Good times with old friends

I met up with a bunch of my friends from junior college yesterday. It was awesome.

We celebrated our 10th year anniversary (since the first time we met) in true 02S78 style- the whole afternoon and evening revolved around lots of food. We had cakes and coffee at approximately 4pm, then moved on to have a lovely steamboat buffet dinner at 6pm, and finally ended the night off with more drinks at another cafe.

It is amazing that after 10 years, these people have hardly changed at all. They are still as spontaneous, witty and humorous as ever. There was tons of the usual banter and teasing that left most of us struggling to breathe between laughs. There was also a lot of catching up to do as well, especially since we needed to grill all the newly engaged people on the details of their marriage proposals! The best bit? Reminiscing the good old days that we spent in HC, and all the silly things we said and did then. We talked so much! And we had a really awesome time chatting about everything from relationships, weddings and babies, to gender reassignment surgery and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

I love this bunch of friends to death. I love the way we are able to feel so totally at ease with each other. We can share food and drink without even thinking about using separate cutlery or straws. We do not need to be self conscious about our image in front of one another. We can talk about literally anything and everything. We can say things that are not necessarily politically correct without causing much as a raised eyebrow. We are able to make truthful comments about each other without worrying about causing any offence. When we chat, one often hears things like “This isn’t the kind of thing I would normally say, but I’m saying it because I feel totally comfortable with you,” or “We know what you are really like, because we have known you at your best and your worst behaviour in the last 10 years.” I love that this is true, because when we are together, we can feel free to be ourselves without fear of judgment.

God brought this group of really cool people together in the same class for 2 years in our late teens. We were a bunch of starkly different characters, yet He blessed us with a friendship that unexpectedly blossomed for the next 10 years. In the last decade, 02S78 have seen each other through the A levels, University life, National Service for the guys, job searching challenges and successes, failed relationships and happy engagements. 78 has been a real pillar in my young life thus far, and I thank God everyday for them.

Thank you Lord, for friendship that withstands the test of time. Thank you for this precious decade long friendship.

Too much on my plate

I am leaving the country in 2 days time.

Been very very busy.

Working 8-5 everyday, then homework, study, and revision when I get home.

Also been busy making B’s wedding video, and baking cakes + catching up with people.

Miscellaneous work-related stuff that need sorting: sending off workplace-based assessments, updating and sending out my electronic logbook, filling in mid-point review forms, getting my IAC signed, and designing my pain audit.

Miscellaneous life-related stuff that need sorting: Actually planning the holiday beyond booking flights (book hotels!), decide on what books to bring along on my holiday, laundry, tidying, packing.

I feel a little overwhelmed by everything that I’ve got on my hands at the moment. And it doesn’t help that exam stress has kicked in big time.

Lord, please give me strength when I am weary. That would be now.

Home, alone

I went out for a couple of hours to visit the W family just now. I had a lovely time with them, but started to develop a headache towards the end of the evening. As I made my way home, I felt really unwell. My head was throbbing, my muscles aching, and I was really nauseated. I don’t really know what led to me feeling so acutely unwell- hunger? dehydration? stress? tiredness? I have absolutely no idea.

It was a long journey home. To get from the W family’s house to mine takes a minimum of 1.5 hours (bus and train ride inclusive). I tried to shut my eyes and get some rest, but I still did not feel right and I could not wait to get home.

Home.

To me, it is a place of rest. A place of warmth. A place of comfort. A place of safety. A place that I love to spend many hours in. When I am ill, I just want to stay at home where I can lie down, snuggle under the covers and turn up the heating. I can eat or drink or make tea whenever I please, and have no worries about needing the bathroom for the purposes of diarrhoea and vomiting. When I am at home, I can have showers and change out of soiled clothes into comfy pyjamas. I do not need to worry about “hanging on” and keeping myself upright to prevent embarrassment in the presence of strangers.

I love my home, and this feeling is especially strong when I am ill.

I usually come back to an empty home as I live alone. Living alone has been a completely different experience to living with family and friends. I love the freedom of having the whole apartment all to myself. I get to dictate what furniture I’ll have and where they will go. I can leave my books lying all over the place without pissing anyone else off.  I don’t have to clean up after other people’s mess and can keep my home spick and span the way I like it. I can laze around and sleep as much as I want without worrying about how others would judge me. I can play my Chinese music as loudly as I desire and sing at the top of my voice as I please. I can talk to myself as much as I want or cry as loudly as I need without looking like a weirdo. I do not need to worry about competing for the bathroom in the morning. I can come home from work and go straight to bed without feeling obliged to make small talk with my housemates. I do not have to feel left out and lonely when my housemates all cuddle up on the couch with their respective other halves. Living alone has been absolutely fabulous.

But of course, we live in a world of equilibrium. Where there are pros, there must exist cons. Living alone brings with itself many associated challenges. Loneliness certainly features high on this list. When I have had a hard day at work, I often find myself needing to rant about it but not having a listener readily available. There is no one to keep an eye on me to make sure that I am leading a balanced and God-centred life. During times of illness, there is also no one around to offer comfort and support- I often wonder how long it would take for other people to find me should I ever collapse at home! Now that I live alone, I also find myself having to sort everything out myself- council tax, bills, fixing leaking pipes, sorting out blown lightbulbs and beeping smoke alarms, getting the water-heating to work…

My home is truly where my heart is. I thank God for blessing me with such a wonderful shelter over my head. And while I have the privilege of enjoying it all to myself, I am determined to savour every minute of it, leaking water pipes and beeping smoke alarms included.

Overwhelming love

One of my friends from church suffered a panic attack during the church service today and I was asked to go and help him.

I’ve never had to deal with panic attacks before, and found that there wasn’t really much else I could do except:

a) Get him to breathe into a paper bag

b) Sit with him and make him feel safe whilst patiently waiting for the episode to pass

c) Pray to God for peace and calmness to fill his heart

Whilst I sat with this friend watching him breathe into a bag, trembling from all the catecholamines knocking about in him, and crying from the distressing anxiety that had so abruptly hit him, I felt strange within myself. I realised that I felt an overwhelming love for him.

It was a really odd feeling. I don’t love him the way I love my best and closest friends with whom I share a strong relationship. In fact, I hardly know this friend at all! I definitely do not love him in a romantic way either- he’s married for crying out loud!

As I looked at him intently, I realised that I love him simply because he is a precious child of God. I love him because he is part of my church family. I love him because God loves him. My heart genuinely ached to see him so crushed by his panic attack; I really wanted him to get better.

Isn’t it amazing to belong to Christ? When we believe in Him, we join the rest of the body of Christ on this earth- His Church. The Church brings together all kinds of people, even those who are least likely to become friends. In fact, it does more than making us friends- the Church binds us together like a family.

Christ is the head of this wonderful family. And because His love overfloweth, I can be filled with an engulfing love for someone in His Church that I hardly know at all. Let me love the things that you love dear Lord, and let me treasure the people whom you treasure.

Asians

This evening, I’ve been thinking about a bunch of people who are really quite close to my heart: Asians.

Since coming to the UK, I have lost count of the number of times when people have tried to fit me into the Asian stereotype.

“You’re Asian, so you must be really clever. You must have aced all your exams. You must be seriously good at math. You must play the piano. You must have learnt ballet. You must know kung fu. You must work very hard.”

Sadly, I am none of those.

Yes, I know I am a doctor. But let me get this clear- I didn’t become one because of my exceeding intelligence. 99% of it was God’s grace, and only 1% of it hard work (yes, the percentage is that low; I procrastinate and get distracted way too much- I indulge in youtube and facebook in an unhealthy manner, and spend very little time doing things that really matter).

Speaking of stereotypes.

There is no smoke without fire, and I don’t think that some of these generalisations exist without a basis. Without causing any offence to people of other racial origins, it does seem that Asians do generally excel in most things that they set their mind to doing, and they work way harder than anybody else. It is not uncommon to see little Asian kids who are good at their studies, at music, art, and drama all at the same time. 琴,棋,書,畫,樣樣都通!

Cute!

In Asia, it is the norm for children to be sent to classes of all kinds after school. It may be tuition on Monday, piano class on Tuesday, dance class on Wednesday, tuition again on Thursday, CCA (co-curricular activity- something like the sororities and fraternities in the USA) on Friday, swimming lessons on Saturday and Art classes on Sunday. Asian parents push their children REALLY hard. There is no time for play or for the TV, but there is always time for another class, another lesson, another practice or another rehearsal. Perhaps these parents are trying live their childhood again through their kids, learning all the skills and talents that they themselves never got to develop. Or perhaps they are just trying their best to get their kids ahead in the game, as possession of great talent and skill can only prove useful in the future. Or, if I was to be really cynical about their motives, perhaps these hyper-competitive Asian parents just want to make themselves look good when they come to compare their kid with others.

This leads me to think: is this really healthy? What should childhood really be all about? At this peak time when children absorb and assimilate whatever they are taught best, is it really right to focus their growth and development solely on these measurable skills? How much have we neglected their need for play and the happiness that is derived from it? How much are we preventing our little ones from learning the art of friend-making and toy-sharing? Children are most creative and imaginative when they are playing- how much of this are we stifling by our demands for them to simply focus on learning and practicing something that they find dull and dead?  I’m not talking about the child prodigy who is exceedingly talented at something and enjoys pushing himself (or being pushed) to get better at it; I am talking about the regular Asian kid who is not inclined to whatever he is being forced to learn in any way, shape or form, and is struggling as he drags his leaden feet and heavy heart to the next after-school class. I don’t think there is ever going to be a correct answer to this, but I guess it all boils down to one word: balance. And what a difficult balancing act this is.

Anyway, I think I have digressed a little. I wanted to talk about Amazing Asians.

I have mentioned a couple of crazy talented Asian people in my previous posts. First, there is the ukelele-struming, paintbrush flicking, ballad singing b-boy Victor Kim. Then, there is the all acting, all singing, all modelling, all cheerleading, all dancing, all piano & cello playing Arden Cho. And how can I miss out on the man whom I admire most in all of this planet? Wang Lee Hom, singer, song-writer, musician, actor, director, and environmentalist.

 

There is more! I’m thinking about the latest NBA sensation who has caused a recent phenomenon called Lin-sanity! Jeremy Lin! Not only can he put basketballs through hoops with precision, this Harvard graduate certainly has brains too!

Not to forget, the Asians who rule Youtube: Ryan Higa, Kev Jumba, Dominic Sandoval, Chester See, Jayesslee, Michelle Phan, WONG FU PRODUCTIONS… these people are totally reigning the youtube world with their humour, creativity and talent.

And the Quest crew:

WOW Asians. You’re all so cool.

I’m so proud to be Asian.

Pleased

Got some feedback from the educational supervisor today.

Apparently, the general feedback from the other consultants about me is good. “No, VERY good in fact. Keep up the good work.” Whoot!

This is another pick-me-up since Dr Jim C said that “you come across as a little unconfident, but you are competently unconfident. You are constantly thinking and analysing and you know your limits. I would much rather have a trainee like you.” He also complimented that I come across as having some kind of inner calm and peace. Haha.

So pleased that after months of my most serious confidence crisis hitherto, which has resulted in me hating work and crying in church every Sunday, God has faithfully answered prayers.

Now to work on not letting this get to my head, and striving for their compliments to be justified! More studying it is then…

Praise the Lord. Thank you so much, God.

Thank you so so much.

人言可畏

I remember telling myself a while back to be very careful about what I say about people to other people. I’m afraid I really haven’t been very good at practising what I preach.

I had to spend an awful afternoon with Dr DJ today. He always stresses me out because of the threatening way in which he questions me or tells me about the 1001 things I have done wrong; so, in an attempt to regain some control over the situation, I gossiped about him with the nurses and one of the other trainees. And 2 days ago, I gossiped about another consultant Dr B2 (he hates trainees, doesn’t care, and is exceedingly difficult to work with) with another one of the ODPs.

Thinking back, I feel so foolish for not watching my tongue the way I should. For one, I would never know if the person in question may suddenly appear (as it happened today) or may have been quietly listening to me speaking ill of him/her. Secondly, I honestly don’t know who I can trust these secrets with. The people with whom I have shared gossip with may very well go on to tell on me and get me into trouble!

Morally, gossip is wrong as well. I could be telling other people about what someone else did or said without truly knowing the whole story behind his or her behaviour. And sometimes, when I’ve realised that my conclusions about the person I gossiped about are wrong due to misunderstanding, I cannot take my words back. In fact, the story may have spread like wildfire as it has been recounted with exaggerations from one gossiper to another. The person’s reputation and credibility are tarnished- and no amount of apology I make will be sufficient to compensate for his/her loss. I should not do unto others what I would hate for others to do unto me. When I have a problem with someone else, I should go and speak to the person in private to thrash it out, gossiping about him or her will not help resolve the situation in any way.

Finally, the bible speaks out against gossip. “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.” (Psalm 34:13) I do not want my tongue to cause me to sin, lest I need to cut it off and throw it out, for it is better to go to heaven unable to speak, than to end up in hell with an evil tongue. My Lord is a God of reconciliation- He sent Jesus to reconcile Himself to us, and He wants us to reflect His nature by reconciling ourselves one to another. God wants us to build relationships in love, but gossip only destroys them in envy and self-righteousness.

Satan is the father of lies. I am a child of God. I should not conform to the devil’s ways.

Big bad bullying

I just watched a Youtube video of 7 teenagers viscously beating up a 17 year old Chinese schoolkid earlier in January this year (in Chicago, USA).

It was awful.

For 3 minutes, the teenage criminals punched and kicked this helpless schoolboy in a deserted alleyway, dragging him along the snow-covered ground and robbing him in broad daylight! They stomped on his face and booted his head, sometimes even using the boy’s own shoes to beat up his face, showing no mercy at any point. The whole time, these masked yobs kept calling the Chinese boy a “N*g**r” and threatened to kill him.

The poor Chinese boy was so defenseless and helpless! He received blow after blow of their physical assault without fighting back. And he struggled to speak any English to persuade his attackers in letting him off at all. For a moment, he looked like a rag-doll being bitten and flung about by a pack of wild rabid dogs.

I feel exceedingly disturbed by the images that I have just seen. The brutality of these assailants shocks me, but the fact that they are only teenagers (age range 15-17) sickens me even more! When I was their age, all I cared for was performing in the next ELDDS drama production, attending exco meetings on the Prefectorial board, painting our class banner, and getting to tuition classes on time. Never would it have crossed my mind that I would want to visciously hurt someone the way these teens have done. Never have I thought of using the kind of language they have used. It makes me wonder where these young criminals have learnt such behaviour from, or what things they have seen and gone through to develop such thwarted personalities at such a young age.

Poverty. Physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse. Neglect. Domestic violence. Broken families. Drugs. Crime.

Some of the horror stories that such young gangsters have had to live through is probably beyond what I can ever imagine or understand. The consequent mental and emotional scars then affect the way they perceive themselves and the rest of the world, as well as the way they relate to the people around them. They make choices that the “normal” person would deem as foolish, but these may in fact be choices made to prove or protect themselves. They may be caught in a vicious cycle of self-destruction, and there is simply no way out.

I am not trying to justify the behaviour of hooligans. In fact, I am very angry at the scallies in the video for their thoughtless and ruthless behaviour. Every blow they dealt to their victim was not just physical harm to the boy himself. It was mental trauma. It was psychological torture inflicted on the parents who love him immensely. It was the crushing of their American dream. I feel so sorry for the poor boy, and almost want to wish that those thugs all get put in jail and get a thrashing from their prison officers.

But what I do need to remind myself of though, is that there are 101 reasons to explain why they are so “messed up,” and I am not in a position to judge them. Busking in the comfort of the blessed conditions within which I live, I have no right to point fingers and condemn them when I do not truly understand. But true justice will one day befall them… and me… us. One day, the God who knows everything about every being on this earth will bring forth His fair judgment. I trust that He will do so, and I need not hurry to do His job for Him now.

Our world is totally messed up. And the brokenness of this earth manifests itself in ways like this- violence and hatred. Heartbreakingly, even children are not spared.

And the reason why our world is so far from perfect? We ditched God. We flicked the bird at him and said “let us run this place ourselves.” We ran amok and accidentally created a piece of hell on this earth.

There is too much hurt and hatred in this world without God.

131 days

It dawned on me recently just how short a period of time I have left between now and the exams.

And most of my books are still looking brand new!

Oh dear, time to pull up my socks and study, time to get my brain into gear, time to put my act together.

As of today, I have 131 days left.

Bitten by the exam bug, not a moment to lose now.