Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Orientation - Day One

I'm starting to get lazy. Blogging can be such a joyful and meaningful experience at times, and at others... it just feels like a chore. Presently, it's somewhere in between sentimental and tedious.
I've been absolutely DRAINED over the past week because of various guests from Singapore. Last Saturday (think it was the 16/2/08), Aunty Chor Keng and Nicole arrived in Melbourne and stayed over at our place for the weekend. It was a pleasure having them over.. I find it rather entertaining to entertain both Nicole and her mum.
I thought that Nicole would be sorta stuck up because she's from RJ, and my suspicions were confirmed when she totally ignored me when she walked into the house -.-" But she turned out nicer than i had thought after i got to know her more. I can only remember her searching for apartments to rent and recommending songs for me to download (Did i say "download" ???), while i was scanning pages from the Business Management textbook to prepare for my tuition lesson. Oh yea, Nic's kindda allergic to dairy products and cooking oil (YES, cooking oil), so she had a HUGE pot of vegetables for dinner every night. haha! That girl can REALLY eat. She gobbled down at least 5 kilos of vegetables in that HUGE pot. I said that i'd make her a horse made outta vegetables for dinner some day.
Well, the next party that occupied my sister's room were my beloved cousins from Singapore. John, Joel and their parents. I was rather excited to have them here because they're sorta the first of my family to see my house and to have a feel of our lifestyle here in Australia.

We went up to the Dandenongs last Wednesday, visited a infamous tea, coffee and chocolate shop before heading up to Pies In The Sky for lunch! haha! I must say that the pie was absolutely fabulous! A pity that Nic had to settle for her Peppermint Tea. haha! Oh yea, Joel's Vienna Coffee was a highlight of the day too! One of the best coffees i've ever had. Two shots of coffee and one shot of milk!

After that, we went up to the observatory to catch the sunset.. UNFORTUNATELY, the sky was overcast as it had been for most of that day. Thus, we were unable to see anything except for a dull looking overview of a greyish looking country side, even the city skyline lacked any distinct colour or poise. It was utterly disappointing. Nevertheless, we had a fun time on the Giant Chair! haha! John, Joel and I managed to climb on the top of the chair to take a photo.
On Friday (i think), i accompanied the Pang family to Philip Island where we admired the wonderful scenery at the Nobbies and at the Pyramid rocks. It was a VERY fortunate day because we got to see a Fairy Penguin nestling in a little mound in the ground (it's natural habitat). It was exceptionally adorable! We also got to see a wild porcupine near the Pyramid Rocks! haha! I was exhilarated to see it crawling around looking for grubs to eat. I never expected to see one anywhere else besides the zoo!
Day One of Orientation at Melbourne Uni was pretty good today. Got to meet some new friends in my host group. Ashley (our group leader, a 4th year Nursing student), Matthew, Anna and Jack... i can't remember the names of the rest, but i'll definitely get to know them a whole lot more over the next few days. I kindda failed to develop closer ties with my new friends today because i wanted to catch up with some old friends like Turk, Poland, Tommy, Jin, Jonno, Terrence, Andy, Daz and Tom Wang.

Well, the Host Group consisted of approx 12 pple. We had a short introductory session and played a group knot game, which was rather successful. Then Ashley took us on a tour around Melbourne Uni, which i got nothing out of honestly.. simply because he was talking too softly and there were too many Melbourne High friends along the way that i had to stop to catch up with!

Anyway, Daz, Tommy, Andy, Terrence, Jin and i went down to Desert House along Swanston street for lunch before heading back to Melb Uni for the Student Carnival. There wasn't much to do there really, but we did take some bee photos. haha! I put one a bee costume and did some gay-looking pose along with Tommy and Daz. haha! That was quite cool.. besides, we won some prizes for doing that!

Well, hope tmr will be a more interesting day! :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Vietnam 08

My first uploaded movie on Stage 6.

I hope it works!

I'll be making more of these in the next few days!

Sunday, February 10, 2008


I just wanna extend a personal note of appreciation towards Joce and Adrienne for those very encouraging words. I kindda lost track of the motive of writing songs and poems. I was trying to write a song that would be very entertaining and interesting for the common ear, when what i should've been more concerned with was God's soft prompting deep in my heart. Thanks! :)

I wrote 2 more poems in my first week back from Singapore at Tim's house:

Almighty God

You who make the mountains tremble,
And reveal the heart's inmost desire.
What's holding you back,
O great consuming fire?

I flew Northward and saw,
A church overflowing with love,
Yet lacking passion and desire,
Much like a tamed darkened dove.
I brought a spark of fervor,
In a vain and doubtful hope.
But the dry and arid forest of love,
Quickly quenched my hopeful joke.
Yet your ways are higher than mine,
And your thoughts more wise.
Who am i to question?
Your mercy will always suffice.
Though your church is dry,
And arid the grass may be.
You will bring a revival,
Set it ablaze for all to see!

God &
*about my experience with the church in Singapore.

Dale Stephenson spoke about Evangelism in church today. Basically, he pointed to the fact that Christians usually focus a lot about our walk with Christ, worship, fellowship and being more like Christ. However, we tend to play down the fact that being more Christ-like is to have a passion for lost souls just as Jesus did! Well, as i was prayer at the end of the sermon, God put a person into my mind.. David Phan. A dear friend of mine from Melbourne High. I think God wants me to speak to him about Christ, and so i will. And i'll try inviting him to church next week. Steps of faith.. bold steps of faith..

After church we dropped by Camberwell market just to give Uncle Steven and Aunty Alicia some "morale support". Their little stall was doing pretty well actually. They were selling some old clothes and mainly kid's toys. Amazingly, they managed to sell almost all of their merchandise! It was terribly crowded there. I couldn't find ANYTHING that i would even have an ounce of fancy for! Just the old antiques, flowers, jewelery, plants, wooden pots and gardening tools, etc..

We headed down for lunch at Whitehorse Centro with the growth group members. I had a pretty decent chat with Tim there. He was telling me how the pressure in Year 12 was really getting to him. Well, i won't divulge any personal stuff he shared... but i just wanna pass a note of encouragement to all the Year 12's or Year 11's doing 3/4's, you have to really look forward to something that will de-stress and relax you each week.. The road IS TOUGH AND WEARISOME (i'm not hiding the fact there), but slowly and steady through constant perseverance, pressing on towards that something you're looking forward to each week, it'll blow over in no time!

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1: 2-4

Be Not Far From Me

Like a drying creek,

In the midst of an unceasing drought,
So my soul thirsts for you, O Lord.
Be not far from me.
Though I know you are there,
Rocks of doubt fill these channels.
They block you out so that I can't see you,
Yet I know you are there.
Your mercies are new every morning,
Like the dew on pasture grass.
Its cool sensation renews my faith,
It spurs me to hold on fast.
Come, O Lord, like a rushing wind.
Come, O Lord, with crushing torrents.
Clear these specks that hide your wondrous face.
Quench this desperate thirst and push me on,
That i may gladly run this race.

& zac

Friday, February 08, 2008

Faith-driven Gift

I've been feeling sorta guilty and depressed of late because I been feeling that God has taken his gift of writing songs and poems away from me. I've been re-writing and compiling all the poems i've written into a concise black book. In that process, i began to realise that though the quality of the poems have improved through the years, the frequency that i actually sit down and write has decreased to an even greater extent. I used to write one poem every week, and at times one poem a day, when i first started back in 2004. Then the downward spiral started. I don't even know how many poems i wrote last year, maybe 10 or so. I feel that i've been neglecting this gift God has given me, and now.. i find it hard to write a song or even a poem these days. There's no more inspiration.

Just a few days ago, i attempted to write a song which was just terrible, and i couldn't be bothered finishing it. Goes something like this:

UNTITLED - 4/2/08

I'm not high-soaring
I'm not even flying
I'm just a man who's trying to praise you.
Your love's unfailing
It is new each morning
Who am I that you care so much?

There's no song on my lips
To sing You
There's no tune on my heart
To play you
There's nothing I can do to please You
But I want you to know.
PS. I love you.

Sounds cliche, doesn't it?

Well, i was reading this book called "Where is God when things go wrong?" by John Blanchard which was recommended by Tim, which explores the pivotal question of why God allows "bad" things to happen? Why does he allow innocent people to die due to natural disasters? Why are there disabled children by birth? Why is the entire human history ruled by suffering?

In his book, Blanchard adequately answers these questions. I strongly encourage everyone to read it, it only takes an hour or so. Well, as i was reading it a week ago, something he said really inspired me to write a poem but i had pen and paper then and i was putting it off.. until i actually got my pen and poem book out today and prayed: "God, i'm here. Please don't take this gift away from me. Use me as you will".

Blanchard draws our attention to Job's example. In answering Job's desperate cry for justice, God says:

"Will the one who contends with the Almight correct him?...
Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?"
- Job 40: 1, 8

and through Isaiah He says:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55: 8-9

A Work Of Art

A beautiful world so cruelly flawed,
No wonder many ask: "Where is your God?"
Some eat to their heart's delight,
While many have no food in sight.
Innocent babies die at birth,
As natural disasters ravage the earth.
Homes are swept away by torrents of rain,
Is there an end to all this meaningless pain?
Yet my soul finds great solace,
That Almighty God has His reasons.
He brings times of joy and sorrow, pain and laughter,
All in His time right through the seasons.
Right from the start,
You knew how things were meant to be?
Who am i to question?
Who am i to ask?
O God of love,
O God of me.

+ zac 8/2/08

* inspired by John Blanchard's "Where is God when things go wrong?"

"... although God allows evil and suffering to coexist for a time, and for purposes we can never fully understand, they will one day be eliminated and the problems they produce will be perfectly and permanently solved." - John Blanchard

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Vietnam 08

I was so taken aback by the beauty in the midst of poverty in Vietnam that i was compelled to express my emotions in writing. I wrote each night and day about my wonderful experiences so that every drop of my enlightenment might be safely sealed. I wrote also in a hope that others might get something out of my experiences in that land of ravishing beauty. Here's what i wrote:

Day 1
The Tiger Airways flight was much better than i had expected for a budget airline. The plane was like a time machine that flung us back into the vast continuum of time - the shabby-looking runway, the immigration booths made of cardboard, the soldiers in the airport dressed in dirty green robes and caps which made them look like walking cucumbers. The cab ride from the airport to the city of Hanoi was an unforgettable one. The unusually long wait for the baggage claim sparked off my frustration at the inefficiencies of this communist country. But it was what happened after that that pushed me into a raging frenzy; a level of anger and hatred that i've never EVER experienced in my entire life! As we walked out of the arrival bay, I caught sight of a perverse demon in the disguise of a scummy-looking Vietnamese man who was totally checking my sister out from head to toe as she walked past him. The lust that engulfed his eyes and the sudden exuberance that overwhelmed his facial expression, made my blood boil instantaneously. He even made some wolf-whistling noises. It was like a barrel of kerosene the size of the entire Grand Canyon being poured over the flame of frustration already lingering in my heart. Utterly disgusted, I foolishly swore at him; using a word that I would never have used: "Fuck". Well, that was how pissed I was. I don't know why but I noticed that Vietnamese have a knack for staring at people. Everyone we walked past seemed to be unable to resist the urge to stare at us, as though there was something extremely weird or unusual about us.

As I stood outside the tailoring shop, I looked around on the streets and saw that Vietnam was actually very beautiful. How could the hell that I picture last night undergo such a transformation in just these few hours of sleep? I began to appreciate the environment. It was very hazy and the air was heavily polluted by the 3 million of motorcycles that swarmed the streets, literally like bees in a beehive. However, I liked the way everyone was getting along just fine. I saw many women carrying long wooden poles over their shoulders with wooden baskets which suspended on each end. These baskets would contain whatever they were selling. Some women sold mandarins and bananas, while others sold fresh prawns and turnips. Then there were other "merchants" selling flowers from their bicycles. I found these "merchants" very intriguing. I guess it was a very unique and unusual way of conducting sales. My dad bought some mandarins, and i must say that they were FLAWLESS; remarkably and unexpectedly delicious!

The other thing that hit the nail on my head was when we went on the 2 hour "cyclo ride. Cyclo's are similar to trishaws only that the passengers are now seated in the front while the bicycle riders are pedaling from the back. It was an extremely exciting and exhilarating experience roaming the streets of such a historically renowned city, rich and saturated with centuries of culture and tradition. It was thrilling to actually experience the environment that i had read so much about in the numerous literary books in our "devilishly high society". Just as i had come to a realisation that Vietnam was actually a beautiful place in the daytime, i began to truly admire the Vietnamese people. As we walked and cycled through the district known as "old town", I couldn't help but feel free from all the Mc Donald's, Starbucks, Cotton On's, Hang Ten's and Giodarno's that seem to permeate our every shopping experience! The fashion shops along the roads all had very different and unique Viet names. They all sold different kinds of clothing. the fresh poultry was a sight to behold! Eels and crabs in little containers, live chicken waiting to be slaughtered and DOGS! (I'll let my sister describe how they're eaten in her blog).
I was filled with inexpressible awe and admiration because though these people were living in the depths of crippling poverty with an average salary of $40/month, their eyes revealed a true sense of dignity and integrity. As i looked into their eyes I saw that there was no sense of phoniness or hypocrisy. They had nothing to hide. Their clothes were dirty and worn out. They didn't need make-up to exemplify the natural beauty which was prevalent on each face. It was the honest humility on their faces that made their appeal irresistible.

I wanted to throw a whole heap of cash on each poor soul. As they looked at me, they weren't covetous or envious of me, they were truly conent with what they had! Although the drivers on the roads were always in a rush and they always seem to slam on their horns incessantly, they never fail to give way to one another. The "honk" isn't a way to express their anger or disgust at another driver (as our society regards it), instead, it serves as a warning to other drivers of their presence in these crowded roads and to plead with them to make way. By the way, there aren't many traffic lights in Hanoi, even in the city areas. Despite that, the vehicles are able to travel in a continuous flow, giving way to each other based on grace and good-will. It is this humility within the Vietnamese which i truly find pleasure in.

The cyclo rider behind me gladly showed me his mobile phone. It was old and damaged, but he was pleased with it. I couldn't help but notice that almost everything he said involved prices. In our conversations, he would never fail to notify me of the price of the cameras or soft toys in the shops that we passed by. I found it saddening how such a humble and harmonious community was still driven and ruled by the same system that governs our "devilish high society" - The Economy. It was what I thought i could finally get away from - all those designer clothes, advertisements, interesting gadgets and toys that we constantly long to get our hands on! Its such an irony, such a PARADOX that the comfort and luxury we constantly seek inevitably corrupts our character and destroys our soul, making us merely human shells ruled by selfish ambition, devoid of unconditional love, patience and mercy.

God has really spoken to me through these two days. I came into Vietnam with an angry and frustrated heart, burning with fury and dying for revenge. However, the Lord has shown me that it can be more rewarding to forgive than to seek vengeance; to be humble amidst a crowd seeking phoniness and to show love to a society that so desperately needs it.

"Be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else." - 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Day 2
Crossing the roads of Hanoi was a thrilling experience. Most roads don't have traffic lights. Motorcyclists just forced their way through cross junctions and circuses by putting their bodies in the line of on-coming traffic. Amazingly, the on-coming vehicles would find some way of swerving and maneuvering around these vehicles! I remember filtering through 4 lanes on an extremely busy road and having to watch helplessly as an aggressive fleet of motorbikes swerved around us at dangerously fast speeds! The huge volumes of adrenaline that pumped through my veins made this experience an exciting one. Each time we crossed the road was a risk worth taking. I wish i could ride a motorcycle in Hanoi! :)

Day 3
We travelled 2 hours from Hanoi to Nam Dinh today. I'm currently in what Duc (our tour guide) calls the "biggest" hotel in Nam Dinh. He likes to refer to the social classes as the "poor", the "rich people", and the "stylish people". we would be classified as "rich people". I feel like one of those stuck up rich men we so often see on TV shows that only eat food at the highest quality, sleep in five-star hotels and expect to be served hand and foot by the locals. Though most may think otherwise, i reckon its a terrible feeling. I wanna put on some grubby clothes, go out into the streets and experience what it really feels like living in semi-poverty instead of sitting in these high-class restaurants having set meals while people just outside are eating snails by the road side! As I was having dinner yesterday, I wondered how the waiter (a local) felt. He was dressed decently in a spiffy shirt and nice-looking pants. But I knew that on an off-day he would be dressed like one of his fellow countrymen, eating snails with his mates just a few streets away instead of waiting on pompous "rich men" such as myself.

Day 5
I felt tired and constipated just a few moments ago. even the nastiest of bombs - the Fat Boy and the Little Man - didn't do enough to destroy the horrid Japanese forces that held my large intestines hostage. I had to release a banana bomb and a napalm strike before they finally surrendered. I feel much better now, but I've still got a lingering flu. I was too sick and fatigued on Day 4 to express my sentiments in writing, but i shall pen down whatever i recall now. We got on a terribly long car ride down to Ha Long Bay where we got on a boat which took us to a sea cave. According to Duc, Ha Long Bay is home to more than a 100 little islands. However, I reckon they look like huge chunks of rocks jutting out of the sea like mini-mountains. The view from the boat was a sight to behold. It's truly a humbly experience. The sheer size of these mini-mountains dwarfed me and made me as insignificant as a flea. I could do nothing but to sit on the upper deck of the boat as the cool sea breeze brushed over my hair, admiring the majestic power of the Lord and the beauty of his handiwork.

Later that night, we got driven back to Hanoi city. Along the way, we stopped by some pottery villages. It wasn't the authenticity nor the beauty of the pottery that struck me. Rather, it was the villagers there that caught my attention. As we drove by these 3 young village girls, they were filled with so much excitement that they started jumping and laughing to themselves. So we got off the car to take a few pictures wit them. I could see the humility and meekness on their impoverished faces. That really melted my insides and made me completely vulnerable to them. Their lovely smiles rubbed off the poverty that hid their natural beauty on their faces. I looked around and saw acres and acres of vast rice fields. What a beautiful sight! Deep down inside, I wished i could trade lives with one of the villagers there. I'm willing to trade the luxuries of life for a simple one where farming is the local occupation, where everyone in the village knows everyone else, where beauty isn't corrupted by superficial make-up and phony behaviour, but rather by the humility of one's soul. As the saying goes, "the eye is the window to one's soul". As i looked into each of the girl's eyes, there was no superficiality in them, only true beauty.

Day 6

Sapa at Night

I'm in Sapa now. The train ride up from Hanoi was better than i expected. The 4 of us were given a tiny room, about 2m by 3m. It was cramped by surprisingly comfortable. A van picked us up from the train station at Lao Cai and took us on an hour ride up to Sapa. When I got out of the van and looked around at the mountain ranges of Sapa, I couldn't breathe because the exquisite beauty of the scenery literally took my breath away. The balcony of the hotel overlooked one side of a lush green mountain range, there were many rice terraces and roads which dotted the majestic mountain side. Just metres away was the local town. The buildings blended in so well with the mountain range such that these man-made structures were in-one with the environment! The radiant orange rays of the sun was a crucial factor in adding a spectacular warm hue to the greenery of the mountain which made the balcony view absolutely extraordinarily mind-blowing! I felt as though i was living in a post card :)

We took a short stroll into the local village just then. There were cute tribal girls dressed in their traditional black dresses who would come up to you and pester you to buy some of their souvenirs which they held in their hands. The smiles on their innocent faces and their uniquely brown hair made my heart melt away. I was willing to buy up all their merchandise if i had the money (and if my mum would let me x.x" ) The only ugly side to their being, though not entirely to their fault, is their money-mindedness. The only reason they'll come up to you and talk to you is in the hope that you'll buy something from them.
Poverty: the tarnisher and the former of beauty. What an irony!

We went for a 5 hour trek into the rice fields in the mountain ranges to visit the homes of the tribal people living in that area. 4 tribal girls immediately followed us the moment we stepped out of the hotel. Kide (our tour guide) told us that they would follow us along our long journey and then attempt to sell us some of their hand-made merchandise at the end of the trip. He said said that it wasn't good to buy from them because it would only encourage them to bug tourists rather than to go to school. At that point, i made up my mind not to buy anything. Until i actually spoke to the girls. I can only remember two of them: Chi and Chiu. Their command of the English language was very limited, but they were willing to tell me about their way of life when i asked. How many siblings they had. Where they went to school. What they did in their spare time.. etc.

It was such a rewarding experience to hear from these tribal girls first hand. They were so joyful, light-hearted and meek. Jerusha was having trouble climbing down the steep mountains tracks and she even fell into a watery rice terrace! loL! I was touched when Chi rushed to her aid and accompanied her through the rest of the journey. Midway through, they disappeared into the bushes. But they reappeared soon after and gave us each a horse made of plants and seeds that they had just plucked. That really touched me... ahh!!! A local girl made me a horse! I've still got it, and i'll be keeping it for a long time :) These girls are amazingly nimble despite their small stature. They were able to scale high mounds that i was finding trouble climbing! Chiu and i were having this little balancing competition on the edge of the rice terraces... yea, she ran swiftly and steadily on the narrow edge while i stumbled slowly behind her -.-""" She even laughed at me! haha! I'll always remember Chiu.

That's Chiu

Hope you were inspired the pictures! :)