The Foolish Ones

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Two men were walking along the road to a village called Emmaus. A good 11 km walk from Jerusalem where they started. They were affected by the recent events that took place in Jerusalem and it was the crucifixion of Jesus and the subsequent disappearance of his body from the tomb. As they were discussing and walking, someone came by and asked them what they were talking about. One of them questioned the stranger that he must be the only one from Jerusalem who does not know what had happened, like in today’s context it would have been viral, all over the news and trending on social media.

When they related the incidents to him, they said Jesus was supposedly great and likely to be the one to redeem Israel but he was condemned to death and was crucified. They added that they were baffled by the latest report (breaking news) that just happened that day, which was the third day. They heard that the body was missing from the tomb and some women who went there witnessed that it was empty and saw visions of angels who told them that Jesus is alive.

Then the man said to the two, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

The above story was taken from Luke 24:13-26 and there are two key points that I am learning from the passage and it involved both the eyes and heart of man.

Reflection

It is so easy to read and see what has happened around us but yet our hearts may not be in tune or true to what we claim to believe. Some might say, `Seeing is believing’ but this story clearly disprove this. Many have seen and experienced first hand all that has happened but many also have chosen not to believe or to remain in a state of unbelief.

The statement made of the two men; “O foolish ones” revealed their thoughts but the cause was “slow of heart to believe”. I pray and hope for my heart to burn and be true to God, and my eyes to see only the glory of God.

Caregivers UNITE!

Anne Frank

I was catching up with three friends whom as a group, have not met for several years. We are all in our fifties and sixties. The three of us are caregivers to our mothers who have survived their husbands for some years already. The oldest in the group was not in this situation as her parents had passed on some years back but she observed that it was common to find the `burden’ falling on single daughters to look after their aged parents. Statistically, 75% in this group are looking after their mothers who are in their late 70s to 80s.

I hope by sharing some of the struggles the caregivers in this group are facing, it will divide the burdens, struggles and challenges that other caregivers face with the hope that it will bring comfort and solace, possibly giving some respite.

Our group’s conversations soon went into how our mothers faced ageing and health issues, struggling to cope with day to day living. Although we laughed at the mind-blowing and mind-boggling situations in caring for our mothers, it was also a deep and constant struggle for us to cope on a daily basis.

One shared how her mother hoarded things in the house and they were items of no use or purpose. These things or items can be considered rubbish and cluttered the house. The house needs to be kept clean and safe so they (mothers) would not stumble over things or go in a frenzy searching for things they had misplaced in the clutter (a common happening nevertheless). Another shared how her mother had faeces on her hand after going to the toilet and when she tried to get her to wash her hands, the mother scolded her for being picky and a clean freak! The one with the oldest mother find it hard to keep her occupied through the day as she would be bored quickly from watching television, to doing jigsaw puzzles and then wants to walk around the house and do something when she was not able to do so unaided. When she tried to help her walk safely, she was chided for trying to be troublesome with her.

Oh what wonderful and lovely mothers we have. No, I am not trying to be sarcastic here. This is how we single daughters cope with mothers having dementia or illnesses that have robbed them of their ability to reason, to think clearly or logically. To look beyond their failings and see the person in them that is still around in whatever ways possible. We often say we do not know whether to laugh or to cry in our struggles. We will also let it out when talking to family or close friends about how ridiculous or tough it has been as it was a form of relief but we struggle not to say too much as it is our mothers that we are talking about. Being daughters, we struggle with whether we have failed or did not do enough as we see them deteriorate, and whether we were wrong to talk about their `unsavoury’ behaviour to others.

One of the hardest illness to cope with as a caregiver, is dementia. To see your loved ones gone into a different time zone and perhaps, dimension. A dimension where human reason and logic do not exist, where confusion and abstract ideas flourish. Another world has been created in their minds and eyes. Some would be filled with suspicion, with darkness and evil forces in their thoughts. Some with utter joy at the sight of flowers, cute pets, cartoons, and balloons, much like children. Some have a combination, depending on their mood swings. And sadly, some will not remember their own flesh and blood right before their eyes, and treat them with disdain or apprehension.

I believe there are many, not just single ladies, who are struggling as caregivers of parents, grandparents, spouse or siblings. It is a very lonely and hard journey. As the person whom they care for are often unable to appreciate them or even worse, curse them and speak ill of them in front of other people. Some may ask to be killed or to let them die as they do not want to suffer. Day in and day out you hear cries such as, “Let me die!”, “Why let me suffer?”, “I am going to die!”, “Why are you so cruel to me?” Furthermore, the people around you (relatives included) may pass remarks and comments that only add to the pressure and pain of caregivers. Many of you suffer in silence.

I would like to let you know, you are not alone, and if you need to talk to someone, drop me an email and we’ll see how we can share/divide our `misery’.

“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.”

― C.S. Lewis

This Silly Little Thing Called Love

As I read a recent post from a series of postings by my niece and seeing The Daily Post’s writing prompt’s “I Want to Know What Love Is.”, this post is made.

The series written by my niece was titled “this silly little thing called love” and you can see the latest post here.

The perspective of someone more than 20 years younger, made me realise that love knows no boundaries to age, gender, race, color or creed, including the knowledge and learning from it. For those who choose to love, they may be scarred, burned, scorned or choked but they may also experience or learn about forgiveness, healing, mercy, grace, friendship, humanity and what really matters and what don’t.

A very old song rung in my head when the title of the prompt was read. It was “To know him is to love him”. Although this does not seem to flow with what was said earlier…. does love always flow that way?

[In response to daily prompt : “I Want to Know What Love Is.”]

What is it about humans and pets…

I have shared a couple of times about the pets in my life and each of them have a story to tell just like any individuals we call human. You can read about my first decision on owning a dog called Patchy here. Here’s a photo of him and his sister, Jaimie who joined us a couple of months later:

Jaimie and Patchy

Jaimie and Patchy

Well, I had trouble introducing Patchy to the family as there were already numerous birds at home where some visitors commented that my house was like the Jurong bird park. So when I was told about Jaimie’s plight of not being look after well by a wealthy buyer whom the seller wanted to `rescue’ from. She asked me whether I could take Jaimie in at no cost. It was not the cost that bothered me, it was because I may need to find a new home for myself if I brought in another dog. So Jaimie was fostered to some of my friends for a couple of weeks here and there before she was finally introduced and accepted in the house. She had several medical issues to attend to before she was able to run around happily as a healthy dog.

You can see the difference in size between the two dogs even though they were from the same litter! So Jaimie did suffer in her early life but was rescued in time to lead a rather long 18 years! Ironically, Patchy had to leave us unexpectedly when he was just 10 years old (read the story link provided earlier).

Another dog was introduced to our family a few years after Jaimie and Patchy were with us and he was called Rusty, a wire-hair fox terrier (see photo below):

Rusty

Rusty

Again, an owner had no time to look after him and left it with my family after having him for less than a year. Sometimes, I thought my home had become a shelter for abandoned pets. It was sad that Rusty could not have a longer life as he developed serious skin problems. Especially dogs with this type of coat would not go well in Singapore’s climate and our house was not air-conditioned. He eventually succumbed to kidney failure around the  age of seven.

I am sharing this as we need to ponder and reflect on how we treat animals or pets in our lives. Hope we can do better as carers of this earth and all that is in it while we can.

Candy Crush vs Angry Ball

I think there are two groups of people today. Those who play games on computers or mobile devices and those who don’t. My guess is that the group that plays these games are much larger than those who don’t. Those who do not play these games would find it harder to play other games as the numbers had shrunk and the interests in such games are fading.

I missed those times when I could play games with my fellow kampung (village) friends. There was nothing digital going on at that time and there were many situations that required improvisation and imagination to play. It involved leadership, teamwork and it built camaraderie. We grew up appreciating and respecting each other and I am grateful to still be in touch with some of these friends today. The whole kampung was our playground. The kind of games we played was simple yet fun and adventurous, at times even dangerous.

One of the games was `Police and Thief’ where half the group (thieves) will have a headstart to run and hide while the other half (police) will have to find and catch them. They need to catch and bring them to a detention place (designated before the game starts).  To win the game, the police need to catch all the thieves. The thieves who were yet to be caught could attempt to rescue those detained by running pass the guard and tapping any of the detainees to set them free. One round of game can last over an hour and can be very tiring. It seemed simple but it was an elaborate game covering an area about the size of a football field. The area had clusters of wooden houses, trees, back alleys, lumber yard, shops and huts. Each group had to come together and strategise before playing the game and leaders were appointed to make decisions and negotiate terms with the opponents along the way. This elaborate game needed quite a number of players to make it work so when the numbers were low, other games were played.

One such game was called `Hantam Bola’ (meaning `Hit with Ball’ in Malay). This was a painful game and most girls would make excuses not to play (except for hyperactive me). Why was it painful?  The ball was made of a leathery-rubber material, hollow and about the size of a tennis ball. The photo below is a close example but the ones we used had red oriental patterns on it:

Old rubber ball

This ball, when thrown at high speed and hits you, it would really hurt and sting. How was the game played? Players had to stand inside a rectangle drawn on the ground, about the size of half a basketball court. There will be a small hole dug out at one side of the court in the middle and each player will take turns to attempt to put the ball in the hole by rolling it on the ground towards the hole. The diagram below will give you a better idea of the layout (the stars represent the players):

Hantam Bola field

Once anyone managed to get the ball in, he or she would run to the ball, grab it and throw it from the position of the hole towards the other players who would be running frantically to dodge the ball. Whoever gets hit by the ball or run out of the rectangle will be out of the game. If the thrower missed hitting anyone, he or she will be out of the game. The game was a process of elimination where the last kid standing will become the champion. Can you imagine what happens when the ball gets in the hole?  It will become an angry ball indeed and you will hear the piercing, terrified screams of the players as well. Those who got hit by the ball was not only out of the game but received a souvenir in the form of the ball’s imprint wherever it landed. It will remain for a day or two.. ouch! Some were hit at the back, arm or leg and some less fortunate ones, on the face!

I believe my real school was from these games and not from formal education as I cannot recall any of those lessons today. Most of all, we were all as fit as a fiddle running around like headless chickens as we were screaming our heads off in most of the games. It was terrifying yet wonderful!

I shall leave you with what happened to fit as fiddle these days through my favourite character as usual 🙂

Snoopy's Brother

Go Fly Kite

This is a kind of ‘Singlish’ (Singapore’s brand of english) phrase used for telling people off. It is saying ‘don’t waste my time’ and ‘go do something frivolous’ in the process. Sometimes it is said in jest amongst friends when someone had cracked a lousy joke or was sarcastic but it can also be used to tick someone off when the person had offended you or demanded something outrageous.

Well, it was totally different in my kampung (village) days when someone was to say, “Go fly kite.” We would all jump with glee at the opportunity to do so, especially on a bright and windy day! When I was too young to fly a kite, I would look at the older kids flying one and how they prepared their kites. It was not only the thrill of flying it, it was more of the competition. Yes, you heard me right, a competition!

Fancilful kites

Fanciful Fun Kites

The photo above showed many colorful and fanciful kites that people usually fly near the beach or at a high open ground. Well these are not the kites I was referring to. The kites that we flew or rather compete with other kite flyers was not much to look at as shown in the following photo:

Local kites

Kites we flew during our kampung days.

The kite was not larger than a foot square and made of thin translucent paper held and glued up with two pieces of thin bamboo twigs. It costs around 30 to 50 cents and were sold at provision shops in the kampung. However, the demand was for those that had a particular `brand’ which sells out faster than the others and it was because the workmanship was better. Before I go into the kite flying part, let me elaborate on the whole structure of this kite flying community (mainly children between 8 and 16 years old). There will be those who fly the kites, those who made the strings, those who retrieve the kites and those who watch the whole thing. Some may be involved in more than one of these activities.

The group that prepared the strings earned by selling these special strings to the kite flyers. The strings would be laced with powdered glass… yes, glass mixed with some kind of glue mixture. The string would be wound around some tree trunks to spread it out and the craftsman or kid would use a rag dipped in the glue-glass mixture and run it through the strings, it would cover about two thirds the length of the string starting from the point attached to the kite. You may figure out why it was done this way later. The strings would be left to dry and then rolled back to its holder. These strings cost more than the kites obviously.

The group that retrieve the kites would usually be in a group or in pairs and the leader would carry an improvised long pole that sometimes looked like deer antlers at the top. They would go in the direction of a loose kite which usually landed on a rooftop, a tree or telephone wires. Some of the kites would drift far beyond what these groups could follow so they would stop and look for another within reach. These retriever groups would `fight’ when they reached a kite at the same time and more often than not, the kite would be torn to shreds by the retrieving poles and you would hear them swearing at each other but soon split up to look for another kite.

Now, the kite flyers would be the ones battling it out in the skies and I managed to learn the craft of choosing the right kites, made the glass embedded strings (with the help of my kampung gang) and fly the kites. We even had mentors in the form of adults who were experienced in kite flying in the past and I would listen to their tales and methods. Armed with good kites and strings, with the winds in my favour and choosing the right spot with unobstructed view from my side of the kampung… LET THE GAME BEGIN!

Once my kite was launched in the air, I will let it go up as high as the others already in the air. Keeping such a small kite steady with strong winds was not easy. Here’s the real challenge. When you reach the same level or range with the rest of the other kites in the air, THE BATTLE BEGINS! Soon you will see a kite making a sudden swerve towards another and the intention was to cross the line (string) of that kite so it would get cut off (now you know why the glass embedded string was used). When that happens, you will see the victim kite suddenly fall out from the group. Sometimes, the aggressor may get cut off too if the defender had `sharper’ and stronger strings. The battle was in the skies so the lower part of the strings need not be covered with that mixture so hope this explained the two thirds coverage.

When I first started off in this raging aerial battle, I kept a lower altitude so it was difficult for the aggressor to reach me and some people think that it was cowardly. Well, I was new and cowardly. The aggressive kites had a particular color and style so we sort of know that it belonged to a particular group in the kampung. Newbies tend to lose their kites a lot and it can get costly especially when the strings were also cut off. After some practice and a loss of a few kites, I devised a strategy. I decided to fly the kite to one side of the group a little further off to let them give chase and I would swiftly bring the kite back before they could reach me. When they could not reach me, they had to turn back to their original position and there I would choose to strike! I would quickly go back in and turn towards them and WADDAYANOE! That was a happy day for my side of the kampung as we managed to `chop off’ 3 aggressive kites and could fly a little longer than usual that day.

From then on, my confidence was heightened and I became the pride of my gang. So the next round I flew a kite, there were spectators as word got out about our `killing’. I began to experiment more with some methods of quick twists and twirls with my kite and WALA! This time not only did we cut off the kites, we managed to bring back a kite by twirling around the string when it was drifting away. Soon I was bringing back the `spoils of war’ one by one and the haul was 3 for that day! My spectators cheered when we cut off kites and cheered even more when we brought back kites.

I must say those were the GLORY DAYS!

So if someone was to say to me, “Go Fly Kite!” I will say, “Thank you for the memories!”

Superhero (Part 3) – It’s all about the Birds!

Having dogs as a regular part of our family was due to my dad’s love for animals. Birds however, were his main obsession which you will get to know soon. During our kampung days, my dad included dogs in the family as they were known to be loyal guardians of families and homes. Break-ins and thefts of property were common in our kampung during the 1960s and 1970s. We had other creatures included like a couple of white mice that I brought home but my mom’s squeals when I played with them in the house and their subsequent disappearance from my makeshift cage, made it no longer feasible to keep them. Much to my dismay, cats could not be included as they would frighten the birds or even worse, eat them, so my dad would not risk having them around.

After my family settled in the new high-rise living in 1979, the birds came along as they have been my dad’s lifelong passion. Somehow, dogs were still added on later by us children and my dad just embraced all of them and walked them daily.

Dad bringing Patchy, Rusty and Jamie out for their daily walk at the foot of our block.

Dad bringing (from left) Patchy, Rusty and Jamie out for their daily walk at the foot of our block.

No matter which type of animals that came into our family’s life, it was still all about the birds when you see my dad. He was into it from rearing them the moment they were hatched, trapping them in the jungle to buying or exchanging them with fellow bird lovers. There was one that prominently stood out with him and it was the White-eye Finch, known locally as “Mata Puteh” (a malay description for white-eye) and the following photo will help you see why the small and feisty bird got its name:

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I believe my dad gained a reputation as the “King of Mata Puteh” as he had several wins under his belt such as winning the first prize in a bird singing competition as shown in the following photo dated back in the late 1960s or early 1970s:

Dad won 1st prize in a Mata Puteh bird singing competition

He rose in the ranks of owners of competition standard Mata Puteh such that he was invited to be a judge in such competitions. He had to give up taking part in the competition as it would conflict with his role as a judge but he just loved doing it all as it would promote a hobby that he loved. Here’s a rare photo of my dad judging at one of these competitions:

Dad Judging at a Mata Puteh Singing Competition

You may think that so much time was devoted to one particular species of birds but that was not all. There was another species called “Merbok” and I just learned that it is a Zebra Dove! This bird was like the `luxury model’ of all the species of birds at that time and there were stories about the Sultans (Kings) in Malaysia trading their Mercedes Benz for such top birds in competitions and there is even a town in Malaysia called Merbok, for reasons unknown to me.

My dad had an old friend called Uncle Henry who lived in an old shack up in the old Kampung Eunos and if I remembered correctly, the road leading to his place was Jalan Singa. He was poor and lived alone in a little hut that was at the back of another wooden house and it was the size of a small room. My dad would visit him regularly and brought me along and he and Uncle Henry would sit and chat the whole day about merbok which my dad had one or two. I believe Uncle Henry was his mentor and perhaps they shared one or two potential birds that my dad had invested in (rearing it according to strict diet and care). Here is another rare photo of Uncle Henry and dad with their merbok after winning the first prize at a Merbok singing competition:

Uncle Henry and Dad wining the 1st Prize at a Merbok Singing Competition

I think no one will dispute it if anyone was to say my dad was “Birdman”. After all, his name is Robert and many of his peers, including mom, called him “Bert” which sounds like bird anyway.