I created this page My Moments specially for posting if something happens and I need to load it off my chest. Something did happen to me today.
My older girl had been wanting to go to church for the last few days. She has been brought up a Hindu. Her father doesnt really fancy her going to church. He believes there is a reason why we are born Hindus or as Muslims. Because you are supposed to worship the religion you ae born into, he says. I disagree.. I believe all religions believe in the same God. So for me, I'm glad she is reaching out to God, regardless of who she is praying to. I believe that its important to have faith in God. Especially when we are met with extreme challenges in life. So, I brought her today to the Holy Family Church in Katong, in the eastern part of Singapore.
We have been to this church last year couple of times. But not during mass. It is a very beautiful serene place. But today, we happen to arrive at the church just before an evening mass. My girl and I decided to attend the mass. It will be a new experience for us, we thought.
It started off beautifully with the priest preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ inviting followers to worship him. I thought to myself 'Wow our first mass and the priest is just talking about how the Lord is inviting us to follow him. Were we meant to attend this mass?' Hmmm....
After about half an hour of singing hymns and listening to verses from the Bible, we were invited to take something from the priest. Probably supposed to be like the holy bread? It looked like a piece of white round wafer. My girl told me she was not interested but I wanted to. So I stood in line and I observed what the others did. Bow to the priest, take the wafer from him, place it in you mouth and leave the line.
My turn came. I bowed, took the Holy Bread from him and said thank you and left the line. He stopped me. 'What did you say?' he asked. I replied 'Thank You'. He looked annoyed. 'Oops, what did I say wrongly?' I thought to myeslf. 'You must say Amen'. I fell silent. He looked at me and asked 'Are you a Catholic? I fell silent again. I didn't want to offend him. And I didn't want to say to him that I 'm a Muslim. 'Are you a Catholic?' He asked again. So I simply replied, 'No I'm not.' He took back the biscuit from my palm and attended to the other worshippers. The priest was totally pissed off, I could see. I felt embarassed but more importantly, I was taken aback and rather confused.
We left the church hall immediately. Not because I was offended. I was afraid he might make a mockery of me - a non Catholic attending a Christian mass. My girl was shocked too. Are churches only for Christians? That was the question running through my mind. I was not angry with the priest. I'm more forgiving than him. He was simply doing what he was taught. But it did make me think about how other religions treat those who aren't of their religion. Do mosques and temples do the same too? I discussed this with my daughter over dinner. She advised me to stop comparing religions and that each have their own way of conducting it, how they feel its the right way. I had to agree with her. She was right. Probably Catholics are stricter among the Christians?
I asked a close friend Angie who is a staunch Christian. She agreed that I had a terrible first experience of a mass. And that not all Christians are that unwelcoming. An interesting eye opening experience. I checked with a Catholic friend late last night. She empahised that Catholics go through a rigorous 1 year preparation to become one. They have to baptised before being offered the wafer for the very first time. So I guess I was right. Catholics do have a strict way of how their religion is conducted.
Will I stop going to church because of this sour experience? No
Will I stop believing that all religions believe in only one GOD? No
Will I now have a distaste for Christians, esp Catholics? No, definitely not.
I may simply avoid masses for the time being but this church is simply too serene for me to keep away. You will find me on certain mornings when the church hall is completely empty. The sun streams through the beautiful stained glass windows while I sit at the pews totally awed by its beauty with the utmost serenity in my heart.
HEN or Helping & Empowering our Neighbours has begun its very first initiative - HEN Storytelling just yesterday 6 June 2018. Reaching out to the children of the underprivileged families in Bedok North, our aim was to empower them with a love for reading and a better command of the English language. And most of us being docents, we decided to bring the stories of Singapore to these children. This brilliant idea was a brainchild of Jane Ong, our Secretary and fellow Singaporean. This will also enhamce the kids knowledge of Singapore's history. Remember the Swordfish story and how it is linked to Redhill area?
It is slated to be held every Wednesday from 1.45pm - 2.30pm at Fengshan CC in Bedok North St 2 .
Gaelle Lefebvre, our Belgian HEN member, was our honorary first storyteller yesterday. She engaged the roughly 8 children (attendance was low because of the Ramadan fasting month) with the story of the two mermaid sisters who disobeyed the king and the king, to teach them a lesson, transforms them into mudskippers in the end. Apart from teaching them about the consequences of disobeying your elders, it also highlights how the island of Singapore arose from the sea.
I will post more photos but as the children are under protection and we are bound by strict client confidentiality, I'm unable to.
If you are free on Wednesday afternoons and would love to be part of this meaningful vocation, do send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org No special skills are required. Of course you must hv read to your kids when they were younger?? You don't hv to read every Wednesday. Once a month is fine. So, all you need is a love for reading, a passion to serve the community and 1 hr of your time.
I have this super urghhhh feeling right now. When I am feeling down, I reach out to Allah. I am pmsing big time and I have my period. I'm so frustrated with the world. And the worst part? I can't pray.
I need to connect with Allah. I need to do my ablutions (washing up), dorn my white muslim prayer clothes, face the Kaabah in the holy city of Mecca from my room and pray to Allah. I need to read my Yasin prayer book every evening after my Maghrib prayers at 7.10pm which also happens to be the first prayer of the day. You see for Muslims, our day begins at dusk ( makes sense?). I need to pray to Allah to keep my family safe, to bless my husband with a good job soon, to bless my daughters with a good life, to bless my siblings, their families, my parents, to bless me with a peace of mind. To bless my charity initiative HEN with directions, people and funding.. I pour my heart out to Allah every evening. I can't share my deepest feelings with anyone else. Only Allah.
So, I can't pray for all that for a week. I can pray in my mind but it is simply not the same. The feeling of absolute oneness with Allah when I pray every evening, that feeling of closeness I get. I miss it. Sometimes I feel I see Him in my room. So, now you know how that feels? To not be able to pray ...Urghhhh...I just want to sleep and wake up a week later when my period is over.
Why the need for this post? Because I noticed so many of us settle. We don't fight back because of so many reasons...why bother? I don't want to make it a big issue. People will think I'm over reacting etc...
I beg to differ. Why not? Why shouldn't we make it a big issue? Why shouldn't we over react, when we need to? Otherwise, how will people know that it is an issue ? That something that may be ok for you may not be ok for others. If we all keep quiet and do nothing, a change will not take place.
I will narrate incidents that happened in my daughter's school that spurred me on to write this post...
To be continued ....
I’m back.. I couldn’t leave something hanging for long... anyway. My older daughter Ranya is 16 years old this year. She is studying in a local Singapore school that is particularly focused on the academics. I encouraged her to attend that school because of a few reasons - proximity to home, history of academic excellence, my alma mater. But it didn’t suit her. She was a circle trying to fit into a square hole. Last year was particularly bad as she had so many subjects with very high standards and she couldn’t clear so many of them even with extra lessons from private tutors. Students who can’t clear the exams are given a second chance to catch up during the last 2 weeks of Nov. We weren’t aware so we were joyfully enjoying our London and Paris holiday. When we returned, we had a rude shock awaiting us. The dean informed us that our Daughter either leaves the school or gets retained for that year. I was appalled. I was shocked. I went home devastated. I started blaming myself. How could I have I hv let this happen? But it slowly dawned on me. It’s not my fault. I’m not the one to blame. So, I didn’t keep quiet. I fought back and I made some noise.
Firstly, we were not aware that there was such thing as a 2 week review period for weak students. Secondly, without giving her a chance, how could the school ask my girl to repeat that year or leave the school?? I had a few meetings... I had to put my foot down. I wrote to the principal and even cced the email to Education Ministry in SG, MOE. That got the school’s attention. They realised they had not been fair to my daughter, gave her a 2 week review period and eventually let her progress on to the next year. They didn’t want us to blow this issue out of proportion. After all it’s the school’s reputation that is at stake. They had to give in. My daughter was very grateful to me. She said any other parent in that school would not have fought for their child’s justice. Even my husband noted that it’s my email that got the school’s attention. I replied I’m not any other parent.
Another incident coming up...ok I’m back again. Sorry guys.. a lot of things are on my plate right now. My charity organisation, my dual roles in the training team, housework etc...
The second incident happened just last week. Again it’s about my older girl. She is very weak in Chemistry. All kids her age from different schools seem to be weak in Chem. My girl got a new teacher this year Ms P who also happened to be a close friend of my sister. She is a strict teacher and expects her students to excel. She won’t think twice about kicking kids out of class for not being able to answer her questions. Everyone in her class is not fond of Ms P.
Let me come to the matter. My girl Ranya wasn’t doing well in her Chem tests. And her close friend D didn’t pass the recent test either. Ms P then asks D ‘ What happened? You were doing so well at the beginning of the year? Now what happened? Are you having problems at home? Or is it because you are sitting next to Ranya?’
D narrated the whole conversation to Ranya and Ranya showed it to me. I ask of you ... as a parent, what would have been your reaction? Shock? Insulted? Offended? So I was. All that... shocked. Insulted and Offended. How in the world would my daughter affect another classmate’s marks? But It’s a tricky situation. The teacher was a friend of my sis. So I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. I didn’t want to bring the matter to the higher authorities yet. So, I made a quiet noise. I sent Ms P an email and gave her a chance to explain herself. My husband and I are meeting her next week.
Ranya asked ‘Aren’t you blowing this small matter out of proportion? Probably she could hv been kidding?’ I asked ‘Is this a joking matter? And if we don’t ask her to clarify herself, won’t this matter repeat itself again in the future?’ Another Ranya will be targeted ? Just because she is weak in that subject, does not give the teacher any right to make fun of her and insult her in front of her friends. It’s damn right offensive. All these incidents leaves us as parents of children in that school with a very bad taste in our mouth. It clearly shows how the school treats it’s weak students.
Another incident where a Deputy Dean took photos of my younger daughter because she was wearing a slightly bigger stud earrings. I wrote to the principal directly. How can a teacher take photos of a student without asking for her permission? It’s a question of privacy. And why are these Teachers micro managing them and treating them like little kids. They are teenagers, for goodness sake. Treat them as young adults. Let them make their own choices. Advise them and be their Friend.
I don’t want to elaborate but the principal told me that the matter has been dealt with and the deputy dean was advised.
So do you see why we have to make noise when we have to? These incidents somehow sheds light on my personality. On who I am. Why I get affected when people are rude to me. When people ignore me.
When a close friend left me suddenly without an explanation, I now understand why it affected me to the core. It wasn’t right.
Make your own noise, people. The world needs to hear you.
Remember I posted a video some time back of my older daughter Ranya when she sang in front of her school Temasek Junior College (TJC) ? I was so proud of my sunshine Ranya who has been singing since she was 9 and has her most exciting moments only when she is on stage. Ranya loves performing. Nothing like it, she says.
Yesterday, my younger daughter Riya (featured above) did us proud too. Riya means singer in I don't know what language (maybe Hindi?) but Riya excels in playing drums. I believe she can sing as well but her first love is drums. I remember taking her to her first drum lesson in the Academy of Rock in Siglap when she was just 9. She didn't like the instructor. So we didn't pursue after that trial lesson.
While in America, she joined the Guitar Centre in Bluebell, Pennsylvania to learn drumming and she got a good instructor Dave who taught her well. Her interest deepened and we got for her a drum pad, a mobile pad like a big plate that she can practise her beats on. That bored her soon enough. Then, as a gift for her 10th birthday and under her persistance, she got the full accoustic drum set worth U$500. It is a beautiful black drum set. It is still in her room right next to her bed. Riya is truly gifted in her drumming. She is only 13 but she picks up beats so fast. Her idol is Josh Dun of Twenty One Pilots.
Yesterday, she awed everyone in TJC during the annual Guitar Concert. She was asked to be part of the rock band of the Guitar Club called Morphine (I know right!) because a few people already knew her about her drumming. She was absolutely amazing, if I can declare as a proud mom. I kind of teared during her performance and halfway I started wondering what on earth are my two musically talented girls doing in academically oriented SG? Time to move again...
Strangers came up to her to compliment her on her awesome performance. One parent went 'You must be so proud of Riya' Of course, I am VERY proud of both my girls. Another parent went ' Both your girls are so talented - one is an amazing singer and another such a good drummer.' I was beaming with pride the whole evening. I wonder where they both got these amazing musical genes in them? I used to sing when I was a teenager but I mostly believe its their musician father who must have passed them on to them.
Congrats my honeybun, Riya. I'm so proud of you. You have always been different since you were 2 years old. You will refuse to pose for photos. You will throw tantrums when you didn't get your way. You cut your hair short when all your girl friends dared not. You love skateboards, BMX biking and of course your beloved drums. You make up for the son I couldn't have :)) You played to a crowd of 400 yesterday. Can't wait to see you and Akka Ranya perform in front of thr whole of Singapore! xx
Watch her video at my FB page
National Museum of Singapore (NMS) is hosting a monologue called 'And suddenly I disappear' between 25th to 27th May. It is the first ever multi-lingual intercultural joint disability-led theatre project between Singapore and UK. Promises to be an eye-opening experience. Click on the link above to find out more.
World Premiere is on the 25th May 8pm at NMS Gallery Theatre. The executive director of the True Colours concert and also an acquaintance, A, has made plans to go on the same day too. Get your tickets early before they get sold out!
25th May got sold out before I could get the tickets. Let me try 26th. No guarantee though.
Will I see you all there? You don’t hv to join the museum as a trainee docent but you can still come to learn more about what we do. Hope to see you all. 10am—12noon.
I'm proud of my achievement. I'm now a qualified NMS Docent. I still remember Sep 14th 2017, the first day of training. I was so new to museums. I had no idea what was in store and I didn't know anyone. As training progressed, I started wondering what I got myself into! The weekly memorising and presentation was not easy. But I loved the researching and all the reading I had to do. After the training got over officially on 27th March 2018, we had to prepare for our very first guiding in front of actual visitors to the museum. Its called Mentor Tour. I was so freaked out for the last 1.5 months getting ready for this tour. My only worry was how would i remember a 1 hr presentation? My mentor a lovely British lady Anne Wightman made it really doable. And I did my first guiding yesterday 7th May 2018 at 2pm. I prayed for a small group of just around 10 visitors and that I will not forget my lines.
I got 7 visitors and no I didn't forget any of my lines. Yay me! Am so proud of myself. All these weeks of memorising and practising in the museum day after day so much so that the people in the museum started greeting me because I was such a familiar face! Now I know many of their names as well. From 4pm, I was hoarded with so many congratulatory messages from current trainees and from qualified docents etc.. I was on WhatsApp the whole evening. It was euphoric.
The picture below shows my very first audience. 4 Singaporeans and 3 French ladies.
My amazing mentor, Anne Wightman (below pic) who is also the spouse of the British High Commissioner. She is such a warm loving person.
Christine Zeng, a Singaporean (pic below) a fellow docent trainee.. A vegan because she can't stand the idea of animals dying to satiate her taste buds. Even her make up is cruelty free! She came especially to the museum to support me after my tour. She is 11 years younger than me, but we do get along quite well. She is the one who introduced me to the yummy vegetarian brown rice soup noodles at the Vietnamese restaurant Nam Nam at Plaza Singapura. Thats my fav hangout nowadays sometimes alone if not with Christine.
So, now that I'm a qualified docent, please do note that I'm always free to do a private tour for all you friends out there. Or even for your guests who come from overseas. It will be my pleasure sharing my Singapore story with all of you and your friends.
Now its our turn to train the new batch of trainees for the next 2018/2019 intake. After I finished training the new batch, I might start training to become a guide in another museum. I seem to have been bitten by the museum guiding bug!! Perhaps at the Peranakan Museum for the 2019/2020 intake? Let's see where the museum bug takes me.
HEN is an acronym for Helping and Empowering our Neighbours. This is an initiative a group of like minded friends and I have started recently to help the less fortunate amongst us. We have a staggering 20% of our population who are suffering in poverty ( according to Prof Tommy Koh our guest speaker at our NMS End of Training Celebrations at Eden Hall on 27th Mar 2018). 20% works out to an estimated 800,000 families of the 4 million resident population in Singapore. Isn't it alarming? Singapore is an incredibly rich nation and to have this alarming number of people below poverty line is unbelievable.
Most Singaporeans are incredulous when I mention that there are poor amongst us. Why? Singapore government does a great job concealing poverty. It offers cheap rental of HDB flats so that you don't see homeless people sleeping on the bus stop benches or in the beaches. It also gives out handouts to help these families tide through. Beggars are quickly attended to and kept off the streets. So as to give a squeaky clean image to investors and tourists. Don't get me wrong. I am not a political activist. I just believe that more can be done to reduce this 20% to maybe 10%? Am I being overly ambitious? I sure am and being ambitious is undeniably a great start to success.
I began asking close friends in early March who declined politely.. I understand it can be quite a stretch of your time if you are working full time. So on the 24th March I sent out a long message to my National Museum group chat seeking any friends who may have the same passion to help this forgotten community. To my absolute delight, I got immediate positive respones from so many of my fellow docents. Now we are a quite a strong group and we have had a couple of meetings where we did our brainstorming. Our mission? Helping the poor by assisting them with dry food rations on a monthly basis while Empowering them with skills that they may learn from us or through our network of friends and families. Singapore is so small, when you look out of your home, everyone is our neighbour. Hence, HEN - Helping and Empowering our Neighbours.
I once saw while walking along a neighbourhood near my place - on the right hand side of the road (Bedok South Road) were beautiful terrace houses with a couple of cars parked in their driveway while on the left I was met with 1 bedroom HDB apartments. The contrast in inequality was striking.
We are still in our early planning stages and we are stumbling in the dark. We haven't even set up our website yet. We will face many challenges along the way, no doubt. But where there is a will, there will always be a way, won't it? We'll pull this through, I'm confident. A Swiss lady Lara C said Inshallah at the end of our inaugural meeting on Tuesday. I was pleasantly surprised but it was an apt conclusion. Inshallah is an Islamic term which means with God's will, anything is possible.
So what can you do to help? HEN welcomes any kind of assistance :
Time seems to be the most precious commodity these days. Everyone can donate food rations or money but time? Not everyone can do that. To actually sit down, hold an elderly lady’s hand and listen to her reminisce about her younger days as she looks into the far distance? Can you envision that heartwarming scene? That moment of serenity that you bring to her world - that is precious. Or to counsel a troubled youth and set him in the right direction. The world of difference you are going to make to his future? That is equally precious. Some things which money can't buy.
If you would like to help in any of the above ways or become a member of HEN committee because you are bursting with new ideas to help the less fortunate in Singapore, contact me at email@example.com. We can’t wait to hear from you!!
With so much going on, I have overlooked to blog about an amazing concert I had a chance to attend over the weekend. Let me start from the beginning how it all began.. (hmmm....did I just say that? Spoken like a true docent!).
Last year, I attended prayers in Sivan Temple in Singapore for a friend S whose mother in law had just passed on a few weeks back. I didn't know the elderly lady personaly but I attended the prayers out of respect for the deceased and because S is a friend and she had invited me together with her close friends and family.. While I was there, I met A, through her husband's introduction. [I know what you are thinking- It was prayer time in a temple. What in the world were you doing chatting up people? Couldn't help it - it is just me who chats with random people in temples (and on the streets, malls, lifts etc )! My girls have given up on me!! Plus, I wasn’t very sure what was going on, being a Muslim]
Anyway, A passed me her card and explained to me about this True Colours concert she is putting up in March 2018. I lauded her efforts, told her I would contact her and help her out in any way within my means. Then, we parted ways. I kept the card in my drawer, very soon to be forgotten while I started on my NMS docent training that began in Sep and just ended on Tuesday. A and the concert fell to the recesses of my brain..
Then last month in Feb, S got in touch with me again and sent me a message regarding this concert which is coming up. I thanked her for the message and told I will surely try to make it. Invited my docent friends - none had any interest. Sad they had missed such a wonderful concert. Invited my famly members as well. Husband declined. He travels the whole week. I can understand if he just wants to chill on weekends with his temple visits and his beloved music. My girls were half interested. Cajoled them to come with me - partly because I didn't want to attend a concert alone. Secondly, it was to impart in them values of perserverance and inner strength. We can keep on nagging these values at our children but it is through such events, it will truly dawn on them what we have been trying so hard to instil in them. I hope they took away something from the concert.
True Colours concert brought artistes from all over the world. Singers, dancers, pianists, violanists...what is so new about that, you may think. Music concerts are held every weekend in SG. Well, what is so new and so different about these artistes is that they were born with physical deformaties. Some were visually challenged, some couldn't hear well, some did not have fully formed limbs, some even had missing limbs. It is a celebration of artistes with disabilities. Featuring 18 of the most talented performing artistes and troupes from all over the world.
What an amazing performance they had put up!
I was partcularly awed by 33 year old music protege Adrian Anantawan from Canada who wooed us with his beautiful violin pieces with his not fully formed right hand. Incredible. Of all the musical instruments, I find violin is the only instrument which can bring one to stop and draw you to its beautiful melody. Drum beats make you tap your feet or make you want to start grooving to the music but violin is on another level...As I type this, my husband is using one of his music synthesizers to create violin music. What are the odds?
Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei the dancers from China who performed their Hand in Hand each without a limb that they had sadly lost in separate accidents. We Are One - the Indian classical dance performance by wheelchair bound dancers from India gave me a chance to view and hear the beautiful Bharathanatyam dance after ages. (Personal note - I should attend more Indian classical dance performances).
Visually challenged but vocally very blessed Alienette Coldfire from Phillipines serenaded us with her lovely rendition of Symphony, one of my all time fav songs. Ranya, my singer daughter, was amazed at her vocal capabilities. She commmented that some of the high notes in the song were quite difficult and was complimenting her. The Korean duo The Sound - their combined talents - Singer Hye Jeong Han and Pianist Seong 11 Kim were amazing. She sang a lovely balled Will you Still Love me Tomorrow? which tugged at my heart.
Their true colours were indeed shining through...
I was totally enjoying myself throughout the 1 and half hours last Sat evening. Audience sitting in front of me and behind me would have been annoyed with my constant head nodding away to the music, Woo! and Encore !! If it had a dance floor, I would have been the first one there! And when the concert finally ended, it was met with a roaring applause and a standing ovation.
I wanted to speak to A after the concert. A was the executive director but alas I didn't have a chance. But I did send her an email immediately after, thanking her for a chance to view these special group of people who have overcome all their difficulties, against all odds. And we able-bodied people complain about every single small thing that bites us!!
Kudos to the True Colours Festival team for enlightening and entertaining us with an incredible and leaving -with-goosebumps kind of concert! An amazing inaugural success.
Thank you S for reminding me about this concert. My girls and I would not have had a chance to experience these beautiful performances if you had not sent me that message :)
My home is
usually in a mess and has dust settled on almost everything. But I believe laughter and love will win the day. In 20 years, my girls won't remember how messy the house was but will remember the time we spent together and the love they felt...