Grandma: 7 January 1923 -24 November 2015

They say that when you look back on life, it is the little things that you’ll remember and cherish. I agree for it is indeed the little things about Grandma that put a smile on my face and gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. To me, Grandma embodied warmth, kindness, and happiness.  

I remember sitting on her lap when I was around 5 years old and playing with grandma like granddaughters do: rubbing her skin, measuring her arms against mine and overall just curiously playing with her whilst listening to childhood stories. Grandma always had time for her grandchildren and stories to tell.

I remember spending Sundays at Grandma’s for it was when family would gather at her house for lunch. The house would be buzzing with activity and food more than one could possibly eat. She would sit there beaming and smiling drinking her coconut juice and having a comment for each and everyone. I always loved hearing her comments. She was a lady truly unlike anyone I know. She was our pillar and our centre.

Strong, sharp and loving; Grandma I love you. We all love you. Although you are no longer physically here with us, you will remain forever in our hearts and nothing can take away our love. Thank you for being such a wonderful Grandma. Thank you for being our inspiration. You were the best.

One Step at a time

Birthdays always make you feel a little bit older even though it’s something that happens every minute and every second. You get older with every increment of time.  Looking back on my almost four decades of existence, I realize now that many times I haven’t always been the most pleasant person or the nicest person.   I did things, said things or acted in ways I now regret, but can no longer take back.   Every experience a lesson learnt, every experience a mark on this journey called “life.” Luckily for us, life gives us opportunities to improve ourselves and hopefully become a better version of ourself.

A lot of times, one does things one later regrets as a result of not being “mindful” of what one is doing or of the possible consequences of one’s actions. Stress comes in all sorts of forms, from work, from emotions or maybe even from health issues. Oftentimes this causes us to lash out at innocent loved ones, friends, or the unfortunate person who happened to be standing in front of you. You see this all the time.

If you’re Buddhist, a way to limit this would be to be “mindful” of oneself and one’s thoughts. To be aware of each and every action, every passing thought and every breath you take. Easier said than done, yet like all things in life it takes practice and practice makes perfect. It will probably take me a lifetime, and even then I don’t know if I will have gotten rid of all the “demons” by the time I die. If I happen to die tomorrow, then I’d probably have to get rid of them in my next life (I suppose I do believe in reincarnation.)

Anyways, lets take it one step at a time. Get rid of those negative thoughts, negative energy and smile.  Be a better version of yourself.

Dog tales: Jesse and his bloody snout

It’s a Monday and Mondays deserve stories that will put a smile on your face. (Hopefully I will succeed) So here goes my story of Jesse and his bloody snout as told by Alex, Jesse’s dad. It happened a few months ago, I remember not exactly when.

It was a sunny day, extraordinary for the monsoon season, but then this year was a strange year with the rain strangely missing and then sometimes not. And as sunny days goes, James, Jesse, and Zoey would find themselves running around the garden, chasing birds, snapping at insects, killing lizards, jumping at toads, running through hedges and digging holes in the garden. That is the daily life of my dogs when they aren’t sleeping (which dogs do for an average of 14 hours a day), and when Alex and I aren’t home.

So each day, Alex comes homes to happy, dog wagging tails that wag so hard they look like they might just fall off. On that particular sunny day though, Alex came home to wagging dog tails but something was off. James the Labrador was running around as innocent, optimist Labradors do, but with an air of distraction and confusion. Zoey, the protector of the house, was running around back and forth from the middle of the garden to Alex while gently whimpering. Jesse was quiet, still as Siberian huskies are, dog wagging happy but with a bloody snout.

Alex thought to himself, as any concerned dog owner would, “Oh my, what happened to Jesse to have such a bloody snout and will he be okay?”

Panic sets in.   He walks over to the middle of the garden, where Zoey keeps running to, and sees a black snake almost two meters long, lying still but its head moving around.

“Oh shit, was Jesse bitten by the snake?” Dear oh dear little Jesse (who isn’t so little) this might require an emergency trip to the vet. Hope not.

Fortunately, some quick thinking sets in and Alex goes find our neighbor who has some knowledge regarding snakes. The neighbours come in, take a look at the long black snake and tells Alex it’s a rat snake and not to worry. Rat snakes are not dangerous and have no venom.

A deep sign of relief follows. Jesse was safe and Alex need not worry about the snake. The neighbours pointed out that our dogs, which we had feared for their lives, had attacked the snake and broke its back.

At that point, feelings of fear changed to sorrow.   Our dogs had broken the snake’s back when it was out searching for food. And now, the snake was to be our neighbour’s dinner.   From the northeast of Thailand, they were elated to have some delicious snake for dinner. Apparently it tastes like chicken.

That was the excitement of the day. I feel bad for the snake, but then I’m also happy my dogs are safe and that I wasn’t there to see it.

Pray for Thailand

It’s hard to write anything non-political when most of what occupies my mind these days is politics, even on a day of love.  I think about politics every day, because it very much affects my life, and I do not mean just dealing with the commute or having to work at back-up sites or work-at-home.  External inconveniences caused by all these protests are secondary to me.  Taking four hours to drive back home will not kill me.  Seeing my country with so much potential yet no cohesiveness will kill my soul.

What worries me is the path of Thailand.  What lies ahead?  Where will this all end? How will we end up in a couple years’ time?

It doesn’t matter whose political ideals you adhere to, I think after almost four months of protests it’s time to agree that something is terribly wrong.

Even if you believed the government are in the right and that these protestors were spoiled losers who didn’t know how to lose an election, were elitist and didn’t understand the poor, I think somewhere there must be an alarm ringing.

On the other hand, even if you believed the government were in the wrong and that they are utterly corrupt, regard themselves above the law, and have vested interests in every policy they do, then after almost four months of protests you have to agree that the longer these protests drag on, the longer the country will take to recover.

What do I think? I have to admit that this is excruciatingly hard to write about in an objective manner.  Having a media that is not exactly objective makes it all the more difficult.

So all I can say for now is good night and let’s pray for Thailand.  Oh, I forgot, Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Makha Bucha Day too.

Dangerous Emotions

I’m sad today for a number of reasons.  Tension has escalated with a bomb thrown into groups of protestors. Things are turning more violent.  I have no idea who is behind the bomb or who is behind the protests.  It’s your word against mine.  I am also sad for other private reasons I’d rather not discuss in public.   All these happenings undoubtedly result in emotions and emotions can be dangerous. 

When I get stressed, all worked up about what’s happening, sad that bad things happen to good people, I sometimes unknowingly let out my emotions in the wrong way.  I succumb to human nature and believe that what I think, what I do is proper and right.  Others are wrong, other’s thinking must be flawed, why do they not see it, why do they not do as I do?

I do this and that.  What do you do?  Why don’t you do as I do?

I get lost in my thoughts and end up erring in thinking that I am better than the other person.  I am “good” whereas the other person is “bad.” I don’t want to be like you.

It’s a dangerous thought and dangerous emotionally.

I become someone I don’t like.  I feel blessed to have Alex remind me hey, stop it.  Stop and listen to yourself.  Listen to the other person. Listen to what they have to say.

The fact is, you don’t always know what is going on in someone else’s life.  You don’t know every aspect of their lives.  You don’t know what is happening.  Everyone has different battles they are battling.   What you see is only the exterior.  What they let you see.  Don’t judge others.

So today, this post is to remind myself in my goal to be a better person, that no one is better than someone else.  We all have our own battles.

Good night!

The good side of the Bangkok Shutdown

Politics is a serious topic and the situation in Bangkok isn’t getting any better soon.  I  wonder everyday how it will all end, will there be bloodshed? Will this end in civil law? Will the protestors get tired and disperse? (I doubt it) Will the government step down? (I don’t think they will either)  When this ends, will Thailand enter a new era of prosperity? or… is it all downhill for now?

I don’t know.  I don’t think anyone else knows either. If you know, please let me know. I pray it becomes an era of prosperity.

Anyways, reading the news today I came across an article about how the pollution level at main intersection levels in Bangkok where the protestors are camped out have more than halved in the past few days and so it has gotten me thinking of all the unintentional benefits of this Bangkok Shutdown.

1. It has raised political awareness amongst the Thai population and taught them that politics isn’t something not related to them, but that it can seriously impact their lives.  One must participate.

2. The Anti-Corruption campaign must be at an all time peak. Millions of people now understand and know how harmful corruption can be for the country.  Let’s just hope they continue to act on it and will not succumb to corruption, no matter how small the temptation.

3. It’s been a Car Free Week in downtown Bangkok causing the pollution level to decrease by more than half thus helping the environment.  Millions of cars are now off the streets.  Oil consumption therefore must be correspondingly lower. I wonder if the number of car accidents have decreased too.

4. Public transport is now used more widely with buses, sky train and mrt fully packed till late at night.  No need for status symbol cars anymore. Everyone uses public transport.

5. Office workers and protestors are now getting their daily dose of exercise walking kilometres to protest sites and realise it’s really not that bad to walk a bit.

6. Bangkokians get to explore Bangkok on foot. I even spotted some tourists joining in.

7. Work life balance amongst office workers promoted as many have to leave earlier to find their way home.

And most importantly, I think the best benefit of all these protests is that more people realise that the power lies within their hands and that what happens to the country depends upon each and everyone’s decision and participation.

No matter which side you support, the future of the country depends upon you. You are your own future!

Bangkok Politics: Election or No Election?

Yesterday was Children’s day.  Entire families were out en masse watching airplanes, dancing, singing and having quality family time.  Shops and restaurants were filled and everywhere there was a queue.  You’d think food was being given out for free.

Tomorrow, it’s the Bangkok Shutdown. Literally. Major roads and intersections will be filled protestors, protesting against the government and the election.  They call for reform before election.    At the same time, there are protestors out in support of the government and symbolically lighting candles.  The government wants election then reform.

Both have valid reasons.  Anti-government protestors have lost faith in the government despite the government’s reassurance they will reform after the election.  The government is skeptical of what will happen next if there are no elections.  Who will be in power and will democracy prevail?

Meanwhile, the election date has been set for 2nd February 2014.  The problem though is that 28 constituencies do not have candidates and even if elections were to go through, the number of  MPs would not meet the minimum required to convene the House of Representatives.  The Election Commission is suggesting the government move the election date to 4th May 2014. The budget is 3.8 billion baht. (~$115mil.)

Is the cost of holding this election worth the outcome? I can’t help but try to make sense of all this and think about what will happen next for Thailand.  What is the best way out of this?  What is the best solution for Thailand?

In my opinion, I think the best way out of this is for both sides to just take a step back, put away their personal egos, fear of losing face, and really just ask themselves this, “Am I doing what is best for my country?”

Will holding elections for the sake of having elections resolve the political situation?

Think of this: 1) There are millions on the street protesting and closing major intersections.  The people clearly are not happy even if they are not the majority. 2) The House of Representatives will not be able to convene as the number of MPs will be insufficient.  3) There is no guarantee elections will cause the protestors to disperse, forget and accept the results. 4) There is a chance the protestors will come out again the protest the results

Taking all this into consideration is the election worth the 3.8 billion baht of taxpayer money?

Some may argue that elections ensure we remain democratic and that the people will have to accept it.  The government has promised it will reform after elections.   This should be sufficient given that we live in a democracy.  The government should not give in just because protestors are out on the street.

My only problem with this argument is that it fails to address the issue.

The issue is that a significant number of people (millions) have lost faith and trust in the government.  They say the government is corrupt and is pushing policies for personal gain.  And like any relationship, once the trust is broken, the relationship fails and breaks apart.

The government will have to work hard if it is to get the people to trust in them, to believe that the government will truly undergo reforms that will help the people and be for the benefit of the country.  These things take time, and words are insufficient.  It’s the action that counts.

In the end, no matter what you believe in, actions always speak louder than words.

Good night Bangkok.  I pray all ends peacefully. I love you Thailand.

This is Why I Protest

It’s politics today. It kept me up last night and to sleep I had to get this out of my system, so here goes.

I’m not a red shirt, I’m not a yellow shirt. I don’t think the Prime Minister or her government is stupid.  In fact, I think they are smart and know exactly what they are doing.  I don’t think the opposition is better and I don’t think the protestors should break barriers.  I empathize with the policemen stuck in the middle between doing their duty and the people.

I have friends on both sides.  So why do I go out and participate in the protests ?

Here’s why. I am against corruption. I am against the amendment of laws for personal  benefit, the changing of versions, and of rushing it through in the wee hours of the morning.  Yes, thai politics and the opposition are also guilty of corruption, and I too am against it, but never before has corruption been at this level.

I am an advocate of transparency and believe the opposition should be allowed to voice their opinion no matter what.  I believe constitutional verdicts should be upheld and cannot simply be denied.

I am against a culture of “cash is king” and one where political goals override the needs of the country.

I am against a culture of where every action is a new “marketing” opportunity and money wasted when there are still people suffering. 

If any other democratically elected government abused their power, I would protest too. Being elected and a majority doesn’t give you the right to abuse your power.

I participate so that I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I have at least tried to do something for the country that I love.

Remember this as Lord Acton once said,  “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

And ask yourselves as Benjamin Franklin once asked, “What good may I do in this world ?”

Whatever you believe in, everyone has the right to voice their opinion and should fight for what they believe in. Don’t let others fight for you.  Fight for yourself and stand up for what you believe in.

No Recipe for Life

Sometimes it’s the simplest things in life that can boost for your soul or simply make you happy.   Simple things like cooking or baking.  Ever since I was 5 or 6 years old I’ve been baking and cooking up dishes in the kitchen with my picture cookbook (which I got from one of my best friends and still use till today. Thank you!).  Some dishes turned out well, some turned out funny, some turned out to be something else, but overall it turned out to be a generally good experience that can teach one a bit about life.

It is the experience of cooking or baking that counts despite the sometimes failed attempts.  Thirty years on my parents seem to recall perfectly my initial attempts at making brownies that turned out to be little black squares of rock-like substance that seems to have been part of a volcanic eruption or how my “Eggy” bread” gave everyone a good laugh.  My husband reminds me of how my cookies turned out to be scones or how cakes turn out to be bread.

What ever happens in the kitchen though can be a little reminder of life in general.   There is no one recipe that fits everyone.  Whilst the recipe might work for some, for others it might require tweaking, changes in measurements, or need techniques to get the desired outcome.  The outcome depends upon the ingredients, the sequence in which they were combined or how fast they were mixed.  Even things such as humidity (which are hard to control) play a big role.  The trick though, is to keep finding out why it worked (or didn’t work) and to keep working on it.

That too is life.  There’s no perfect recipe.  You may spend your life trying to do everything “right” but in the end, we are all human.  There are good days, bad days and days you wish you could just stay in bed all day.  Life is all about the experience; finding the recipe, getting the ingredients, imagining the desired outcome and finally seeing the ingredients come to life step by step.  I love the thrill of seeing the outcome.

Sometimes it turns out well, sometimes it doesn’t.  Don’t worry when things don’t go the way you want it.  Don’t worry when you find yourself out of some ingredients.  Improvise and find an alternative.  Figure out why it didn’t work and try again.  If you don’t try, you’ll never get it right.

Happy Baking (or Cooking)!

Life is life, Death is death

It has been awhile since I’ve last written.  It’s been a long while.  I don’t even remember the date or the last time I sat at my laptop typing away.  It’s been that long. I’ve missed it.  Life as it is, has decided that this year would be the year to teach us about life and death.  This is a year of teaching what it is like to lose loved ones and be near death as it sits on the porch waiting to come in.

Even though the moment we are brought into this world, the one certainty in life is that one day we will all die, it is still a concept that is hard for us to embrace.  We spend our entire lives trying to avoid ‘death’ in one way or another.   We take care of our health, do yearly health checks, drive safely, watch for cars while crossing the road and are constantly aware of things that will hurt us or bring us closer to ‘death.’  We have rules and regulations to minimise deaths.

Yet, the fact remains that one day we will all be gone.

One lesson I’ve learnt from deaths this year is this.  “Enjoy life as much as you can, whilst you can.”  Don’t spend your life trying to be “perfect” or cow away from experiences.   You never know what will happen, what life has planned for you, so just do what you want to do in life and enjoy the experience.  Don’t wait until it is too late.

If there is something you always wanted to do in life, don’t think to yourself that you’ll do it when you are old and retired or at a later date.   Who knows, you might never reach that later date.  Life may decide to leave us without notice.

If here is something you want to do with someone, likewise, don’t wait.  Who knows if you’ll ever get the chance again.  Life may decide to leave them.

Don’t waste time pondering why death decides to choose one and not the other.  There is no logical explanation.  It is all just a part of life.  Just live your life the best you can and make it a happy one.  Walk out and smell the roses, feel the wind in your hair and listen to the birds chirp.  Play ball with your dog and spend time with your children before they are grown. This is life.

Have a great day everyone and remember to enjoy life! You only get one chance at it! 🙂