Sunday, 19 April 2009

Ethiopia, here I come!

I am probably far more tensed than I actually thought I am about my trip tonight. I had a dream yesterday that some travel logistics went terribly wrong. Thank goodness when I woke up, things are still under control.

I could not say much about how I feel doing this because my mind has been in a state of chaos, trying to juggle between competing requirements for my time and energy. Indeed, there are a lot to worry about on this trip. Health and saftey are of paramount concerns. Just as I thought the stinking feeling from a series of immunisation jabs was bad enough, it was the rashes and headaches (probably side effects from the injections and medication I took) which followed that were harder to battle.

But when compared to emotional uncertanties, these physical hardships are negligible. I feel unprepared emotionally, even at this eleventh hour of my departure. What would it be like to come face to face with the harsh realities of life in poverty and disease striken Africa?

It was from Darfur that I developed an interest in Africa. I learnt with disbelief how tribal feuds aggravated into civil war when the government took sides, causing the death of 300,000 people, with millions more displaced. Then I realised this is not unique to Sudan, as the world remembered the 15th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda some 2 weeks ago, where 800,000 people of an ethnic group were killed just within 100 days. Of course there is also Sierre Leone, made famous by the movie "Blood Diamond", where child soldiers were trained and fought in civil wars. Those children were not burdened by life experiences and moral obligations of an adult person hence made them executors of the most ruthless kind.

There are in fact much more atrocities to be discovered in the vast African continent, and that is before considering AIDS. I looked across the world map and cannot find an African nation without a history of struggle and is not at this moment plagued by poverty as a result of war, diseases or famine. A whole nation of refugees is something I cannot imagine and I do not think I will ever fully grasp the meaning of words like genocide, ethnic cleansing, systematic rapes... how can so much pain and misery prevail in that place?

Unfortunately, in our part of the world, we have done very little to help the impoverished Africans. Going to Ethiopia, well, cannot be described as "a dream come true", but is something I know I have to do. I cannot live simply by an ideal that is not contested and fight for a cause that has not been verified. I am not expecting this trip to be life changing though, I only hope that I will be inspired. At least to come back with new perspectives, to better appreciate life maybe.... I do not know. And hopefully, to inspire you.

My suitcase is now half filled with presents for the children. Those who know me are aware that I usually travel light and at some point in time, I thought the load was too much for me to manage. Then I think again about how little these Ethiopian children have and I just quit complaining and continued stuffing in more toys. Jigsaw puzzles, soccer ball, colour pencils and many more!

And against my usual travelling habits, I am bringing an "emergency" food suppy... just as alternatives, in case I have to eat a zebra.

4-leaf clover for luck!

I wonder if there is a child who is equally excited about meeting a stranger for the first time, as the stranger is. Please pray for me that I will have the courage to embrace the sick and the destitutes.

Till later...

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Coping with changes

I have not been feeling that great lately, trying to cope with all the changes that have been taking place, at the same time when my chronic headaches are driving me insane. They are synchronous with my heartbeat, though subtle but an unpleasant tempo, which never seem to end.

After 5 weeks, I have finally settled into my new routine of being teacher on Tuesdays, and student on Wednesdays. For a while I was thinking, have I over-committed myself? Was I realistic about how I could cope with multiple tasks at one time? Later I realised those were "transition anxieties".

Being teacher. It was not altruism that I signed up as tutor at a family centre, but was largely driven by the need to feel useful and find more productive use for my spare time. When I was asked if I could tutor an O level student in Mathematics, I was... apprehensive. The cover of the textbook was black; that was as much as I could remember about secondary school Mathematics. I told my friends that if I were to turn down the assignment, it would be admitting defeat and that would be a blow to my self-confidence. Thus, I let the conceited and unyielding me took over, and I said "Yes" to the task. What I could do well at 16, I was sure I could do it much better now. So I thought.

The first time I read a Mathematic assessment book after almost 2 decades, it was like reading Greek. I was, however, filled with certain admiration and respect for myself to have overcome these "problems" once when I was a teenager. Even so, to pick up from where I have left off the last time was not easy. There was a lot of inertia in the beginning and as I was practising the sums and reviewing solutions, I had constantly doubted if my decision was correct.

Now that things have fallen into place nicely and I have also got up to speed practising Mathematics, it did not seem like an impossible task. True enough, it feels good be useful and the sense of achievement from solving complicated algebra is immense. Above all, it is the unexpected gift of friendship that renders true meaning to what I am doing. Friendship. What could a pair of 20 and 30 year olds have in common, you may think? Yet, there have been moments when I was truly moved and tickled by the naiveness of this young lady.

A youth is like a piece of red hot metal, so versatile and filled with energy. If it is bent and mould into the right shape and form, it can become something strong and beautiful. I feel the same for this young lady whom I am tutoring. Although she may not be the brightest, she has sufficient abilities to achieve what she set out for herself. Polytechnic is where she would like to go after this and I am sure this decision of hers would transform her life. I am glad to be part of this "moulding and shaping" process and I just hope we both will bring out the best in each other. We can achieve something good from now until December.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Personality Test

I was just looking at ZN's blog and noticed this Personality Test.

Goodness... are there some inklings of my dilemma?

* * * *

You are trying to prove to others that nothing can really affect you. You are pretending to be stoical - indifferent to pain or pleasure and indeed even superior to any form of weakness. As a result, more often than not, you unfortunately act with undue harshness or severity by adopting an autocratic and self-willed attitude.

Being a somewhat gentle, emotional and sensitive person, you are at this time experiencing a considerable amount of tension. What you really need is someone who can be close to you and to listen to what you have to say.

In spite of the fact that you believe that your hopes and ideas are realistic, it is hard for you to accept that your needs and desires are misunderstood by almost everyone within your sphere of influence and there is no-one to turn to or rely on. Your pent-up emotions and inherent egocentricity make you quick to take offence, but as matters stand you realise that you will have to make the best of things as they are.

The tension that you are experiencing at this time is perhaps due to physical and/or mental frustration. It would appear that you are not appreciated and as a consequence, the situation is most disagreeable. You seek personal recognition and the appreciation of others to compensate for the lack of like minded people with whom to ally yourself. You would like to surrender and merge with others but your inherent self-restraint makes it difficult for you to open up. This disturbs you as you regard such instincts as weaknesses to be overcome. You want to be liked, admired and appreciated for yourself.

You need to be respected as an exceptional individual. This is the only way that you can hope to achieve the status that you wish to achieve. You set yourself very high standards - and come what may - you abide by them.

Sunday, 12 April 2009


At times I made sacrifices, for what is believed to be of common good.
At times I let myself be manipulated, because I was too weak to fight.
Why then do I regret, when I have chosen the compromises?

My expectations may be suffocating but are not meant to be weapons.
My disparagement may be cruel but is reserved only for incompetence.
Why do I sense fear and hurt, when they are only words of well intentions?

It may seem that I have blind-folded my eyes and sunk into oblivion.
It may seem that I have masked my heart and rule with impassiveness.
Why is it wrong to keep a distance, when it is only my incapacities that I am trying to avoid?

Visions have reduced to visibility.
Dreams are contorted into reality.
I am not the person I set out to be.

I have become lesser... even though I am now in conformity.

It is not the end of the world.

Only lacking a purpose.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

No subject

So many things have been happening lately that I don't know which to tell you first. My heart is constantly overflowing with emotions: many happy moments, some sad; heavy-hearted, light-hearted... all encompassing.

Sometimes I thought I could mindlessly wander towards my destination. But what would it mean if I had credentials like a worthless piece of scrap paper at the end of my life?

Sometimes I'd wished to be excluded from the laborious task of making associations and sustaining relationships. But would happiness then be real if it is not shared?

I have lived long enough only for myself. It is time to live for the hopes and dreams of others.