The Birth of Clarity

6 Oct 2020

Incense offering to the Sunrise at Nagarkot (Dec 2017)

I took 2 hardboiled eggs from the breakfast buffet and slipped them into the pocket of my winter top.

We were travelling down the hills of Nargakot to stay one night at the Airport Hotel in Kathmandu. It was 2017 and Nepal’s election year. All roads would be close to vehicles on the day we were flying back to Singapore.

I kept the eggs in case I came across a hungry dog or cat, or even a child. It can be traumatic for some of us to meet a hungry animal and have nothing to give. But instead of feeling sorry and helpless, I decided to fortify myself with food. Eggs in their shells proved to be most hygienic and practical in a situation like this.

Down the valley, the hotel check-in went smoothly. Then I rested while my travel mates headed out to Patan for some last minute exploration.

We would meet for dinner.

Dinner was still some time away when I woke up from my nap in the Nepalese winter.

The eggs I brought with me in the morning had become my sustenance till dinner time.

As I sat by the window gazing out at Tribhuvan Airport in the setting sun, it became clear to me that “what we do unto others, we do unto ourselves.”

Thus have I experienced that the giver is also the receiver.

World Animal Day 2020 Prayer Flag Blessings

5 Oct 2020

Handprinted Boudha Stupa on handcrafted lokta paper.

Yesterday 4 Oct was World Animal Day. In the morning I dedicated prayers for more kindness and care to animals. I offered flower & light to St Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Ecology & Animals.

In the afternoon I had the good fortune of presenting a set of new prayer flags to a friend who loves his adopted cats dearly.

Shortly after he got home, my friend unrolled the prayer flags. His cat, Sage, showed great interest in them.

After my friend had raised the prayer flags, Sage continued to show her fascination with the carriers of blessings.

Years ago, I took a picture of my dog contemplating the inscription bearing squares of blue, white, red, green and yellow, like this lovely ginger girl did on yesterday evening

This morning, much to my amazement, the same picture I was hoping to locate popped up on my FB memories.

My dog, Shoya, contemplating the prayer flags 6 years ago.

Circumambulating the Big Box (of Compassion)

22 Sept 2020

Ollie gives the mooncakes a final QC before the send off.

I was sending a parcel of mooncakes that might cheer up a friend who hadn’t been home to Singapore for some time.

The courier company was located in the Big Box Mall which was now deserted as many businesses had closed and vacated.

The island wide safe entry requirements had closed off a number of exits and entrances in the cavernous building. Coupled with a lack of signages, and with the premises boarded all around, I couldn’t tell which was the correct drop off that would lead me to the courier office.

My Grab ride was only $ 7. And for that little sum, the Grab driver drove me around the circumference of Big Box compound 3 times, and once up into the multi-story car park, hoping to find someone who could direct us to the correct door so that I wouldn’t have to walk too much.

“No, no, no! We have to find the right entrance,” he insisted, his hands clutching the steering wheel firmly.

Boudha Stupa of Compassion & Wisdom in on 8 Dec 2018.

While we were circumambulating the expo-like compound in his car, he told me about the ridiculous lengths he had to cover during his recent medical visit because the usual access routes in the hospital were blocked off for safe entry/ exit purposes.

He didn’t want the same thing to happen to me.

When I pointed out a possible drop off, he kept asking incredulously,”Are you sure?”

Actually I wasn’t sure, but I felt it wasn’t fair of me to use up his time and energy like that.

I had to practically assure him that I would be alright, before he would let me alight. And for a brief moment, I thought I saw him calibrating in his mind if he could defy the rules and drive beyond the barricades just to ease my journey.

May my friend who asked for these mooncakes and gave me the chance to experience such uncommon compassion of a Grab driver be protected in all her journeys overseas.

And may the Grab driver be restored to good health. 🙏

Flowers from Children Happy Teachers’ Day!

4 Sept 2020

Flowers not only beautify our life, but remind us to always bloom our best.

The first bouquet in my adult life was from a bunch of kids who accepted me as their teacher when I was just 23. What did I know about learning then?

Today, a bouquet of sunflowers from one of the students in the group that gave me my first bouquet arrived. ♥️🙏

A while later, a sunflower in the form of a dessert also came.

And my 76 year old mom got to enjoy the sunflower konyaku jelly with me.

I’ve like sunflowers since I was a young woman. And I’m very honoured that in my greying years, the kids have sent them to remind me to keep shining.

So here’s wishing all my friends, all the light and sweetness of life as embodied in these gifts from lovely adults who were once kids. ♥️🙏

Moving From Reluctance to Resourceful

1 Sept 2020

First Tutee visualises his Reading Mentor role with his future reading mentee, whom he has named Irfan.

“Ms Ong, my teacher asked me to be Reading Mentor to next year’s Primary Ones,” First Tutee announced, his talcum powdered face beaming on my computer screen.

“Wow! That’s a big responsibility for 2021!” I exclaimed, and asked him to give his future reading mentee a name. After some thought, he came up with the name “Irfan.”

“How would Irfan know that you’re fit to be his Reading Mentor? Do you even own books?” I asked.

First Tutee quickly got up from his chair and dug out all his books from the bookshelf behind him.

First Tutee at 9 years old now. “Navaan” is one of his favourite books.

He brought “Navaan,” to the screen and waved it triumphantly at me.

First Tutee and “Navaan,” on his first day of school in primary one. (2018)

“Navaan,” was the first book he brought on his first day to school when he started primary one in 2018.

“So you own books. But can you read?” I challenged him.

Without hesitation, he turned to the first page of “Navaan” and read aloud confidently from cover to cover. He did not skip words. He read the baby elephant, Navaan’s speeches with great animation. He was unstoppable.

“But what will you do if Irfan still refuses to read and kicks up a fuss?” I continued.

“I’ll say to him, ‘Calm down now, Irfan. We’re going to read this!’” First Tutee responded firmly, mimicking the way he was spoken to when he was once a reluctant reader.

I feel that Ganesha, the Giver of Wisdom has been accompanying First Tutee all along.

For some kids, reading happens easily, but for many, progress may be slow.

The boy who used to struggle with differentiating “him” from “his” when he was 7, has moved passed his reading challenges to take on multisyllabic words at 9. Come 2021, he’ll be guiding someone to read just as he was guided before.

First Tutee reads “Namaste” and wears a tshirt with Nepali alphabet. So glad I got these last year in Kathmandu before world wide travelling restrictions came in. Hope I get to see Nepal soon. ♥️

As we enter the month of September and into the last quarter of 2020, may I wish all adults the blessing to use their authority with kindness, and hold space for children to evolve from reluctant readers to resourceful readers.

And may I wish all struggling young readers the courage to continue trying, no matter what the result slip says. ♥️

Changing Script

27 Aug 2020

Our mom turned 77 last week. I organised a dinner at a restaurant that served dishes of our dialect group.

She and I were the first to make it to the restaurant. While tea was being served, my mom asked if my brothers were coming. I told her yes and referred her to the dishes on the menu to pick her favourites.

Both my brothers were coming from work. Evening traffic could be an issue. When my mom asked me again to check if my brothers were on their way, I decided not to get annoyed with her or give her a chance to rant about them.

Instead I calmly asked her why she was so fixated on the ones who hadn’t arrived, when the one who remembered her birthday, booked the dinner, and got everyone to turn up for it was sitting right in front of her.

I’ve learnt not to take on the emotions of others, even if they’re valid or belong to my mother.

My brothers are now in their 40s and 50s. This is a childhood picture I cherish.

About 15 minutes later, my brothers appeared. I was very happy to see them. Our sibling bond has somehow survived years of negative narratives started by parental worries and disappointments, and perpetuated by constant retelling at the slightest provocation.

My mom performing a ritual bath on Ganesha, the Giver of Wisdom and the Breaker of Obstacles. We take on the attributes of whom we serve and pay attention to.

But that evening at our mother’s birthday celebration we were happily sharing a meal and chatting about more important, but non- emotional topics such as keeping our jobs and our masks on. Of course we also traded in superficial knowledge of more profound topics such as statesmanship and power play.

My mother looked very pleased with the red packets we gave her to wish her good health. She ate heartily all the dishes that would take her too much effort & time to cook at home.

Perhaps all gatherings are invitations to rewrite our scripts, and free us from the habitual hold of stunted stories that keep us from moving on and growing up.

Even as the passing years deplete us of our physical faculties, the power to select which narratives we wish to perpetuate can never be lost.

Will our stories be full of how others have wronged us and how we’ve also let others down? Or will our stories also celebrate every attempt to do our best in spite of everything?

Here’s wishing all good health, sound mind and generous heart to keep improving on our life’s script and live in joy regardless of the situation.

My mom and her sister on a kelong trip in 2019.

My Psalm 23 Moment

10 Aug 2020

“Remember, no matter what you see, the whole thing is just up to my knee!” the kindly museum guide assured me. I was trembling a bit in my walk on the glass surface of installation art piece by Mark Justiniani.

“Stardust: Soaring Through the Sky’s Embrace,” takes the form of a bridge lined with mirrors, creating the illusion of endless depth.

Half way through the short bridge, I felt a bit sick as I peered down at the abysmal blackness beneath my feet.

But the museum guide’s voice brought me back to the reality that the nauseating depth I was fixating on was in fact only knee deep!

How often have I allowed my flawed vision to dictate what I should think or feel? How do I differentiate reality from the utterances & projections of the ego?

When I finally cleared the “depth” open-eyed without falling down, I felt immensely grateful to the museum staff, my friends for walking beside me and my cane.

And one of the verses in Psalm 23 which I learnt in my teens came to me: “…though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.“

May we be guided by Benevolence as we scale the steps of Life.