The Longest Day

I left Singapore at 0040hrs on 22 Nov 2014. 
3 planes, 3 continents and more than 30 hours later, we finally arrived at our hotel in Lima, Peru around 2340hrs on 22 Nov 2014. 
So begins my Peruvian adventure. 

The Picture of Romance

Once in awhile, I see this elderly couple taking their morning walk along the tiny walking track in my neighborhood.

The aunty shuffles along with the aid of a walking stick, seemingly in her own world. The uncle, ever beside her, holding her hand tightly, attentively guiding her along. He beams with each step that they take together. He makes being able to walk next to his wife appear to be like the greatest privilege in the world. As they amble along, I can almost imagine them on their wedding day- for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live on earth.

This is the picture of romance.


Acts Of Kindness On A Rainy Day

An old lady was crossing the road in the rain without an umbrella and a domestic helper offered to shelter her across. Upon reaching the other side, they headed in different directions. But I saw another domestic helper immediately speed up and walked beside the old lady to shelter her. The old lady did not even notice this action. Not a word was spoken between the two and she continued on her way once the old lady reached the covered walk-way safe and dry. Kindness to strangers still exisits. On this cold, wet morning, my heart was warmed. 0 comments

Getting Over Myself

My friend and I were having dinner at a hawker centre the other day. I had ordered a chicken cutlet from the western stall and it came with a mountain of fries. I barely managed to finish half of it. 

As we walked off, I noticed that an old man quickly took our place at our table. Hunched over, he started chomping on the leftover fries that had since turned cold. Our hearts ached. 

"Shouldn't we buy him a proper meal?" I asked. But as usual, I was at a loss and half a dozen doubts rushed to mind- How would we approach him? Would the old man accept the offer? Was he of sound mind? Would our offer offend him? What should we buy for him? What do we say to him? 

My friend was clearly more decisive. Let's get him chicken rice. She marched over to the stall, and promptly ordered a packet of chicken rice. We then walked over to the man and put the packet of rice on the table and said, "Uncle, qing ni chi fan. Ji fan. Chi bao yi dian." (Rough translation: Uncle, here's chicken rice for you. Have a good meal.) He looked up and smiled at us with an open mouth full of fries. 

It took 3 minutes and $3 to put a smile on an old man's face. 

This was in a hawker centre a short walk away from my largely gentrified neighbourhood. But people like the old man lived a life a world away from our lives of privillege and comfort. I don't know his story, why he lives that way. A packet of chicken rice will not change his life. But I do know that if each of us does something when we see a need, we can make a world a little less harsh. 

I learned a precious lesson on giving that day: The hardest part is getting over myself and choosing not to walk away.

An Ode to An Old Companion

After 10 adventure-filled years of exploring the world together, my regular non-biometric passport finally has to make way for a fancy new biometric one. 

This little red book had traveled with me to many continents, having its pages filled with with the marks of distant lands. Its bright red cover often identified me as a welcomed visitor to these lands, saving me the hassle of tedious paperwork. Coupled with my non-threatening face and demeanor, I almost never faced any suspicion from the gatekeepers (except for the Armenian customs official who had never seen a Singapore passport). 

It had survived being drenched in rain, snow and sweat, and became acquainted with the desert sands and many a scorching sun ray. Together, we traversed land borders, sea crossings and too many miles on planes. I've traveled with loved ones, dignitaries, friends, colleagues and strangers. Yet I had one constant companion. 

As I flip through its pages once more, images from my journeys jump to mind. My heart is filled with gratitude to God for all the people I've met, wonders I've seen and the incredible blessing of journey mercies in my decade as a fearless 20-something out to discover the world. 

My next adventure will be with a new companion. We will probably share many new memories as well. But it will be different. The marks it will bear will document my adventures as I enter my 30s. No longer so wide-eyed, light-footed or carefree. While the travel patterns, places and people will change, my thirst for adventure will remain. 

That's just like life isn't it? A series of journeys that leave indelible marks on our hearts. 

A Song In My Heart

I woke up with a song in my head this morning and it is amazing how much it reflects the prayer of my heart now as I leave for my next negotiations trip.

Jesus draw me ever nearer 
As I labour through the storm. 
You have called me to this passage, 
and I'll follow, though I'm worn. 

May this journey bring a blessing, 
May I rise on wings of faith; 
And at the end of my heart's testing, 
With Your likeness let me wake. 

Jesus guide me through the tempest; 
Keep my spirit staid and sure.
When the midnight meets the morning, 
Let me love You even more. 

Let the treasures of the trial 
Form within me as I go - 
And at the end of this long passage, 
Let me leave them at Your throne.


Traveling Solo Is So Overrated

Recently, traveling solo has been trending.

The virtues of doing so have been glamourised- finding yourself, absolute freedom, meeting amazing people, falling in love. Sounds absolutely wonderful right? It tempts even the most homebody, group-loving souls to grab their passports and catch the first flight out to start their solo adventure.

Well, I've been there, done that, and I really don't think traveling solo is all it is made out to be and here's why.

1. Lost photo ops. When travelling alone and wanting to be part of a photo, the solo traveler has several options:

ONE: Take a selfie. Result- big face and small background. Something like this. Not too pretty.
That's me at Tian An Men Square on a stormy day
TWO: Use a selfie stick. Result- Well, smiling at a stick. 'nuff said.

THREE: Search the area for a person who hopefully will not run away with your camera, look friendly and approach said person to take photo, try to pose in a non-awkward manner, hope the person is decent at taking photos. Most of the time, they aren't. Result- Lost photo ops like these.
Random stranger probably thought the shadows were beautiful
Sigh. The only photo of the Lady Liberty and I...
2. Freedom from friends, bondage to bags. Traveling solo means that your bags follow you everywhere you go, or you risk losing them. The number of times I have had to squeeze my luggage, duffle bag, handbag and shopping bags into tiny toilet cubicles while trying to ensure nothing touches the grimy floors is depressing. How I longed for friends during those times.
Forever chained to my luggage
3. Sharing is caring. Traveling with others means you get the benefit of economies of scale. Splitting cab fare, tour/audio guide costs, and accommodation costs with a fried would definitely save a pretty bundle which could be used on sharing a good meal which you can share and be able to sample a range of different food with all in the party.
Individual Portion

Shared feasts

4. Strange bed/seat-fellows. There have been too many times I have had to sit next to inconsiderate people who seem to spill over onto my already tiny economy class seat, resulting in terribly unbearable flights. Thankfully, I'm small. But it gets worse when they insist on talking to you with their mouthful of bad breath. Yup, too many unfortunate solo flights. And then there are the strange people you have to share a room with at hostels. I agree that some may be pretty cool. I've had the benefit of meeting a Syrian refugee in Armenia and a climate change activist in China, but my list of cool people I've met at hostels is pretty short, compared to the number of hostel roommates who are noisy, smelly, hostile, or just plain unfriendly. In those times, I always remember that some people travel solo for a reason. Maybe they just don't like other people, or maybe other people just don't like them.

5. Facing the big, bad scary world together. Like the night my best friend and I were hopelessly lost in a residential neighborhood in China with no taxis, or any other public transport in sight, even after walking for an hour, apart from a boat operator promising to take us back to civilization on a boat that did not even have any lights on it. Getting on the boat, we were convinced that we would end up as illegal immigrants somewhere 3 weeks later. But at least we were together.
The dodgy boat. My nervous hands don't take very good photos

6. Finally, I think everyone would agree, that any travel adventure is always a gazillion times more incredible when shared with people you love.

With all that said, every opportunity to travel is a privilege. So go forth and explore!