During my short stint in Singapore a year ago, I lived with an apostate of Islam. She was disowned by her family in Malaysia and could no longer return to her homeland. But she lives freely today. And the whole Lina Joy case got me thinking about freedom again. They could break our bones and change our names, but they cannot steal our hearts. Freedom is more than living free from oppression. Freedom is to choose life when everything around you dies. And to choose to love despite having every reason to hate.
Before I left Singapore, she gave me five smooth stones she collected from Israel. It’s good to remember these things. It makes me want to... um, declare independence.
On another note, for the past few weeks I have heard far too many wedding ideas for one person to hear. A good friend of mine is planning her wedding and we find our conversations veering toward flowers, the color pink, door gifts, cakes/no cake/cupcakes, deco, bubbles, photography, more pink, invites, venue, honeymoon, children and all things pink/horrifying/beautiful/however you see it.
And I can only deal with this much pink.
Apparently, he hasn’t officially proposed yet. But she’s waiting. If you have no idea where to begin, The Postal Service’s ‘Brand New Colony’ is a great proposing song. I think.
Lately, I have the fascination with the word, 'good.' I don't know if there's another word to really capture the meaning of 'good.' But we say she looks good. That tastes good. He's got a good sense of humor. It was a good film. It smells good. We feel good. It was good catching up with you. A good man is hard to find.
Good is so fluid… yet we somehow know when something or someone is good.
Whether adjective or noun, you can either feel ‘good’ in your hands or call it a mystery. I like the idea of both. Yesterday I met some people who are living the kind of life that I could only call good. The quality of life they live defies the norms of a quality life. What they have or don’t have is not the good, but what they do and how they live with what they have or don’t have. I know many people who live this way and they make me want to spend more time with them. Something about them draws me in and causes my heart to race a little.
Some of them do not have a monthly wage. Most live by faith that God will provide for their next grocery purchase. A friend has only RM30 in savings. A married couple doesn’t know where their money comes from, but it always shows up whenever it is needed. A boy is adopted. A father cries in the bathroom because his son is safe. A husband makes a mistake and his wife forgives and loves him more.
On Saturday I met a 22-year old girl and her third baby. I also met her mom and her sixth child. Her children live in shelters. Not ideal. But I saw that her children are her good. And her children are good. This is good.
I love that good does not mean perfect.
‘Good ending’ makes no sense and is an oxymoron because good doesn’t have an end and it grows. The best movies and books are open-ended. Good is in us and in the world we come in contact with. Me, you, them, fish, horses, worms, pandas, frogs, valleys, mountains, sushi, trees, moss, rocks, water... all very good. I’ve come to know that this is true.
So I got my test photos developed and the camera is dandy. I finally peeled off the price tag. It’s a keeper.
I was just pondering about this thing that I’m doing—the just-in-case habit. Keep the price tag on, just in case you find out the camera is messed up. Take this along, just in case it rains. Keep this, you might need it one day. Write it down. Take a photo. Record it. Maybe I just desperately want to remember things and have the memories with me forever.
I’m a memory hoarder. Maybe.
Yet there are some areas in my life where the just-in-case habit doesn’t apply. My car has insurance that someone else is paying and I don’t have insurance because I can’t afford it. My health “is not covered” and they say anything can happen. I’d never know.
I don’t want to know.
There are things I can never take with me and there would be things that will follow me. Some things I carry unconsciously. Some things I leave behind by choice.
A few minutes ago I let my dog out to pee and caught the sky exploding in streaks of lightning. It was quiet and beautiful. White-yellow lightning echoed orange in the clouds. And I didn’t have my camera with me. Strangely, it felt good. I don’t want to photograph something out of the fear of losing it. It was me, my dog and the sky. I was in the company of greatness.
My dog, being blind and slightly schizophrenic (understatement), was darting here and there but it was a good moment. We have nothing to remember it by, but somehow, it felt “enough.” We have enough, we don’t need more.
I know, my scanner caught some dirty lately. But I'm in no rush to clean it yet.
I was at an orphanage on Sunday. The pastor who runs the home turned down an offer to a new Mercedes Benz for a bus so he could ferry the 100 children to school and back. They have bags upon bags of rice and countless school shoes near the cross at the sanctuary. That (above) is their Tamil bible and some eggs (trays upon trays).
I love it when charity is brought back to its original meaning of love instead of good works. I love it when we no longer help because of pity or conscience sake, but because it’s the only true thing. When we no longer see the need, but the faces, names and lives of the people before the need. When ‘us’ and ‘them’ no longer exist.
There are also some things I enjoy more than others. Here are some of them, in no particular order:
- cold water
- steamboat dinners
- steam escaping a cup of freshly brewed coffee
- my new flats
- jeans that can take me everywhere
- this isn’t the job I was dreaming of when I was in college, but it’s better
- Krispy Kreme (someone brought some back from Australia today. Mmmm… food that traveled across continents)
- ‘k’s to replace ‘c’s—like Kraftwerk, kontakt, etk.
- winding film in the dark
- waffles (basic or the Belgian kind)
- maple syrup in decorative tins
- the pure pleasure of cotton buds in my ears every morning/night
- empty white walls
- photos on walls
- Ikea’s RM1 soft-serve ice-cream
- stray animals
- corrugated boxes
- old books and magazines
- old photos
- new shirts
- being underwater
- running with nutty children
- empty roads at night/early in the morning
- my friend, Selina’s room
I could go on. But I shan’t. You people deserve better randomness.
After having lunch today, I walked into a second-hand shop just for the heck of it. And I came out with a Yashica FX-3 (RM155, batteries not included) in a pink plastic bag.
I also had my black and white Holga shots developed and printed. Here are some. For better (bigger) viewing, go here.
She passed away a year ago and for the first time, I'm washing the muffler she knitted for me. She started to knit when her cancer was at the last stage. She would sit on the couch and knit shawls and mufflers while watching tv soaps. Her hearing was deteriorating so she'd turn the volume up to 11 and have a reception bell by her side - just in case no one could hear her calling above the din. My muffler is white with orange-brown patches, warm colored and too warm for Malaysia's weather. I use it in the office mostly... but I will probably use it proper in November.
I love watching time lapse footages. What seem like forever is fast-forwarded into minutes of plants growing, flowers blooming, babies developing, sun rising and seasons passing. Little changes too tiny to be seen with the naked eye in real time now seem significant and vital to the bigger story.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
There are a few places in the world that captured my heart. One of them is San Francisco. Another is Cambodia. San Francisco because I've never really felt Chinese or Asian or anything till I was in that city. When in Hong Kong and China, I felt like a foreigner. In Malaysia, I'm mostly struggling to understand and live what it means to be Malaysian. I didn't feel foreign or local in Cambodia, but it felt right. When I was there, I didn't want to be anywhere else.
A can of Coke costs 0.50 cents. Internet cafes charge 0.50 cents per hour. Besides these two things, everything else costs one dollar. Scarves, books, a stack of postcards, tacky touristy t-shirts (I bought two, yay!), fried rice and a child (maybe).
I was on the airplane on my way home and all I wanted to do was turn back. I'm still missing Cambodia. I don't really know why. The country is poor, corruption reigns, undiscovered landmines in remote areas and mosquitoes are everywhere. AIDS, dengue and tuberculosis. All for a dollar. For the first time in my life, I was called 'madame'. I've always associated that term with snooty ladies with a pointy nose, an extremely long cigarette filter in one hand and a fat wig-wearing rich man in her arms. So that was disturbing.
Apparently, Cambodians like their pastors mashed.
I was at a meeting the other night and one lady was sharing about her experience at an orphanage. She brought her own kids with her to that visit so her kids could see beyond themselves and another kind of life. The 100 orphans live in two sheds built over a drain where the children sleep beside. Cleanliness is secondary to everything else: shelter, food, spirit. Instead of making new friends, her kids did not want to sit and be around the orphans. They squirmed and did not desire to be there. The lady was hurt... angry and sad not because her kids were bad, but that she felt as though she failed as a mother. I can't help but think that God feels the same way when we withhold love from others because of their lack. Because they have no political power, health, wealth and social network. Because their 'lack' reveals our lack.
I received an email today, detailing a one week trip to Chennai, India this August. Sounds all too exciting, but the tasks the trip entail seem overwhelming. I will sit on it though. What do I have to lose, right?
I was going to write about the land, food, people, children and the ruins but Blogger was giving me problems. I'm frustrated and will go read a book now.
Here are some photos. For more, please visit Flickr and Being (ever growing). There are more Cambodia photos in the latter.