Monday, December 31, 2007

Another year

It is hard to believe that it's already the last day of 2007. I still remember vividly how I told Brian last year that I love the months of October, November and December but hate January. For me, January marks the end of the holiday season (read: vacation, feast, gifts, etc) and the beginning of another year (read: deadlines, work, etc). I remember feeling exactly the same way about the start of a year when I was a child as that meant that it's time to go back to school (January is the beginning of the school year in Malaysia).

However, this year-end has been so busy for us that there was hardly any "holiday season." So, I'm not as depressed about New Year's day this time round. New Year's eve will see us shopping for groceries (food prices are slated to increase by at least 10% by January 1) and in the evening, we'll be going to our church for Watchnite Service where we contemplate God's goodness over the past year as we herald in the new one in faith. Before the service starts, there will be supper - teochew porridge (it's a rice congee meal - Chinese comfort-food - see pix below).

Brian begins a new phase of his life on January 2. He will be a full-time student again. I salute his academic stamina!

Anyhow, here's wishing everyone of you as great new start to another year! I'll leave you with a quote from GK Chesterton:

“The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year.

It is that we should have a new soul”

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Low-key Christmas

Christmas was especially low-key for us this year. As we're still recovering from our travels and Brian is still battling his Cambodian-stomach, we decided we'll just veg at home and watch tv. Unlike last year when my mom and sister visited and I cooked up a traditional (American) Xmas feast (ham, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, etc), this year we had instant ramen and salad. There weren't many boxes under the tree either as we decided to keep it simple (read: frugal) since Brian is going back to school as a full-time student next year.

What was fun was how we were able to do web-cam conferencing with Brian's family in Maryland via Skype. It was really nice to be able to see everyone and be a part of the festivities there vicariously.

While many are winding down at work at this time of the year, I've got one more conference to teach at tomorrow. Last few days saw me busy putting my presentation together.

For those of you who do not know, Brian is a bibliographer. He keeps a comprehensive database of all the books we own (in the thousands) and the books we'd love to have. He has an incredible memory, too, when it comes to authors and titles of books. I remember how I used to call him when I'm at a bookstore and we'd play this game where I'll name him the title of a book and he'd give me the name of the author. He gets
it correct 99% of the time!

Anyhow, on this database that he has, he'd list the title, author/contributors, publisher, etc of the book. This week, he informed me, I've made it onto his list! I contributed a chapter to a book published by Thomas Nelson and we got our copy yesterday. Since I'm one of the writers, my name would be on the "Brian Thomas List"! I'm thrilled to see my chapter in print and it feels so unreal to be contributing to a book alongside giants like Alister McGrath, Ravi Zacharia
s and John Lennox!

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a pix of my bibliogra

Monday, December 24, 2007

Cambodian Reflections

We just came back exhausted from our Cambodian trip. It was quite an experience. Our church sent about 19 people, divided up into three teams. One team went to an orphanage, about 1 ½ hour outside of Phnom Penh. Our church has been ministering to this orphanage for some years. Another team of teachers went to help train some Cambodian school teachers. I’Ching and I constituted the third team, and our purpose was to speak to university students and teach some classes at a bible college there.

One of our contacts in Phnom Penh was a missionary and his family. They have been in Cambodia for 11 years, and worked with Cambodian refugees in the US before that. He speaks Khmer and gave us a lot of insight into what is going on in Cambodia. He and his wife are really warm and hospitable. They invited us to dinner a couple of times, and were really pleasant to get to know. His 16-year-old son who prefers the nickname “Peter” from The Chronicles of Narnia (!) is a great Dutch Blitz player, and we had a great time introducing I’Ching to the game.

Universities in Phnom Penh do not have dorms on campus for their students—they have to find their own housing. This can be a great difficulty for them, especially those who come from the provinces. Many male students stay at some of the Buddhist temples for free, but it is not a great environment for study. So our friend runs a male dorm and a female dorm, each with a resident director. They look out for students who are bright and poor as potential dorm residents. The goal is to have 70% Christian students and 30% non-Christian. All of the students are ministered to and cared for.

I’Ching and I each gave a one-hour talk to the dorm students over two nights. I also was able to attend the Khmer church service on Sunday. The really encouraging thing about these experiences is that the Khmer students are so hungry for the gospel and to follow Christ. They ask good questions, and we were able to have some engaging conversations with the ones that spoke English. Some people from the other teams were able to come with us one night, and they all helped to engage the students afterward.

We also taught at a bible college for three days. Each day starts with a devotional in chapel. We also taught an afternoon class for a few hours on two days. These were also wonderful students who were really hungry for the Word of God.

For all of our meetings, we had to use a translator. This is one difficulty in Cambodia. All of our meetings cover only about half of what one would expect because of translation. Furthermore, the Khmer language lacks words for some biblical, theological, and philosophical concepts, so it is quite difficult to communicate certain ideas to them. One need for Cambodian bible students is to enhance their theological vocabulary, perhaps by taking words from English and having the meanings explained in Khmer. There is a lot of work to be done in this area.

The good news is that the Church is growing in Cambodia, and the young people are really open to the Gospel. Buddhism is just a piece of the cultural identity and furniture there—it doesn’t really meet the needs of the soul. So many are open to Christianity, and thus both the Buddhist priests and the authorities are concerned with the growth of the Christianity. Officially, the percentage of Christians in Cambodia is up to 4%, but it is estimated to be much higher. Many Christians meet in house churches because the government (specifically the Ministry of Cults and Religions) often seek to suppress the churches by what you might call “bureaucratic persecution”: endless red tape, exorbitant bribes and fees, and intrusive demands for personal information. But the gospel is advancing.

On the other hand, Cambodia is a bit of a depressing place. It is so poor, and with so many needs. Corruption and passivity are a way of life there. There are more NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) there than in most countries, trying to help out, and tons of foreign aid money. But it passes through many hands, and a little is skimmed off into people’s pockets at each step along the way. Cambodia needs a revolution of values before it experiences progress beyond third-world status. I’Ching estimates that it is about 20 years or so behind Malaysia in terms of development.

Ironically, Phnom Penh used to be referred to as “The Paris of the East.” Our friend Alvin informed us that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew visited Prince Sihanouk in the ‘60s and told him that he hoped that one day Singapore would catch up with Phnom Penh! Looking at the two countries now, it is hard to believe that such a switch in fortunes could have happened. Cambodia is a shattered country, picking itself up from the wreckage caused by decades of warfare, civil war, and the Communist rule of the Khmer Rouge. It is estimated that 1/3 of the country’s population died under the rule of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. There is a missing generation in Cambodia today as a result of Pol Pot.

The last day of our trip we toured Tuol Sleng, the Genocide Museum. This used to be a high school, but was turned into Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge. Out of about 17,000 people imprisoned at S-21 from 1975 to 1979, there were only 12 survivors. The wickedness of this regime is beyond belief. Every prisoner had a photo taken upon arrival. Thousands of these photographs are on display in room after room at the museum. Ordinary people from all ages, men and women, all stations of life, stare back at you from the past. Many were tortured until they admitted to fictitious crimes, for which they were then executed. Also on display were many of the implements of torture used. There are some photographs from the Killing Fields, filled with mass graves and uncountable multitudes of skulls arranged in stacks. The last roo
m of the museum contains many skulls of the victims.

It was a sobering end to our trip, but a necessary reminder of the fact of evil in our world, a fact that is often denied or trivialized.

More on our trip next time.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pixs from Cambodia

Brian sharing at the bible school's chapel.

You think they are bottles of sodas? No! They are actually petrol for cars!

Walls of shoes at the Central Market

Friday, December 7, 2007

Mulled cider: Hot or Cold?

One of the things about living right on the Equator is that there are only two seasons to a year - dry or rainy season. No fall, winter, summer or spring. This means that we are often in our shorts as we open our Christmas presents and sipping cold instead of hot cider in the evening as a nightcap.

Apple cider is not easily found in this part of the world but last year, when we visited the US, we bought a small carton of Aspen Mulling Spices. I had forgotten about it until two days ago when I found it sitting at the far end of our fridge compartment and decided that it is time we realize its full potential. According to instructions, we added 3 teaspoons to regular store-bought apple juice and, voila, we got some cinnamon-laced cider - so comforting to the tummy (and soul) after a long day. As it has been raining ceaselessly here in Singapore, the weather is actually quite cool (around low-80's F. or 24/5 C.). So, we've actually been enjoying some hot mulled cider as we pretend to await the first snowfall.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a pix from our Thanksgiving dinner with family in Maryland last month.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Back from Manila

We got back from our teaching trip to the Philippines on Tuesday and are mighty glad that we have a few days break before we're on the road again for 2 weeks - first to Malaysia and then to Cambodia. Our time in Manila was fruitful. We had our friend, Dave Geisler, to teach alongside us. Jun Diverte, a local apologist there, was also with us.

It was the first time for both Dave and Brian to be in the Philippines and from their reaction and feedback, I am guessing that they loved it. In fact, Brian says that he prefers Manila over Jakarta. Oh, and on the second day we were there, there was an attempted coup. Apparently it took place at the Peninsula Hotel in Manila. As we were working all day in our hotel room, we had no idea of that until we turned on the tv in the early evening. By that time, all the action was over.

With Christmas approaching and the Philippines a predominantly Catholic
country, the city of Manila was all adorned in twinkling lights and other familiar seasonal ornaments. It is understandable that both Dave and Brian enjoy Manila as so much there reminds me of So. Cal. For one, we drive on the right-side of the road. Then, there's the unambiguous reminder of the country's Spanish past - street names, buildings, names of Philippinos, Tagalog (official language of the country), etc - all bear semblance to the Hispanic imprint in So. Cal. We wished there were similarities in the food but alas, rice takes precedence. In fact, KFC here serves rice instead of mash potatoes as the default side dish. Go figure!

Here are some pixs from the teaching trip...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Therapeutic "potting"

I am lagging way behind in keeping ya'll posted on what's been happening with us. I shall do so in my next entry next week - I promise! Meanwhile, I want to quickly log this in before I forget.

As I am writing this, my body is exhausted from both travel and battle - against a sinus infection. The infection started a day before Thanksgiving (last Thursday). I'm on antibiotics now and hopefully it'll clear up soon.

We travel to Manila today for a few days to teach at a training conference. It has been crazy arriving home from the US late Monday night and then leaving again today. C'est la vie! Would you please pray for us?

Anyway, getting to the point of this log - the plants on our balcony have flourished much since last month. Some are overgrowing their pots. So, despite my lethargic body, I decided to re-pot some of them onto larger pots. To my surprise, I found the chore quite relaxing. I've hardly considered myself one with the green thumb but the little gardening, well, okay, "potting," that I did this morning was really soothing to my soul. I experienced one of those "transcendent" moments where words are not enough to describe the delightful but fleeting joy. What mirth! I guess such were the moments that CS Lewis and GK Chesterton frequently referred to in their writings.

In view of the nature of the experience, I have no doubt but to recognize that God is the source of all such pleasures...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Turkey overdose

We are back in Hampstead MD. now after spending a week in Virginia where Brian's father and his family is. It was nice to see them again and be able to spend some time with them. The first breakfast we had in Yorktown was at McDonald's! Yes, though we hardly frequent Mickey D's at home, when I am here in the US, I like their breakfast - their Sausage McGriddle is unparalleled! It's sausage pattie in a pancake-like sandwich that is filled with maple syrup! So absolutely yummy!

The McDonald's we would go to is right by Brian's dad's place and it always has a vintage car on display there. This time it was a Ford Thunderbird. (See pix below)

We also drove to Richmond to see Brian's grandmother who lives with her son, Mike, and his family. She's such a sweetheart! Though 91, her mind (and her humor) is as sharp as ever. Every time we see her, she'd tell us, "I always hope that ya'll come home but I pray to the Lord for His will to be done.." It's always hard to leave after we see her and wish we could spend more time with her. (See her pix with Brian below)

While we were in VA., we had some really good food. Of course, we went to Applebee's - where Brian ALWAYS orders the Tequila Lime Chicken. Then, we had baby back ribs at this mom & pop bbq restaurant near Mike's place - Chuck's Smokehouse & Tavern. The ribs I had were so, so good! The meat practically fell off the bones! Their prices were very reasonable, too. So, if you're ever in Colonial Heights, VA., do visit Chuck!

(Above: Neighbor's emu in Hampstead)

The weather here in the east hasn't been too cold the last two weeks but it started to get cold last night. Today has been freezing! It must be between 0 - 5 Celsius outside now!

When we got in last evening, we had smoked turkey again. I had 2 huge helpings! I was so stuffed! But it was good! I guess we have to go easy on the turkey before we overdose on it on Thanksgiving on Thursday.

I cannot believe that my break is soon coming to an end. It seems like just yesterday we were in Mexico. However, during these last few days, we'll be taking it easy - other than visiting downtown Baltimore on Wednesday, we'll just be hanging around the house to do some work, watch tv and play with Prancer - the cat of the house. Will tell you more about Prancer in my next posting as dinner is ready and 'Dancing with the Stars' is coming on soon. Cheers...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chillin' in the east

Our week in So. Cal went past so fast as we had so many people we wanted to catch up with and so many other errands to run - banking, shopping, etc. Though supposedly a holiday (and fun), we were so busy and often tired at the end of each day.

We flew over to the east here yesterday. Got into Maryland last evening where Brian's mom is but will travel to Yorktown, Virginia tomorrow to spend a few days with Brian's dad. After Virginia, we will travel back here to Hampstead for chill time and finally Thanksgiving. It's much colder here than in So. Cal. but the chill is a wonderful change. Today, we woke up to a beautiful sunny morning as the pretty fall-colored leaves glisten. I am feeling much better and am beginning to finally enjoy our break especially now that we are in the east.

Brian has been catching up on football on tv (Redskins - his team is playing now) and I'm doing last-minute shopping for friends on Amazon to capitalize on the domestic free-shipping.

This evening we will have Steve's famous smoked turkey for dinner - always a highlight of our visit here! I'll leave you meanwhile with some pictures I took of trees behind the house here...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Back at BIOLA!

We're into our fourth day here in LA and we're enjoying every moment of it. I am feeling much better though I still have a slight lingering cough. We've been visiting friends (families) we know here since we got in on Sunday. Today, we visited our teachers at Talbot. First we met with Garry DeWeese (our friend/pastor/professor who officiated at our wedding). JP (Moreland) happened to be in Garry's room - so we said, Hi, to him. We caught up with Garry - personal and ministry. He prayed for us before we left. Our time with Garry is always very special - right from the time he counselled us before Brian and I were married.

Then we saw Scott (Smith) at his office. Bumped into Craig (Hazen) along the way and we chatted for a bit. He gave us a copy of the manuscript of his new apologetics fiction book - I'm really looking forward to reading it! As always, it's great to see Scott as we caught up with what each of us are doing... his writings, projects, etc.

I am presently blogging at the BIOLA library and am minutes away from sharing at the international graduate students' prayer meeting. So, this will have to be short...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Cold in Cabos

We are into our fifth day here in Mexico and jetlag is finally hitting me. It is presently 4am and I am blogging in the bathroom of my hotel room so that I won't wake Brian up. I have been up since 2:51 am and have not been able to go back to sleep.

Our flight here was quite brutal. The first leg was not bad at all - Sg to Hong Kong. But the flight from HK to LAX was quite uncomfortable (very limited legroom) and hence it felt like forever. It was a full flight and we were assigned the two most middle seats with stranger passengers on our left and right. You can imagine how inconvenient it was to get up to go to the bathroom. I guess it all boils down to the fact that we have been so spoilt by Singapore Airlines that flying any other (especially American airlines!) is tortuous. From the hot towels they hand you upon boarding to the movies they screen - it is just not the same. A friend aptly remarked that flying Singapore Airlines makes one an air-travel snob - and I think she's right as I already detect one in Brian! "Where's my Singapore Girl???" he kept asking!!! Well, one gets for what one pays for!

We were quite glad when we finally landed in LAX. When we finally arrived in Los Cabos after another 2-hour flight from LA, we were so exhausted and so ready for the reputed Hilton mattresses. We checked into our luxurious room, ordered a simple room-service meal and immediately hit the sack.

The next day, after breakfast, I could not help but go back to sleep as my cold finally arrived in full force. I slept the whole of the first day we were here in this beautiful beach resort - can you imagine that???!!! Brian, fortunately, got to explore the area and would come back to report to me his discoveries during the few moments when I got out of bed for water or food. I feel better now but still have a bad cough. Pray for me, will you?

Oh, I also received news from my office that my laptop is alright. It was merely attacked by virus - it has been revived - so I am thankful that I have not lost my all data!

The RZIM conference we are here for officially started yesterday (Friday) and ends on Sunday afternoon when we will head to visit LA for a week. It's going good so far - catching up with colleagues and all... I just wished that we're not here for work so that we can really enjoy the beach and resort. Well, we do have a long break in the program this afternoon and maybe we'll go down to the pool. The weather here is glorious - warm and sunny but dry - so it's very comfortable. The food of course is great since it's Mexican. We're lapping up all that we missed in the last year!

Meanwhile, we will keep you all posted on our trip... Adios!

View from our room - seriously!

Sunday, October 28, 2007


We are back from Melaka, Malaysia after an exhausting but fulfilling weekend of teaching. However, the bad news is that my notebook crashed! This means, I may have lost all my emails!!! Saving grace is that I still have some of them and most, if not all, of my emails addresses on my Blackberry.

The crash wasn't totally unexpected, though, as it has been acting up the last few months. Good thing I backed up some of my files a few weeks ago and at least I still have those. I may have had enough of PC's and may opt for an Apple next. As we have to leave early Tuesday morning for the US, I will not have time to get my notebook fixed (if possible at all!) nor buy a new one. I will have to wait till I get back in December before shopping for one. Meanwhile, I'll have to share Brian's notebook. Sigh... it's just not the same.

Can't write much this time as we've got to pack for our long trip... Will update you on how our trip is going whenever possible.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Last minute work

We will be going to Melaka in Malaysia again this weekend for our RZIM bi-annual training program. I leave on Thursday but Brian, who will be teaching for us again, will leave with the rest of my office team on Friday. We will be there till Sunday afternoon and should get home by evening.

Then immediately we will have to pack for our long trip to the US. This time, we will be in Los Cabos, Mexico for a few days (for RZIM's annual support-raising conference) before visiting LA for a week. We are really looking forward to visiting So. Cal. Other than seeing old friends again and visiting BIOLA, we look forward to getting reacquainted with our favorite food haunts - Marisa's (freshly made chips and salsa), In-N-Out Burger, Chili's (yummy boneless Shanghai wings), Pick Up Stix (American Chinese food which pleases even me!), etc.

After So. Cal., we will be flying to the east and spending a week in Newport News, Virginia and another week in Hampstead, Maryland. We look forward to spending Thanksgiving with Brian's mom's family. I, especially, love the smoked turkey which they so painstakingly prepare. Much more than anything else, I look forward to the cold weather and catching up on sleep and rest. I've been traveling so much and have had such a hectic schedule this year - I need a longer break badly.

Our December will entail much traveling as well - Philippines, Malaysia and then Cambodia. We hit the road again two days after we return from the US! So, these few weeks in November is the only respite we have before Christmas. Even then, we will have to do some work while we are on the road in the US.

We, of course, also look forward to the shopping - mostly stocking up on things which we cannot find here or are expensive if they are available. My detox formula, contact lens solution (currently not available in this part of the world), NyQuil, my Real Simple magazine, etc. Brian will of course be bringing books home with him!

We are thankful that this time we will have a friend house-sit for us while we are gone. Especially now that our apartment has a leakage problem. The waterproofing of one part of the external wall upstairs is problematic and rain water (a lot!) has been seeping into the house when it rains heavily. I hope our landlord will have the problem fixed soon!

I hope to be able to post once more before we leave next week. Well, if not, then I'll be sure to post while we are in the US. Till then, cheers...!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

End of Ramadan

Tomorrow marks the last day of a full month of fasting for the Muslims. As we live in a predominantly Malay/Muslim neighborhood, a huge bazaar is set-up throughout this month next to our apartment block. The night market sells everything from fried chicken, preserved dates to shoes, dresses and automobiles. As Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown, they usually break their fast with a sumptuous and usually big meal. So, contrary to what you'd expect, a lot of the Muslims I know actually gain weight during the month of Ramadan.

For very different reasons, we enjoy this month. For Brian, this is the time of the year when he can find his favorite chicken kebab right at his doorstep. There is also his favorite "pisang goreng" (banana fritters) - he often shows off his Malay by asking for "pisang goreng" and the stall owners never fail to be impressed.
For me, I love the "keropok lekor" they sell. It's some kind of Malay fish crackers/chips that you dip into sweet chili sauce. It's not something that I can find easily on normal days here but at the bazaar, they are in abundance.
The bazaar gets more crowded as the Muslim new year approaches and this evening, it was absolutely packed! Many are making their last minute shopping rounds and many stall owners are selling their wares at a discount before they close shop tomorrow night.

Beyond the religious significance, we absolutely love the richness of living in a racially and culturally pluralistic society.

Friday, October 5, 2007

I am an aunt!

I got a call from my mom at 7:30 am yesterday informing me that my cousin, Teng, has gone into labor. Such a buzz as it was to be the first baby of my generation in our family. By 5pm, I was officially an aunt (and Brian an Angmor/Kwailow/MatSalleh uncle) of baby girl, Xing Ru. I've yet to see how she looks like but since both her mom and dad are good looking, I am sure she'll be a hottie! I'll make sure to post her pixs once I get them.

I am so excited! And so overwhelmed by thoughts of what it means to bring a life into this world...

Congratulations, Teng and Vincent!

Pix just arrived!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

India for better, for worse

As I am writing this, I am on a six-hour transit at Kolkata’s airport on my way home after almost two weeks here in India. However, I will only get to post this after I’m home tomorrow morning. So much has happened since I got here and I think the easiest way for me to tell you all that’s happened is chronologically.

First stop: Chennai
I arrived in Chennai late Sunday evening (Sept. 16) and started teaching at the RZIM Academy of Apologetics the next day. I spent the next five days here teaching at least two sessions a day. Nothing out of the ordinary happened here except that the entire batch of participants this time was male. So, you can imagine me, a foreign woman, teaching a bunch of men from India…interesting dynamics…

Oh, I also met this sweet boy – Suresh. He’s probably 12 years old and works for the caterer the Academy uses. However, India has strict regulations about child labor. Businesses are not supposed to employ anyone younger than 17. So, if anyone asks Suresh how old he is, he will say that he is 17 though there is no way he can be mistaken for any older than 13! You see, his is a sad but typical story here. He’s a sharp kid and very sweet and would love to go to school but his family needs him to help with the little that he makes. So, he has no choice but to work (and lie about his age!) He says that one day he hopes to go to school. My heart breaks as I listen to my colleague tell me Suresh’s story. Despite our language barrier, I was able to coax him into taking a picture with me.

Second stop: Pondicherry
Early Saturday morning, my colleague (and his wife) and I rented a car (along with a driver) to drive us to Pondicherry – a coastal town 3 hours away from Chennai, to teach at a two-day training program organized by the Pondicherry Apologetics Club. Had a wonderful time with the participants of the program despite my tiredness.

On the way there, while we all dozed off, we were suddenly awakened by a sudden screech of the brakes –we nearly hit a cow that was standing in the middle of the road. It didn’t look like it knew what it was doing. So, just like how we drive around animals that roam the rural roads of India, we drove round him. Crazy but true!
Pondicherry is an interesting town – reminded me of San Juan in Puerto Rico. Very old European. It used to be a French colony and the French’s influence is still very much evident. Quaint little town.
We stayed one night here and left Sunday evening back to Chennai.

Third stop: Traumatic Kolkata
My flight to Kolkata was at 5:50 in the morning. This meant I had to be at the airport by 4 am! Didn’t get much sleep that night. The flight in was short – two ho
urs. However, when we touched down, the captain announced that it will be another “bad” day in Kolkata. Apparently, it hadn’t stopped raining for a few days and the city is flooded!

Well, I didn’t think it was going to be that bad until we drove into the city…By the time I arrived at my hotel at 10:30 am, the water level at the entrance was slightly above the ankle. Nonetheless, I was able to squeeze in two meetings in this city – one at a small bible college and another in the evening. We were not too optimistic about the evening meeting since many people’s houses were flooded and earlier, when we drove by the venue of the meeting, YMCA, the water was at calf level. However, when we arrived at YMCA at 5 pm, the water had somehow subsided and we were able to walk on dry ground into the building.

To our surprise, almost 30 people turned up for my talk on “The Problem of Suffering”. Some of Kolkata’s church and Christian leaders turned up. When the meeting was over by 7:30pm, the water level had again risen up to above our knees! I had to roll up my pants to get to the car. Thankfully, the organizer of the program rented an SUV as these were the only vehicles that work in such circumstances. By the time I arrived at my hotel, the lobby was already flooded. I was praying that the rain would ease during the night so that the flood would subside to enable me to get to the airport for my flight out.

Well, by morning, the floodwater had gone down at most parts of the city but a stretch of road on the way to the airport was still flooded – waist-high! I was praying so hard that my taxi would not stall like the many vehicles abandoned on the side of the road but make it to the flyover just before the airport. It did! And I was able to make it to my flight on time.

Kolkata is a fascinating city – despite the flood, life seemed to go on as usual. In fact, the night when I was there was when India triumphed over Pakistan in cricket and though the city was flooded up to the waist, I could hear men out in the streets reveling and rejoicing! Though poor, the people of this city appear to have a certain resilience to struggles of life. I’ve got to say that though I only spent a little over 24 hours in this city, it had to be my favorite Indian city so far until…

Last stop: Shillong
My flight touched down at Guwahati but from there, I had to travel another five hours on land (winding roads with major pot holes!) to get to Shillong. This picturesque town is on the northeastern part of India – the area which borders Bangladesh, Burma (I want to refer to this country as Burma and not according to the name the present evil government gave it as a statement that I do not recognize this “illegal” junta!) and Bhutan. Shillong is touted as the “Scotland of the East” and rightly so as it is absolutely breathtaking there! In fact, the first golf course ever in Asia is found here. The colonial Brits used to spend their summers here in this town as it’s at least 5,000 feet above s
ea level and the climate is mild. (See pixs below)

I spent three nights here speaking at two meetings – one at an all-women meeting and another at the North Eastern Hill University. The organizers of the two meetings were pleased with the outcome, so I am glad. The women’s meeting was interesting as the Khasi people group here is matrilineal. This means children take the mother’s last name instead of the father’s. Also, men would move in with their wife’s family after marriage. However, this feature is not to be mistaken to be matriarchal as men are pretty much still the ones “in-charge”!

Then, after 12 days away from home, I laid over at Kolkata for six hours before flying back to the arms of my yearning husband. There is still a lot more to be said about my trip but I want to get this posted as soon as possible and I’m not sure if you were interested in the details! If I remember anything significant, I’ll remember to post it here. Cheers…

Scotland of the East

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Earthquake tremors

It was a beautiful evening so we sat out on our balcony for dinner. Around about 7:10 pm, when we were just about finishing up, I suddenly felt like we were swaying. Having lived in two other places in the world which are prone to earthquakes (Turkey and Southern California), I immediately recognized the "sensation". I asked Brian if there's an earthquake and he confirmed that our apartment building was indeed swaying. Our hanging lamps soon became clear evidence that we were not "feeling" things. We expected the tremors to pass within a few seconds as they normally would if they were the results of earthquakes at neighboring Indonesia.

However, this time, it went on for a long while. We estimated that the tremors probably lasted for up to two minutes. It actually got pretty intense at one point where a lot of the hanging things in our living room were swaying. Brian was all ready to leave our apartment to go downstairs when the tremors finally ceased.

Anyhow, to our family members out there who are concerned if we are affected by the quake here - we want to let you know that we are fine. Don't worry!

Monday, September 10, 2007

To India again

Time flies. When we first started this blog in May, we were preparing to go to India. Presently I am preparing to go to India again. Brian was supposed to come, too, but unfortunately there has been a change in plans and I will be traveling alone instead. And it will be a long trip - 2 weeks! A long time to be away from my husband...

In addition to being a longer trip, I will also be visiting a few cities: Chennai, Pondicherry, Kolkata and Guwahati (please see our itinerary on right side-bar). The first few days in Chennai, I will be teaching at the RZIM Academy of Apologetics. Then, I will travel by road to Pondicherry (4-hour ride from Chennai) to teach at a weekend seminar. After that, I travel back to Chennai to board my flight to Kolkata.

In Kolkata, I will be speaking at a public meeting on the problem of evil and suffering. I hope I will get some free time in this city as I would like to visit Mother Theresa's orphanage. I had once toyed with the idea to serve there for a year...

From Kolkata, I will fly northeast to Guwahati - a city near the India-Myanmar border. My destination here is Shillong which is another few hours of rugged road travel from Guwahati. This will be an interesting place to visit as the culture here is rather unique - it's matriarchal! Also, the Indians here look distinctly different from the darker-skinned Indians we typically meet in Malaysia or Singapore. In fact, some of the Indians in Shillong look Chinese! So, I think I will blend in easily.

After Shillong, I will return to Kolkata to fly home. Yes, it will be a long trip in more ways than one! In the 2 weeks I am there, I will be teaching/speaking more than 15 sessions! I know that I will be drained! Please pray for me (and Brian as he will be home-alone)!

I'm quite sure that I will have access to the Internet in the first leg of my trip and will try to keep you posted on what I'm up to. Meanwhile, I've to get back to my prep.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


It was our third wedding anniversary yesterday. Did we do anything special? No, not really. We did venture out to Little India and had a wondrously delicious but cheap Indian banana leaf dinner (where we eat from a large portion of a banana leaf instead of from a plate). Then we came home to watch Eureka and Criminal Minds on tv.

It has only been three years but it feels like we've been married forever! At the same time though we feel that there is still so much more to learn about each other. Love is not an easy thing...

But we take nothing for granted - we thank God for His grace that sees us through every single day as we live in this challenging culture where divorce is an easy option out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Holiday in Penang

I got home from the Philippines on Thursday evening and had to immediately pack for our holiday in Penang, Malaysia, the next morning. My time in Bacolod was wonderful - our host was very gracious and the various groups we worked with were equally hospitable. For those who were praying for me, thank you! I was pleasantly surprised that I did not have a migraine after my first session as I typically would after teaching. Response to the evening meeting on sexuality was very encouraging - more than 200 high school kids and young adults turned up (some with their parents!) and many asked very good questions.

Brian and I left for Penang early Friday morning. Thankfully our room was available for us to check in by the time we got in. The resort we stayed at was nice though I was expecting a little more for the price we paid. Nonetheless, we had a good time catching up with some of my friends from university days. We also had the chance to hang out with mycousin Kaye who is now based in Penang.

We spent most of our time at the beach and by the pool but did get to visit the Botanical Garden where monkeys are known to run wild. When we arrived there, we found some of them sitting on the electric cable above our heads! Some of them even had a baby clinging on to them as they swung swiftly from one tree/cable to another.

Back at the beach, we managed to do some para-sailing. It was pretty cool as both of us went up together. However, due to the wind direction, we nearly had a crash landing! It was a lot of fun. As is the case for all holidays, we now need another few days of rest to recover from our holiday!

Pictures from Penang

Left: The beach at our hotel.

Left: Monkeys in the wild at Penang's Botanical Garden

Bottom: Brian trying to make friends with a primate.