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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I write songs, I sing them... I play the piano and a little bit of the guitar.. I've released 5 albums of music, I love the scent of freshly fallen rain and the scent of lavender on bedsheets. I would drink tea all day long if the caffeine didn't keep me up at night. I hate driving in L.A traffic. I would love to one day catch the squirrel that steals the plums from my tree and make him a pet. I don't watch TV anymore. My 3 year old daughter is more entertaining than any TV show could ever be :)

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Friday, December 21, 2007

new ways of journeying

This is the full, un-edited version of the piece
on 'Globalisation' titled 'World Piece' that I wrote for the Vanilla
Magazine in Nov. 2007.

"With a single life
I will not learn enough.

With the light of other lives,
many lives will live in my song." – Pablo Neruda

I was sitting at my usual table in the coffeehouse in Los Angeles the other day, when a couple, with their two young kids in tow and their grandparents, walked in. They all sat around, enjoying the afternoon, chatting in an Eastern European language I couldn’t understand as they drank tea and the grandparents smiled at their grandkids… and I thought about my own family, about my brother and sister-in-law and how, far away in Singapore, my own family was probably sitting somewhere having a meal together, enacting this same scene. And I didn’t need to understand the language to feel a kinship with this Eastern European family.

The more I see the world, the more I appreciate the things that bind us, beyond the superficial differences, beyond the lines drawn along the maps,
beyond the immigration questionnaires that are more keen to seek out differences and focus on the walls that separate us.

Strip away the accents, the differences in clothing, the demarcations, the lines, and one finds that we're not all that different after all.

One of my closest friends in L.A, Ann, is a 57 year old Caucasian woman who was born in the Midwest of the US. She is an American who has lived in Los Angeles for almost 30 years and due to unfortunate circumstances, is now wheelchair-bound and living on government support, in a one-bedroom apartment. I never thought we’d end up being good friends. After all, on first glance, it would seem that we don’t have much in common. But we were both in the church choir and so took the chance to start up a conversation, and over the course of many conversations about faith and about music, we became friends.

As a result of our friendship, I’ve learned to see the a different world through her eyes- The world of the handicapped. I see how tough it is for her to navigate the uneven sidewalks outside her house and the hazards she faces in contending with cars along the road that she travels in her motorized wheelchair. She’s been in and out of hospitals this past year, suffering one stroke after another, and yet every single time, she has rebound and pulled her life back together. I admire her for her strength and tenacity in life. She has shown immense courage in the face of almost insurmountable odds and she is a fighter.

Another friend I hold dear, Joe, lives out of his car. I used to notice Joe because he would sit in the middle of church, by himself, wearing crumpled clothes and sporting big bunches of cotton wool stuffed into his ears. (Later I found out it was because he thought the speakers in the church were too loud). He’d also have stacks of old newspaper stuffed in his car. But what really got me intrigued was the hand-painted pro-life message he had on his car bumper. It was a illustration of a foetus with the words ‘Let the little stinker live.’

Then one day, Joe, comes up to me after Mass. “I really enjoyed your piano playing at mass. You should sing more too.” And from that point on, I would greet him with a wave whenever I saw him at mass, and he would wave back, and over the course of the next year, we built up a friendship over the bits and snippets of conversation we had after mass. I found out that Joe, in his own-way, was an anti-abortion activist. He would hand-make his own flyers and stand outside abortion clinics in protest every Sunday from 7.30 in the morning to 2 p.m. Quiet in his own way, lacking the resources to even have a proper home, he nonetheless, had found a worthwhile cause to be passionate about, and I loved the fact that he had shared that world with me.

I guess the only real rule for living in a increasingly global world is the willingness to step into another’s shoes, to see the world through their eyes. It doesn’t even have to be a geographical border that separates us. Sometimes, a new world is just within our neighbourhoods. We just have to look and be willing to go on a different kind of journey.


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