Category Archives: New Worlds

Crossing cultures, forming new habits

Understanding my Circle

Last night, a friend shared about feeling that making friends online was like taking fast food. Things may be fresh for a while, but won’t last for long. It caused me to ponder the depth of relationships in my life, and whether there is any correlation between depth and source of friendship. While not very scientific, I decided to do a simple classification of people on my contact list.

If the sum of my relationships is who I am, we can see that church forms a critical part of my identity. Though I do not have any concrete data of this at the moment, I can testify that the depth of the relationships with people in the church would definitely be deeper than those formed outside. The church to some may just be a gathering of individuals, but to me it is truly a family. It is my church, my life.

The yellow portion of the chart consists of people whom I met through other structures of society. Stephen Covey talks about this in his book The Speed of Trust as Organizational and Societal trust. Most of these people I met in school, university, through social meetings (e.g. with the Cambodian community in Canberra), and through other friends.

The red portion is something I’ve been thinking about since yesterday. It consists of people whom I wouldn’t know if not for the internet. These include friends made on Couchsurfing during my time in China whose contact I’ve chosen to retain, people from meetup groups that I’ve attended, and even a friend whom I met in an online game and eventually met up with when I visited that city. The longest friendship in this category spans about 10 years—a friend whom I met on IRC.

The purple group of friends are probably the most interesting, as they were made in the most natural of situations, though requiring me to take a step out of my comfort zone to talk with them. These include a solar engineer I chatted with while on a bus in Canberra 5+ years ago, a Spanish family I helped navigate the train in Singapore, people I sat nearby in restaurants, etc. It is a pity that I didn’t maintain contact with some of the people I chatted with in parks in China.

Of course, family will always be family, and as the saying goes, blood is thicker than water.

This is the first time I’ve done an analysis on the relationships in my life, and I think the only surprising thing was the last segment of seemingly “random” friends whom I made. What surprised me was the number of such friends, given my inherently introverted nature. I guess I’ve come a long way :). What I love most about this way of making friends is that chances are that these people are from a different circle compared to the people whom I already know. These people have given me diverse windows to the big world out there.

It would definitely be great if I could reach into the recesses of my memory and increase the data set to include people whom I’ve stopped contact with, and more data such as date of first contact, venue, specific context, depth of relationship, frequency of contact, length of each contact, etc.

All in all, I am thankful for everyone in my life. Whether you are here for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, every single person I had the privilege of knowing is special in my eyes. There will always be those who I passed by, people I may never have a chance to meet again, such as an elderly man scavenging for food in a dustbin near a bus stop in Xiamen, or a middle school teacher I talked with at People’s Park, Chengdu. Perhaps one day I may see a reason for meeting these people.

2011年10月中国之行的记忆

时间似箭。不知不觉,这30天的中国之行这样就结束了。我没想到,我回到新加坡没12个小时,我就会开始想念中国。即使我现在坐在我自己的房间里,面对我自己熟悉的电脑,我心里有种陌生的感觉。我每次去中国,似乎去见了我爱的人。每一次分离都比上一次要更难承担。我的朋友说“回到新加坡 感觉到陌生?说明你对那个地方不是很有感情”。可能我的朋友说的对。可能我真的渐渐把我的心留在中国了。

这次的中国之行我很感恩,很满足。我心里觉得神在补还蝗虫所吃过的那些年。

即使我没完成我所想要做的,我是觉得很满足,因为我觉得收获也挺多。在这月我看到很多地方,感触到很多不同的情景,丰富了我的生活经验不少。

10月23日:到了厦门高崎机场,见了我的朋友,我们就一起去吃了饭然后往他的家去休息。这是我第一次过了海沧大桥,过桥给了我一种在飞翔的感觉。这好像是我第一次住了一段时间在中国的农村,留下的印象还是比较好的。即使农村不算很发达,交通也没那么方便,但农村就有一种大家庭的感觉。家里这时有三个小孩子,在接下去的一个月会给我不少带孩子的经历。

10月24日:我今天按了我朋友的建议,去了【轮渡星巴克】用他们的设备。没想到,我果然在另一个桌子看到了一对聋哑的男女朋友。几个月前,我心里有个想法,就是要去学手语。可能这次就是神给我第一次跟聋哑人接触,也是让我稍微地理解了他们。男的是厦门人,女的是重庆人,而他们曾经在北京彼此认识了。他们相识了四年,走了不短的路。这一天男的带了我们一起去鼓浪屿玩。男的喜欢照相,女的呢,自然就喜欢摆姿势让男友照。我看了他们俩这样,也觉得他们很幸福。看着他们一天的生活,我可以看出他们确实学会了克服很多很多困难,在社会里过日子。对于婚姻的事呢,我就不敢问,但我给他们一份祝福,希望他们不会让他们的情况影响到寻求美丽的未来。

10月27日:今天下午去了传说中美丽的【厦大校园】,在芙蓉湖边有一位聋哑人在乞求爱心捐款。我给了他一点钱,留下了他的电话号码,安排下一天跟他学点手语。今天也跟一位法律系和社工系的朋友碰面。我觉得在中国大学的网络论坛上认识朋友的这个方法还挺不错的。半天的时间就交了两位朋友,呵呵。

11月3日:我来中国之前想做的一项就是学习笛子。到现在还没找到一个笛子的老师,我开始有点慌了。我给几家琴行打了电话,简单理解了他们的价位,但心里宁愿跟一位学生学。可能我觉得校园就有一种气氛,学生也不会太关注钱而教我。所以我决定去厦大的校园登广告。去了艺术学院,我看到那边的墙壁都比较干净,就心里有点紧张,不知道是否艺术学院的学生不喜欢贴广告?因为时间不多,我抓紧时间,不想那么多,就贴了几张A5的广告。我给了自己时限,如果星期六睡觉前还没有人联系我,我就会去琴行学习了。我的朋友帮我在厦门小鱼网和厦大的论坛上转帖了我的广告。

11月5日至13日:一位厦大笛子专业的大三学生联系了我,我就同意了跟她碰面去买笛子,安排接下去的课程时间。我心里很感恩,这么快就找到了一位合适的老师。我没想到的就是下一周的笛子速成会多么痛苦。这一周,我几乎每天都练了几个小时的笛子,上了两个小时的课。我的老师用心在这一周的短时间内教了我吹笛子的基本技巧,别的就留给我自己回家后去练了。可能因为我之前学过黑管,所以这次的入门比较快。拥有厦大美丽的环境、蹦蹦跳跳的笛子声音、甚至神的同在,这些日子过得最幸福的。厦大给我留下来最深刻的印象的地方包括【芙蓉湖】、【上弦场】、【情人谷】。啊,我真喜欢校园的气氛!

11月14日:离开厦门的日子即将来临了,我得继续我的行程往上海走。我今天花了大部分的时间给我的笛子老师和给我提供住宿的朋友写了信。即使我是IT毕业的,我还是喜欢写(读:打)书信给朋友。可能我就是觉得透过书信传达意念比较有意思。

11月15日:我在春秋旅社的网上订了接下去跟家庭去黄山的行程。我现在知道在中国旅行还是比较简单安排的。国内的旅行社一般的安排也是可以的。我前几周费了这么多劲去思考各个旅行团,终于选择了报春秋的团。晚上我跟我的朋友一起享受了最后的晚餐,晚餐后把行李打包好,预备下一天的行程。

11月16日:抵达了上海浦东机场,我上了地铁往市区的方向去。不料行程真麻烦,中间得换车,到了南京西路站后才发现地铁站有些台阶没有坡道,需要把行李台上台阶真麻烦!我一定会记住以后从浦东机场还是不要乘地铁比较好。到了市区我跟我的家庭在酒店里汇合。我们下午从南京西路站走到了南京东路站。路上的空气真的太差了,整个步行街都充满浓浓的烟味!晚上我们去了外滩,这也是我第一次在修改外滩后去了那边。晚上下了阵雨,外滩的人也不多。今天在地铁上,有一位女生给我伯伯让个座了。在中国看到这样的场景让我微笑了,因为我知道有些中国人还是有人情的。

11月17日:今天我们去了七宝老街一天,感觉还是比较累的。傍晚跟我的表姐和她的男朋友吃了晚餐。明天就要去黄山了!

11月18日:早上6点30分,我们在南京路上的国际饭店跟团队集合,上了车意味着6个小时的路程。到了黄山的【情人谷】,天还在下雨。说实话,我觉得厦大的情人谷比黄山的情人谷的感觉好多了。可能因为天气的原因而让我产生了这样的感想。即使【情人谷】有一些美景,我没心情在雨里用我的相机。在晚上,我们入住了酒店后,我和我的家庭就去了黄山市黄山区的市区。

11月19日:大日子到了!按昨晚的天气预报,今天可以观日出的概率低于40%,所以我们睡到晚一点,吃了丰富的早餐才开始往【黄山风景区】去。我们今天一整天都在爬山,所以我们都预备了充足的必用品–水、外套等。感谢神我们在黄山风景区的时候,天气转晴了,雨衣可以留在包里,相机也可以拿出来用。黄山的风景的确是挺精彩的,没想到,甚至让我爸妈考虑到明年三月份再来一趟!我们不仅碰到了晴天,甚至在足底下可以观赏漂亮的云海。据导游,这样的情形在每年只出现在52天。离开了黄山风景区后,我们入住了酒店后,导游就带我们到【屯溪老街】。我自己觉得这里没什么多看,就吃点晚餐就回到了酒店。晚上团队里的一些人选择了观看《徽韵》多媒体戏剧。这戏剧实在太精彩了,如果我以后再来黄山肯定要跑【香茗大剧院】一趟来看《徽韵》这个节目!

11月20日:早上我们去了【呈坎】,江南第一村。这个乡村的感觉也挺不错。我们的当地讲解导看上去没有15岁,但真会说话呢!下午就返回了上海。

11月21日:我们跟了酒店里的苏州一日游,参观了苏州的【园林】和别的地方。总共我们大概去了5个地方,时间非常紧张,我们从一个景点跑到了下一个景点。的确不是我理想的旅游。

11月22日:一个月在中国的时间这样就结束了。今天午餐时间我的朋友给我介绍了她的同事,让我感到很荣幸可以认识这么优秀的一个人。下午四点我从上海浦东机场上课开往北京的飞机。我买了这个飞机票去新加坡因为那时国航的这个在北京转机的飞机票是最便宜的。我也认为可以在国家的首都花点时间是不错的。没想到,我在北京的五个小时都很郁闷因为我没出航空楼,而北京机场T3的候机楼十分安静!好多店都关了,餐厅都没什么人。晚上11点30分就上了回新加坡的飞机。

经过一次又一次的思考,我终于概括了我找伴侣的三个基本条件:
一、爱神。圣经里最大的诫命说:你要尽心、尽性、尽意爱主--你的神…其次也相仿,就是要爱人如己。这两条诫命是律法和先知一切道理的总纲。【马太福音二十二章37-40节】。对我而言这是一个比较大的概念。简单说,我们俩必有同样的信仰、世界观和价值观,而必须跟我们的主有个真实有活力的关系。人本身是主观的,如果两个人没有同一个客观的思想观念,他们怎么共同做出将来的重要的决定,走向同一个未来?
二、爱中国。在一个基本的层次,这是针对中国人的一颗爱心。我希望把中国当作我的家园。如果她不接受中国为家,那我们会很难一起服侍我们周围的人。
三、不言而喻,她必须爱我。我认为夫妻之间的爱是情和理合并起来的。拥有情感但没有坚决的爱的决定,这个关系就会跟着感情的沉浮漂流。没有情感,两个人为何考虑到婚姻?何不当寝室友就好了吗?

到了这个年龄段我的心里有时会孤独,但我都会不断提醒自己神一定会在正确的时机给我供应一个伴侣。C.S. Lewis 说:

Being in love (情) is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling… Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go… But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense (理) — love as distinct from “being in love” — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God… “Being in love” (情) first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love (理) enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

在这整个旅程,我很感恩神给我供应和开道路,让我认识了这么多新朋友和经历新的情景。我迫不及待下次的中国游。

现在回到了新加坡,我得开始做心理准备去上班。明年的新年,我会不会有机会再次跟我父母去中国?

My First Time at a Khmer Wedding

Yesterday I had my first opportunity to witness a Khmer wedding – that of two good friends whom I met in Australia. Actually it wasn’t a pure Khmer wedding but mixed with Christian elements.

There were two parts to it – morning and evening. The morning part started at 7am and went till about 12pm. This comprised of all the ceremonial elements like the exchange of vows, etc. An element in a traditional Khmer wedding is that the bride will wash the feet of the groom, but in my friends’ case the groom first washed the feet of the bride, and then the bride washed the feet of the groom, to symbolise an equal standing. The bride and groom went through many costumes (maybe about 7) which were really elaborate.

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