Channels of Joy this Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year is one of the biggest festivals for all ethnic Chinese around the world. At the top of the agenda is returning home for the reunion dinner and feasting with family and loved ones. 

However we know that not everyone gets to enjoy that privillege. Our office cleaners are two ladies from China who will not be celebrating this festive season with their friends and family back home. Instead, they will be working through the holidays to keep our environment clean. 

Knowing this, my colleagues and I wanted to bring them some festive cheer so we pooled together contributions and gave both our cleaners a little red packet each. 

Last week, when I was in Geneva, I received an email from my colleague saying that the cleaners had bought us some new year goodies! That brought a special sense of warmth to my heart despite the freezing temperatures and yet humbled me at the same time. 

The simple act of our cleaners taught me that no matter our situation in life, we can always give and bring joy to others. It also caused me to reflect on how much I have been blessed with and how my response must be to give praise to God for whom all blessing flow and how I should seek to be a blessing to others as well.

So happy lunar new year everyone. May we all experience love and joy this festive season no matter where we are, and may we also seek to be a channel of love and joy to others :)


An Accident

Rushing to a meeting at 8.30 this morning, I jumped into a taxi and as it turned out of my office building driveway, it slammed directly into another car. While no one was hurt, emotions ran high.

Like many of those around whose commute was disrupted, I was pretty bummed.

But taking  different lenses, in my almost 30 years of life, this was my first ever traffic accident. I shall choose to thank God for His protection instead. 


Sew Happy

About a year ago, I tried making a Mad Men inspired dress. But since I was working from my own imagination, estimation, and way too many shortcuts, I ended up with the top part of the dress being too loose, while the waist too tight, and the zip struggling its way up. I ended up only wearing it once and it languished in my wardrobe for a year. 

 Last week, I finally beat procrastination and unpicked the many hasty seams. This time I diligently sewed up my skirt without the shortcuts. The final result: the perfect knee-length pleated skirt in summery golden kiwi. Coupled with my black knit top and olive green pumps, I achieved my Mad Men inspired outfit! 

 I am sew happy with the result :)

Flunky's Taxi Ride in the Ghanaian Twilight

I still remember that taxi ride in Ghana clearly. It was around 8-9pm at night. We had dismissed our driver for the day when my boss got a call from a business contact to meet for drinks at a hip new club across town. So we hopped into a local taxi that looked like it had seen better days in the last century. 

It was my first time stepping out of the safe confines of my hotel at night, and I was amazed at how the taxi navigated around the multiple potholes (some bigger than the length of the car) of the quiet unlit roads. 

I noticed our taxi slow down and through the darkness, I could make out a small shack among the tress by the side of the road. And a man with a large gun strapped across his body walked out towards our taxi as we came to a stop. 

I had watched enough movies and TV shows to have my blood turn cold with fear in that instant. Keenly aware that as a small young Chinese girl, I would be the weakest, easiest prey if anything went awry. 

Saying a prayer, I looked anxiously over at my boss, who was seated calmly as if we were just going through a car wash. 

The taxi driver wound his window down and exchanged some quick words which I did not understand with the man with the gun. The man with the gun then proceeded to peer through the rear windows at my boss and I. I wasn't sure where to look- keep looking ahead, or turn to him and smile? How could I hide my fear and not look suspicious? I was pretty sure he could hear my pounding heart.

After too many seconds of his eyes piercing through my soul, he stood up and waved my driver off. 

I heaved a sigh of relief as my heart rate began to stabilize. And my boss turned to me to say something about this being a police roadblock which was routine in this part of the world. 

I was glad that was the first and last such "routine" roadblock I had to experience. My little flunky heart wouldn't have been able to bear it. 

Flunky Ponders Contrasts

After a bewildering few days in Angola which you can read about here and hereI sat at the airport lounge in exhaustion, thinking about my Angolan adventure. 

My little flunky brain could not comprehend how the 2nd largest oil producer in the continent, had multiple power cuts in their capital city everyday; how public roads with massive potholes led to sprawling mansions; how 40% of the population could live below the poverty line when it was consistently one of the top 10 diamond producers in the world; how public infrastructure in the city floundered while Chinese construction companies could be undertaking massive projects in the outskirts; how people still washed their clothes in the brown river, while a little way down the river, expats and top businessmen crowded into expensive waterfront modern restaurants. 

Expensive waterfront dining
Doing laundry in the brown river water

Beautiful buildings in the city
Homes of the locals just outside the capital
Traditional markets
Floundering public infrastructure

My thoughts didn't venture far before I noticed that the buses that were bringing people to board the plane were turning back and we were told to stay in the lounge. 

In uncertain Africa, a range of scenarios ran through my mind- terrorists, fire, riot, coup.

Thankfully, it was none of the above. Someone had pulled open the emergency door latch during boarding and the emergency slide had inflated. 

Over an hour later, we were on the plane, all hoping that the clown who opened the emergency door was offloaded. So we ventured onward to South Africa for our next adventure. 



Kwek Kampong Pop Up Dinner

Remember my first pop up dinner? Well, we blinked and almost 2 years have passed. So it's time we stop procrastinating. The next pop up dinner will be on 31 Jan 2014. I'll be making Taiwanese lu rou fan (braised pork with rice). A simple dinner in our humble abode. You are invited! Just let me know if you would like to bring a friend and/or a dish. 0 comments

Flunky and the Fishbone

After my grueling first full day in Angola with missing luggage, fly swamped lunch and a broken down vehicle, I thought the next few days would be uneventful with boring meetings in safe office buildings. This flunky clearly had no gift of foresight.

At one of the business lunches, we were seated at a massive table and multiple plates of appetizers were laid before us. I looked at the menu for the day and the sheer excess of the meal amazed me. While the appetisers alone could have fed a village for a day, there were still 2 starters, 2 main courses (1 steak and 1 seafood dish), 1 pasta and a whole array of desserts, that were still in store for everyone. Just as I was happily chomping on a potato croquette which came by the basket full, I felt something in my throat. 

A fishbone was stuck. 

After trying in vain to wash down the bone with water and more croquettes, as well as having my boss peer down my throat, we finally had to interrupt the meeting and inform everyone that this flunky had a fishbone stuck in her throat. An Angolan flunky was immediately ordered to send me to the doctor. I was terrified. The car soon pulled up at a little bungalow. And I was thrust into a narrow corridor which served as a waiting room. Surrounded by sickly Angolan children spewing all manner of bodily fluids, I was convinced I would catch a exotic African virus for every minute that I sat there. So I tried my best not to breathe or touch anything. When it came to my turn, the doctor found my throat scratched, but there was no fishbone. So I was sent away with some some pills which were supposed to be some sort of antisceptic. And USD$100 was collected from me.

When we got back to the restaurant, the lunch was over, but the Angolan flunky was left with the task of settling the bill. As he counted out his stack of US dollar notes, I caught a glimpse of the bill. It cost a whopping USD$300 per person. My eyes widened in shock. And they had charged for the meals of Angolan flunky and I which we didn't consume beyond the booby-trap fishbone filled croquets. I could not believe they didn't even pack our lunch for us.

Thankfully kiasu Singaporean flunky had brought along muesli bars so Angolan flunky and I gobbled them down sullenly on the silent car ride to join the rest of the delegation at the next meeting.

Till today, I have not figured out why a fishbone was in a potato croquette. But this episode secured me a special mention in the retirement speech of the leader of the delegation. And I lived to tell the tale of my African Adventures.