Friday, December 31, 2004

Making movies and helping people...all in a day's work!

Didn't have much of a good sleep last night coz' I was thinking a bit too much about stuff, and because of the lack of sleep, I woke up today with a nose running like a tap all day long. Which probably means I should sleep a little earlier tonight, but I'm going to bed at an unearthly hour as usual, as it is now past 3am. I would've gone to bed earlier except that I'm waiting for a cd to burn. It's of the video that I took of my church christmas party on Sunday. Some of my church buddies have been bugging me to show it to them, and I've had to keep them on hold so I could nicely edit it and put in music and titles and cute stuff like that. I finished the editing in one day (after spending about 6 hours straight staring at the computer, taking a gym, dinner and shower break, and then spending a few more hours staring at the computer!), but burning the movie has been a problem. For some reason, my program wouldn't burn, and it took me a while to figure out I had to remove some special effects I added in before it would work. Stupid program. So I'm burning the cd now, and hoping it'll come out all nice and good.
Also decided to move my butt to really help the tsunami victims today by getting some empty boxes from Giant today to pack with items for them. Also bought some ready-to-eat food like crackers and packet drinks. And I emailed my friends to help give me some stuff to donate when I meet up with them at church. As soon as the boxes are full, I'm sending them to the Red Crescent Society in Ampang. Hopefully, they'll put it to good use. My parents haven't been much of an encouragement. They're so skeptical that any organisation collecting donations will put it to good use, that my mum isn't keen on donating anything. Just coz' of the possibility that donated money or items will be used for reasons other than intended. And when I told her I'm trying to collect things from my friends before I send them to Ampang, she acted like it was too much. Sigh.... I don't know what to say. Tens of thousands of people have lost everything, even loved ones, and are at risk of dying from starvation or disease, and all my parents care about is their own convenience. The most they would consider donating in terms of money is RM50. What is 50 bucks to millions of homeless people? It wouldn't feed a family for a week. I know my family can afford to give more, but I don't understand how they can look at all those unfortunate people on CNN every day and not be moved enough to give all they can. Even my 80 year-old grandma staying with us, who has hardly anything herself, gave me Rm50 to pass on to the aid organisations. For her, that's a lot of money. To my parents, who have comparatively much more, it's nothing. And to add to it, my dad even makes lame jokes about the disaster. Sigh... it's hard to believe that I inherited my genes from these people sometimes. :P Oh well.... I know they're not the only people like that. Sadly, I think it's a predominantly Chinese trait to be so 'kiasu' about giving their money. Although I am glad a great number of Malaysians have given quite a bit to the victims. Not all hope for humanity is lost just yet. Heh. :P
My cd's done burning, so I'm off to sleep.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Doing what I can

The tv in my house has been turned on the whole day and tuned to CNN, where it has been showing little else all day except news coverage of the tsunami disaster. At this point, the combined death toll all over South-eat Asia has reached above 61,000. More than one third consist of children. And yes, that is enough to make my jaw, and my heart, drop too. Videos taken by people who survived the tsunamis are being replayed over and over again on CNN, showing how large boats are tossed around like toys in the ocean, and how quickly the waters gushes into buildings, rising up to the first and second floors. Now fears are rising that communicable diseases could arise due to the high number of decomposing bodies. These diseases could kill a lot more people than the waves itself.
Naturally, I don't want to be doing nothing about it except sit around blogging about the plight of the victims and the politics involved. I've been bugging my mum and dad to donate something to help these people. At the moment, they are not keen on donating money because they believe that money can be misused by the relief organizations. They are more into donating other things likes food and clothes. Which seems fair to is possible that monetary donations be misused. So I've been spending all day trying to find out where I can make such donations of food, clothes and medicines to.
My first thought was to donate to the Star newspaper, so I check out their website and found out that the donations they collect are sent to the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) or Mercy Malaysia, the offices of both being located in Ampang. I called the Star office to ask them if I could donate things apart from money to their office. While I was expecting to be greeted with a "Hello, the Star office" or something, I was greeted with a bored "Hello". The bored sounding guy on the other end told me that non-monetary donations had to go directly to the MRCS, and he gave me their number. I told my dad that I'd have to go all the way to Ampang to make our donations, and his reaction wasn't too encouraging. "Wah, so far ah? Haiyoh, they must have some place around Subang Jaya where we can donate, if they are serious about collecting donations for these people." After giving my dad a light chiding for caring more about our own convenience than for the tens of thousands who have died, I called up both MRCS and Mercy Malaysia to find out if there was any place closer to Subang Jaya where I could go.
A lady at MRCS picked up the phone fairly quickly, and after asking her my questions, she promptly said, "Can you come here (Ampang)?" after which, she gave me the address of their office. Next I called up Mercy Malaysia, which told me to call a place called Nationwide Express, which helps collect donations for Mercy Malaysia. So I called Nationwide Express, and after being put on hold for forever, a lady picked up. I asked her my question, she said "Hold on", and I was put on hold forever again... after which another lady picked up. She told me that there is a branch in PJ I could go to, and gave me the address. But I had trouble understanding what she was saying because the volume was too soft, she was saying the address too quickly and she had some accent that made it sound like she wasn't speaking English. I had to ask her to repeat herself so many times, which obviously exasperated her coz' after the third time, she let out a huge annoyed sigh. And I still couldn't be sure that I got the address right after I put down the phone. Very friendly people at Nationwide Express....
After all that hassle, I find out through an internet article that making item donations isn't as effective or efficient as making monetary donations. For one thing, it is more expensive to ship items overseas due to the weight of the cargo. For another thing, it is more time consuming since the cargo has to be thoroughly checked to ensure nothing 'dangerous' or potentially disease carrying is transported into the country. For another thing, the items donated may not be what the victims need the most. Donating money is more helpful as relief agencies will know exactly what the victims need the most and where to channel the funds. Of course, there is a chance that funds will be used misappropriately, but I think the chances are less if they were given to an international organization like UNICEF. So now my goal is to convince my parents to donate money instead of items. Which will be a formidable task since getting my dad to part with his money is like trying to take a bone away from a big, nasty and hungry dog. :P Ah well, a small inconvenience for me to help out those tens of thousands of people.

Your money or your life....

It's day two after the big waves hit South-east Asia, and as expected people are saying that countless lives could've been saved IF things had been done differently. Apparently the earthquake was detected in some areas, but the authorities did nothing to warn or evacuate the people by the coast even though they had an hour or more to do so before the waves hit. It will be interesting to hear what kind of excuses these people will throw around for the next few days, and who they will blame. And I suppose the different governments will be taking measures to prevent such disasters from causing so much damage and loss of life is always the case. Measures are only taken after people have died....
But the biggest issue that bugs me is the fact that the protection of lives depends mainly on how much money the people have. While in Aus, I watched this movie called John Q, starring Denzel Washington as a father of a boy dying of a heart disease. The medical expenses for the boy's treatment are too high for the father to afford, so unless he pays up, he has no choice but to let his son die. The story takes a dramatic turn when the desperate dad takes the hospital hostage in order to force them to operate on his son, but the point of me telling this story is that the hospital was willing to allow a boy to die because the father couldn't pay for the operation. And in the case of the tsunami disaster, most of the countries affected by the tsunami were too poor to afford the sophisticated equipment used to detect seismic activity... and their governments will likely be too poor to pay for the resulting damage, let alone the medical care of the victims. And the question on my mind is, why is the worth of people's lives based on how much money we have? Why go through all the trouble to develop advanced medical techniques, or drugs, or technology that are meant for protecting or treating people, if we can't use them for those purposes simply because they're too darn expensive? What, are all these things made only for the people fortunate enough to be super rich? Gimme a break! The more developed countries have the resources and money to help the affected countries. They can afford to provide developing countries with the technology they need to prevent such tragedies. They can afford to provide medication and treatment to poor countries like Africa that are afflicted by diseases like AIDS and malaria....but will they do so? Highly unlikely. It's not just the fact that poorer countries can't afford the equipment, but the attitudes of not wanting to share new technologies with others for free after so much trouble and money put into developing new things. It's all about money and politics, when it should be about helping save people's lives. And after such a big disaster has happened, I bet the most authorities are going to do is throw the blame around. And Bush and Howard will probably still be wasting money and resources sending troops to Iraq, when they could be putting the money to better use helping the tidal wave victims. In the meantime, the poor countries like Sri Lanka and Indonesia that were most badly affected by the waves will be left taking forever to recover from the damage. It won't help that their economies will weaken as well, since more people will be wanting to get out of the country and tourism will drop dramatically. :(
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe some of the richer countries will rise up and go all out to help the affected countries. If that happens, then it'll be one of those rare times where I'm glad that I'm wrong. But only time will tell if they really will rise up....

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A sad, wet day....

As if the world were not weird enough, nature decided to be a little more weirder yesterday. For anyone who's been living under a rock, yesterday thousands of people in South-east Asia were killed by a tsunami, including at least 53 people in Malaysia. Malaysia! If I remember my Form 4 and 5 geography well enough, Malaysia is supposed to be located on a nice safe part of the planet where we don't get funny upstarts of nature like hurricanes or tornadoes or earthquakes or tsunamis..... If you had told Malaysians two days ago that we were going to hit by a tsunami, anyone would've thought you were insane. I would've, at least. But yesterday, people along the coast literally felt the earth move under their feet, and a few hours later found themselves getting very very wet. Some were very very wounded. And some were very very dead. Good grief.
Of course, I feel super sorry for those poor people who've lost homes, cars, everything, maybe even loved ones in the tidal waves. It feels crappy knowing I have a nice bed to sleep in tonight in a nice apartment with all my family and friends safe and sound, when there're thousands of people not too far from me who've lost everything, don't know what to do and probably have completely broken spirits. And today as I read the newspaper reports of all the devastation that happened to so many countries, the first thing I said to God was "Why did You let this happen?". I'm sure I'm not the only Christian asking myself that question. If God loves us so much and He's all powerful, why does He allows such things to happen to us? It's tempting to put the blame on Him... after all He could've prevented it from happening. And if I were one of the people who lost a loved one in this tragedy, I probably wouldn't hesitate to get mad at Him. It is, of course, so much easier to blame others for our problems. And if we can't blame people, then there's no one else to blame but God. Unfortunately, after really thinking about it and remembering what Scripture says, I think I know why He allowed such a thing to happen for two main reasons.
Firstly, the sad truth is that we really have ourselves to blame. Well, maybe not ourselves directly, but Adam and Eve, when they screwed up the whole world by eating that darn fruit and bringing sin into the world. The world before then was all nice, rosy, perfect and GOOD (Genesis 1). Adam and Eve didn't have to work. Food was abundant and they lived in paradise. But after that, things became imperfect. Animals that were all meant to be vegetarian started eating each other. Nasty things like thorns and thistles started to grow (Genesis 3:18). The Bible doesn't directly say it, but it makes sense that natural disasters resulted from that as well. The world was made perfect but man screwed it up by rebelling against God. And God, even though He loves us, is also just and had to punish us by making the world imperfect and making us work for what we get. So while I know God could've prevented that tsunami from happening, I suppose He didn't coz' it's an indirect result of our sin. And if He stopped that particular disaster from happening because He loves us, then He would have to stop every other bad thing in the world from happening to protect us. And by doing so, there would be no consequence for our sin, which, from His point of view, would be unjust. So such nasty things happen, not coz' He causes it to happen, but coz' we cause it to happen. Ugh.
Secondly, the book of Revelations says that as the time draws closer for Jesus to return, there will be a lot more wars and natural disasters happening that will signal He is coming soon. Which of course means a lot more tragedies for everyone. Why it has to be this way, I don't know. But if it's gotta happen, it's gotta happen, whether we like it or not. Another reason why God would allows natural disasters to happen.
I guess the theological answers seem too simplistic, and not very nice to hear. Certainly not very comforting for the victims of the tsunami if I were to tell them. And it doesn't make me like God any better. I hate to say it, but the more I understand the way He works, the more I don't like the way He works. It would be so much simpler if He wasn't so just and He'd just forgotten about the whole sin problem, and instead let all of us lead nice perfect lives on earth just like it was before Adam and Eve messed up. And it would be great if He let everybody into heaven, so it saves us the trouble of having to convince people that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Sigh... but of course, if it was all that easy, we would take everything for granted and become a bunch of spoilt human brats....:P And when I really think about whether or not God IS being just, I think basically He is, even though I really don't like the way He works sometimes. But that's because He doesn't work the way that's most comfortable for me, which goes to show I'm already a bit of a brat. :P
Anyway, I suppose one thing most people would do after hearing about this big tragedy is to pray for the victims. But after looking at it from a Biblical point of view, I'd really feel kinda silly praying that God will help all these people out and all that nice stuff when He allowed the disaster to happen for certain reasons in the first place. So I don't really know what to say to God tonight. I'll probably be letting out quite a bit of my frustration at Him. And I'll also probably be praying that He will watch over the victims, provide for them, comfort them, and all those other nice things. Whatever I say to Him tonight, it's going to be interesting. ;)
After all that though, of course, the more important thing is to find a way to help the victims. I don't know what, but I hope there's something that I, or even CBC, can do to help these people. Anyone with suggestions?
My condolonces to the victims of the tsunamis too.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Poetry in motion, lalalalalaaaaa....

I had a sudden rush of creativity yesterday and I actually wrote a whole song in less than an hour. Just had one of those moments where I had an inspiration and the right words and a catchy tune all came out on paper at one go. Haven't had one of those moments for a while and I LOVE I consider it one of the best songs I've written, which makes it extra fun. It's kinda personal and angsty though, so as proud as I am of it, I'm kinda shy to post em lyrics. But if you really bug me and I think you can handle it, I just might play it for you live! :P I'm also looking forward to my brother coming back from the US for a few months. He's a darn good musician himself and he knows where to go to record music and stuff, so if I nag him enough, I might be able to get him and some of his musical friends to play for me and record some of my songs. That would be sweet.... And if I'm good enough, might even get a record deal and I'll be a famous Malaysian female rocker! Haha....yeah right. ~_~ Anyway, back on planet earth, I was also going through some of my older poems and songs today, and amazed at some of the stuff I wrote. Amazed both at the stuff I wrote that I still find ex-TA-remely good, and the stuff that I found ex-TA-remely crappy. I've written quite a heap of crap too... maybe more than 50 poems and songs in the past 6 years. I'm considering setting up a webpage on which I can put them, to share with others and also in case something happens to my precious hard copy poetry collection. Of course, I'll have to think of what to do with the stuff that's too crappy or too personal. Something else to keep me occupied during the holidays. I haven't even started on my 'holiday assignment' on checking out other religions and stuff, coz' I've been keeping myself busy going for Christmas celebrations, putting up photos in my room,, doing housework, going to the gym, and of course, sleeping. Hmm... such a productive semester holidays! :)
By the way, I've noticed quite a number of people actually check out my blog every few days. I'm quite it really so interesting reading about other people's crap? Coz' I've checked out some blogs that really just has so much crap I don't care about that it puts me to sleep....although I know a few that are quite interesting too. So I guess my life isn't all that boring after all. That's a good sign. I think. Nyam nyam.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas fun :)

It's Christmas Eve, but I still haven't gotten into the whole Christmas spirit thing yet. Maybe coz' my family doesn't make a big hoohah about celebrating Christmas.... we do have 'some' Christmas decorations around the house, but they're up all year round in addition to the Chinese New Year decorations! I'm not the only lazy bum in my house, hehe. :P Not to say that I haven't been having some fun this week before Christmas.... been having some carolling performances at Sunway Pyramid which were pretty fun. Well, the actual carolling itself isn't great fun coz' we all have to stand like statues for about 15 minutes with fake smiles plastered on our faces (and some of us not even smiling at all...hmm....) while we sing. :P The fun part is when the choir is done and we sit around the stage clapping, cheering, swaying and singing along with Pastor Malcolm and those other people performing on stage. Nothing quite as fun as making a heckuva din and making other people think we've gone nuts. :D And of course, picking on those cute little kids who were running around the stage too.
Starting yesterday, I've also begun stuffing myself silly with food at Kelvin's birthday/christmas party. Today I'm going carolling at some church people's houses and stuffing myself silly again. And for the next few days it'll be more food when I go for a Christmas lunch with relatives and a church Christmas dinner. I've been working out so hard since I got back, I lost almost 3kg already and I see a little bit a of muscle starting to reappear, but I have a feeling it's all going to go to waste in the next few days...aaarrrggh. Ah well, plenty of time to work out s'more after New Year. :)
Ok, I need to go to some Christmas shopping now... :P

Monday, December 20, 2004

Næem's rising blood pressure...:P *revised!*

Yes I know I've been doing nothing but complaining since I got back to Malaysia... so sue me. This is my bloggy, and I'll gripe if I want to :P. I think my blood pressure has probably gone up at least 50% in the one week since I've been back. One main reason is, as I've mentioned before, because of the insane Malaysian drivers. In one week driving around, I've experienced:
1) Motorcyclists and drivers alike running red lights to save time
2) Drivers trying out their Formula One skills during heavy traffic
3) Drivers overtaking me from the left and then going to the right lane
4) Drivers cutting queue at the traffic light in front of KKK
5) Drivers behind me hugging my car's butt at 80km/h
6) Drivers who refuse to let me into their lane even though I signal that I wanna turn
7) Drivers who come into my lane without even signaling
8) Motorcyclists carrying their kids on their bikes without having them wear helmets
And last but certainly not least,
9) A driver nearly ramming my car when I had to stop suddenly at the traffic light, coz' he was too close to my car. Luckily for me, he didn't hit me. Unluckily for the lady driving behind the guy, she rammed into him.
I can pretty much guarantee I never felt so annoyed in my whole stay in Australia as I did in this one week I had driving on the road. And if that's not bad enough, the second reason for my probably increased blood pressure is even closer to home - my parents. My older brother once said his blood pressure went up as soon as our parents went to visit him in the USA, and I can completely understand why. I think 90% of my mum's conversation consists of complaining about something, arguing with my dad, or nagging. And ever since I got home, my parents have been having loud discussions/arguments about some issue relating to our apartment's resident committee. And because the apartment is small, my room door is not soundproof and my mum's voice can be heard a mile away, the only way I can completely drown out the noise in the living room is to jack up my stereo to over 60 decibels. At least. I'm just glad they're not arguing about some silly personal issues like they used to do all the time when I was younger. Coz' once they do that and I'm alone with either one of them, they start complaining about the other to me. And I've been the only kid living in the same house with my parents for the past many years coz' my eldest bro lives in Puchong, and my second bro is in the US. Not much fun being the only kid having to listen to this nonsense all the time from my parents. When I was younger, after listening to my mum telling me all the bad stuff about my dad and I actually started getting impatient with him myself, I got into trouble with my mum coz' I'm supposed to respect my dad anyway! And yes, I do know I shouldn't have behaved badly towards my dad, but geez, it's hard not to when I was being drilled 24 hours about all the annoying things he does, by my mum no less. And of course, my mum doesn't just get annoyed at my dad, but she gets annoyed at a heckuva lot of things. Especially when we don't do things her way. One particularly good example is when we wash the clothes. She usually does all the hand washing, and she has her own little 'system' of how to soak clothes in detergent, which buckets to soak what in and all.... and without explaining to me exactly what her system is, sometimes she gets me to do the washing. And when I screw up the system, I get a nagging. And when I ask her to explain what exactly she wants me to do so I don't screw up the system, she thinks I'm being incompetent. After a while I figured I just can't win with her.... :P And probably thanks to my dear old mum, I've learned to become easily annoyed at a lot of things...although to not as bad an extent as her. It's an attitude I've been trying to stop, but unfortunately one of the things that annoys me the most also happens to be my dad. Much as I hate to sound like an ungrateful brat, I can't deny that he does a pretty good job of driving me nuts too sometimes, albeit in a different manner from my mum. He doesn't get annoyed at the whole world, but he has certain habits, says certain things and has certain unfair prejudices against other people that can tick me off. Like he has this prejudice against Africans, and calls them 'dirty', 'rude', 'no class' people. I always disagree with him about that. And whenever we see a lousy driver on the road, the first thing he'll say before he's even seen the driver is that it's probably a woman driver. That of course, really bugs me, especially when I happen to be driving at the time. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my dad..... @_@
Obviously I know my mum loves me,and she nags me most of the time coz' she worries about me (.... my dad's true affection though is a bit doubtful at times, but that's another more personal issue which I don't think is appropriate here). And yes, I care about them both too.... but it's just that they're not the most fun people to hang around with, and I was perfectly happy living without them for a whole 10 months. And now that I have to live with the same old nonsense from them again, well, I'm obviously not overjoyed. But they are my parents after all, and I still feel bad about griping about them. I AM grateful for all they've done for me and providing for me and's just not been particularly fun growing up with them and I'm not going to pretend that I'm ecstatically happy to be living at home with them again. It's sad, I know. Sometimes I wish I had parents who weren't always at loggerheads, or at least were a bit more optimistic about things so I would be the same way. But ah well, I can't change them, and I have to admit that I could have had it a lot worst. Still love em no matter how much I gripe about them.... though don't think I can say the same for the crazy Malaysian drivers. :P

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Life back home 2

I've been very, very sloth-like since I got back. Did a few things on Sunday like go to church and go out, but today I've just been sitting in front of the computer, taking a very long time to do things that would take only a while if I was concentrating. I have quite a few things I want to do, like finish my unpacking, print out some photos to decorate my room with, read some books, do my holiday 'assignment' on religion, and such. But I have a feeling I'll just end up being too darn lazy to do anything except bum around in front of the computer playing Neopets for hours.
Another gripe I've had about being back in Malaysia is that certain people here can be quite... unrefined and tactless. Like on Sunday, I bumped into a lady I knew at the Summit selling Chinese food... one of those Chinese older ladies whose English is quite broken... and as soon as she saw me, she practically shouted in surprise loud enough for everyone to hear and said loudly"You so fat!! Last time when you were working in the cinema, you were so beautiful! Now you so fat!!". Like, thanks for letting the whole world know. As if it's not enough that my mum has been and always will be badgering me to lose weight. And yes, I have put on weight, and I do intend to lose it soon. But geez, it just ticks me off the way some people can be so rude and insensitive around here. Not that something like this definitely wouldn't happen in Australia, but I think people there are generally a lot more tactful. I'm glad at least Stuart wasn't one of those guys who pick on their girl's weight. Although I was a bit mean myself coz' I'd pick on the size of his belly, but that's coz' I'm pretty straight forward with everyone I'm close to... which sometimes means I say kinda tactless things myself. I dunno, maybe it's a Chinese thing... or just runs in my family!
I think I'll go vegetate in front of the tv now....

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Life back home

Well, I wanted to surprise all my friends back home, and it's mostly worked. I came back to Malaysia on Saturday night and showed up at church on Sunday morning, and got desired effect from most of my CBC friends. A few that I really would've liked to catch up with but weren't there were Jennifer, Leon and Sonia. And I wanted to pop up at my old Taekwondo training centre today as well, hoping they all were having their usual Sunday training. But the place was closed, and I had no idea where they went, so I was pretty disappointed. Looks like I'll have to give my Taekwondo instructor a ring instead. Not as much fun though. :P Also got a few other old secondary school friends that I need to give a heart attack and catch up with like Alvin and Kooi Im.
Well, I've gotten back to the routine of things surprisingly quick. I find myself doing exactly the same things I used to do before I left, with a few changes to accomodate my grandma who's now under my parents' care, when she wasn't before I left to Australia. I still haven't gotten completely used again to the blistering heat and high humidity... dunno how many times I've complained about it being so hot since I stepped foot in this country again. I guess I'll get used to it soon. Still remember how to drive, and having fun getting around in my new pre-loved (read: second-hand) maroon auto Kelisa, which my parents got for me while I was away. And I still drive like a typical mad KL driver with a bad attitude. I used to be insanely busy with church and Taekwondo stuff, and it seems I'm already getting myself as busy as I was before with church activities... as soon as I was in church today, my good buddy Mei Ling was already bugging me to join the carolling, and I went for my first carolling practice today. Even got the solo part for "O Holy Night". Still remember how to speak in good ol' Malaysian 'Manglish', complete with "lahs" and "wans" and "alamaks". In fact, so many things feel the same that I feel like I just went to Australia for a week and came back. And I don't know why, but it feels like my whole stay in Australia was like a big dream, especially when it came to my relationship with Stuart. It's like, I'm here, back home, doing everything I used to do again so quickly. It's like I never left. It's like everything I experienced in Australia was part of someone else's life and not my own. It's just unreal.
And if that's not bad enough, I'm actually not completely overjoyed about coming back. I'm really glad to be able to hang out with all my old friends again for sure, and I'm looking forward to enjoying good ol' greasy Malaysian food again... but that's about it. Everything else about being back has just made me go, "ugh". The toilets are still as dirty and toilet-paperless as ever. Ugh. The drivers and motorcyclists are all as maniacal on the road as ever. Ugh. Dirty and ugly guys still hang around on the streets giving wolf whistles and that annoying sucking noise to anything female that passes by. Ugh ugh ugh. People in general here are not as friendly or cheerful as they are in Australia. Over there, a stranger on the street would give me a smile and ask "How you going?". Over here, the only chance I'd get a smile from any stranger passing my by on the street would be from some Malay or Indian guy with yellow teeth checking me out and calling me "Ah Moi!". And the environment isn't quite as nice either. The air here is not fresh like in the country side of Gippsland. And there's not a star in the sky. Dirty stray dogs and cats still run around on the street looking pathetic. I miss having a great country view right outside my house. I miss being able to see koalas hanging on the trees near my house and walk just 10 minutes to where I sneak up on wild kangaroos. I miss looking up at the night sky and just standing there and gawking at the twinklings stars. And yeah, I miss Stuart. After being to Australia and loving it to bits, I just can't help but gripe about Malaysia. Which kinda makes me feel bad coz' it's the place I grew up in and all that blah, and I should be appreciating it and all. But I really don't. I just wish I could get the next year or two of study over with right now so I can go back to Australia again. The only things I would probably really miss here would be all my friends and all the food. If I could ship over all my friends and family over to Australia and learn to cook everything Malaysian, I'd be perfectly happy staying in Aussieland... But ah well, can't always get what I want. Guess I'll be one of those people who'll ditch their country for 'greener pastures' somewhere else. Was never really patriotic anyway. :P

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Næem's nagging annoyances

A while ago, before I came to my uni's computer lab to vegetate in front of a computer as usual, I sat outside of the uni for a while at a bench that had a magnificent view of the beautiful scenery that surround my uni.... miles and miles of green grass with heaps of tall trees, colourful flower bushes here and there, and white puffy clouds in the bright blue sky above. In the distance, there is a big lake where ducks and other water birds happily frolick around. In the further distance, there is a farm, where cows happily graze on the green grass, unknowingly fattening themselves up for the slaughter house. A bird with a dead worm in its beak hopped around the bench I was sitting at for a while, probably trying to decide where to settle down and enjoy it's catch, before another bird came along and tried to steal the first bird's food with a threatening squeak and a flutter. And it was here in these idealistic surroundings where I contemplated two of the biggest annoyances currently bogging down my thoughts:

Annoyance no. 1: I have a severe case of poet's block. Yes, it's just the same as writer's block, except that I can't write poems, or songs, anymore. I have so many things I would love to write about, but for some reason, it no longer comes so easily to me to express my contemplations in the form of poems. And I've had it for quite a while. There was a time, at the end of 2001, when I spent my holidays just writing a heap of poems, and most of those were some of the best I had written. After that, my poetic streak just sizzled out, and now, three years later, I seem to have run out of fresh ideas. And indeed, most of my old poems have followed this similar pattern of rhyme and structure and simple vocabulary that I now find boring. I want to change my style, yet keep reverting back to my old formulas. I want to use more boombastic words, but such big words are difficult to fit into the flow of a poem... and I don't wanna end up like some Shakespear-wannabe poets whose poems use words so complicated I don't understand the point of their poems.
Perhaps another problem is now that I have matured and have had more experiences, my thoughts have become just too complicated, too rushed, too unfocused, to be able to put in the form of simple poems. I usually end up trying to think of how to write on one topic, but my mind drifts off to another topic, and the thread never ends. So I can hardly ever sit down nowadays and say to myself, "I'm going to write about this" without soon thinking of something else and never even getting my poem started. And because of that, I've become more of a writer than a poet (hence the birth of Næem's Neverending Nonsense, which has been filled with quite a bit of nonsense already!). Which is good, in a way.... but poems are still my first love. The satisfaction of creating a good poem is not quite like the satisfaction of writing a normal story.
I want to write poems. But I find it so hard.
It annoys me.

Annoyance no.2: Here I am sitting in an environment where I am in my element. I love nature. I love animals. I love anything in the environment that has not been marred by anything made by human hands. My dream job would have been to work with animals - to be a zoologist. Or something to do with the environment, so I can be in nature as often as possible.
And yet my dreams are being inhibited by the very people who I think should be supporting me... my parents. Mum and dad grew up in poor families. Their childhoods were not the easiest, coz' from as far back as they could remember they always had to work hard, had little to spend on and had to worry about whether they would get their next meal. As such, I cannot blame them for growing up with the mindset that the most important thing in the world is money. Without money, life was hard. With money, life is easy. And so from a very young age, they were constantly drilling me and my big brother Bernard with advice that we'd better get jobs that would bring in truckloads of money. Be a lawyer like your cousin Paul, they would say. Paul makes so much money, he can drive a nice big BMW! Or be a doctor, like dad's relative in Australia. He earns so much money, he has a swimming pool in his backyard! Or be a plastic surgeon, like the fella who did up mum's eyes. He got a few thousand ringgit from her just for an hour's work! They would say things like that to me all the time, and that's no exaggeration. My dad would constantly talk about money. After so many talks from him about money, I can't even remember the brunt of most that he said, but I believed it mostly went like this, "Youmustearnlotsofmoney, youmustearnlotsofmoney, youmustearnlotsofmoney".
And so it was really no surprise when in my first year of uni, when I told my parents I wanted to give up my time at Monash so I could live out my dream and learn zoology instead, they both flipped. Zoology? How much money will you make doing zoology? You'll never be able to survive on a job like that. Forget it, you silly girl, and get back to your books. You'll get a much better job with your Biotechnology degree... Biotech is an up and coming business in Malaysia now. And make sure you discover some new drug or cure for a disease so you can make lotsa money!
And so I did go back to my books. And I have continued on with my double degree in Biotechnology... and Environmental Management. I could've just done Biotechnology, but the lure of Environmental Management was something I couldn't resist. I like Biotech...coz' I love learning about genetics and microbes and anything to do with biology. But a career in Biotech means a life confined mostly to the laboratory. A life of neverending research, test tubes, white coats, rubber gloves and lab reports. No chance to walk in the forest, hear the birds, touch the soil, and get bitten by giant, noisy mosquitoes. Not exactly very appealing to me. Thank God I got a full Monash scholarship, or else my dad would never have funded an extra year of study so I could get a 'useless' second degree. My second degree will open the doors for me to do what I've wanted to do all along - work in nature - while my first degree has let my parents think I'm all set for a good money-raking job. And my knowledge in Biotech will help a great deal in whatever environmental work I do, as well as increases my chances of employment. And if God blesses me further, I will get my dream job working with animals after all...
But once I get back home, I know I will once again be bombarded with my parents' incessant naggings about finding a good job where I will have a good chance of become a millionaire. I know money is important, I know I need it to survive. But I don't need to drive around in a BMW. I don't need a swimming pool in my backyard. And the thought of cutting up people to supposedly make them look prettier grosses me out and goes against my ethics. As long as I can pay my bills, live in a nice, cozy house, drive around in a reasonably good-looking car that doesn't fall apart every ten seconds, and support my family, then I will be content. And if I can do all that while doing work that I enjoy for the rest of my life, then I will be very happy. I keep telling my parents that, but they think I'm being too idealistic and naive. They believe that money is the only way anyone can enjoy life. But really, if that is true, both of them should be happier now than they were when they were younger coz' they are much better off now than when they were younger. They have a nice place to live, a big screen tv at home, a nice Vios to drive around and they don't have to worry about not having enough to eat anymore. And yet they don't seem thankful or content. They've been constantly bickering at each other for as long as I can remember. And all they want is more. More money, big nice things, more, more, more. It doesn't seem to me that having more money has made them enjoy life much more than before. Who are they to tell me that having loads of money will make me happy?
I truly am thankful for everything my parents have done to provide for me and my brothers. But they have failed to understand that a child doesn't just need financial support and physical provision. A child needs support for their interests, ambitions and dreams. They have hardly ever encouraged me before in the things I was interested before, like playing guitar, or performing, or taekwondo (although in retrospect, my mum did encourage me to learn to play the organ when I was a young un, but that didn't work out too well coz' I couldn't stand the music exams...). And now I know they will continue to discourage me from doing the one thing I know I can do with some passion.
I have a dream. But I have to fight to live it. With my parents, no less... the people who I think should be supporting me.
It annoys me.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Whine whine whine

Arrrgh... my spectacles have become so lopsided! I don't know why every pair of specs I've ever bought always becomes higher on one side than the other.... Something must be wrong with the shape of my head or something....
Anyway, I'm pretty exhausted reflecting so much on Christianity and stuff that I think I'll step away from that for a while and talk about other things in my life. Some of my exam results were released a couple of days ago, and I got two distinctions for both subjects released. But I have another two subject results that haven't been released yet coz' some of the Monash lecturers have decided to be upstarts and refuse to release results until they get a salary raise. Well, if they can do that, I don't see why the Monash students can't be upstarts too and do something to make Monash lower tuition fees and other costs. I mean, Monash is one of the most expensive uni's in Australia, and it's the only one that makes its students pay for using the internet! And it's just crappy that the only people who can get Monash education are the people who have the money to pay for it. I feel sorry for everyone else who has the pay the insane prices these money-hungry buggers charge for a degree or two. And if that wasn't bad enough, the Aussie government this year decided to raise the prices of textbooks, which doesn't help at all. And all this after the crazy taxes that this government charges, half of which probably goes to unemployed bums coz'of some weird government policy to pay the unemployed $800 a month or something. Ok, so they have a pretty good medical insurance scheme thing going on for Aussie citizens and pr's, but that doesn't apply to international students, who pay much more than the locals. Like, hello? Do they think we internationals have money growing out of our ears. Let's do like our lecturers and make them pay!.... Oh wait, I'm on scholarship and on exchange, so I don't have to pay tuition fees and I pay any other fees in Malaysian ringgit. So none of this applies to me....:P Haha, I just enjoy being a whiner sometimes. But then again, who doesn't?

No beliefs, no truth... no way!

The main part of this entry is part of an email I sent to Stuart in reply to a comment he made on one of my entries on my old angelfire blog.... not quite sure which one he was talking about, but was probably the one where I was blabbering on about the scientific evidence for the existence of a Creator. Anyhow, in his comment, he said this..."atoms, molecules, chemistry, science..." it is all concepts. Everything we have is a concept.... including religion". It's an opinion of his that I've heard many times before... in addition, of course, to his opinion that God doesn't exist. Another thing he's said many times is that he has absolutely no beliefs when it comes to God and religion and spiritual hoohah, which is something I picked on in my email as well. As usual, I wrote him a long-winded reply in a probably vain attempt to make him reconsider his opinions. But hey, at least I try.... :) Anyway, I liked what I said so much, I decided to share it with everyone, and would love to hear what anyone has to say about it!

Yes, some things in science are concepts. But when there is so much evidence to support that concept, even though it could probably never be proven to be absolutely true or accurate, chances are that that concept is basicly correct. Lawyers win court cases using much less evidence that there has been found for most scientific 'facts'.... and for the existence of a creator.
It's easy to say everything is a concept, that nothing is absolutely correct, that there's no black and white and no right or wrong. Coz' if it were true, then we all can live the life the way we want without worrying about breaking any 'rules', coz' nothing would be absolute. I would love to take that easy way out and do whatever I wanted all the time, coz' hey, it's not easy being a Christian and constantly trying to abide to the high standards of the Bible. But unfortunately, as nice as it is to believe everything is just a concept, fact is a lot of things in life are definite and there are such things as right and wrong, correct and incorrect, true and false. I won't be stupid enough to say I know everything that's definite in this world...but I am a scientist and I go wherever the evidence takes me as best I can. And I'm not going to pick and choose the things I want to believe just so I can live the way I want to do. Coz' whether the truth is nice to hear or not (and a lot of times, it ISN'T nice), it's still true and whether or not I like it doesn't change that fact. Nor the fact that there are consequences to ignoring the truth. I would like to think if I jump out a window, I will fly. But the fact is I can't fly, and the consequences if I jump out a window with such as silly belief would not be pretty.
By the way, what you say about everything being a concept is essentially your belief. You say there is no God, but that is also just a belief since the only way you could know that for sure is if you knew everything. But everything you know is limited by your own experience, isn't it? You think you've never experienced Him, and so you think He doesn't exist. If you really had no beliefs when it comes to God or spiritual things, then you would be agnostic, not an atheist. Coz' an agnostic holds on to no beliefs because he's not sure which is right. But by saying there is no God and thinking you are absolutely right about that, well, that's all just your own belief. It's not a fact, coz' a lot of people would disagree and say they have experienced God. So by making such a stance, it doesn't make you any different from any other religious person coz' you have beliefs, just like the rest of us. :P
God bless!

It's kind of funny the way so many people think the same way as Stuart... that everything is just a concept, that nothing is ever absolutely true. It actually sounds a bit like some New Age belief... but in fact it isn't 'new' at all. It reminded me of John 18:38, when Jesus, just before his crucification, is telling Pontius Pilate that He came into the world to testify to the truth. And Pilate goes on to ask, "What is truth?". Sounds like a guy who's cynical about the whole idea of truth too.... And I'm going out of topic here, but a lot of experience has shown me that people today behave pretty similar towards the message of Jesus as they did when He walked the earth. The Bible records that many people back then, especially the Pharisees, refused to believe in Jesus's words even though they saw him do so many miracles that proved He was no ordinary man. The Pharisees even acknowledged Jesus'miracles, yet didn't believe! And today, there are so many little miracles going on in people's lives (heck, the fact that there is life on planet Earth is a miracle itself, due to so many scientific improbabilities! but that's another story) yet so many refuse to acknowledge the existence of a God. The world hasn't really changed much in 2000 years, has it?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Næem's reflections on LooOOooove

"Love is a many splendored thing,
Love lifts us up where we belong,
All you need is love"

- Ewan McGregor from Moulin Rouge

Ah, this thing called love. Many sappy movies have been made about it. Even more sappy songs have been written about it. Most people would agree that we all need love, and some have even killed themselves for lack of it. Yet how many of us can even begin to comprehend this powerful emotion that causes people to do the strangest and stupidest things? Love is a language spoken by many yet understood by few... (cool eh? I made that quote up my self! :P).
Ok, enough of the corny intro. As the time draws closer for me to go back to Malaysia, I'm forced to deal with an upheaval of emotions due to having to leave behind my first ever sort-of-bf. And as one thought leads to the next, this has made me think a lot more about this thing called love. All sorts of questions come into my mind. If we had agreed on our beliefs, and ended up committing to each other, would it have become a relationship that lasts? If we made such a commitment, would we be able to compromise on our many differences and make it work out? And even more importantly for me, am I actually in love with him in the first place?
That last question is most important to me because after all the time we've spent together, I've thought several times about telling him those three little words, "I love you". And yet I have stopped myself every time, due to my own philosophies on love, which I have dedicated the rest of this blog entry explaining.
Like most other females, I like romance (especially when it happens to me!). I'd like hearing the guy I fancy whisper sweet nothings into my ear. I'd like being able to have someone's hand to hold wherever I go. I'd like having someone to drive me up to the top of some hill at night so we can lie down and look at the stars in each others arm. In such situations, it would be so easy to think you're in love with the object of your affection. In movies, it's quite normal to see lovey dovey couples saying they're in love with each other after a couple of good dates and a real hot kiss.
But although I do like romance, it really irks me how easily the words "I love you" are so frivolously thrown around in Hollywood movies. Case in point, the movie Titanic, which the first 2 hours shows a young couple getting it on after knowing each other for just a day or two. In the end, when the ship sinks (the most fun part of the movie, I reckon) the couple professes their love for each other in the freezing waters before the poor guy freezes to death in the waters. Very romantic? Yes. But a true depiction of what love is about? I don't think so. And this isn't just a Hollywood phenomenon, but happens in real life too. I's just ridiculous to me that anyone could possibly know that they are in love with someone they've just known for such a short time. And of course, I don't believe in the whole 'love-at-first-sight' stuff either. I think anyone who says they're in love without someone they've known for two seconds probably just thinks that person has the hottest bod they've ever laid their eyeballs on, and they just wanna copulate with that person right there and then. That isn't love, but a little thing else called lust. Love at first sight, to me, is impossible because I believe love is something that takes time to develop. And love is something that has to be learned over a long, long, LONG time.
Before you call me a romance killjoy, just think about it. Love is a completely unnatural thing for us human beings. In fact, the most natural thing for us is to be completely selfish, uncaring brats. From the day we are born and for many years after that, all we care about is our own self interest. When we were babies, did we care that it was 2am and our mummy and daddy needed to get some sleep after a hard day's work? NoooOOOooo...if we were hungry or just has a poo, we screamed our heads off, demanding that our needs be met NOW. When we were 6 year olds walking with mummy and daddy in the shopping complex, do we ask them what they want so we can get it for them when we collect enough angpow next Chinese New Year? NoooOOOOoooo...we only see what we want and then constantly cry and scream and wail until we get what we want. When we're young, our natural instinct is to care about ourselves, not others. It's all about me, myself and I. It's only when we grow older when we start to understand the concept of sharing and giving and caring for others. We have to learn to love over time. And love is a difficult thing to learn because it goes against the very nature of who we are. And I don't mean what I'm about say as a general conclusion about everybody, but I believe a lot of people haven't really learned how to love, but still can say they love someone else very easily, when in fact, they really don't. Kids may say they love their parents... perhaps only because the parents cared for them and gave them good things. Once they stop doing that, would a kid still say he/she loves a parents? Probably not. A dog owner might say he/she loves their dog...perhaps only because the dog is super friendly and has a good nature. But if the dog started chewing up the shoes, well, it's not so easy to love after all. A couple might say they love each other...perhaps only because they make each other feel good or all warm and cuddly inside. But after a couple of spats and misunderstandings, 'love' goes out the window and they break up or get divorced (50% of marriages in America end in divorce, so that's no exaggeration). In all those examples, people all say they love someone because they're getting something in return. And once they stop getting it, they stop loving. It's conditional love. And I don't know if anyone would disagree, but to me, that's not real love. Real love is unconditional. And the closest to real love in everyday life that I can think of is a parent's love for their child. But even that, sadly, can be conditional sometimes as some parents have kids just to have someone to care for them in the future... the child can be more of an investment than someone they truly love.
I don't expect the whole world to agree with me, but I also believe that the real love means being able to give sacrificially even if nothing is received in return. Giving things like your time to be with a person, your money to buy things for that person, and most of all, giving your whole self to that person by opening up and trusting that person, even if nothing is received in return. Even the Bible has the same message in John 3:16, when it says "God so loved the world that he gave His only Son...". Love is all about giving. And the more important something is to you, the more it reveals your love for a person if you're willing to give it away for that person. And fully giving your heart and your trust to a person can be one of the most difficult things to do, as it makes you vulnerable to being hurt by the person if they betray you. Of course, the most important thing to anybody would be our lives (coz' nothing else would matter to us if we're dead, right?), and so it makes sense that the ultimate act of love would be to die for someone else, especially if that someone else didn't give a hoot (Might remind you of a certain guy in the Bible...). And so the whole act of giving, again, goes against our human nature to care for ourselves. Which idiot enjoys getting hurt by someone they gave their trust to? I certainly don't.
As such, I've learned to be very very careful about using this word 'love' with anyone. Because I don't want to be telling anyone that I love them unless I'm pretty sure I really, really mean it... that I know I will give unconditionally to them no matter what. And this applies not only to my BGR's, but to any other relationship.. with my family, with my friends, and with God. I care a lot about most of these people, but I'd feel uncomfortable telling these people that I love them. Coz' when I ask myself how much I would be willing to give up for these people in my life, I have doubts that it will be much. I'm still very much a selfish brat at heart, and though I wish I could do the Jesus thing and love everyone unconditionally all the time, I know I still fall far, far short of that level.
And which is why I am unable to say that I am in love with Stuart, coz' although I think I could give up quite a few things to be with him, there is one thing I would never give up for him.... my faith in Jesus. I probably would be willing to give up living in Malaysia to stay with him in Aussieland. I probably would be willing to learn to deal with our differences in other areas. But I'm not willing to give up Jesus just to be with him...and he's not willing to compromise his own beliefs for me.
Which doesn't mean that we both don't care about each other.... we care about each other a lot and we will miss each other greatly. But whether that care has crossed the threshold to love, I can't definitely say no.... but at this time, I'd think it's unlikely. Perhaps if we had both still decided to commit to each other, over time, we would learn to love each other. But that is something I guess neither or us will ever really know, or have the chance to find out....

Three words
I so want to say it
But not sure if I'd mean it
I feel something for you
But are those feelings true?

So many have used it
And many've abused it
To get what they want to
Don't wanna do that to you

So this game I won't play it
Unless I'm sure I want in it
A committment of two
Between me and you

So the day that I say it
I'll be sure that I mean it
And that my feelings are true
When I say "I love you".

-2 December 2004

I'll be home for Christmas....

Yeash everyone, as the title of this blog entry suggests, I have given up trying to find a job in Australia, because of a couple of problems:
1) Most of the major companies in Australia close down for several weeks for the Christmas holidays. Bunch of lazy bums!! :P Therefore it would be close to impossible to find a place to work during this period
2) Due my extreme disorganization, I did not apply for my student work visa earlier, and so if I apply now, I'd have to wait about one to three weeks to get it...and I'm not prepared to hang around so long.
3) The visa costs $55 to apply for it, and considering I probably won't get a job, it's not too financially savvy to do so.
4) I don't wanna be alone for Christmas and New Year!!!!!!
*Ahem*, anyway I'm hoping to be home now around the middle of December. And after I party myself silly for the holidays, I shall set out to complete my personal holiday assignment, to learn more about other religions! For anyone who's thinking I have nothing better to do with my time, read my reasons for doing so in my previous entry, "A 'non-thinking' Christian makes her case".
In the meantime, Stuart suggested that I use this time before I go home to contact some companies I'd wanna work for here, so that if I come back to Australia to work once I complete my course (something which I hope to do), I'll just hook up my contacts again, which makes it easier to get a job. My dad told me to find contacts long ago, but was too lazy and too busy to do it. Plus I didn't really know how to go about it. Plus, who ever listens to advice from their dads? :P Just kidding... I'm just like any other young adult female...a bit of a rebel at heart. Of course, if you're anything like my mum, then you're a rebel no matter how old you are, but that's another story....So no need to wonder where I get it from!

A 'non-thinking' Christian makes her case...

As I type this, I'm simultaneously watching 46662 - The Message, an all-star concert organized by Nelson Mandela to raise awareness on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Among some of the many celebrities that have so far appeared on this show at Beyonce, Anastacia, Queen (whom I'm surprised are still alive!) and U2. U2's lead singer Bono, who is one heckuva singer yet is ever the politician at heart, made one statement on the show which is distasteful to hear for most people, but is unfortunately so accurate -"It's funny how religious people can usually be the most judgmental of people..." and he goes on to say that we all need to get past the stigmas that surround people afflicted with HIV or AIDS and open up our arms to accept them into our communities.

That statement struck me today because just a couple of hours earlier, I was out with Stuart and as he was giving me a ride home, some tension rose between us coz' I said something about Christmas that he considered very arrogant, and I suppose, judgmental. Something along the lines of, "...people celebrate Christmas for all the wrong reasons". Well, as I'm a Christian and he's an atheist, it didn't take him long to understand what I meant, get all uptight about it and start accusing me of being arrogant. I believe that the real purpose for Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whereas he believes that Christmas is for celebrating family. And I would suppose him and other non-Christians would say Christmas is for celebrating other things like being together with the ones you love and giving to one another and so on. Which are not bad reasons for celebrating Christmas, and it's perfectly fine to celebrate all those things...but the whole idea of Christmas originated from the desire to celebrate the birth of Christ. If there has been no Jesus Christ, there would be no such thing as Christmas... I mean, the word itself has the word 'Christ' in it! So it's fine to celebrate all those other things, as long as the original purpose of having Christmas is given its rightful place as being the main cause for celebration. And the reason why I said what I said is because many people do forget the real purpose, or rather, choose to ignore it, and focus more on the other reasons instead. It's kinda like having a birthday party where everyone celebrates giving presents and getting together with a bunch of other people instead of actually celebrating the person's hello? Isn't that missing the whole point???

Even so, I still have to ask myself if Stuart was right in accusing me of being arrogant and judgmental. I actually do agree with what Bono said about 'religious' (a word that starting to make my eyes roll a lot more these days, for reasons that I will hopefully explain some other time) people being the most judgmental. It's true that plenty of Christians, me included, are somewhat judgmental, even though the Bible itself tells us not to judge others (Matthew 7:1 - Do not judge, or you too will be judged). It is hard for Christians NOT to do so, considering the Bible sets pretty high standards for us to live by. So I have to admit that yes, I was being judgmental for saying what I said. And I admit I probably shouldn't have said something as harsh and general as that. The reason why I said it was valid, but the way I put it definitely wasn't appropriate. But for Stuart to say that I was arrogant, well, that I can't really agree with that. I know he said that coz' he assumed that I said what I said because all Christians think we're better than non-Christians, and we think that we have all the right to accuse non-Christians of celebrating Christmas for the 'wrong' reasons. Well, although I agree with him that maybe a lot of Christians do think and act that way, to assume I think the same way just bugs the hell outta me. I don't think I'm better than any other person, Christian or not. How can I, when I didn't and couldn't do anything to get myself saved? I was just lucky enough to understand and accept God's salvation through Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast)! I'm just as messed up as any other human being, and I never had the notion that believing in Jesus put me on a higher level than anyone else. And any Christian who does deserves a kick in the @ss...(whoops, did I just made another judgment? :P) So to accuse me of being arrogant, well, that was Stuart spouting his own preconceptions, prejudices and judgements about who I am. I never meant what I said in arrogance... I said it, albeit in not a very good manner, because it is true.

It's also interesting to note that in all the time I've spent with Stuart, he has made quite a number of judgments himself about Christians. I've heard him say things like Christians don't think, Christians are deluded, the Bible is full of fairy tales...which sound like pretty harsh judgments to me. Considering especially that all 66 books of the Bible are actually historical documents describing people, places and artifacts that have time and time again been verified to be real through archaeology (Check this out, if you're interested)... it seems pretty surprising that those guys who wrote the Bible would go through so much trouble to be historically accurate in those areas, yet make up all the other 'unbelieveable' stuff about Jesus Christ. Pretty detailed fairy tales, huh? :P And sure, some of the supposed archaeological evidence would be fakes (people would make a heckuva lot of money if they claim to have found some Biblical artifact...of course there would be fakes!), but certainly a lot of them aren't. And to say Christians don't think, or are deluded, is an extremely unfair judgement for Stuart to make. There are plenty of educated people out there with Phd's and Masters and other big brainy labels to their names who are Christians... did these people with all their smarts just blindly accept everything they heard about the Gospel without exercising their brains? I'm just a measly third year double degree full Monash scholar, and surprise, surprise, I actually DO think about what I've been taught in church...I actually HAVE doubted many things, and I actually HAVE a billion and one questions about my faith...some of which I probably will never find the answer to until the day I get a crack with God face to face. Some of which, I'm learning the answer to along the way, coz' surprise again, I actually think about it for quite a bit. I care about Stuart a great deal, but I am no less than fully insulted by what he says about Christians. I have never made such audicious accusations about atheists or other non-Christians not thinking or being deluded, though I very easily could. But like I said before, I'm no better off than anyone else, have no right to think I'm better than others, have no right to judge anybody, and so I won't dare say such things.

I guess I've sounded pretty defensive and ticked off throughout this whole entry. But I can't help but be. I mean non-Christians always accuse Christians of being judgmental, intolerant and self-righteous, but when they do that, they're being hypocritical coz' they are being exactly the same thing that they accuse us of! They're judging the Christians by making such accusations... they're intolerant of Christians coz' we're intolerant of sin... and they're self-righteous when they think Christians are idiots and they are the 'intellectuals'. And I'm not half as mad at them for being such hypocrites as I am sad because they don't even bother to find out for themselves the evidence for the truth of the Gospel before coming to the conclusion that it's all lies. I'm sad because they consider it a waste of time to find out more about who Jesus Christ really was and whether his outrageous claims to be the only way of salvation were true...I mean, if there is even ANY possibility that the gospel is true, as unbelievable as the Bibles stories are, I think it would be worth a little of my time to try and find out as much as I can before brushing it off. Coz' if the gospel really is all lies, than fine, I just die and lose nothing except my time. But if it is true, and I don't accept it, then I lose an eternity in heaven. Logic dictates that it would be a good idea to find out more when such large stakes are at hand. Or is my logic flawed because I'm an idiot of a Christian, hmmm?

Of course, the logical argument to my train of thought is how can I can I be so sure that Jesus really is the one true way to heaven when there are so many other religions that claim their beliefs are the only way to heaven? What if I'm wrong about Jesus and I go to hell anyway coz' I believed in the wrong thing? Which is a good question... one that I cannot confidently answer as yet because to do so would require me to have a great deal of knowledge about other religions, and why I'd think they are flawed. As it is, I admit that my knowledge base has been mostly confined to Christianity's teachings... but during my summer break, I plan to do expand my knowledge base, to find out more about other religions and analyze them as unbiasly as I can. As difficult as it will be, I will try to approach these other religions with a mind of a free thinker, someone who has no beliefs in any religion. Certainly, I will be doing a lot of blogging about what I find, and along the way I have no idea if my faith will be eroded or strengthened. It'll take a heckuva lot of time, but hey, my ticket to heaven (if there is a heaven) is at stake here, so I think this will be time well spent. And if not, well, at least it'll make good dinner conversation. :P

Monday, November 29, 2004

The old, the new and the Næem

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come!" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

Well, after finally finishing the rundowns of each day of my one week holiday, one thing I haven't been doing much through all that is really sit back and reflect on other things I was thinking of throughout the week. One thing I noticed is that throughout my week, I completely pushed aside doing my regular quiet time with my big Daddy a.k.a. God. Usually I am quite regular with reading a short chapter of some book in my Bible, once at night and once in the morning, but recently even before my holiday, I was getting less regular and more lazy. And during my holiday, I completely threw all that out the window, barely touching my Bible and only praying to God when I needed Him to help me kayak back to shore quickly, or keep the bus from leaving without me, or make sure my parachute opened well. And I'm not mentioning this to kick myself for being less 'spiritual' than I should be. It just made me think about how amazingly easy it is for me to be so into reading my Bible and be fascinated by the fresh things God reveals to me through it everytime I read it, and then the next day, I completely forget what a wonderful book it is and just don't want to take a few minutes to read it. And my prayer life is even more pathetic than my Bible reading time , coz' usually, even though I know I'd have plenty to talk to God about if I just sit down and thought about it, I'm just too lazy most of the time and I don't really wanna talk to Him. I'm too lazy to spend time with God. The big guy whom I know can love me better than any other person in the universe. The big guy who loved me enough to give His son to die a pretty nasty death to save my unworthy ass. I'm too lazy to spend time with Him. It's kinda like I'm saying to Him, "Yeah God, I really appreciate and believe in the whole Jesus dying for my sins and all, but I still wanna live life my own way, so I'm just not gonna bother talking to You all that much or reading that big book of Yours. But would still like to be able to ask You for some favours every now and then, cool?". And He's always answered my prayers and blessed me with with so many things that I want. Yet I continue to take Him for granted, especially since I know He'll always forgive me. And because I haven't been praying much or Bible-studying much, my character has barely changed for the better, and I really don't think anybody sees any overwhelming love outpouring from me like it's supposed to for Christians.
To the nonbeliever's point of view, my unchanging character, in light of scriptures' claims that anyone who truly believes will become a 'new creation', is just evidence that the Bible is full of hogwash. I mean, it doesn't seem as though being a believer for most of my life has made me much of a 'new creation' at all. I'm not full of love for everybody around me. I'm not bright and sunny and joyful like some supposedly completely transformed Christians are (good on them, by the way). I still get depressed. A lot. I still get very annoyed by people who ask me silly and redundant questions all the time. I still swear some colourful things, although usually not in public. It seems as though I'm still just like anybody else, instead of becoming more like Jesus. And after repeatedly praying that God will help me to change so that I can become more loving and patient and all the other nice things Christians are supposed to be, but never really seeing any change in myself, at some point I have to ask myself...If what the Bible says is true, why am I not changing much for the better even though I keep praying about it and I am a believer? Could this mean that I've been putting my faith in a lie all along, and there really isn't any all powerful big guy who can miraculously turn my personality around as soon as I fall to my knees and yell "My life is Yours, Jesus! Take me, mold me, use me, and all those other things in that song!!!"

Well, I have read enough to be pretty sure there's plenty of evidence to support that what the Bible says is true, which I won't go into coz' that would make this the longest blog entry on the planet. So I know my faith is based on pretty good stuff, although I suppose any non-believers reading this would argue otherwise. But for simplicity's sake that the Bible is completely true in its teachings, which I believe it is. Which means there would be nothing wrong with what the Bible teaches about believers being changed and becoming 'new creations'. So what exactly is wrong here?

One thing I've realized in all my years as a Christian is that most people, both believers and non-believers, take certain portions of scripture at face value, without considering it in light of other parts of scripture. As such, they jump to conclusions about what the Bible is saying just from reading one short sentence, and use that to defend their faith or refute the Bible. Many examples I can give, but let's focus on 2 Corinthians 5:17 - "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come!". Most people reading that for the first time, me included, would assume it means as soon as you believe in Jesus, you'll be completely transformed into a different, new improved person. Unfortunately, that obviously isn't always the case. Some people do go through that wonderful miraculous change in personality almost immediately. But others, like me, take little longer. Is that really a surprise? Well, for one thing, looking at that verse, it didn't say "...he is immediately a new creation". It doesn't say, "...he is a new perfect creation". My point being that the whole becoming a new creation business probably does take a while, and being a new person doesn't mean we're perfect. Christians everywhere, no matter how changed for the better they become, will always screw up and do naughty things that deserve a spanking from God.
Another thing people might assume when reading that verse is that this change to a new creation will be due to some supernatural touch from God, or something like that. Like as soon as anyone seriously decides they wanna believe in Jesus, WHAMMO! God gives them a big invisible zap from the sky and they are completely changed! And for a long time, I thought that's what's should've been happening to me. I thought, hey, all I have to do is pray and keep da faith and that change in me will happen sooner or later. I will miraculously learn to hate doing things that are bad and sinful, and do all the good stuff instead. But it didn't happen. Coz' I forgot one tiny little detail.

God created people to have free will, which means He gave us the ability to make choices, both right or wrong. Without such free will, Adam and Eve wouldn't have had the ability to choose to do the wrong thing and eat that apple. But they did have free will, so they chose to eat the apple, thereby officially screwing up the entire human race by introducing sin into the world. The point of that is that I, like every other human being, have the same free will, and thanks to good ol' Adam and Eve, am also a sinner. Which means I have the ability to choose whether I want to do sinful things or not. And I will always have that ability to make that choice because even though God can take away my ability to choose to do wrong things, He won't. Coz' if He takes away that freedom to choose, I'd have no choice but to do only things that He finds pleasing. But doing such things would not be coming from my heart, since I have no ability to choose the wrong things! In essence, my obedience to God would not be would be Him using His power to make me do it. And since God loves us, He can't use His power to overrule our choice. As the Sting song goes, "If you love someone, set them free". He loves us, and therefore He lets us be free to make our own choices.

And because He loves us, naturally He would want us to love Him in return, and show our love for Him by obeying Him. Which means I would have to choose to obey his choose to follow everything He says in the choose to do whatever He puts in my heart when I pray to Him. It's not as simple as praying for a change in my character and than WHAMMO, it happens right there and then. He would help me along a lot. But a change in me still requires a deal of effort on my part. I have to choose to change. Only then can I show that I truly love God...coz' it's a heckuva lot more difficult to make that personal effort to change myself. So if I truly do love Him, I will not only want to change myself for Him, but make those difficult choices to do so.

Thing is, at the moment, I'm not making those difficult choices. Obviously, it's because I find them too darn difficult. I still want to do things my own way instead of obeying Him all the time. I still love to do all those naughty sinful things. Which has also made me wonder...does the fact that I still love to sin mean that I don't love God? For a long time, I thought the reason why I continue to disobey Him, even though I desire to follow His ways, is because deep down inside of me, I don't really love God and I just don't wanna admit it to myself. I was still thinking that up until last night, as I was writing this and I came across a section of my Bible that completely blew my mind away. So mind blowing that I just have to put the whole chunk of passage down...

Romans 7:15-25 - I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Aye carumba! It's not just me who went through such issues with my spiritual walk, that dude who wrote Romans went through exactly the same thing! And now I know''s not because I don't love God that I disobey him''s because of my own sinful nature, keeping me from doing what I know I should be doing. I have both love for God, and love for sin, both continuously battling within me. No wonder it's not as easy to make the right choices for God as I thought it would be.

Does that give me an excuse to keep on living the way I live - choosing to not read my Bible, not pray and not follow God's commands - and just blame my disobedience on my 'sinful nature'? Of course not. But at least I've come to understand a bit more about why I do the things I do and why I constantly fail. It's discouraging to constantly try to obey God yet always fail, and to beat myself up for it is something that dastardly devil wants me to do. This helps me understand that there is no need to beat myself up for failing. I will always fail. I will always sin. I will always disobey God. But that doesn't mean I should give up trying. And now I suppose what it meant in 2 Corinthians 5:17 by 'new creation' is not someone who is miraculously changed for the better straight away after believing in Jesus, but someone who is changed in a way that they will continually have that desire to obey God. They won't be perfect, but they will keep trying. :)

Geez, I just love it when God shows me something fresh from the Bible that whacks me straight in the face!

Settling in....

Ok, so I've been back from my holiday since Thursday, and on that same day I moved into my new place off-campus. It's a nice cosy little house, very close to the uni, and owned by this old grey-haired lady called Joan, who's also living in that house. I'm paying 80 smackers a week renting out a room at this place, which includes gas and water, and it's fully furnished, so I guess it's a pretty good deal. At least it's a really pretty house, nicely decorated (you know those old ladies, they have nothing better to do with their time than decorate their houses!), really clean (and clean up their houses too. :P), has a big-screen a tv (which my student residence house didn't have. How did they expect us to survive???) and Joan even lets me use her towels. So it seemed like a really good deal when I first moved in.
One thing I failed to remember is that renting a room in someone's house is a tad bit different from staying on-campus. On campus, I could do whatever I wanted, move in and out as I pleased and not worry about anybody breathing down my neck as long as I didn't trash the house or make enough noise to wake up the neighbourhood. On campus, everybody else in my house slept just as late, or even later as me, and we were all cool with it. I could take showers at 2am, or not bother to clean up the kitchen after cooking, or dump my stuff all over the place, and no one would care. But in this house, well, I like the fact that it's clean. But it's SO immaculately clean, that I feel I'd better not make even the slightest mess...not even leave any water around the kitchen sink area...or else I may suffer the wrath of the little old lady. I mean, she IS nice and approachable and all, but ever since I got here, she's kind of been nitpicking on some things I do and throwing so many rules at me. Like when I had a shower at 2am, I didn't realise would be loud enough to wake her up, and it ticked her off until the next day even. And when I left my room window slightly ajar when no one was home, she told me to close it next time coz' she's afraid thieves might get in. And she told me not to use her computer for more than an hour coz' she's afraid the motherboard will blow quicker if I use it for too long (darn, no blogging there!). And to clean up the stove after cooking, and wipe the dishes before keeping them away, and to turn off the washing machine taps after each use, and yadda yadda yadda....Which is all perfectly reasonable. I mean, I can't expect to live in her house without having to abide to some rules. But man, it just makes me miss the complete freedom to do whatever I wanted when I was on campus residences. It's like living with my parents again. Aaaaarrrrgggghhh!!!!!!!
Ah well, as long as she doesn't start disapproving of the Aussie boyfriends I bring home, I should be fine. ;)

Vacation rundown 5 - Dolphins, seagulls and sand in my mouth

The Tuesday of my one week holiday in Brissy was pretty uneventful, as I spent it mostly at my cousin Evie's place to recuperate from the previous three busy busy days. On Wednesday though, the two of us were on the ferry heading to Moreton Island, about an hour's ferry ride away from the mainland, at 10am. Our day there was without doubt the most fun part of my whole holiday. Not only was there plenty of fun stuff to do there, but we got to spend time together getting to know each other and doing some pretty silly stuff, as the photos will soon show. Coming from a family where our relatives usually only meet up about twice a year - during Christmas and Chinese New Year - I hardly ever got the chance to know my cousin. But I did get to know her a lot better during our week together at the Hillsong conference at Sydney this July, and again during my stay in Brisbane. And it's been interesting getting to know her as a friend and not just as some cousin I see twice a year. And we both get along superbly well, and I know I will miss hanging out with her when I get back to Malaysia coz' Evie doesn't want to stay in Malaysia. This gal has such an adventurous spark in her, she wants to travel all over the world. And she's one of the few people in my family who actually lives her faith in Christ, which I hope she continues to do as she heads out into the big wild world. Some of the stories she's told me about how she came to trust Christ were pretty cool, like how before she became a Christian, she had had certain thoughts or sentences in her mind. When a friend of hers showed her some parts of the Bible, the words corresponded exactly to what had been in her head, and she knew without a doubt that it had to have come from God. And coz' of that, she believes the Bible completely, even going so far as to say that if anyone were to put her gun to her head, telling her to say the Bible wasn't true or else she'd get shot, she wouldn't do it. Hope it never comes to that, but if it did, well, I wouldn't have to worry about anything coz' I'd know where she'd go if it did.

Anyway, back to Moreton Island. We reached the island and got off at the jetty where the dolphin feeding would be happening later that evening. First thing we saw was a bunch of water birds and big pelicans, at least 8 of them, hanging around the jetty, hoping to catch some fish being tossed out by a girl working there. Pelicans are actually quite cute when they're not trying to snap each others heads off getting at fish...

Evie and I had signed up for a desert tour of the sand island, so we could go sand toboganning, but had a little time to kill before we had to go for that at 1.30pm. So we decided to lay back on the beach and munch down on the sandwiches we had packed for lunch. Soon a little seagull came hopping up to us and gave us that cute seagull look and a little squawk that said "Give me some food, or I'll peck your eyes out...please!".

Well, birds aren't exactly the friendliest looking creatures...But being the softie for animals that I am, I tossed it a little bit of my sandwich. And as you would expect it, after a couple of seconds, a whole flock of seagulls were hanging around us trying to get a share of our sandwiches. And to look even more menacing, they all turned left to stare at us with their gawdy left eyes....

Ok, I'm crapping. They were standing like that coz' the wind was blowing strongly from the left and they face upwind so prevent themselves from being blown over. It was a pretty cool shot though, if I do say so myself. And yes, they got quite a bit of our sandwiches. Even took a video of them, which I will watch over and over for many years to come and laugh sadistically at how I had those birdbrains in my hands...bwahahaha! :Þ

*Ahem* After we finished our sandwiches and I satiated the birds a little more with bits of banana, we got into our bikinis, slapped on sunscreen and laid back on the beach for a while, which wasn't much of a good idea coz' the wind was so strong, we got more sand than sun on our skin. And if it wasn't bad enough on the beach, once we were taken out to the desert in the middle of the island, the wind had even more sand to blow into our faces.

Some folks back home may be wondering how the heck a desert got onto an island. Well, I'm not much of a geologist, and though I can't really explain how it happened, I can show you that it really was there!

That tiny little thing in the middle of the photo is the bus that took us to the desert. Yup, it was a pretty big desert. And pretty hot.

Very hot.

But that didn't stop us from getting out there and having a little fun sand toboganning! And for those who're wondering how you do sand toboganning, well, it's exactly like snow toboganning, except that it's a lot hotter and if you scream on the way down, you'll probably get a mouthful of sand. And we use an amazing piece of high-tech techonology as a toboggan...a piece of waxed-down wooden plank. And here's my cousin and I with our toboggans!

The folks climbing up the slope at the back are going to the top of the hill where we of course begin our toboganning trip down. It's more tiring than it looks walking up there...ain't easy climbing up a hill with sand sifting under your feet! But eventually I did get up there, and so here I am coming down!

Ok, I'll admit, I wasn't really coming down the hill in that one. Just posing for the camera. Could've bought a photo taken of me actually coming down the hill, taken by a professional photographer, but it costs a hefty $15-plus, and I had the silliest look on my face which I decided to spare everyone else from seeing. :) Only managed to get 2 rounds down the hill before I decided I was too lazy to go for another climb up the hill. Apparently the record number of rides down by one person was 27! Damn, that's a lot of energy... I was happier off spending my energy taking some other funny photos...:)

After about an hour and a half in the desert, we went back to the beach, where Evie and I decided to rent a couple of kayaks and get some exercise. After my traumatising kayaking mishap a few days before, I was a bit hesitant, but went for it anyway, and made VERY sure that I kept close to the shore. My second kayaking experience was much better, and we had fun racing across the shore, drifting around a bit, and giving wolf whistles to the hot guys playing volleyball on the beach (actually, that last part was just me. :)). Also got a bit of a scare from a wise guy swimming in the water whom I was paddling past. He went underwater and just as I was going past him, he jumped up and gave me a scare! Would've whacked him on the head with my paddle if I weren't laughing so hard...:)

It was getting close to evening, so Evie and I had our dinner at the beach resort and enjoyed the sunset. And yes, the seagulls came back again, and yes, we fed them again and took a few more cute photos. Here's one of a gull snatching a french fry out of my hand. And they're really quick snatching food out of our hands, so I reckon this was the perfect shot!

Evie also caught a cool photo of some gulls fluttering around with the sunset as the backdrop. One of those "ooooOOOoooo..." photos!

Finally, it was evening and the best part of the trip was about to come...dolphin feeding! The dolphins were in fact already at the jetty long before we were scheduled to feed them. There were about 8 adult dolphins, and at least 2 cute little calves. I'd seen dolphins before in Aussieland, but never so up close and personal. It was a joy watching these dolphins playing and rolling with each other in the water. Even saw some catching a live fish that was frantically jumping out of the water, trying to get away from the dolphins! Not quite sure if they caught it. Soon the time came for everyone to line up for their turn to feed the dolphins. And I was really dying to get a video of us feeding the dolphins, but we weren't allowed to take cameras near them for fear of having too many flashes going off in their faces (but of course, they had one cameraman with his flash going off, so they can make even more money off us poor tourists by selling us super expensive photos!). Would've loved to touch the dolphins as well, but wasn't allowed to as well for fear of stressing them out from too much petting. it was still an amazing experience, having a real live dolphin pluck a little fish out of my hand. Apparently the dolphins we were feeding were named Echo and Nari. And even though I couldn't get a photo of me feeding them, I got plenty of photos and videos of the dolphins from the jetty. That's Echo and Nari in the pic below. Don't ask me which is which, coz' I can't blady tell.

And another dolphin!

And a bunch of dolphins!

Also took a video of the final feeding when all the dolphins were grouped together, but too bad I can't put that up here. Was very cool. Makes me love these fun and friendly fellas even more than ever. Definitely an experience of a lifetime.

Even then, the fun in the trip wasn't over, coz' on the boat ride back, it wasn't as smooth as the ride there coz' of choppy waters. In fact, the boat was bouncing up and down and tilting left and right so much as it went forward, that even I felt a bit uneasy... and I never get sick even on the wildest roller coasters or rides! To make it even more fun, I was in the boat's toilet getting changed into dry shorts since it got wet from the dolphin feeding. And I'd never had such a tough time changing my clothes in my life! Needed quite a bit of balance and arm strength so I could hold onto everything in the toilet to keep me from falling over! When I somehow managed to do that and get back to my seat, holding tightly onto a lot of things along the way, Evie was giggling herself silly coz' she was having so much fun! So I think we were the only two nuts laughing like crazy on the boat while everyone else was getting queasy. It was kinda like a free hour-long motion master ride, and we were both loving it! Haha, definitely the best boat ride I've ever had!

So like I said before, it was the most fun trip of my holiday, with all the little free things that happened, like feeding seagulls and funny photos and a crazy boat ride, that made it so much more interesting. Gives real meaning to the saying, the best things in life are free....:)

Vacation rundown 4 - Næem in the sky with a parachute

On Monday morning last week, I woke up at about 8am to go to Steve's brother's place, the place where I was suppose to meet them and be picked up a guy from the sky diving company we were going to for our very first sky dives! Woo hoo! Steve did all the planning for the sky diving thing, since it was his idea in the first place to do it, and he was more keen on doing that first before anything else. So I had no idea where were going, what company he booked for, and all the other nitty gritty details. The only thing I knew was that we could choose to do either a solo jump, where we jump on our own about 4000 feet above the ground, or a tandem jump, where we're strapped onto a qualified (hopefully) skydiver and we jump at about 10,000 feet above the ground. I would've liked the freefall of the tandem jump, but I also wanted the freedom to control my own parachute and go for an actual sky diving lesson, something which the tandem jump people don't have to go through since all they had to do is strap on tight and jump. So I went for the solo jump, which was good coz' Steve, Ben and Ben's housemate Derek, who came with us, all wanted to do solo jumps as well.

So we got picked up at 9.30am by a guy named John, who is apparently one of the founders of the sky diving company we were going to, called Ripcord. Along the way to the sky diving place, or the drop zone as they call it, we picked up a Norwegian guy called Jacob who would also join our group. And when we got there, we found that there were two other instructors named John, one of whom took us through the basic sky diving course which lasted most of the day until about 2 or 3pm. Using a prop of a plane wing, he taught us how to climb out of the plane before we jump. I would've thought all we'd have to do was to jump straight out of the plane, but I suppose considering it was our first jump, it was safer not to jump straight out as we could tumble around in the sky and get tangled up in our parachute and end up as a very messy omelette on the ground. So what we beginners had to do was step onto the plane's door step, holding onto the beam connecting the wing to the plane hull, carefully pull ourselves along the length of the beam as close to the wing as possible (so that the rough wind from the plane rotor wouldn't blow straight into us), jump off the step while hanging onto the beam, and then once we were given the green light to let go, we'd let go of the beam and enjoy the lovely view 4000 feet above the air. Of course, we were also taught how to control the parachute itself, and given all the worst case scenarios, like what to do if the parachute lines got tangled up, or if we were going to land on a building or a tree or somewhere else not nice and flat, or the ultimate sky diver's nightmare...the parachute didn't open! After getting through all that and John made pretty sure we'd gotten most of the details into our heads by giving us a small exam, we were all ready and raring to go. Unfortunately, we couldn't head right out and do it, coz' it was too windy to jump at the time, so we were forced to hang out and get more pumped while waiting for the wind to die down. At about 5pm, the wind had died down a bit, so we all donned our sky diving suits (with me being the only one in white while the guys all wore blue, and looked a bit like uniformed guys from the Village People), parachute backpacks, goggles and helmets. Our group was too large for all of us to go up in one plane, so Steve and Ben went up on the first plane, with an instructor, a cameraman to record all the fun, and the pilot (DUH!). After they had their fun, and poor Ben landed like 500 metres away from the target so he had to walk back a bit, the plane came back, and me and Jacob were on the second plane. The moment of truth had arrived.

They told us that some people had went through the whole day course, went all the way up in the plane, and then chickened out at the last minute. So I couldn't help but wonder if I would be scared enough to do that once I got up. But I wasn't actually as freaked out as I thought I would be. I was a bit scared, but not superbly scared, even when I looked out the plane window and all the houses below looked pretty darn small. I was screaming more with excitement than fear...but not screaming loud enough that the others in the plane could hear me because the sound of the plane drowned out my voice. The only thing I was really worried about was that my parachute wouldn't open, or something else would go terribly wrong. So as usual, I gave God a quick call and asked Him to make sure everything went all right, which, in all His usual grace, He did. A couple of funny mishaps did happen, but nothing too serious. Like I couldn't hang onto the plane beam long enough for me to get the signal to go from the instructor, coz' I wasn't strong enough to hold on. So as soon as my feet were off the step, I had to let go and let myself fall. Which was quite sad coz' I was hoping to give a look to the cameraman and yell "Geronimooooo!!!" as I let go, but ah well... I even hit my left thigh against the plane step as I fell too, but didn't feel it until much later due to the adrenaline. Even as I fell though, I still didn't feel any fear, coz' the first thing I was thinking was "Whoops, I wasn't supposed to let go so soon!". Then once my parachute was automatically opened and I saw that the lines were a bit tangled up, my second thought was "Ok, get kicking so your chute lines untangle, put your hands in the toggles and start steering this chute". After I did that, I looked down on the ground and was thinking "Where the heck is the landing target?". Which I couldn't find at first, but wasn't too worried about that, coz' I could hear John over the radio in my helmet telling me where to steer. Finally, I actually looked around, soaked in the view of the mountains in the distance, the sun setting and the fact that I was floating several thousand feet above the air, and I thought "AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!". Actually, I think I was screaming that more than thinking it. :P My second mishap occurred during my landing. I was actually supposed to pull down on my chute toggles a few seconds away from the ground, so my landing wouldn't be too hard. But John had also taught us to roll on the ground if our landing was rough. So for some reason, instead of remembering to pull on my toggles, I was thinking more of rolling as I got closer to the ground. So I ended up landing so loud, someone could've heard it a mile away! Luckily I did do a nice roll as I landed so I wasn't hurt at all. Well, it's sure something to get everyone laughing when they watch the video of my landing. Sure got Stuart laughing like crazy when I showed it to him, the meanie! :P But I landed pretty close to the landing target, which was a pretty good accomplishment for a first time sky diver...Ha!

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of my actual sky diving experience, but only a couple of photos of me and the guys who were in my group while we were on the ground, in our sky diving gear. It's kind of difficult to take photos while holding on to the chute toggles. But being a photography person, I absolutely had to get some recording of it to remember it by, so I did buy a dvd recording of it. The cameraman had a camera attached to his helmet and he jumped out after me to record my jump, and with his nice fancy small chute, he could land before me and record my expertly executed landing. The dvd was really a ripoff though, coz' it cost $139 for a 15 minute movie! It's no surprise though, since they know people really want recording of their jumps, so they can charge pretty much whatever they want and idiots like me will still pay. But man, that price was just insane. Well, at least the movie looked pretty good, with cool music and good editing and all. And I am glad I have something to watch over and over, laugh about with my buddies, and prove to people that I actually jumped out of a plane. Wee ha! Hopefully I'll be able to figure out how to get screenshots off the dvd so I can post it here, but with my limited webspertise, I think that may take a while. So I shall save the photos galore for the next and final part of my Brissy holiday... dolphin feeding at Moreton Island!