Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Botanical Gardens

 The biggest of gardens needs the tenderest of keepers.

 And he loved her and he kissed her downy cheek.

 A water hen steps gently among the reeds.

"No man is an island," thinks the turtle. "I am no man."

A shophouse, shuttered

From Below

I walked into the Gardens
and wandered 'neath the trees
I ducked under their branches
Almost upon my knees.

But most of all
I felt quite small
and learned a thing today:
 The trees were here before me;
They'll be here when I'm gone,
 and I'd do best to know my place
and put down roots and stay.


Thursday, 23 August 2012

I Always Knew I'd Make It

I'm not sure you noticed, but you're looking at the latest Editor-in-Chief of the Middle School Newspaper, recently renamed the Blue & Gold Gazette by my devoted underlings. Our latest issue will feature an expose on old lockers, a food review, and other hard-nosed journalism. I suddenly feel like sporting a moustache and wedging a cigar between my teeth. "You call this photography? Get out of my sight. And bring me Peter Parker."

Good Day

Good things about today: my seventh graders were a marvel to behold, quiet, polite, and interested; Newspaper is coming along well as I was deluged by a flood of good ideas from my field-reporters in the making; sixth grade wholeheartedly participated in a discussion of fairy tales; I was asked by the Cat Welfare Society if they could use my picture for their 2013 calendar; I braved the waters of poetry and Dante's Inferno and other bookish delights with the Rebel Shang, who quoted Dickinson to my face and agreed we should give form an alliance, name ourselves pretentiously, and discuss further at a later date; I talked to Yuka after school, and finally, gave up my seat to an elderly woman on the bus, her thinning hair pressed into a victory roll, a style she most likely has worn since the days of her youth.

Am I tired? Terribly. Has my brain been reduced to a series of sticky notes? ("Remember to copy" or "Must print 8th grade work sheets" or "Take attendance") Yes, it has indeed. But I leave each day knowing that God has not turned his hand from me; He has not given me over to despair but blessed me beyond my ability to measure. Even the slow grind is a blessing only temporarily obscured by the general incomprehension of the bigger picture that comes so naturally to the human condition.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Standing Guard

Young men in uniform
idle outside the Ion
after standing guard for hours on end
breath scarcely stirring, eyes barely blinking,
wrought of sterner stuff than iron.
Or not.

The well-dressed of Orchard Road

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Cat Welfare Society

I visited the Cat Welfare Society Adoption Drive at Causeway Point just to hold some kittens. It was a good afternoon.


The moment

I want my own cat, a trusty companion to lie on the cushions and offer her opinion on the day.

Room with a View

A friend stopped by to say good morning.

Green grass below
Green leaves above

Behold, I Lay Thy Stones in Fair Colours

This is awful. You might as well have thought I dropped off the face of the earth or was buried in a salt mine in the Gobi or escaped imprisonment from the darkest hole only by changing my name and running to the farthest corner of the world, possibilities which have all felt true to some degree over the past few weeks. I have been deluged with paperwork, and let me tell you, it is no easy task to take up something which is completely foreign. I know how to teach--I can stand in front of anyone and stay nimble enough to think on my toe--but no, no, it's the technicalities of the thing. I've had to learn an entirely new set of skills, dealing with a system and parents and computer systems (three of them!) for work and communication. And this stern facade I must necessarily wear for the first few weeks is wearing me out. Chin up now, you hear? I tell myself.

I've leaned heavily on Mrs. Lawrence, my old teacher from high school whom I greatly respect and admire, and she has provided me with valuable insight and advice via letter. Perhaps it's the sheer scale of it all--everything, down to the last jot and tittle is new, and not only must I learn how the normal methods of lecture but the differentiated for the dyslexics or slow learners or attention deficit sufferers. And then I have had to learn the bus system all over again to get to school, to church, to the grocery store. How does one work to accommodate all these things? My mind reached its quota a week ago and has ceased to absorb new information at all. If not for the automated electronic reminders I receive on my computer, I would not have remembered a single meeting. I tell those who wonder, "I am really not the person to ask."

I have been reading through Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard, and it, as always, has been a steady comfort to me. Much Afraid comes across the threshing ground and the Chief Shepherd tells her, "Bread corn is bruised, but no one crushes it forever" (Isaiah 28:27). This crushing I know is not forever. I am trying on a new shoes entirely, but I haven't quite worn them in. Ask me again in a few days.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Majulah Singapura!

I am proud to be a part of Singapore. Yesterday I spent the late morning hours in IKEA, tracking down sundry items for my flat, and the latter part of the day at home with Yuka Osaki, watching the National Day Parade and half-heartedly lesson planning. I always appreciate the National Day Parade and its reaffirmation of Singapore's commitment to love and unity. And what better way to celebrate racial harmony than to have a Swede and a Japanese celebrate the Singaporean national day?

The final light show of the parade was a colourful performance of dancing raindrops, butterflies, and orchids. I have noticed of late that Singapore has gone all out to embrace its jungle heritage, and the city planners have increasingly incorporated creeping vines and clinging plants into the architecture, probably figuring if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. And it's about time. Manicured lawns are all well and good, but I personally prefer the untamed look.

As for this year's National Day song, I cannot love it as much as Kit Chan's "Home" from 1998. While its refrain played during the medley of songs towards the end, Yuka misheard the lyrics, thinking Kit sang "This is home truly, as my sensei tells me..." I was, however, delighted to find another favorite in Shabir Tabare Alam's haunting Tamil beauty "Singai Naadu."

You know Singapore is small when you watch the planes fly over Marina Bay on the telly in one moment and see them out your window the next. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


I have a sofa! Jackie and Master Kelley and his wife came to deliver it today! I cannot believe how blessed I am to have such people in my life, colleagues who go out of their way to help me. What on earth have I done to deserve this? I can only give thanks to a mighty God who cares for even the smallest of His sometimes rather hopeless creatures.

Monday, 6 August 2012

First Look

The living room 

The kitchen 

The bedroom

Granted it needs a bit of work (those atrocious curtains will be the first to go), but I don't mind.

Sunday, 5 August 2012


Ah, childhood memories!

Faces and Places

It's hard to believe I've only been in Singapore for thirteen days. It feels like I have done a million things, mostly because I have shifted countries, moved into two separate living spaces, gone shopping, eaten chicken rice, rearranged my life, signed up for a bank card, had my blood drawn and lungs X-rayed, watched Chinese dramas, visited churches, applied for an employment pass, read through the student-parent handbook, and cleaned, cleaned, cleaned. My hands have been fused to mop and rag for the past three days, and I have yet to scrub the floors in my room.

Setting up a new life is hard work, but ultimately I am quite satisfied to have something of my own. It's not much, and I have a tendency to make it out to be much larger than it really is--in my mind I have many rooms and elegant furniture, though even my coffee table at this point in time is plastic. In my new place of residence I am surrounded by a school and church; I have a library a stone's throw away. In the morning, light pours into my living room through tall windows overlooking the courtyard, and I can open my veranda door onto a small patio and green trees. A few days ago the gentle strumming of a guitar and a worship refrain floated up past my overlook.

As for the neighborhood, I am very happy to live here. Bukit Timah has long been an old haunt of my, and this new community is close enough for comfort. The old Malaysian railroad is in the vicinity, though it has long since been abandoned, but I find the thought of it to be continually romantic. I imagine it's glory days. To think it now lies forgotten under so much greenery!

I like my neighbors as well. My landlady lent me her IKEA card for a free drink in the restaurant. The owner of the wooden furniture store is a Christian who supports his Christian Indonesian friends by selling their hand-carved signs in his store. The barrista at Coffee Bean is very nice. And today as I was walking to the local coffee house to get some reading done, I met a couple, walking hand-in-hand. The man suddenly raised his voice and sang out Whitney Houston's "Aaaaaaaa-iiii-yaaaaaaaaai willl aaaaaaaaaalways love yoooooouuuooooo," catching his girl by the waist and twirling her around on the sidewalk. It is one of the few displays of public affection of which I approve.