Joyride

1 Dec 2022

Yesterday we went to bid farewell to a 52-year-old park that holds a special place in our heart.

A Flight to Remember on 30 Nov 2022. A tourist from Hong Kong helped us so that we could all be together in this frame.

The Jurong Bird Park which opened on 3 January 1971 will close on 3 January 2023. Its feathered residents will be relocated to Bird Paradise in Mandai.

The mindful pace of the flamingoes remind us to take our time. Photo credit: SH Ng

In the sweltering Sg heat, the cooling breeze on the tram ride was a life saver. For families with very young children and for the mobility challenged like me, it enabled us to take in 20 hectares worth of sights & sounds of the old Park without feeling drained or left out.

The blistering heat and high humidity of the Singapore weather make every step a test of endurance & will power.

My difficulty in getting on the ride was noted by our tram captain who promptly produced a supportive accessory to facilitate my ascent.

The highest manmade waterfall in the world behind us may be nothing to shout about now, but it was a big deal half a century ago. And it still is a structure of affection for us locals.

He then communicated with his colleague from the next station who was on standby to assist me by the time we arrived.

He did this for me on top of having to navigate the vehicle, watch out for passenger safety and wipe down a seat that someone had spilled a drink on when it was explicitly stated “No Food & Drinks on Tram.”

I used to think able-bodied people had it easier. I’m sometimes quick to join in berating them for lacking empathy towards the disabled or for not being inclusive enough.

But yesterday after witnessing what a man had to do cheerfully in order to earn his keep, I feel that my comparison was groundless.

That encounter also helps me see that some physical problems are not readily visible to the ones who don’t have them. If we’re looking for help, it is also our responsibility to explain our needs, so that people can choose their responses.

My friends and I cannot recall what we were looking at or smiling about in this shot taken at the Jurong Bird Park yesterday, but we sure can’t fake joy like this.

The joy is all the more precious because we can’t recall what we were looking or smiling at.

As we bade goodbye to the Bird Park on the last day of November and welcome the start of December, may I take this chance to wish readers of this post the peace that comes from accepting what cannot be changed, and the joy for the support that eases our ride on our journey ahead. 🙏😊

World Cup

20 Nov 2022 (World Cup in Qatar)

Twenty years ago during World Cup 2002, I had a picture taken with the match schedule at HardRock Cafe Beijing not because I understood soccer, but because Tiger Beer, a Singapore brand was featured.

I felt honoured that our beer from our tiny island was the chosen beverage for watching & celebrating an international sporting event in a gigantic country.

I’ve never known a sport that can unite and divide with such vehemence like soccer. I’m always cautious when asked which team is my favourite. My inquirer’s face morphing from friendly interest to utter disdain in a matter of seconds tells me not to drop team names casually.

2014 World Cup fever reaches the landlocked Nepal. We were on our way to Nagarkot and saw this street lined with flags of partipating countries.

One year on a crowded street in Piccadily Circus in London, a total stranger high fived & hugged my travel mate as if they were long lost relatives because the latter was spotting a certain soccer jersey.

This tribal loyalty is too much for me so I stay clear of soccer politics. But soccer uniform designs, soccer boots & related training gears continue to fascinate me deeply because they celebrate the power & grace of the human form.

I love watching the moves but I don’t like the anger and violence of the crowd when players don’t perform as expected.

So as World Cup 2022 starts in Qatar today, may our human nature evolve to meet the standards of this beautiful game called soccer, and may all sentient beings be blessed.

Years later I would learn to my great sorrow, that some hosting countries cull street animals as part of their attempts to clean & beautify locations chosen for such high stakes sporting events.

So as the World Cup opening ceremony begins in Qatar today, may our human nature also evolve to match the qualities promoted by this beautiful game called soccer. May all sentient beings be blessed.

Instinctive Draw

14-11-22

Of all the manifestations or portrayals of the Buddha, I feel drawn to the one with curls on his head.

This manifestation of the Buddha which I’m drawn to is located at Tkechen Choling Temple in Beatty Lane, Singapore.

Somehow he felt Nepali to me. In 2011, before my first trip to Nepal I made a trip to the Tkechen Choling temple in Beatty Lane. I told him that I was going to visit his country & asked for his blessings on the medicines & veterinary supplies that we were bringing for the street dogs.

I’m old school in the sense that if I’m visiting a country for the first time, especially one with known spiritual traditions, I have a compelling urge to declare my intentions.

Today we were at the temple to light butter lamps. I lit a lamp for a beloved shelter cat that is lost and the people who are searching for him. May the Light guide him to safety. If he has left his physical form, may the Light embrace his soul & neutralise all negative imprints & comfort the people who love him.

Whether it is just by the window of my home, or in the presence of a sacred figure of reverence, dedicating a light is one of the ways of expressing respect, support and affection.

May Tam Tam the Cat be well. May his finders be guided and comforted.

And today I also learnt for the first time that the Nepali Buddha I’ve been speaking to for the past 11 years regarding my medicine journeys for animals is none other than the Medicine Buddha himself.

May we be guided as we seek to improve our own lives and the lives of others.

Gifts from an Unknown Horse

16 Nov 2022 (World Horse Day)

The refugee horse I saw in 2001 on the news would lead me to this book in Annapurna Bookshop in Pokara, Nepal in 2011.

In 2001 while following news on the aftermath of 911, the footage of a horse straining under the load strapped tightly to his/ her back while making the mountainous crossing between Afghanistan & Pakistan would forever be soldered onto my brain. It was one of those “once you see it, you cannot unsee it” moment for me.

Taoist prayer papers featuring horses of the Gods. I love the graceful lines by which horses are depicted, almost childlike in their simplicity while deeply evocative.

That TV encounter would lead me to learn more about the suffering of packed animals & support efforts devoted to improving their conditions. In my attempts to raise funds for them, I read up as much as I could. Soon my affinity with writings & artworks that featured horses, donkeys & mules also grew. A trip to Morocco to visit the Society for the Protection of Working Animals Abroad (SPANA) opened up.

And all the above had been bestowed upon me by a nameless horse shivering in the winter cold of armed human conflicts.

Recently a former student was heading to Nepal. By way of wishing her a trip filled with pleasant encounters & learning ease, I gave her a handmade card featuring a mythical horse.

Handmade card using Lokta paper. These are the remaining 3 in my collection after giving 1 to my former student heading to Nepal.

Mythical horses or Windhorses (Lungta) are carriers of auspiciousness in Tibetan and Mongolian cultures.

Windhorse prayer flags.

One of the things the young lady did when she reached the Boudha Stupa was to take out her windhorse card and take pictures of it with the prayer flags.

My former student, Cheryl Lee, and her windhorse card at Boudha Stupa in November 2022.

I have this belief that even if we cannot change the fate of working animals directly, treating representations of them or thoughts associated with them kindly has power.

May the gesture of a girl circumabulating the Stupa with the windhorse card under her jacket, bring better treatment to all working horses and animals.

Cheryl holding her card to the prayer flags.

May our aspirations for better days for ourselves and others never cease regardless of outcomes. 🙏

Dog sleeping underneath the prayer flags at Boudha Stupa, Nepal. Photo credit: Cheryl Lee.

Full Moon Mandala of Ascension

8-11-22

A stag pendant which broke off from its chain & destined for the trash merged with a Bodhi leaf from the temple at Muktinath, Mustang, to mark the Full Moon.

As autumn makes way for winter, and human activities wind down, those of us who are heathy are prompted to rest and recover. We watch Fire carefully and over our ailing ones for the seasonal transition is also a doorway to the great beyond.

In agricultural communities, decisions on animals that may not be able to cope with the cold have to be made.

May those tasked to terminate an animal’s life be merciful. May the soul that is released from the broken body ascend and return to Light.

The horns extend beyond the Stag’s Skull to meet the Light. I see Menorahs and Mountains on the Bodhi leaf.

May the Full Moon inspire our thoughts to move from the Finite to the Infinite, like the way the horns grow beyond the Stag’s head to ascend Light.

The Trash that Made Me

1-11-22

At different times of my growing up years my dad was welder, printing worker, fishmonger, market stall assistant and even seller of coconut juice.

My dad as a welder.

At the printing factory, he rescued rejected calendars, faulty books & wrongly paginated planners from the trash & brought them home for us.

Things that didn’t clear QC scrutiny were perfect for me. I was just a kid then so wrong dates or wrong colour tones didn’t bother me.

The condemned calendars featuring geishas in opulent kimonos while holding painted paper umbrellas under blooming sakuras opened my eyes to Japanese fabric & flower aesthetics.

Standing next to our English Teacher with classmates under the Acacia Tree. (1971)

The abandoned books meant for the incinerator would fuel my life long delight in looking at fonts, feeling the textures of paper and hearing the rustle of flipping pages.

Years later when I travel, I save hotel paper stationery & maps even in languages I cannot read, perhaps as gratitude to my dad for showing me respect for words, pictures & paper.

A beautiful map in French. Travelling down the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean to reach the Society for the Protection of Working Animals in Rabat, Morocco.

With the faulty planner, I had hours of fun pretending I was an adult. One day I was a visiting village nurse noting down a baby’s weight, and asking the imaginary mother if he had a cough. Another day I was a doctor prescribing medicines.

Hotel paper stationery and maps of places I visited! ❤️

All that make believe exchanges were documented in the doodles of a girl who would one day work with young people and be involved in bringing medicines to animals in need.

Yesterday was Halloween. Contrary to popular beliefs, Halloween is not so much about dressing up & partying, but more about recognising there are other worlds beyond our material one.

Today being All Souls’ Day, and also Medicine Buddha Day, may I wish everyone a peaceful time honouring the people in our lives who have given what they could salvage to develop us.

And if we have past grudges or present traumas because we were given harmful things, may the medicine of compassion & wisdom heal us.

Love Sustains All

28 Oct 2022

My reflection is captured by the broken heart cradled in the arms of Mother Teresa by Eleanora Artglass. (Marina Bay Sands, Exhibition Hall C, 27 Oct 2022)

Eversince they did a comprehension cloze on the significance of Kit Kat chocolate wafer in Japan, my 11-year-old tutees have been periodically asking for Kit Kats.

Kit Kat from Japan bought at Don Don Donki Supermarket in Jcube, Singapore.

One week after another passed by while their requests marinated in my mind. Going to the supermarket or mall these days feels like a huge undertaking.

But yesterday after an artglass exhibition at Marina Bay Sands, I decided to drop by Don Don Donki supermarket at my default shopping mall, JEM, to fulfill the children’s wish.

Mother Teresa humbly works the ground even in artistic form.

As I got onto the cab, the thought of navigating the cavernous JEM to reach my prize suddenly felt very exhausting. And then it struck me that JCube, a much smaller mall in the same area, also has a Don Don Donki!

The driver fulfilled my wish for a destination change & spared me from incurring extra charges by not requiring me to reroute my booking.

While on my Kit Kat quest, I stopped by briefly at a spectacle shop. After answering my queries, the sales staff who served me asked where I got my cane accessories from. Her dad uses a cane too. Her parents live in the eastern part of Singapore, while she now lives in the west, having gotten married recently.

I could tell from the few words she used to describe her dad that she worried about him. When I listed the places where she could help her dad explore mobility aid options, she noted the details like a student. Not having to wear a mask also meant I could articulate the sources of relief clearly.

Recalling my reflection in the broken heart held in Mother Teresa’s hands, it feels like my compulsion to get Kit Kat for the kids, the driver’s grace to me and my mitigating a daughter’s concerns have been written all along & sustained by LOVE. 🙏❤️

My late cat, Kitty Hawk, in deep thoughts.
Kitty Hawk resting on “Come be My Light,” a biography of Mother Teresa. (Christmas 2015)

Delightful Deepavali

24 Oct 2022

Over pineapple tarts from a Hindu parent, rempeyek fried by a Muslim friend, and store bought Massala Tea, two Chinese women who have known each other for more than 40 years caught up during this Deepavali public holiday.

Catching up over store bought massala tea, pineapple tarts & rempeyek on Deepavali / Diwali 2022.
From teenagers to senior citizens

They had met in their teens. One was from St Margaret’s Secondary School and the other from Crescent Girls’ School. And even when one left to study & work overseas for a number of years, there is no sense of separation or gaps in their communication. They speak in a mixture of English, Singlish & their home dialect like many Singaporean siblings do.

Today in Nepal, dogs are honoured in a festival called Kukur Tihar. Marigold flowers, incense, tikka & food are offered to street dogs & house dogs in many neighbourhoods to thank the canines. My dog, Shoya, earned his angel wings in 2014. But his qualities of loyalty and non-judgement for human frailties continue in his two cat buddies, Oliver & Emmanuel.

Flowers, incense & tikka blessings for shelter & community dogs prepared by Street Dog Care e.v. in Nepal on Kukur Tihar.

Emmanuel accepts his rudrasha necklace to mark this occasion, and Oliver struts about proudly in his choker from Shivapuri Hills.

Emmanuel & Oliver spotting rudraksha seeds to mark Kukur Tihar.

May I take this chance to wish all sentient beings a delightful Deepavali regardless of the forms we take and the differences in our cultural & spiritual heritage. May all enlightened gestures made today multiply manifold, so that Light may come through us in a continuous flow. 🙏🪔

“I thought she said Kukur Tuna.” – Oliver

Mustangi Magic

20-10-22

In 2011, at the Annapurna Bookshop by Lake Phewa in Pokara, Ron pointed out a book sitting on the top shelf to me & I bought it.

“Horses Like Lightning,” by Sienna Craig documented an American veterinarian’s journey & spiritual growth as she cared for horses in Mustang.

The making of a Juniper smoke offering by local Mustangi people to complete each animal treatment struck a chord in me. I think that was the specific moment that sealed my understanding of medicines & healing having a spiritual dimension.

When we got back to Kathmandu, I couldn’t put the book down. Each night by the window of Hotel Harati in Thamel I would read the words slowly, dreading the time when I would arrive at the last page. I also started wondering what Juniper incense smell like since it was mentioned frequently in the book.

Finally at Boudha Stupa, I came face to face with Juniper in its raw & incense powder form. When lit, it released a scent that was both foreign and yet strangely familiar to me.

The aroma of Juniper incense permeates the air at Boudha Stupa at all times of the day.

While some find Juniper incense smoke dense & yeasty smelling, I find it comforting. It always reminds me of forest & yogurt. (Ikr, I’m never far from food. 😄)

It’s been 10 years since my fascination with Juniper started. Last month my friend, Sharonne and her husband, Khorn, visited Nepal to begin her 60th birthday celebration.

My friend of 40 years, Sharonne, & her spouse, Khorn, kickstarting her Super Sixty Birthday celebration in Nepal.

In the midst of visiting sacred sites and shelter & street animals of the Himalayas, the couple found time to replenish my Juniper incense supply from the same shop facing the Stupa.

Sharonne & Khorn arrived in Nepal on new moon of the 9th Lunar Month and brought much needed medical supplies for street and shelter dogs.

Moving onto higher grounds, Sharonne picked a sprig of Juniper from a tree that grew in the temple compound of Muktinath in Mustang, a faraway location that is difficult for me to reach but has benevolently decided to visit me. 🙏

The temple where the sprig of Juniper berries came from. (Muktinath, Mustang)

“I got us some wild flowers from this monastery! Breathtakingly beautiful views. I could sit here all day breathing it all in!” says my friend of 40 years as she approaches her superb 60th year. ❤️😊

In a few days’ time the Juniper’s green will go, but her history of having travelled from Mustang at 3800m above sea level, and flying 3800km to reach Singapore will always remain. 🙏

World Animal Day

4 Oct 2022

Dog contemplating the world on World Animal Day 2022 in Bakhtapur, Nepal. (Photo credit: Sharonne Tan)

Today is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi. He was known for living in peace with all beings, including animals and birds. So when ecologists in 1989 deciding on a date celebrate animal lives, 4 Oct was a natural choice.

This morning as I was wondering what would be a good picture to carry aspirations for peace for all beings, a friend sent me this picture from Nepal.

Peaceful Dog contemplating the world from an ancient window in Bakhtapur in Nepal on 4 Oct 2022. Photo courtesy of Sharonne Tan.

She & her husband had arrived last night in Kathmandu, from Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.

And this morning she had to step out of their guest house just in time to snap a picture of a dog contemplating the world from his/ her window in the ancient city of Bhaktapur.

Underneath the canine’s intricately carved window and against the terracotta brickworks, was “PEACEFUL.” 🙏

May this precious shot taken on such an auspicious day & timing bestow peace on all animals and humans past and present.

The photographer of “Peaceful Dog” with her own dog, Luna, at the Terrace of Elephant in Cambodia. Luna passed on this July. She was buried in their garden at home and had prayers chanted to facilitate her soul’s ascension. 🙏

May we keep wishing and visualising Peace no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, for our own benefit, and for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Happy World Animal Day!