The Fourth Watch

The Romans had a way to divide the times of the night into four watches. They are 3-hour divisions:

1st watch – 6pm to 9pm

2nd watch – 9pm to 12am

3rd watch – 12am to 3am

4th watch – 3am to 6am

Those who ever worked the night shift would be familiar with this in some ways. The Romans who were well known for their battles and wars, knew that the effectiveness of any watch during the night would be good only within a 3-hour period. I assume the soldiers were switched at every watch to provide high alert guards throughout the night. Otherwise, it could mean the loss of one of their areas of control to the enemy.

I have experienced working the night shift and personally, the “dead of night” would be around the fourth watch. Why I call it the “dead of the night”? Well, at such times the ‘Z’ (sleep) monster will be at its strongest and your eyelids feels like it weighed a ton. Sometimes we might ‘see’ (hallucinate) things. Perhaps this provides a clue as to why ghost stories are related by people who ‘experienced’ it at such hours.

This brings me to why I was talking about the Fourth Watch. It was from this passage in Matthew 14:22-27 (ESV):

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

More often than not, the parts that captured our attention would be about Jesus walking on water to the boat, Peter walking on water towards Jesus but sinking in the process, the statement made by Jesus to Peter on why he doubted and had little faith, and when the winds stopped the moment Jesus stepped into the boat. I am not saying that these were insignificant. In fact, these were spectacular, very visual and appealing to our senses. A miraculous story.

However, when I tried to put myself in the shoes of the disciples on the boat, rowing across the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) which was 13 kilometers wide, with the winds and waves against them for hours in the night trying to get to the other side, I found it hard to fully understand what they were going through. The closest I experienced was a grueling physical and mental test in the past. It was on land with a group of friends carrying heavy backpacks trekking to the final campsite before reaching the summit of a mountain. We were lost and seemed to be walking in circles and it lasted through the 1st watch. Some of us began to hallucinate as we ran out of water and our torchlights were out too. I was mad at the person who had caused us to get lost, also the guide who had abandoned us and the other half of the group ahead of us for not searching for us. We were beginning to talk stuff that made no sense… we were delirious and exhausted. Obviously, I survived the ordeal but it gave me a sense of the state of mind of the disciples on that boat.

Before the disciples went on the boat, they just witnessed Jesus miraculously feeding 5000 men with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus probably sent them off at the 1st watch to go across the lake. They must have left on a high note and felt invincible being sent by the one whom they KNOW as the Son of God. With a number of rowers on a boat to cover 13 km, it was a simple task but it turned out to be a har-rowing nightmare against the wind and strong waves which lasted hours passing through the 2nd and 3rd watch! How far did they go? Perhaps three quarters of the journey, like 9 or 10 km. They should be exhausted, angry and bewildered at their situation, likely questioning why Jesus sent them on such a route. They could be thinking or saying, “He must have known the weather and winds and yet he sent us.”, “Why is he torturing us?” or “Did we do something wrong that we have to suffer like this?”

At the fourth watch, Jesus went to the disciples by walking on the water towards the boat. Their response was understandable as seeing the shadow coming towards them, they cried, “It is a ghost!” It was perhaps the toughest time of the night for them and being physically drained, it was hard to SEE that Jesus had come to save them. Probably a testing of their faith at such times and a kind of training that would build them up.

Then we read further on the passage about Peter in Matthew 14:28-31 (ESV):

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 

Peter became an example when he tried to act on that faith by asking to walk towards Jesus. He did walk on water but turned his FOCUS on the wind and began to sink. What was described of Peter’s action? He had little faith and he doubted.

Then it ended with Matthew 14:32-33 (ESV):

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Was it the stopping of the winds that made the disciples respond to Jesus like this? The disciples had already experienced Jesus calming a stormy sea (see Matthew 8:23-27). This was clearly different. I believe it was the personal experience they had in their heart, soul and mind that made them acknowledge that He is truly the Son of God. It was no longer just knowing, it was experiencing, believing and growing.

I pray that at whatever times, especially the Fourth Watch, I will SEE the steadfast love of God guiding me in every step and FOCUS on Jesus that I may be found faithful to fulfill the assignment that he has given me, such that I will:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 ESV



Innovation at a Coffeshop


Having a simple breakfast of coffee, toast and soft-boiled eggs in a small coffee shop in Johor Baru town turned out to be an interesting learning experience.

First, the few young men in polo-tee with shop logo and jeans (like a uniform) were deployed to take orders, serve or clear the tables. Then a lady armed with a tablet comes around to collect payment at the tables when the food was served.

At my table, the lady with a tablet (i think it’s a mobile cashier) came by casually and tells me the price for my food and I paid her and she gave me the change and swiftly whipped out a marker pen and made a squiggle on the table top near my food (evidence in the photo – green markings near the coffee cup on the table.

As soon as I finished my food and drink, the young man came and cleared the table and wiped it clean including the markings made (must be a white board marker).

Such clockwork efficiency and brilliance. We can surely learn a thing or two from this thriving, team based F&B outlet. It doesn’t look pretty, posh or in an air-conditioned place but its service and operations model surpassed some restaurants or cafes I have been.

About Learning

This is my first blog under this category and I decided to use this personal blogsite to let people discover more about learning as it is my role as an Instructional Designer to do so. They just need to click on this learning tab to find out more (if they stray to the other tabs, it’s fine since this blog is open to public).

Learning is personal as each of us are different and we learn in our own ways. This is because learning is a choice we make everyday to absorb, believe or pursue something in our lives.

As instructional designers today, we are constantly unlocking the mystery of how people learn. There are several reasons for this situation and I will share two:

  1. The advent of the internet was a turning point towards something unprecedented and has impacted almost everything with society at a global scale, information became thoroughly accessible.
  2. In recent years, the influences of the social media and mobile technology have shaped new generation learners in a way far different from what we thought we know.

What does this mean for us instructional designers?

A more challenging learning environment and a more exciting one too. This would mean the learning will never stop (keeps evolving) when it comes to designing materials that will help people learn effectively and the learners will stand to gain even more than ever before.

It is all about the learners!

BEWARE! We only have one set of TEETH!


Of course you know this already. I am not trying to be sarcastic or insulting but merely making a proclamation of enamel enlightenment. Over the years, my visits to the dentist has turned into a steep-upward climb in costs and saving my teeth but I think saving Gaia (the earth) has a far better chance than my teeth.

Why did I choose to write about this? Well, I told the dentist at my last visit when I boldly propped myself up on the reclined chair, raised my hand, pointed upwards and said, “I must tell all parents and parents-to-be about how important it is to inculcate good dental hygiene in their children.” Actually, this also applies to everyone who have teeth (real ones).

I have bragged in several posts about my kampung (village) life but there was one area that I cannot and that was because adults then had little knowledge of dental care and it had caused many kids, including myself to suffer the consequences of this. I was called “Bo geh” (no teeth)

bo geh

when I was 4 or 5 years old and it was not uncommon for kids in the kampung to have rotting teeth and pulling them out with their fingers every now and then. Our second set of teeth had to come out prematurely and they looked over-sized on most of the kids. My mouth had no space for the permanent set, so the canines grew above the incisors and premolars (the photo below will help you visualise).


Then I was given other nick names like “Dracula” or “Vampire”. Well, the growing up years will continue to fill other blog topics but for now, the main focus is on the recent dental saga.

It was the first time that I chose to visit another dentist to seek a second opinion. Over the past 6 years I have been visiting a particular dentist near my neighborhood and it belonged to a dental group (more established and has several clinics). After sometime like several root canals, crowning and a bridge later, I was taken aback when my concerns raised in a routine visit was brushed off. Somehow, I felt that there were cavities or problems that need to be looked into but the dentist only clean the teeth and asked me to come back in 6 months.

Obviously, I was back before the 6-month period as I was having pain. The dentist analysed and took an x-ray and then recommended another root canal and crowning job for the molar or a referral to the specialist as it was near the nerves. It took two dentists and two visits where they `knocked the rockers off’ my poor tooth to figure whether it was cracked or not. I felt that it may have cracked just by their knocking! In the end, the inlay on the tooth was taken out and a temporary filling was made and I was given 3 months to come back for another assessment. I left 250 bucks poorer and none the better :(.

“That was it!”, I said to myself and looked for another dentist’s opinion.

I visited another neighborhood dental clinic near my home which did not have the corporate stylish-look-and-feel of the previous one. It was homely and cosy inside and when I entered the dentist office, a young female dentist attended to me. I related my experience, she patiently listened and never once concurred with my critical slant on the other clinic (without revealing their identity). She started by checking every single tooth asking her assistant to record down what she said as she move from one tooth to another. My heart sank as I heard her uttering coded language for practically every tooth as the assistant frantically wrote down her rather long assessment. It sounded like I was a badly wounded soldier in an ER!

Of course she needed an x-ray to have a better assessment of the whole teeth so it was done with my agreement that it would be a large one rather than focus on the problem tooth only. Then she went through the `war zone’ with me. She stated about 4 more cavities that needed attention and gave me an idea of the urgency of each where the more important ones could be worked on first. This made me feel that the previous clinic was not interested in `small’ jobs and did not highlight any of these problems during the routine check. They wanted the more `lucrative’ ones and I am all the more angry about this but did not say it to this dentist.

The problem molar was the real intense discussion after the overview was done. I had 3 options; root canal with crown, extraction, or implant. Each had its pros and cons and they were not at all rosy. Hope by now you know why I am compelled to write about this as it is really not worth experiencing all these in your adulthood as it affects your general well being as well as burn a rather big hole not only in your teeth but also in your pockets!


So take care everyone!

Why Weekends are called Breaks

Most working population will have their days off on Saturdays and Sundays. That’s why we often hear the term TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday) on a Friday or even Thursdays in anticipation. If there is a public holiday on a Friday or Monday, it will be referred to as a long weekend.

Even our domestic helpers will get their day off in a week and it usually falls on a Sunday. Many of them will gather at places where they have a community of their own country people. In Singapore, we have some places known for the congregation of migrant workers from specific countries. For the Filipinos, there is a shopping mall in Orchard called Lucky Plaza where they gather or buy their local goods. For the Thai people, there is also a shopping mall called Golden Mile complex at Beach Road that sells most of their local fare and items. There are also other places for workers from Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam and this post is not meant to serve as an exhaustive list.

The Indians will go to a place called Little India in Serangoon Road where there are plenty of shops, markets and malls serving their needs. The Malays have Geylang Serai, Kampung Glam and Arab Street areas as their common meeting points for shops, market and food places. The Eurasians also have their own community club in Katong area and the Chinese have Chinatown at People’s Park area. The indians, malays, eurasians and chinese are common races of Singaporeans so some of the common places need to be larger to accommodate both the migrant workers and locals patronising the shops, malls and markets.

Of course the migrant workers are able to go wherever they like on their day off and some may go to the parks or beaches around the island to spend time with their friends and family. Personally, I think they know how to have more fun and relaxation than most of the locals based on my observations over the years. It could be that they are happy to meet their friends or family which they would not get to see perhaps for over a month or more. The locals like me have the liberty to meet our friends and family at any time we choose or want.

So it is wonderful when the weekends come because the mood is high and joyous and that would make a really good break. For me, a break would sometimes mean chilling at home or a preferred nook 🙂


There you have it… why weekends are called breaks 🙂

Make It Anywhere – The School of Hard Knocks

“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” goes the famous song about New York City. Is there a place — a city, a school, a company — about which you think (or thought) the same? Tell us why, and if you ever tried to prove that claim.

When I thought of my parents and grandparents who had to experience the Japanese Occupation in Singapore in the 1940s as young teens and parents respectively, I saw them as giants, heroes and heroines for facing such hardships and heartbreaks. As I grew up blissfully unaware of their past and they also looked after my generation and the next as if that 2nd World War never took place on our soil or was not experienced by them. Of course we learnt from history classes and some public broadcast programs about our history, but it seemed something remote and far away from us.

I feel that what they had faced cannot be compared to anything that this generation in developed and peaceful nations are facing such as issues on gender inequality, income disparity, age biasness, etc. What are these compared to hunger, torture, sexual abuse, slavery and horrific killings. The silence of my parents and maternal grandmother (the only grandparent I grew up with) on details of this event made me realise or suspect that it was a memory they wished to erase as well as knowledge they wished to shield us from.

True grit is what I see in them and they can make it anywhere for sure. It is these people in my life that sacrificed everything for future generations. They made me believe that I can make it anywhere because they had proved it by their selfless life for us. There is no need for me to prove anything as it is recorded in history books.


Make It Anywhere – DP

Overload Alert

“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” — Gertrude Stein

Do you agree?

I tend to agree as we have been inundated with information not just all day long but moment by moment. We have relied on information for what to wear, eat or buy and where to go, do and even what to say. Whether it was information fed to us or sought by us, it doesn’t really matter. It’s the reliance of such information to conduct our day to day lives that will cause us to lose something in the process. In this context, we could lose our common sense.

The overload of information in itself is harmless and mostly useful for learning and knowing what’s going on perhaps. It is how we let the information take over our decision making processes and worse, our ability to think, analyse or discern, that makes it a problem.

Overload Alert