Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I feel like this sums up Mondays

I wore running tights all day, but ended up baking vegan cookies, eating about 9 of them, and writing a very post for the Just Love Blog on the Mean Bean Challenge. I did not run.

Friday, May 20, 2016

My balcony and strange dreams

Some evenings, now that it’s getting dark earlier, Edward drives two-and-a-half hours out of town to a place where he can be alone with the sky. He unfolds a camping chair on the gravel by the side of the road, the wide yawn of canola fields beside him, and just listens with his whole self.
— Claire Battershill, “The Collective Name for Ninjas

Tonight it began raining softly and I stood on my small sliver of balcony in the cold air. The sky is almost dark, but there's a grey-pink slab of cloud stretched out from the end of the tennis court to just past the big tree outside my window, and the air smells faintly of fish, and the leaves are rustling in waves of sound.

I've discovered Miss Marple on youtube, which brings me back to watching Miss Marple in the lounge back home. This morning I had the stunning realization that by the time I get back, I will have been away from home for 9 months, enough time to conceive and birth a baby, enough time to change me. But I am not yet completely different. I suppose I always go back to what Toby wrote in his letter when I left - what is different? what stays the same?  I think of this constantly, but, like most self-reflection, changes and constancy is a muddy blurry business, most accurately understood by vague sense.

I can't shake off this dream I had on Saturday while I was at Grandma's. In my dream, I was trying to help a man find his lost son. I opened cupboards and looked through laundry piles and walked down country lanes. But the heart rending and horrifying thing was that I could see his son. His son was always just before me, a ghost-child, dead. His son was so happy, just like the three-ish year old he had been when he died, talking and laughing and playing as he moved through the air in a strange grey silhouette, but he was dead. And I couldn't bring myself to tell the man, and so I just kept looking.

Song of the Week: Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Today my lecturer said elephants instead of eloquence which made my day.

It was a rainy drizzly day, which postponed the run I planned, although I might head out for a short one before the sun sets (8.57pm) We shall see.

Sometimes I find it difficult to write in this space, because I feel like what I write needs to matter. And then I second-guess and strike out and edit and consign a post to the ever growing draft pile, in the hopes that some day it will blossom into something worthy. Ah, worth is so struggle-some. Why should I be worthy? I am just a collection of bones and flesh and blood vessels and strange facts and words (Nelipot, petrichor, tintinnabulation. If you dissected me these words would be wrapped around my organs.) and a little bit of an ocean of love trying to find its place.

I think I will go for that run.

I leave you with the scrap of a longer poem, the scrap I particularly like.

Enter a Cloud (WS Graham)

Gently disintegrate me
Said nothing at all.
Is there still time to say
Said I myself lying
In a bower of bramble
Into which I have fallen.
Look through my eyes up
At blue with not anything
We could have ever arranged
Slowly taking place.
Above the spires of the fox
Gloves and above the bracken
Tops with their young heads
Recognising the wind,
The armies of the empty
Blue press me further
Into Zennor Hill.
If I half-close my eyes
The spiked light leaps in
And I am here as near
Happy as I will get
In the sailing afternoon.

One of my favourite things to do in Grandma's house is flip through the stacks and stacks of photographs she has in the cupboard behind the sofa. She has photos from the time where I still looked like a boy, with feathery, short hair that refused to grow past my eyes for the longest time, and instead stayed sticking up in odd places. She has photos from when my sister was the only child in our family, rosy cheeked, bright eyed, and with the tendency to smile with just her two front teeth showing. She has photos of my Mum's graduation, and my Aunt's travels in Australia, and my Dad and Mum in university, and their wedding day.

The photos of their wedding are so beautiful. Mum looks so radiant and gentle and beautiful, and Dad looks at her with such pride that my heart melts. I still find their love story such a miracle - a man from Singapore and a woman from England met at a Ceilidh University in Strathclyde...

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Mean Bean Challenge Day 5

The Tearfund Mean Bean Challenge is 5 days of eating what many people in the throws of food poverty eat daily - rice and beans, to stand in solidarity with the hungry and say 'You are not forgotten', as well as to raise money for Tearfunds efforts to relieve food poverty.

On the fifth day...You awaken with a feeling of detachment; you are calm and godlike. - Jean Rhys, Hunger

I woke up so excited for my last ever mean bean challenge breakfast - after this, plain porridge no more! Honestly, I didn't feel hungry for it. My stomach has begun to get used to patience and paltry portions - today as I was eating my normal sized breakfast, I had to really struggle to finish it, delicious as it was.

I had lunch with Beth, who is also taking the challenge. When I got back to College, after doing a little work I decided to do something I'd been putting off all week. Usually I go for 3 - 4 runs per week, but with the mean bean challenge I hadn't been for any. Not because I was exhausted (at least not all the time) but simply because I didn't have the usual afternoon energy buzz that makes me want to bound and leap and run. I decided to see how running would feel like on not enough a day, and so I decided to set out on my shorter route, which usually takes 40 minutes, rather than the long 70 minute one.

The run started well, although I got  slight headache five minutes in, but that didn't stop my legs from moving. Oddly, I felt as if I was going quite quickly. My mouth tasted really salty - that sour hunger taste. But other than that, I didn't feel quite as tired as I anticipated. In fact, I got the 'running-numbness' (which is what I call the stage in the run that happens about 30 minutes through, where all tiredness stops and your feet just move mechanically and you just move through the world effortlessly) much quicker than usual - about 10 minutes in.

When I got back, I checked my time - and I'd run 5 minutes faster than usual! It was really odd. Probably adrenaline.

I met up with David, Neil and Beth for the final dinner, and felt so fortunate to have all of them going through the challenge with me. Sean had been doing it as well, but he did three very intense days rather than 5 uncomfortable days. Most of us were averaging about 1000 calories a day, well below the 2100 calories the average person needs to live a healthy active life (source) Sean had gone down to 450 calories a day. He really really pushed himself to experience what someone with barely enough to survive would eat, and I'm glad he stopped after three days because I thnk longer than that would have been dangerously unhealthy.

During Cell Group that night, we read out Psalm 145 in a circle, and when it came to me, I read verse 15 which goes 'The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.'

Oh God, you give the right words to remind us of your faithfulness.

Dear Father,

You look after the orphan and the widow and the hungry, You are close to the broken hearted. Thank You for teaching me and guiding me this week. Thank You for giving me the love and support of people around me. Please help me not forget to pray for your people who especially need Your presence, help me not become so comfortable in my culture and my lifestyle that I forget Your for people near and far. Dull my pride and my selfishness and my slothfulness and give me Your heart for Your people.
Lord, bless those whose hearts have been moved by the suffering in this world and those who seek to carry on Your work of feeding the hungry. Thank You for Tearfund's work, that You've given the blessing of service to this organisation and that they are doing such wonderful things in Your name.

In a week where I haven't had as much food as normal, you have fed me so much in other ways Lord, your presence has sustained me and my cup overflows with joy to be in your presence.


Click here if you want to give to Tearfund's efforts to relieve food poverty.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Mean Bean Challenge Day 4, punting and puppies

The Tearfund Mean Bean Challenge is 5 days of eating what many people in the throws of food poverty eat daily - rice and beans, to stand in solidarity with the hungry and say 'You are not forgotten', as well as to raise money for Tearfunds efforts to relieve food poverty.

On the fourth, one starts crying very easily... - Jean Rhys, Hunger

Fortunately, Jean Rhys is wrong. Today I was the furthest from crying all week, unless it was from sheer beauty and happiness. I had to wolf down breakfast before rushing to my supervision - and it is difficult to eat sticky, bland porridge quickly, but I was hungry. In the night, my tummy growled so loudly that it woke me up!

Rosa, Beth, Alex, Mariella and I went punting after lectures, and M, A and I got there early, and so we sat in the sun, listening to Dandelions by the Black Atlantic and watching the punts go by. Today is supposed to be the swan song of this faux summer we've been having, and it didn't disappoint - brilliant blue skies, sun and 23 degree weather.

When Rosa and Beth arrived, we all got into a punt named 'Gruff'. Beth explained that all Trinity's punts have names associated with 'tri', and so we tried to figure out how 'Gruff' made sense - my theory was that it was named after the three billy goats gruff! Rosa punted first, and the rest of us lay in the sun as we slid down the river. A curious duck came up to our punt, and Alex and Mariella had a try at punting too. On the way back up the river, I had a go at punting, which is harder than it looks - that stick is so long! And the steering still confuses me, which resulted in our punt following a rather zig-zaggy pattern. Nearing the end I got the hang of it a little more, and it's immense fun.

Probably the most eventful thing that happened in that lazy dazy punt ride was about three quarters of the way through. It was quite a hot day, and the water looked so inviting and cool, and Rosa had been saying all the while how much she just wished she could jump into the water. At one point, while I was trying to turn the punt round after it had gotten pretty much horizontal, I felt the boat shift, and saw Rosa propel herself off the punt into the water with the most almighty splash!

She swam around for a little before getting back into the punt, and the people on the bank and in boats passing by were thoroughly amused.

 After punting they got ice creams and strawberries and biscuits, and we sat on the bank for a small picnic. I had my rice and beans of course, and it was probably the most romantic rice and beans meal I've had this week. Right beside us was a fellow and two students having a supervision out in the sun on the river bank - only in Cambridge...

After I got back to college, I delivered my new hard disk to the IT support, and then cycled down to Magdelene College because there were puppies there for the afternoon, and students could go in and play with them. It was so wonderful to just sit and stroke a happy, trusting creature. I had an Iyengar Yoga class before my dinner, which I ate while looking over the day's happy photos. Even when you're hungry, your days can still be full of sunshine and blessing, and it reminded me that for the hungry, whilst it is important that we help them and think of them and the injustice that is hunger, at the same time it isn't fair to pity them as I'm very wont to do. Their lives are special and meaningful and have sunshine days too, and the love around you, from friends and from God as He kisses you with His warm sunshine, overcomes any tummy rumblings.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mean Bean Challenge Day 3

The Tearfund Mean Bean Challenge is 5 days of eating what many people in the throws of food poverty eat daily - rice and beans, to stand in solidarity with the hungry and say 'You are not forgotten', as well as to raise money for Tearfunds efforts to relieve food poverty.

On the third day one feels sick - Hunger, Jean Rhys

I've got a pain in my lower ribs, but it's probably from eating while propped in Alex's bed watching 'Much Ado About Nothing' (the second half) and laughing. I introduced her to Tilikum by Benjamin Francis Leftwich, and she introduced me to Honey and the Moon by James Arthur which is on her playlist of melty songs. Playlists remind me of Luk Ching, whose playlist for when I left has stuck with me even now.

Before that we'd walked down into town, after I'd handed in my essay and picked up my new hard drive (hooray!), and bought bananas for when the Mean Bean Challenge is over. Because it is half over, I've been thinking all day how finite this challenge is, and how thankful I am that it is. We walked into a shop that smelled of patchouli, and sold prayer flags and little figurines of Buddha and Ganesh and finger puppets and singing bowls. Singing bowls remind me of the shop that Emily and I would go to after ballet when it was still in Bukit Timah Plaza that sold little waterfalls, which was owned by a nice man and woman who first taught me about singing bowls. In the shop today there were two lovely coats that had paisley and birds and flowers printed on, which we both covet but are too poor to buy.

Today I've felt less hungry than yesterday or the day before that. Perhaps my body is adjusting to hunger. I also couldn't taste hunger, which sounds strange but it's true. Hunger has a taste. It's thick and sour and even though I'm drinking a lot more water than usual, it settles on my tongue and the roof of my mouth like a fog. It was especially present yesterday and Monday but today it wasn't noticeably there.

In my essay I wrote 'cacao phonic' rather than 'cacophonic'. I do miss chocolate, and all sweet stuff. I did some avid googling of recipes to voyeuristically experience the joy of creating food, and now have a cinnamon roll recipe tucked up my sleeve to be wielded mercilessly when the opportunity arises.

Odd but true observation: The charming adage 'Beans, beans, good for the heart, the more you eat, the more you...' is actually not true, at least when you're eating beans all day!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mean Bean Challenge Day 2

The Tearfund Mean Bean Challenge is 5 days of eating what many people in the throws of food poverty eat daily - rice and beans, to stand in solidarity with the hungry and say 'You are not forgotten', as well as to raise money for Tearfunds efforts to relieve food poverty.

On the second day you have a bad headache. You feel pugnacious. You argue all day with an invisible and skeptical listener.

I tell you it is not my fault...It happened suddenly, and I have been ill. I had no time to make plans. Can you not see that one needs money to fight? Even with a hundred francs clear one could make plans. - Jean Rhys, Hunger

My prayer for the physically hungry this morning turned into a prayer for the spiritually hungry, because hunger takes so many shapes and forms, and all have the tinge of despair.

I actually measured my breakfast today, and had more than yesterday. Halfway through my breakfast, however, I felt rather sick of plain porridge so I decided to add some coconut sugar and cinnamon but I kept eating it although I knew I had the means of making it taste a lot better. So many people don't have those means.

I keep checking the donation page, and I'm so proud that we've raised £115 so far. £5 is enough to feed a child in Chad for a whole month. So that's almost 2 years worth of food for one child. We want to raise at least £500 pounds as a team.

Our second lecturer didn't show up today, and I stayed quite alert in the first one, perhaps the result of the bigger breakfast. On the way back it was raining, the sort of rain that falls in swirls and makes you blink rapidly, but for once, it was warm rain. I'm prolonging lunch now by looking for a new hard drive (which is a necessity something that would make my life a lot easier now) I worry over the differences of £20 pounds between one hard disk and another, since in my head now that automatically translates to 4 months of food for a child.

I was reading an article for my essay, and within the first two paragraphs the word 'fruit' has appeared twice. Fruit is definitely what I miss most of all. I've been writing down what I will eat when this is over, and a big banana smoothie is top of my list.

At about 5.30pm I discovered I am on my period, which is when I always feel extra hungry. So this makes things a little more difficult. Although on a side note I am just thankful I have my period - women who don't have enough nutrition often lose fertility. Also, random thought - I don't think I've every heard a guy I know say the word period (meaning menstruation as opposed to 'period of time'.)

Whilst dreaming about the Great European Gallivanting Adventure that Nat and I are embarking on in just 30 days time (!!!) I started looking up good food places to go to in London while we're there, and chanced upon Cookies and Scream, which made my tummy growl just from reading the descriptions of their cookies and super cool cookies. I couldn't go on to the brownies and other products, because I was afraid my resolve would crumble! I decided to distract myself with yoga.

Halfway through a vinyasa sequence, I was shaking. Usually Yoga isn't strenuous at all, in fact, I use it on my 'down days' when I don't want to exert myself. It was definitely tough to finish this sequence, and during one of the warrior poses I gave up and sat down to collect my breath before continuing. When the statistics say that the hungry don't have enough food for a healthy, active life, I think I'm beginning to see what they mean.

Dear God, Please give life in the limbs of the hungry today, strengthen their steps as they make it through a day at a time. Lord you once fasted for forty days in the desert, and you know how difficult the experience of hunger is. Thank you for being a God who empathises with our suffering. Thank you for not being so high up in heaven that you don't care about us on earth. Your humanity makes me love You more because in that humanity is an understanding that is so kind.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mean Bean Challenge Day 1

The Tearfund Mean Bean Challenge is 5 days of eating what many people in the throws of food poverty eat daily - rice and beans, to stand in solidarity with the hungry and say 'You are not forgotten', as well as to raise money for Tearfunds efforts to relieve food poverty.

For the first twelve hours one is just astonished [...] nothing to eat... Nothing!... But that's farcical. There must be something one can do. - Jean Rhys, Hunger

My bowl of oatmeal is usually a little different. Chopped apple, almond butter and cinnamon or chocolate and banana... I usually mix things up over the stove. Today however, I woke up and, after prolonging breakfast as late as my rumbling tummy would allow, boiled the kettle, poured it over my oats, and had it plain like that. (As part of the challenge plain porridge is also allowed.)

The porridge stuck to my spoon and my mouth, but I was hungry and so it tasted warm and filling.

For a while.

In about an hour I was hungry. But I busied myself with preparing for my presentation later that day, pumping my bicycle tire, and cycling to lectures earlier than usual.

I yawned more than usual in lectures, but didn't miss anything. Mondays being my longest days, I'd brought along my lunch (black beans and rice) in an ice-cream box. I thought about last night. I'd been trying to figure out what to write as I asked people for Tearfund donations, and decided to look up the statistics for Hunger in the world.

It shattered my heart.

1 in 9 people go to bed hungry, and wake up the next day without enough food for a healthy active life. What really pierced me, however, was the terrible statistic that hunger accounts for 45% of deaths in children under the age of 5 years. I can't imagine being a mother and being unable to fulfil that basic desire to give your child a life. To watch your child literally shrivel away in front of you, and die because it was hungry. That is just completely evil. No mother should have to see something like that, no child should have to die that way.

Reading those statistics gave me such heavy boots. God, why does this happen?

Father, be with all those who are hungry. Be with those whose hunger distracts them, physically pulls them away from you. Oh God, there is so much evil in hunger, because it is a handicap to worship. Please be with all the mothers who lose their children. Please give extra love and strength to the hungry and hurting. You are a good good God, a compassionate God, and your heart breaks to see this, all the time, every day. You never forget or lose sight of the hungry Lord and you promise them an end to suffering in Your Kingdom. Please keep that hope alive in them.

A little silver lining on the gloom of reality is that with this challenge, washing up has become a complete breeze.

Over dinner, I found myself consciously slowing down my chewing, stretching out my meal to last at least 20 minutes, which is apparently how long your brain takes to send signals of satiation to the rest of your body.

As I write this, I'm hungry. Not painfully hungry, but awarefully hungry. And in my awareness, I know I am hungry and not starving, and for that I'm thankful.

Once, when he had been a Four, he had said, just prior to the midday meal at school, “I’m starving.” Immediately he had been taken aside for a brief private lesson in language precision. He was not starving, it was pointed out. He was hungry. No one in the community was starving, had ever been starving, would ever be starving. - Lois Lowry, The Giver

Monday, May 9, 2016

Sweet, sweet spring

The moon was the smallest sliver of pink silver tonight.

This week:

For the first time in a long time I actually reached my running goal of two long runs (about 12km each) and 2 short runs (5-7km each) mostly because of the gorgeous weather we've been having. I've been able to wear my summer dresses and my long sleeved tops have been relegated to the very back of my cupboard.

While running on Saturday down by the river (which is my favourite route), I passed a little girl and her mother. The girl was singing 'I'll never know dear, how much I love you, please don't take my sunshine away.'

The IT department has been so kind and helpful with my laptop woes, especially since I'm not very helpful, having little to no knowledge about the difference between a SSD and a SSHD and a HDD (although with all the googling for a new hard drive I've become better!) Hopefully my laptop will be revived by the end of this new week and I'll be able to have the blessing of skyping my family on a big screen again.

Also coming up in the new week is something I'm half dreading and half desiring. With some others in Just Love, I'll be taking on the 'Mean Bean Challenge' which consists of me eating plain rice and beans (and porridge cooked in water only for breakfast) for 5 days, in solidarity with those who face food poverty. I'll be raising funds (and documenting my experience) and praying and praying and praying. I know it won't be easy, since I love being creative and adventurous with cooking, and I'm also pretty much the world's biggest snacker. I won't be able to do this on my own strength (both physical and mental) and I pray that God will give me the strength and endurance to finish this. I can't believe this is a daily reality for 1 in 9 people in the world since just thinking about it already daunts me. But we shall see we shall see.

Yesterday after my long run, I curled up on the garden bench with dinner and 'The Waves'. It has a structure I didn't expect, lots and lots of just what seems like dialogue but I think is thought. And yet I found myself confronted with heart-aching beauty, not just in words but in the memories they brought back and the people they called to my mind (not through association particularly but more by emotion)

On Wednesday I also spent my evening curled up, in Alex's room as we watched the first half of 'Much Ado About Nothing', with David Tennant as Benedict and Catherine Tate as Beatrice, and it was hilarious. Part 2 (after the intermission) will be hopefully this Wednesday!

Today I had a picnic with the church girls before service begun, which will hopefully happen again if the sun keeps smiling on us like this.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Today I woke up and the sky was clear. My sheets were comfortably crumpled, the sort of mess that welcomes and says 'inhabited by a human, imperfect, with skin scent and body indent, like you'.

I did a few handstands because it was that kind of day.

The cycle back from lectures today was more eventful than usual. Whenever the sun is out, people emerge too, and so the streets were crowded and Becky rang her bell furiously as we navigated the crowds. There were a number of close shaves. The continual pinging of the bell struck me as immensely funny for some reason and I kept grinning to myself as I cycled along behind her.

As we went past Sainsburys, I heard the beautiful strident notes of a trumpet, and looked to my left to see a busker, his eyes twinkling, staring right back at me as he played a song on his trumpet. We both smiled, a silent 'thank you' exchanged, me for his music and him for me noticing.

Becky and I stopped a little while after that, realising that Rosa, who'd been behind us when we left, had disappeared. As we scanned the crowds for her, suddenly we hear 'Stop!' and saw a man in a black jacket, clutching a bag, running, with the shouter, in a blue jacket, running after him. We looked at each other - a snatch theft! Right in front of us! Blue jacket got his bag back, but we saw no sign of black jacket after that.

After lunch I went to get my faulty laptop checked out by the IT support team. Apparently it's a hard disk problem, which explains the strange clicking noise it's been making. Bummer. The next couple of hours progressed from trying to fix it, with the help of Dad, to calling the Lenovo help desk to see if they could fix it and discovering that would mean sending the laptop to Germany which would take at least a month, to settling into a state of mourning for my laptop.

I went for a run, just a short one because my calves are sore, but long enough to release head tension.

My amazon package of coconut sugar and 'The Waves' arrived, which brightened things up a little, and has a quote that describes how I feel some of the time:

'I am the foam that sweeps and fills the uttermost rims of the rocks with whiteness; I am also a girl, here in this room.'

Other times I feel a bit like a wet piece of wool but that is besides the point.