Monday, June 8, 2015
I woke up late today which wouldn't be a problem normally except today I was supposed to meet Ellis at 9.30 am and I woke up at 9.30 am. So I threw together a quick smoothie with the bananas in the fridge and the bananas in the freezer and the soy milk that is going to expire in a few days (So I'm desperately trying to soy milk EVERYTHING possible) and made a avocado and tomato sandwich for lunch and then flew out of the house on my bicycle.
Ellis and I had decided to join a one-day free trial at a gym, because, well, why not?
I knew there was going to be yoga and I have always wanted to try yoga and so I thought this was the perfect opportunity.
Because I was late we missed the zumba class, and started with pilates, which was a LOT of breathing. By the end of it, we felt a little stretched, but not exercised, so we ran 3.2 km on a treadmill (which I really liked because it measured my heart rate, and I think just the thought of my little heart ba-dumping around in my chest and keeping me alive makes me so happy)
After that, we talked about how we wish people could carry on deeper conversation and less selfish lives, which is something I've been thinking about, the former one because I miss having in depth discussion, no matter how tiring, with people, and the latter because I read about two people who have devoted their lives to refugee work in Sunday's papers and I thought of how literally and directly they were helping others (and I also felt worried - is working in NHB a selfish move? Is lit a selfish course?)
Then we went in for cardio latino, which is basically sexy dancing, and I discovered that I really cannot do a body wave. And then and THEN it was time for YOGA! Although this was the most painful class of the day, it was my favourite.
We started off with some meditation breathing, which felt really good, and I actually managed to relax a lot which is quite rare because worries and thoughts usually dart though my head like frightened rabbits. After that we did lots of stretching things - always including the downward dog position which I found pretty stressful. We also had to roll our arms backwards over our heads while holding on to a towel, and to my surprise I found that if I pushed my arms slightly past the place they naturally 'stopped' I could actually rotate them all the way round! That made them quite sore, but then again yoga in general made me sore in places I didn't even know existed in my body.
When it came to the final resting pose for yoga, we got to lie on the floor, focus on our breathing and relax. The lilting music and the stillness of the room and the silent stream of air in and out of me was so soporific that I actually fell asleep and HAD A DREAM of someone scolding me, and then I woke up just in time to roll back up to sitting pose for more meditating and then the end of class.
Ellis told me she also fell asleep which made me laugh and reminded me why I love trying new things out with friends.
As I stood under the warm water of the showers, I thought about how during the who gym session I had felt pretty competitive. I wanted to stretch further, run faster, pick up dance moves more quickly and gracefully, be stronger. It wasn't until yoga, something so completely new to me and something where I felt like technique was more important than performance, that I didn't compare myself to the people around me and try to improve myself against them. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed it most, because I could just focus on healthy competition within myself.
After my shower, Ellis and I went for a well deserved lunch, and had a long conversation. We also found out that Weixin passed her driving test! I'm so proud of her she's the first among us to be a licensed driver!
Trying new things with friends is one of the best things in the world.
Sunday, June 7, 2015
Lots of nuts, roasted (I used peanuts and walnuts)
and ground flax seeds
Maybe some citrus peel
Whatever you want
Blend, Shape, Refrigerate
In the cafe one day I seated two old man business partners at a long table. Later on, when the cafe was full, a man and a woman came in and asked for a table, so I told them "Well, there is a big table with another couple is that ok with you?"
Another couple? Seriously Miriam. Diction.
When the actual couple saw the two old men who I had described as a 'couple' they laughed and laughed and I tried to dig myself a hole in the ice cream and die.
Today I held my Ama's hands for at least 10 minutes, and when I let go to get into the lift, she took my hand again when we got out. He hands are old and soft even though she was a stone mason, and they've seen the Asian Pacific War, a journey from China to unknown Singapore, and raising children of her own on top of children from her husband's first wife, and raising grandchildren too.
They have also won a total of $400 from three visits to the casino.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Monday, Tuesday and today have all been days to myself. I really appreciate days to myself. I spend them alone, reading, talking to myself, trying on all the different creams on my mother's dressing table and inhaling the smells, taking time to prepare slow meals, watching movies alone and crying as much as I want without feeling embarrassed, cleaning things and feeling satisfied at the superficial neatness of items placed in ninety-degree angled stacks at the corners of tables.
Right now as I'm typing this I'm singing 'Flashlight' to myself, and after this I'm going to fall into the sofa with A Tale of Two Cities and read for an hour and a half straight.
Days alone are so important, to just get comfortable with yourself, recalibrate, appreciate the small things and remind yourself that really, you are such an interesting person that you could spend three whole days with yourself and not get bored.
They're also so important for you to take things at your own pace. Maybe today I want to wake up at 6 am, or 11 am, or 4 am - with a day to yourself you can do that without the obligation of work or school. You can arrest yourself while doing the dishes just to absorb the most 'beautiful sunlight falling on the hill' view from your kitchen window. You can go up to a sun-dried towel in the middle of doing the hoovering and just inhale and wonder how on earth the sun smells so good.
I love this slow week, after the jam packed activity of last week that allowed me to catch up with so many precious people. Soon enough I shall begin craving activity again but for now I am content to just lie down, and read, and take life as slowly as I want to.
Monday, June 1, 2015
In Starbucks one day I sat with my tuition students, whiling away time while they wrote out a timed essay.
Suddenly, I heard a short, sharp burst of "tshh tshh tshh" sounds coming from the corner of the room. It sounded like air escaping from a tire going over a series of bumps.
I looked over, and there was quite a young man, staring intently at his lap top screen, his fingers hovering in the air, and rising and falling, his mouth pursed (from which the curious sounds came from). He was playing an imaginary air instrument of some sort, presumably following a score and practicing, and he had the most concentrated look I have ever seen anyone playing anything imaginary have.
Why do people come to Starbucks to drink coffee and read and study when you could play imaginary music?
I told Ben after we had lunch "You know on the days where I spend the whole day out, like today, I either get home feeling a good kind of tired, or a bad kind of tired, like I wasted all my time."
Well, today was a full day.
It began with morning marketing with Dad, who trusted me to buy the fruits and vegetables which resulted in me getting cheated by the fruit uncle and buying a dragon fruit that cost $2.40 when across the street in Shop and Save they were going at 5 for $1.95. I also got two pears which I asked the uncle to help me pick out, and while he had meticulously tapped and listened to multiple pears for the woman before me who asked him to pick two out for her, he just glanced at them and fished two out for me. It was probably because I asked "几块?" instead of "多少钱?" and apparently there is a difference although they both essentially mean "how much does this cost?" because he laughed at me and corrected my poor Chinese and therefore knew that I wasn't a market native.
Then Dad and I went over to Shop and Save and Dad saw a sale for tomatoes and immediately exclaimed 'Eh look Miriam! Sale! Quick take take take!" and I had this mental image of Mum sighing and rolling her eyes if she had been there, especially because a lady who was already looking through the tomatoes was giggling at Dad's enthusiasm, but I smiled because it's one of Dad's quirks - this kiasu-excitement - just like how he calls things 'stylo-milo' and eats two oranges a day and doesn't like sweetcorn.
So we got tomatoes, as well as avocado, bananas and dragonfruit.
When I got home, I baked a banana and blueberry walnut loaf because our current bananas were so old they were leaving the bunch on their own - no pulling needed.
Before lunch, Ben had to go and buy his from Cold Storage and brought me over to the meat counter - as a joke I suppose but honestly. There is nothing funny about showing someone who has made a conscious choice to steer away from animal cruelty a counter of carcasses slathered with various marinades and spices - it's like showing a Muslim a ham sandwich and expecting them to find it amusing. And honestly I am so tired of people joking about the meat industry, or my choice to stop supporting it. I have meat eating friends who understand that I am a vegetarian, but do not see themselves becoming vegetarian, and so they eat their meat and I eat my veggies and we talk about things like the new songs we have discovered, or how that day of cycling felt like. And then I have friends who understand that I am a vegetarian, but do not see themselves becoming vegetarian, and so they continually refer to this dichotomy and cast levity on an issue I view with great gravity, which I just wish would stop.
So I told Ben he was being insensitive and I couldn't believe him - and then he made a joke about a hot DOG bun, saying oh look, there's no DOG in here, which i didn't quite get, although I understood that it was about the usual reference to a hot dog as pig meat at which point I just rolled my eyes and walked off to look at the granola.
But Ben wasn't annoying all the time and tried to teach me to meditate (although I really CANNOT empty my mind - sensory and psychological awareness is just too ever present) and I taught him to peel a dragon fruit without a knife, which I suppose is close enough to a mutual apology.
After that, I met the SC girls to celebrate Charmaine's birthday, but because I had worship practice I had to leave early. Still, I savoured the time spent sitting around the table in the Thai Restaurant, listening to them discuss NUS camps. It's strange to think that they will be in such close proximity while I will be miles away in England - I'm so afraid things will be lost. Thankfully I will have Angeline in London and that means during term breaks and things we could meet up, or even on some weekends (perhaps we'll watch some Westend together!), and she'll be welcome in Number 6 for Christmas. Wan Chia is going to try being vegetarian for a week for health reasons, so I helped her with some meal ideas. Pearl had her number used as a reward in a pool game (although the guy who won already had it). Deborah had just woken up after night cycling, and she kept blinking rapidly. I had another dragon fruit, and when we took an attempted 'squad goals' picture I practiced my meditation (eyes opened this time).
I was loathe to leave, but I did, and got to church. (late) Worship practice was rather disheartening, because things moved quite slowly, and I could sense Ben and Daniella complaining and I missed England. During the time of sharing and prayer, after sharing about my feeling of wanting more control over my life, I asked other people if they wanted to share about their week, but everyone gave silence until Auntie Jan began speaking, apologising first, saying she was sorry if everyone wasn't sharing because of the presence of an 'old person'. My heart ached for her - she isn't an imposition or a nuisance, she is such a lovely willing helper. I still don't understand why no one would speak - how can fellowship be built if I don't know about what you are going through, the longings and struggles of your heart, the little voices you fight against that tell you you can't do it, or the tears you shed because you burnt something.
By the end of the practice, we had only had a full run once, every one was fatigued, and so we left it at that. I was, for perhaps the first worship preparation of my life, resigned. I knew that I didn't really care if every thing went wrong the next day, which was such a uninspired place to be in. I was also saddened because of the back talk that had been going on, which I felt had no place in a worship rehearsal. Agnes and I talked about that for a while before we got a lift in Chris' car back home.
Back home, I told Dad about how frustrated I was at the back talk, and he reminded me that everyone has flaws- in the workplace, in school, in church. He told me that I couldn't let it get me down because ultimately worship is about God. And so after a rather pleading prayer, I breathed deep and went to sleep.
Thankfully worship was alright the next day, and the light of a new dawn dissipated the gloomy clouds of spiteful whispering.
“I got thinking about the window seat: how special it is and how it can be taken for granted. These expansive views can be very humbling. Everyone is fascinated by flight, and for now airplanes are how we get to experience it. At some point on each flight I’ve been on, I think about sitting in a chair in the sky, and it seems crazy every time.” - Jim Darling
I am flying off in 11 days, and I really hope I get a window seat. I packed my clothes today, trying to use a folding technique that promises NO WRINKLES and for the first time ever I am packing heels (God help the girl she'll need all the help she can get) and make up and also I'm going to try and wear less blue.
A few nights ago at worship practice when I was feeling quite down I got my Mum to send me photos of Tim, Grandma, Auntie Sarah, Renny, Connie and herself down in Number 6 Ixworth High Street, and just seeing them through the blue light of my phone screen made my heart so full of yearning to see them.
In a few months I'll probably feel this way about Singapore - Christmas without Mum Dad Hannah and Tim seems so terrifying. But having it with Grandma will be special - and perhaps a white Christmas!
The other day my Dad and I were driving home, and I realised just how incredible traffic lights are. It seems strange to write about something so mundane, which also causes a lot of frustration and impatience, but those red-yellow-green blinking lights are the product of such strategy and ingenuity.
I realised you would have to design time schemes and permutations of when this would flash and that would change and you would have to know intricately the rough time needed for a person to walk across a street and how would you decide if you wanted to take one person's walking speed over another? and you would have to know whether this light and this light could flash simultaneously or if people could go straight and right at the same time and what that would mean for the traffic light down the street.
In Spain the pedestrian crossing light would last AGES, enough for a school group of close to 60 choir girls to walk across a wide road safely, whereas in Singapore sometimes I find myself quickening my step to make it before the green man reaches 0 (and I walk fast already).
My Dad says that at certain traffic lights they have sensors below the ground, to know when a car comes, to maximise the efficiency of which light is green. (Which explains why lights took forever to change when I was on my bicycle)
And then I realised that God is really like a master traffic light coordinator in our lives. He is the master strategist, the person who knows best how fast or slow we can go, who may sometimes make things a little tough for us so we pick up the pace, but never so much that we are left stranded in the middle of life with no recourse. He is the one who may make us wait a few extra minutes, because we are not ready enough to cross, or because he wants us to stay with someone, something.
And all the time we just drive through life, oblivious to the Godly undercurrents beneath our feet.
(Also, a really cool fact about traffic lights: "In an attempt to determine a solution to the traffic problems of Tokyo, researchers from Hokkaido University set up a mold-friendly map of the area with morsels of food representing other cities, lights as obstacles, and slime mold as the roadways. They then placed slime mold where Tokyo is located on their map and watched as it spread out to reach food sources and avoid the lights. The resulting pattern was very similar to railways and roadways around Tokyo. As the mold matured, it began optimizing itself to reach the food sources most efficiently while eliminating parts of itself that weren’t as optimal, making researchers suspect that studying the patterns of slime mold might reveal something about how to make current traffic patterns and roadways more efficient." )