Heavenly Sunlight

I can’t remember whether I have blogged about Type 1 and Type 2 people. If I have, apologies, I am just a Type 2 person!

The story goes like this –

One day, we were driving on the road. “We” means I was behind the wheel while Rachel (my teenage daughter) and Chris (my 11-year-old son) were seated at the back. Chris was relating his stories as prefect in his school. He is incharge of the canteen area, thus, order seems to be always the order of the day.

Rachel said, without much clue that she was referring to the stories of Chris,

There are two types of person in this world. The first type is the one who manages his life well and stay clear of other people’s business. The second type is the one who does not know how to manage his life yet wants to run other people’s life.

Chris asked, without realizing that his sister was actually trying to ridicule him,

Jie-jie, which type you belong to?

I am Type 1, of course! Rachel answered.

Chris asked again,

What do you think I am?

Rachel said, You are Type 2!

So, there you are, the lady and gentleman in my house in Type 1 and Type 2!

Why am I telling this story? Because I have been Rachel’s Type 2 person lately. Last Monday, I went to a Girls’ Brigade Officers’ Retreat some 20 miles away from town. No telephone service, no connection. It was a three days’ retreat, I did not stay in, I drove in and out. Yes, Monday, I came back in the evening to find that my maid ran out of gas for cooking. She informed me two days ago, but I forgot to order.

The sun had already set when I arrived home. I allowed myself to be angry with myself through the night and even through the next day. Just before the sun set the next day, I jumped into my car and drove along the road, then this hymn was played in my CD player –

Walking in sunlight all of my journey;
Over the mountains, through the deep vale;
Jesus has said, “I’ll never forsake thee,”
Promise divine that never can fail.

Refrain

Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight,
Flooding my soul with glory divine:
Hallelujah, I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine.

Shadows around me, shadows above me,
Never conceal my Savior and Guide;
He is the Light, in Him is no darkness;
Ever I’m walking close to His side.

Refrain

In the bright sunlight, ever rejoicing,
Pressing my way to mansions above;
Singing His praises gladly I’m walking,
Walking in sunlight, sunlight of love.

Refrain

I was lifted to higher ground while driving towards the heavenly sunlight!

I still have to be Type 2 person until my event on November 4th is over! There are many subjects bloggable, but I have a magazine to complete, news releases to write, program to run, and guests and good friends to entertain …..

I thank one of the bloggers, The Green Pasture (check at my daily inspiration list, please, I am too busy to do a link J for his timely reminder on “first thing first” in his punchline – Happy blogging every one, after you have done things that you ought to do in the real world.

So, out in the real world, I go… Till then…..

The Teachable Moments

This article appears in The Borneo Post today (22nd October 2006) running as the fifth in the series of articles of Malaysians abroad making a difference in the community they live in… I have named this column “Pass It On”.

In this article, I remember and talked to an old classmate of secondary days…


She changed my perception

Related to many qualities of our teachers are these adjectives: dedicated, passionate, caring, understanding, compassionate…the list just goes on.

Wong Leh Chuo showed such qualities when I was her classmates in secondary school. She had made an impact on her classmates during our school days.

I remember Leh Chuo as a classmate who was good in drawing. She could draw sketches of classmates in minutes. She amazed me. I had often wished she could draw one sketch for me, but short of the beautiful face features and long silky hair, I could never gather up enough courage to ask her to do one for me.

However, one day in an art class where we were made to go outside to draw nature’s scenery, Leh Chuo changed my perception forever.

While I saw the sky as just blue, the tree trunks as brown, leaves as green, Leh Chuo coloured them yellow, grey and green, with splashes of gold and white. I stared at the sky, it was just blue and white; I walked near the tree and scrutinised it, and it was just brown; I walked around the tree, the leaves were just green. There were no other colours. I looked at her work again and suddenly I caught a speckled beauty in the brilliance of the sunshine that she had created.

Her picture grasped the teachable moment in me. Even though I did not learn to draw, from that day on, the sky is not just blue and white, and the tree trunks no longer just brown. I never see things the same way again.

I learn the power of words, just like Leh Chuo who knows the power of paint.

Teaching Career

Indeed, Leh Chuo is the richer for it. She became a teacher in September 1984 after graduating from the National Taiwan Normal University with a bachelor degree in Chinese language studies.

She came to teach at Citizen Middle School in Sibu for a year then joined Chung Hwa High School in Muar, Johor Bahru, where she taught for five years. And then it was on to Chung Hua Middle School in Brunei where she taught for seven years. At the end of that period she left the sultanate for White Sands Primary School, Singapore where she is now.

Leh Chuo teaches Chinese language in White Sands Primary School, it is thus natural for me to want to know how the learning of Chinese language in Singapore is.

Elite (jing-ying) Vs Essence (jing-hua)

I was in Singapore last August where I heard its Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech for National Day Rally. The island republic’s number one politician said that a new generation has emerged in Singapore. According to him, the new generation is not only bilingual, but, in his own words, “understands Chinese Culture”.

Lee quoted Jack Neo, a celebrity in Singapore, saying that only the English educated are the elite (in Chinese, Jing-Ying) because they master English, while the Chinese educated are the true essence (in Chinese, Jing-Hua) of the country, because they master Chinese. However, similarity of thoughts apparently came only to that point, as Lee disagreed with Jack in saying that this group of ‘essence’ is one that was disappearing. To the premier, this group of ‘essence’ has just emerged, and that they are the first of the best shows in a long-running serial.

I, therefore, asked Leh Chuo about the learning of Chinese language among her students.

“In recent years, Singapore government has put in a lot of effort in promoting the learning of Chinese language. The education ministry, besides making a lot of changes in the teaching of the language, also employed many teachers from China. They also employed many Chinese language teachers from Malaysia. I heard that they even went to my former university, the National Taiwan Normal University, to head-hunt Malaysians to teach in Singapore upon their graduation,” Leh Chuo said.
Leh Chua added that teachers in
Singapore are being frequently sent to attend various courses related to Chinese language learning and teaching in order to keep them updated and competitive.


“However, despite that, learning of Chinese language seems to remain as if it is there for the sake of examination only.
Singapore parents do not see the importance of learning Chinese,” Leh Chuo lamented.

“I have one student who looks exactly like a Chinese, however, he keeps on saying that he is not Chinese. He has a Spanish name, creates a lot of trouble in my Chinese lesson class,” she said.

According to Leh Chuo, Singapore parents communicate with their children in English. “This may be part of the reasons why the standard of Chinese is comparatively low.”

Besides that, students also communicate among themselves using English, Leh Chuo observed, adding that there were not many chances for the students to use Chinese language.

“Probably, it would be only through the Chinese drama in TV that they are exposed to Mandarin. Chinese is their second language.”

Leh Chuo observed too that despite the fact that Chinese is the second language, it is encouraging to note that Singaporeans are actually speaking good Mandarin. Their ascent is good and they also express themselves well using Mandarin.

“Perhaps, the worst part is writing. There are many mistakes and the structures of the sentences are usually the direct translation from English.”

Leh Chuo went on to say that students are fearful of writing Chinese characters because of the many strokes in each word.

“Besides, they have to memorise which stroke comes first, which to them are the unnecessary pains of learning Chinese language.” she said.

But despite the not so encouraging acceptance of learning Chinese language, the Singapore education ministry is introducing interactive learning to arouse the interest of students in learning the language, according to Leh Chuo.

Creative Learning

Interactive learning includes using multi-media in the teaching, small group learning and learning through play.

“My students in primary four are keying in their essays to the computers and print-outs. The students are also expected to search for information from the internet. They even do their homework on the net. They like this way of learning most,” Leh Chuo said.

Leh Chuo said she does have students who love to learn Chinese language and are very proactive. One of them is Leong Man Fang, Singaporean, studying in Primary Six.

Talking about Man Fang, Leh Chuo was suddenly a radiant figure. She proudly said Man Fang has been her student for three years, and showed much enthusiasm and interest in learning Chinese language.

Singapore children

I asked Leh Chuo how she would compare the students in Singapore with their Malaysian counterparts.

Leh Chuo laughed, “You really caught me unprepared.”

Leh Chuo said that when she was teaching in Malaysia, she taught in secondary schools with students aged 13 to 18. However in Singapore, she is teaching students who are below 12 years old. Leh Chuo felt that it was difficult to compare.

Leh Chuo said: “However, the students here in Singapore are under a lot of pressure in their studies. Take for example the Primary Leaving School Examination (PLSE), the results affect the secondary schools in the sense that parents want their children to go to the best school. That puts tremendous pressure is on their children because they don’t want to end up in the less preferred schools.”

Leh Chuo said children have endless tuition classes after school. On reaching home, they have homework from schools and tuition centres, while weekends are mostly spent in tuition centres.

“Earlier this year, some PLSE students told me that they don’t have their own time anymore with school classes extended to 3 pm in the afternoon,” said Leh Chua, clearly feeling the pressure faced by her students and showing much compassion for their tight schedule.

Leh Chuo said the syllabus of science and maths in Singapore is generally different from syllabus used in Malaysian schools in the sense that it is more difficult.

“The school starts at 7.15 am with an assembly. Class starts at 7.30 am until 1 pm with a recess of 20 minutes. Most children go to tuition centres after class, or to talent classes.” Leh Chuo said it was difficult not to feel for these young children who had little time to play.

Memories of Sarawak

That leads Leh Chuo to remember her good old days in Sarikei, the town where she was raised and brought up.

“I return to my home town in Sarikei almost every half a year. Even with such frequent visits, I can still see the great changes to our former school, Sekolah Tinggi Sarikei.” Leh Chuo said.

Leh Chuo remembers the days when she cycled to school everyday.

“I am glad that we have class reunions these few years and with the convenience of technology, many old classmates are in fact just a click away,” she said.

Indeed, lately, Leh Chuo took the initiative to compile a list of old classmates and their contacts, and many of our old classmates are connected once again! We are forming memories and sentimental links and attachments!

Wind beneath the wings

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in 2005 National Day Rally that the education institutions in his country would be training people to be hands-on, minds-on and hearts-on so as to develop a complete round person!

Lee Hsien Loong also said this: “We are also aiming for a mountain range, not a pinnacle. We want many routes up, many ways to succeed. If you are a ‘teh tarik’ man, you must be a good teh tarik man, pour the tea and turn around … In Chinese, they say ‘hang hang chu zhuang yuan: In every profession, there are people who are outstanding, who are world-class and I think we must be like in Singapore.”

Leh Chuo, answering her call to be a teacher, is dedicated to helping her students aim for mountain ranges, realise their full potentials, present their best and brighten up their lives to be outstanding and world-class.

She doesn’t just teach; she cares.

And from me, to a friend who has helped colour my perception of many things in life, I quote this saying: This child whose life I touch with mine is like a piece of clay. I take his gentle will in hand and shape it day by day.

I thought, IF NOT FOR MY TEACHER …… we would never been able to achieve beyond our dreams. Many students of Leh Chuo would have said that time and again.

What’s in a name?

I was in one of the nation’s biggest banks for some banking needs. I have been doing a lot of internet banking that now I hardly go t bank. But, this trip could not be saved.

A young Malay lady (called personal banker to be exact) attended to me. She wanted to seek clarification from her superior when I told her that my previous experience allowed me to do that way. It was quite a while that she came back and almost at her top of her voice, she said, “Tou-kay-neon, is this what you want to do?” (Her body language clearly showed that she was unhappy with me)

Well, I was quite shocked to be called “Tou-kay-neon” in a corporate world. I was in the right attire, professional and smart. I also walked tall with confidence like what a professional lady would show. I expected to be called, “Madam”, or even “Miss”.

“Tou-kay-neon” is for marketplace!

When I related this to a group of friends later, more stories were told. One story was told of a woman who would never buy vegetables from stalls who called her “Ah-Sing” (foochow equivalent to auntie, but infers a lowly educated woman or simply a tea lady or a cleaning lady). We also related how we (40 something) all enjoy being called “Ah Moi” or “Miss” on Sunday morning when we dress in jeans to the market!

Can a name really change a person’s image? Can being called “Ah Sing” really put us in a lowly position? Does that “Ah Moi” really make us younger?

Evelyn O Shih (a writer) loves to be called ‘PoPo’. She was contended to think that she was respected as a grandmother as in Chinese family. She enjoyed her position of dignity until one day when one of her son’s friends asked her, “Is ‘PoPo’ your real name or a nickname?”

Evelyn writes,

I realized that any name or title is neutral. It can’t add respect to a person, rather it is the person who may acquire merits or demerits which become associated with the name. ‘Teacher’, ‘Pastor’, ‘Mother’ or ‘Doctor’ can all be good or bad depending the character of the person who bears the name. You can insist that people address you with a respectable title, but you cannot win their respect with it.

We are all children of God. We call ourselves Christian. Are we giving a good image to this title, Christian?

I always remember these words of Francis Yeoh, CEO YTL –

I thank my Lord Jesus for perfuming YTL’s name once again and I give Him all the glory for this honour.

That was said when Francis Yeoh was being awarded with Malaysia CEO of the year.

A name being perfumed with the fragance of Lord Jesus Himself, what more can we ask for?

Thankful Bills?

Yesterday, I was reminded to be thankful for cleanliness of the toilets at home. That was quite easy. Today, still on thankfulness, I read this article of Guidepost written by Rita M. Reynolds, Batesville, Virginia –

I used to hate the monthly chore of writing checks to pay bills. It still isn’t one of my favorite tasks, but recently I discovered a way to lighten it. While sitting at my desk one day preparing to write a check for the mortgage, I happened to glance out of the window at the distant mountains. How fortunate we are, I thought, to have a home with this beautiful view of God’s handiwork.
“Thank you,” I wrote on the bottom of the check and said a short prayer of gratitude.
On each subsequent check I expressed appreciation to the company or individual providing services, and to God for making it all possible: fuel for our homes; food to nourish us; churches, teachers and books to inspire us; electricity to lighten dark corners; telephones and cars to connect our friendships.

Always there is something to be thankful for—sometimes even bills!

Oh no, writing a cheque to pay the tax and be thankful for the tax? Lord, it’s difficult!

“Toilet of Eternal Flush”

Few years ago, we went on a family trip to Beijing. Before going there, we heard of many horror stories of the dirty toilets in China. Naturally, when we went there, we expected quatting in a dark smelly toilet holding on our breath for as long as we could hold.

Rachel and Christopher would visit the toilet first and reported to us as to how many stars – from five stars to no stars – the toilets should be classed.

After the Beijing visit, whenever we plan family holidays with the mention of China, Rachel and Christopher would protest – yakee, the dirty toilets, no way!

Yesterday, I read an article by a Dr Tan Lai Yong in Impact magazine titled ‘Bowel Power”. Dr Lai teaches in a medical college in the greater Mekong region. He writes,

One of the most unpleasant experiences of working in the villages of developing countries is the mesy and smelly toilets.

He continues,

For city folk like me, the beauty of a starry sky without any distracting street lamps is a wonder to behold. However, the thoughts of squatting in a dark smelly toilet is a very strong deterent and I flounder in my determination when I think of more days in a village.

Dr Tan invites us, as Christians, the next time we go into the toilets in the comfort and cleanliness of our own home, to do three things:

  • Be Thankful.
  • Pray for a missionary that we know, who for the sake of the gospel will have to endure a dirty toilet.
  • Pray for the many impoverished communities and children who have no decent sanitation.

He ends with this,

Remember – the earth is the Lord’s.

Today, I share this article with my two children, and I know they shall appreciate the comfort and cleanliness of toilets at home more than ever before!

Chapters of Life

A good friend sent me this SMS quite a while ago –

LifE’s like a
nOvel. ManY
cHaPtErs ReaD
and fOrgOttEn.
But ThErE’s oNe i
Won’t fOrgEt.
It’s the ChaPteR
when i Met u
aNd wE BecaMe
friEnds…

I did a ‘copy and paste’ the other day for another friend and wrote,

I like the way it’s written with lower and upper cases. It’s like the ups and downs of life. It’s also like friendship that always brings much warmth, delight and good memories.

There are many things that can be basis of friendship – shared musical interests, shared sports interest, working partners, next-door neighbours. But it seems to me Christian fellowship is something different – it’s always deeper.

Last weekend, I had one Christian fellowship at NECF conferecne room in Petaling Jaya. Yes, there is one common interest in the Girls’ Brigade activities. But it was more than just GB.

To me, it was realization that we are just many parts of a body working for one Head: Jesus Himself.

It was realization that we are different parts of the body: we need one another.

It was realization that if one part of the body suffers, the other parts of the body suffer with it.

It was realization that if one part of the body is being honoured, the other parts of the body rejoice with it.

It was realization that about sharing in Christian fellowship. It was not only the meals, the home, it’s sharing one another’s burden.

But fellowship really does not just happen. We have to be intentional about it. I also had a nice fellowship with another good friend in Sing-Land. It was just a sharing of a quick meal together. But, over the meal, it was sharing of concerns and hopes. It was enjoying one another.

Yes, I have been strengthened and energized spiritually though it was not an easy travelling plan having to wake up between 3 and 4 am for a stretch of three days to make all these fellowships happened within a business trip between Sibu, Johor, Sing-Land and Petaling Jaya!
God has knitted our hearts together – through the time we travel  through different chapters of life!

C.S.Lewis said,

True friends don’t spend time gazing into each other’s eyes. They may show great tenderness towards each other, but they face in the same direction – towards common projects, goals – above all, towards a common Lord.

Posted in Soul Reflections. Comments Off on Chapters of Life

Parallels With Life

I have a little book titled, Looking at Creation, God’s Other Book by Dr. Lee Bee Teik. In the introduction, Dr Lee wrote,

The tenderness of His voice and the warmth of His compassion thus received through His creation around us were too precious to keep to ourselves.

Dr Lee shared that she had the opportunity to hear Him in quietness for about five days at a retreat centre in Port Dickson, Malaysia. Thus, she shared in the book the pains and joys of listening to Him anew with the hope that the readers would be rejuvenated by some rewatering of their roots and to reflect His presence and nature!

In one topic about haze, Dr Lee wrote,

As I prolonged despondently on the bad effects of the stubborn haze, certain parallels with life began to emerge:

Unforgiven sins cloud our lives like the haze that hangs over the Klang Valley.

Resentment is like the mucus in the chest that threatens to choke a person suffering from the effects of the dust particles in the haze.

Distorted perspectives of the true God and His creation are like the pollutants that sting our eyes.

Perfectionism is like our skin reacting to the pollutants in the haze, giving rise to the outward rashes of irritability due to the rejection of others and self.

For the past few days, I have been extremely unwell because of the haze. I belong to the sensitive group – itchy, teary eyes; dry, sore throat; sensitive, runny nose; that choking feeling and even rashes on my skin.

What timely reminders!