Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas caroling 2013

It's the Christmas season again. With teenagers in the house who are very active in the MYF you can't help but be swept along with the excitement of the celebration. This year we decided to help out again by providing transport. 

This year's carollers included three primary kids. Two of them, Jasmine and Monica followed our car along with Eucharia who is an African studying in a nursing school here. Tiffany took care of the little ones along with Charmaine. So the car was packed. 
First stop was a nursing home. Uncle Ben's father is here. So we brought Christmas cheer to him. The MYFers are trained to shake hands with everybody in all the homes they visited. They did a pretty good job. 
Next was singing at Terminal 1.  It wasn't easy as the sound system was bad. They had to sing for an hour. They were invited to return on the next day to sing again. The second day was worse. A few carollers dropped out of the group and a few more were having sore throat. Tough job but they were of good cheer. 

On the second day, after Terminal 1 the carollers came to our house. After the previous day experience, I knew they would be hungry. Indeed they were. We had satay which came a little late. Thank God there is uncle Hoe who helped to get the satay from the shop. Fish balls were the most popular....surprisingly. It's the cheapest and easiest to prepare. They finished everything. We had cupcakes too .. I got them from Ai Poh. Jelly was just so so. Junk food....dark chocolates and a variety of nuts. So good to see them eating heartily. 

On the second day there was slight drama. The van which Rosheen drove broke down. It's quite horrifying to see how he drives and the loud protests from the van. We stopped to help them. The boys pushed and we tried to jump start. Didn't work. Battery and other ailment .... It's an old van. The boys call it the party van. The whole group made so much noise and had so much fun. So when they got down to push the van they had great fun too. Zhi Quan asked me to take pictures of him pretending to push the van. 

Anyway they split to two cars. I followed Nicholas' car. Felt there need be an adult with a 17 year old driver. He handles the car very well. 

We visited Bishop Emeritus Hwa Yung and Bee Teik's house. They were so excited and happy to have us over. Bee Teik has been a great mentor and big sis to me. I'm so glad she is back in Seremban again. 

It was good spreading cheer around this season. It was definitely tiring but being with the teens and seeing them happy makes me feel fulfilled this Christmas. 

May the love of God and the spirit of cheer be upon the hearts of all readers this Christmas. God bless all of you. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Khmer Village Homestay

Albert very kindly brought his van from Phnom Penh to fetch us from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. On the way to Phnom Penh, we stopped by Solar Cafe for lunch. Solar Cafe is run by a Malaysian lady...Esther Ding. From her surname one would know she is a Foo me.

There was already a group of Singaporean kids from a church having their retreat cum mission there. Esther has programs planned out for them like pony cart rides to the village, making khmer noodles, handicraft etc. Esther acts as the in between person for groups that come; whether its for  mission trips or school programs of community services. She arranges for church visits, ministry to school students (the schools allow outsiders to take over their classroom time) and she even brings in kids from the villages to the homestay itself so that these groups can spend time with the kids.

Though Cambodians drive big foreign cars, the poverty level is still very high. There are beggars everywhere; children begging and the use of babies to get the sympathy of tourists is common. Esther suggests activities like teaching them hygiene, improving the infrastructure of the church/school....painting the orphanages etc. 

The homestay near the cafe is really impressive. There are quite a few chalets around. The accommodation itself is pretty basic...dorm style. She provides 3 meals a day with activities thrown in...all coming to USD50 per day.
The Solar Cafe....very clean and breezy. 

 The chalets at the Khmer Village Homestay. Beautiful landscaping and very well maintained.

 Esther Ding...showing us more places around the homestay. She speaks Khmer fluently...having stayed here for more than 15 years. She can be reached at
 This back door leads to another piece of property down the road which has a few more chalets.
The sleeping quarters....with mosquito nettings and fans. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

History alive

"...Vietnam menceroboh Kampuchea pada tahun 1978 dan menjatuhkan kerajaan Khmer Rouge..."
Buku Teks Sejarah Tingkatan 5.
This is a short line from a very short paragraph in the History text that I teach about the role of Malaysia in ASEAN and the ZOPFAN (Zone of peace, freedom and neutrality) concept.

As a teacher of History, I look for ways to make the subject interesting and alive. So choosing Cambodia as a holiday destination is quite natural for me as Chapter 3 Form Four History covers the agrarian government of Angkor with a few paragraphs on Angkor Wat. I was looking forward to visiting The Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum when I was in Phnom Penh. The Khmer Rouge was mentioned in the Form 5 text and I remembered Pol Pot from the news report when I was young.

I was warned that the visit the Killing Fields can be depressive and I need to be strong. I had been praying before the trip. I marched into the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide with my camera...all ready to take pictures home to show my students. The museum is a big school compound. The classrooms are converted into prisons, torture chambers....divided into small dark cells. Pictures after pictures of people who were tortured there. I chose not to enter many of the classrooms to see the exhibits because it was too overwhelming. I sat at a bench outside and cried as the reality of the horror the Cambodians went through in the 1970s crept into me. In my state of shock I did not take a single picture.

Next was the Killing Fields. I expect this to be worse. It was indeed. No guide needed as a very comprehensive recording is prepared and the visitors just need to carry the recorder around. With the voice talking into my ear, bringing to life the whole place and the possiblities of seeing teeth, bones floating in the water or in the dirt, I could almost picture the horrifying sight of torture and killing. Visitors moved around in hush awe....maybe shocked by the exposure of such gruesome happenings and also in respect of the dead that is all around.

Ponds, sunken grounds of mass grave were labelled and pointed out. I can't get the the Killing Tree out of my mind. It's a big tree where the soldiers just swing the babies and young kids to it and then throwing them into the dump next to it. It's awful....

Then the Magic Tree....I could almost hear the songs being played loudly and the screaming of the tortured people and the same time. It was a most humbling and traumatising experience.

A stupa is erected to house the skulls and some bones of those killed there. I had seen and heard enough to know what went in that place during those time. I didn't enter the stupa but sat under the tree outside and reflected on the sad state of the human race. Power and greed have made mad men out of the leaders and turned them into animals.  "To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss". This is the motto used to justify what they did. If my family had lived there that day, we would not have survived because we fall into the category of literate people...wearing spectacles and having soft hands.

I am so thankful to be alive where I am today. This visit just fills me with gratitude to God for all the things and goodness He has blessed me and my family. It is a reminder to me again of my role as a teacher in teach my students to love and not hate. To pass on goodness and rub kindness to the students around me with the hope that they will remember to pass it on the the next and the next and the next generations.