Pray for Norway

The past weekend has been one full of tragedies.  All over the world, there were nothing  but news of deaths and sadness. In Thailand, a third helicopter crashed while on a mission to remove the bodies from two previously fallen helicopter missions.  The first fell due to bad weather.  It is presumed that the second one also fell to bad weather while attempting rescue the first.  The third helicopter fell from engine failure.  Lives were lost.  9 in total.  What a tragedy.  My prayers are with them.  A Chinese high speed train crashes. Then Amy Winehouse dies.  Worst yet, a lone man shooting spree occurs in one of the world’s most peaceful nations.  Norway.

This is the home to the Nobel Peace Prize and has a crime rate so low that policemen remain unarmed.
Most probably have only fired arms in training.  News of the shooting made my heart and soul drop. Literally.  I have to say that it is something you just don’t wake up thinking about.   You wake up with the sunshine hoping that today will be a good day.  It’s summer and you have to imagine how happy the Norwegians must be to have sunshine after months of snow and bad weather.  This is what children and families look forward to.  Summer holidays and summer camp.  It’s time for laughter and pleasure.

This little piece of utopia is then abruptly disrupted by a man with psychological problems and in need of help. Big Help.  Paradise turns into nightmare and everyone is left scarred for life.  For me, (although I have never been to Norway and know not any Norwegians)  I feel like this nightmare has probably changed Norway in a way that no one can imagine.  I feel like Norway lost a bit of its soul the day that .

A peaceful nation, who can imagine that such an event could happen.    No one wants it to happen. No
one wants anyone to be killed.  Although the police are said to have reacted slowly, who can blame them for not having tried their best?  Everyone was unprepared.

No matter what happens, I pray that Norway and its people recover.  I pray that they will get over this nightmare of an episode and once again reinvent the Utoya island into it’s former glory. I pray the children who survived will not grow up to be disturbed people.  I pray they grow strong and get over it.  I pray that it will not make people angrier as a whole.  I pray that those in need of attention or have psychological problems really seek out help in other none damaging ways.  Most of all, I pray that there be no more shootings, no more deaths, no more blaming.  What’s done is done.   We are all humans no matter what religion and what race.  In the end we all die.  Let it be a peaceful one.

The Kitten Reminder

Tonight I am a little contemplative.  I think it’s perhaps because of what I first saw when I got out of the house this morning coupled with the scandals making headline news.   Usually in my usual rush to work, the focus is about getting there on time, getting things done and ignoring all what else that might come between me and my goal.  I get a little frustrated when things don’t go my way.  So when you open the front gate and come face to face with “death” it can
be a little silent reminder on the brevity of life.

Don’t worry, it wasn’t someone by my front gate (if it were, I’d probably be in too much of a shock to write tonight.)

The “death” I saw was that of a young little kitten.   At first glance I thought the little kitten was just having a nap by my neighbour’s house, but upon closer inspection I realized that it wasn’t moving, it wasn’t breathing and that there was dry blood not too far from the
kitten.  The little kitten was gone and lost to this world.  Its life cut short just like that.  One mistaken step out in front of a passing car. A second too soon.

This image brings me back to a particular memory that has been embedded in my mind for a couple of years now.  It’s like a video clip that would not erase.  It’s about a little puppy whose life was taken right before my eyes.  The worst part was that there was nothing I could do about it.  Playing on the pavement, this barely three month old puppy decides to play a game of hide and seek by the wheels of a car that was stuck in traffic.  You probably can tell what happened when the traffic lights turned green.  There I was witnessing all this and completely helpless in my car.  In the space of a minute, the puppy’s life was no more and it ceased to exist.  Just like that. One mistaken decision.

So the kitten and the puppy had a similar fate.  Who knows what our fate will be?

One mistaken step, one mistaken turn, one unexpected move.  Our lives too could be gone in a matter of seconds.  Sometimes when you don’t get what you want or things don’t always go your way,  it isn’t always necessarily a bad thing.  It might even be for the better.  As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining.

As it turns out, those who got to work late on the fateful day of September 11 were the lucky ones.  So when things don’t always go your way, rather than be frustrated and use up all your energy;  I think the best way is to take a deep breath and be reminded of the brevity of life.  Enjoy each and every minute of your life for who knows what will happen next.  See the good things in life.  Be positive.

No one knows what will happen tomorrow.  What you do know is that when life is gone, it can never be taken back.  Not even for a split second.  Death is final. So do what you want to do and say what you want to say before you can’t.

Anger Be Gone

The other day I had a chance to go to a temple unlike others in that the monk does not simply chant the buddhist prayers during the funeral, but instead he’ll spend roughly half an hour teaching us some of the philosophies in plain language for all to understand.  I think it’s great and I although the journey there was long and the journey back included wading through the flood and having my car at times turn into a boat, a lot of interesting thoughts remained in mind.  So much so I thought it’d be great to share a little of it here with you today.  It’s about anger.

Now we humans all have emotions. We feel happiness, sadness, fear, anger, jealousy and a zillion other feelings.  Sometimes we feel more than one at the same time and cannot quite distinguish which is which.   Sometimes they get the better of us and start influencing our actions.

It’s how we control those emotions though that make all the difference.   The monk’s example was on “Anger.”  For example, he said, if you light a match, the flame at the end of the match is but a small flame and you can easily distinguish it with a fling of the hand or a little blow.  However if you let the flame catch onto other things, it can grow to be so powerful that it’d burn down houses or even rows of houses.  By that time, a single firetruck would not be sufficient.  You’d need a couple firetrucks and a team of firefighters.

Likewise, if we get angry and cannot control it,  our anger can grow to be so powerful and strong it will overshadow our life and our actions.  We might spend lifetimes seeking revenge or retribution for a remark once heard, or an action once done.   We might kill lives, destroy things around us, or even misplace our anger on those who love us most.    Because of our anger, we do things that have utterly no benefit to our life.  We waste a good portion of our energy feeling “angry” and plotting revenge.  Then in the end, we all die with nothing left but that feeling of “anger.”

Of course it’d be great if we could all just turn off our emotions at a flick of a hand, but it’s something that is achievable with practice.  It’s not easy,  but if you stop, pause, take note of your emotions before it becomes a storm, then perhaps you’d have added a little more happiness to your life.  Count one to ten before you send of some remarks in anger or seek revenge.  Life is so short.  Who knows what will happen tomorrow?  Why waste time being angry when you can be happy?  Look up and smell the roses 🙂 Life is beautiful.

What Sacrifice Means…

After the earthquake I wrote an email to a Japanese colleague asking her of her troubles and hoping that all was fine. Her response made me teary eyed and it’s something I still remember till this day. She told of her hardships and how they were having trouble with electricity, but it was the end that hit me. She apologized for having caused me concern and worry. Wow. I was breathless. Here she was in trouble, her nation was suffering, and still she apologized for making me worried about her!! I admire her.

My experience is but a fraction of what others have experienced. Since that unfortunate day of earthquakes and tsunamis, I’ve been hearing endless stories about the Japanese discipline and sense of morality. How even in times of suffering and the Japanese will not loot nor take advantage of those less fortunate. Other people’s lives are taken into deep consideration. Afterall, everyone is in this situation and everyone has their own troubles. Everyone has loss their homes and loved ones. It’s time the people helped each other, not time they tried to gain from other’s misfortunes. There is no selfishness. No thought of me, myself and I. Others are more important.

I hope that we can all learn something from the Japanese. I know I have.

Below is a forward I got earlier last week that I think is a wonderful reminder to us all to think a little more of those around us and perhaps of the word “sacrifice.” Sacrifice a little of our own happiness for the greater good of others….

THIS letter, written by Vietnamese immigrant Ha Minh Thanh working in Fukushima as a policeman to a friend in Vietnam, was posted on New America Media on March 19. It is a testimonial to the strength of the Japanese spirit, and an interesting slice of life near the epicenter of Japan’s crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. It was translated by NAM editor Andrew Lam, author of “East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres.” Shanghai Daily condensed it.

How are you and your family? These last few days, everything was in chaos. When I close my eyes, I see dead bodies. When I open my eyes, I also see dead bodies.

Each one of us must work 20 hours a day, yet I wish there were 48 hours in the day, so that we could continue helping and rescuing folks.

We are without water and electricity, and food rations are near zero. We barely manage to move refugees before there are new orders to move them elsewhere.

I am currently in Fukushima, about 25 kilometers away from the nuclear power plant. I have so much to tell you that if I could write it all down, it would surely turn into a novel about human relationships and behaviors during times of crisis.

People here remain calm – their sense of dignity and proper behavior are very good – so things aren’t as bad as they could be. But given another week, I can’t guarantee that things won’t get to a point where we can no longer provide proper protection and order.

They are humans after all, and when hunger and thirst override dignity, well, they will do whatever they have to do. The government is trying to provide supplies by air, bringing in food and medicine, but it’s like dropping a little salt into the ocean.

Brother, there was a really moving incident. It involves a little Japanese boy who taught an adult like me a lesson on how to behave like a human being.

Last night, I was sent to a little grammar school to help a charity organization distribute food to the refugees. It was a long line that snaked this way and that and I saw a little boy around 9 years old. He was wearing a T-shirt and a pair of shorts.

It was getting very cold and the boy was at the very end of the line. I was worried that by the time his turn came there wouldn’t be any food left. So I spoke to him. He said he was at school when the earthquake happened. His father worked nearby and was driving to the school. The boy was on the third floor balcony when he saw the tsunami sweep his father’s car away.

I asked him about his mother. He said his house is right by the beach and that his mother and little sister probably didn’t make it. He turned his head and wiped his tears when I asked about his relatives.

The boy was shivering so I took off my police jacket and put it on him. That’s when my bag of food ration fell out. I picked it up and gave it to him. “When it comes to your turn, they might run out of food. So here’s my portion. I already ate. Why don’t you eat it?”

The boy took my food and bowed. I thought he would eat it right away, but he didn’t. He took the bag of food, went up to where the line ended and put it where all the food was waiting to be distributed.

I was shocked. I asked him why he didn’t eat it and instead added it to the food pile. He answered: “Because I see a lot more people hungrier than I am. If I put it there, then they will distribute the food equally.”

When I heard that I turned away so that people wouldn’t see me cry.

A society that can produce a 9-year-old who understands the concept of sacrifice for the greater good must be a great society, a great people.

Well, a few lines to send you and your family my warm wishes. The hours of my shift have begun again.

Ha Minh Thanh

Help the Flooded South

This past week, one event after another, the world seems in turmoil in Asia. Japan is still suffering from the Tsunami and nuclear disaster and now Thailand has its own problems. Last week, torrential rain caused mudslides, high waves and flooded many parts of the south. Everything was disrupted.

It wasn’t just the usual flooding that usually accompanies the rain. This time it rained so hard that water gushed down from the mountains with such a force that it tore down houses and buried villages in mud. Villages and families have been left homeless and there are still many missing. Houses were flooded to the second level and people were left waiting on the roof for help. The navy had to send down large ships to help people evacuate but even then the waves seemed too deadly to pass. Not all could be evacuated. Helicopters too transported people to areas of safety. Homes and vilages had been buried under mud. I suppose this is nature’s way of reclaiming their land.

Yesterday on television I heard a story of how a group of people had escaped their flooded homes to higher grounds only to find themselves faced with a river of water that seemed as if it were ready to engulf them all. Fortunately for them, a group of large trees caused the river of water to separate into two streams and kept the land where they stood safe. Who knows what could have happened. These people said they had been ready to die. Who would have imagined that the water would suddenly split into two streams? They were lucky to survive, but now they and tens of thousands of people are left homeless and without food in the South of Thailand.

Stranded on islands of higher ground, roads cut off from transportation, these people are not having a good life. Without electricity, without telephone lines it is as if they are in another world where you have to use your survival skills. Deep in mud that sucks you down, it’s not easy to rescue people. What’s buried will probably remain buried until future generations of archeologists dig them up.

Somehow floods don’t seem to gather as much aid money as other events, but it is just as devastating. Water bourne diseases are bound to follow. So now that we’ve prayed for Japan lets also pray for Thailand’s southern provinces. Let’s pray no such disaster happens again and that all we will be able to recover from this string of disasters.

Do, Do Good

My internet is finally back in working order today. I think all this weird weather has been causing havoc to everyone and even disrupting cables. Thailand at the moment is in a strange state indeed. In the north we have earthquakes, in the south we have flooding, high waves of 2-3 meters are causing people to leave the islands, and in the northeast we have drought. Bangkok itself is experiencing abnormally cold weather. People are suffering.

Those in the south of Thailand have had to evacuate their homes due to flooding. Beautiful beaches where once we would dream of laying on the white sandy beaches looking out towards the sea has become a place to stay away from. Entire beaches which were once 25 meters long are now underwater and roads are being destroyed. Now is not a good time to go to the beach.

Who knows what the world will be like in the future? Some say it’ll snow in Bangkok. It’s hard to believe but then we did have hailstorms that are the size of golf balls in the northern part of Thailand earlier this month. Freaky indeed. Whatever happens, my take is this: Who knows what will happen tomorrow. Do what you want to do now so that you won’t regret it later on in life. Don’t let things past by and when it’s too late wish you had done differently. Be a person you’d be proud of. Know how to give and take and understand that there are others too who are suffering, probably even more so than you. If you are reading this, then your life probably isn’t all that bad.

A Changed World

Yesterday morning as I headed out to run amidst the rain, I felt like I wanted to snuggle back into bed and just enjoy sleeping through the rain. Then I turned on the news to watch while I run and saw the devastation in Japan. It’s heartbreaking, but at the same time it is also a humbling experience. It reminds us how fragile our lives are.

Lives could change in matter of minutes. No matter how much you anticipate it, prepare for it, you can never be sufficiently prepared.
Who would imagine that this seemingly harmless “water” could suddenly rise up so high that it would topple buildings, pass the barriers and tumble down upon houses, obliviating all in its path and leaving nothing but a pile of debris and mud. A newspaper today showed a cruise ship balanced ontop of a two or three storey building. It’s not architecturally constructed, yet it happens in real life like it were showing off the force of nature.

And so with this giant of an earthquake in Japan, many lives have been changed forever. Families have been lost, children orphaned, and the elderly separated. Hundreds of thousands are now suddenly homeless and many more are trapped beneath the rubble. News of survivors continues to give us hope.

The world is forever changed after this earthquake. The newspaper today said the earth moved 10cm in its axis, but that’s not what I’m really talking about.

I think the world now will be one that is much more understanding and helpful to each other. Japan has been recieving help from countries near and far and everyone is putting in a helping hand. Afterall, it’s not a matter of what country you are from, what nationality you are, but the fact that we are all human beings on this earth. If we don’t help each other who will? So in the bigger scheme of things, lets all put aside differences. In the end, it won’t really matter at all. We might just all be carried off in one monstrous wave that wipes out the entire mankind. We are that fragile. Yes we are.