the airport help counter whom I asked for information on getting around from was a sweet grandmotherly figure who looked as if I made her day by approaching her.

Foreign? It just doesn’t sound right anymore.

This post is part of SoCS and this week’s prompt is getting away or getting out. Very apt for me, and I am just glad that the resort provides free 100MB worth of wifi access so I still get to take part!

http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-1214/

Selesa (Comfortable)

This is a poem in the Malay language, the national language of Malaysia. Not sure how many of my fellow countrymen and women read and follow this blog, but I thought I should post it anyway. Looks like the words just don’t flow in my attempt to translate this into English, so here is the gist of this poem:

It talks about what true wealth and comfort are by comparing two homes. The first is an apparently enviable mansion, but the occupants toil their lives away, coming home everyday either to a deafening silence or conflicts instead of conversation. The last line of the first paragraph literally means “luxury at the dead end.”

In contrast, there’s a simple dwelling that begs no notice and admiration. There are no intricate carvings (traditional Malay houses are known for these), only the curves formed on the lips. The occupants work diligently with joy and satisfaction, and banter and conversation fill the home, like a melody-less symphony. The last line literally means “unspeakable wealth.”

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Mahligai mengundang iri
Lumus tak berhenti
Hening menyakiti
Perbualan diganti pergolakan
Kemewahan di jalan mati.

Teratak biasa
Usah dikagumi
Ukiran tiada
Hanya senyuman
Ringannya tulang
Membawa kepuasan
Tawa dan bicara
Simfoni tanpa irama
Kekayaan tidak terhingga.

A real holiday…at long last: Sampling of an introvert’s leisurely thoughts

All by myself, yes!! (Though I will be meeting up with some people at my destination).

This is an introvert’s pleasure. (Too many have argued I am an extrovert – another post for another day, perhaps, where I will maybe explain that my bouncy steps and rib tickling one liners are really the result of all the years spent being my own best friend. Ha! I just made myself laugh, do you see what I mean?)

When an introvert decides to get away, it is usually not because she is bored. In my case, at least. It’s because she wants to recharge, renew, reconnect with herself and all that she has, and explore.

I have not even left Malaysian soil and my getaway is already achieving its purpose. Having breakfast while waiting for my connecting flight, I am more aware than ever of the hotness and spiciness of the nasi lemak – a local fare I have grown up with – I am eating. I felt a sense of pride when I saw a foreigner eagerly ordering nasi lemak (or maybe I was just amused by his pronunciation – oops. It can be hard to differentiate good feelings.)

I hugged my mom and dad when they dropped me at the airport. We don’t do that all that often. I texted my brother and sister and said ‘bye, I love you’. I am flying Malaysia Airlines and looking at the now-notorious red and blue stripes, I realized that our country is like our family – it may be imperfect, but you won’t ever stop loving and identifying with it. You just can’t. 🙂

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Just Jot It July – Holy Cow, How Timely!

This writing prompt is timely, because in less than 48 hours I will be leaving for a place where cows are aplenty. I doubt I would have time to go milk any, but I will certainly be milking every minute I have there – to take in the sights, talk to the people, taste the food, maybe buy some stuff, and just enjoy my well-deserved break, and maybe even hibernate! And of course, GET INSPIRED.

But right now my pre-vacation excitement is heavily tempered by the things to do before I leave on a jet plane, and the rush of having so many things to do is tempered by the pre-vacation excitement, so I guess they neutralize each other.

But in the midst of it all, the strategy to survive and thrive is to make sure that I ‘don’t forget to walk the cow.’

What does this mean and how does it work?? Here’s a little poem to explain:

Don’t forget to walk the cow
It calms you down somehow
Side by side on the green grass
Light and tiny steps, till your heartbeat ceases to rush.

Join in the fun when she bends down to graze
With nary a care of the passerbys’ gaze
“Mooo!” she goes, “the grass is for me!”
“So don’t you dare, stop me from being me!”

Don’t forget to walk the cow.

This post is part of Just Jot It July: http://misslouella.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/just-jot-it-july/