Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Why work is useful

I'm currently reading this book by Timothy Keller called "Every Good Endeavour" and so far, it's been a much needed and helpful read on why and how our work matters to God.

Unfortunately, these authors who write on Christians at work aren't from Singapore so it's a bit hard to understand where they're coming from. I mean, they aren't from Singapore and they don't understand the need for survival and practicality. I somehow wish there would be a Singaporean Christian to give a balanced perspective on work.

Nevertheless, this is what I've inferred from reading the first few chapters of the book:

1. Work gives us an opportunity to identify our strengths, weakness, talents, what we are good at, so that we can be equipped with this knowledge and of self and use it to better serve the church and others.

2. We work, to earn, to give. When we work, we earn money and we can use these money to contribute purposefully to missions, church funding and evangelism.

Still reading and still learning. 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The alarm clock sounds, ripping open the sweetness of sleep. The rays of the sun peaks through your curtain, and nature calls you to awake. You wake up, wash up and have your breakfast before zipping off to work. Tomorrow, your alarm clock rings. You hit the snooze button and tell yourself "five more minutes". The next day you probably shut it and bury your head under the sheets of slumber. Sounds familiar?

This is all too a familiar scene in our everyday lives as working adults. I too find that I have to motivate myself to get out of bed and it gets harder with each passing day. After all, working life is tough and we abhor to think of the endless tasks that would greet us with sly grin everyday. Pressures, stress and long hours take a toll on us. Bosses and managers have high expectations of us and little time to complete them. And sometimes just when you think you've happily ticked off the checklist of your to-do-list, you get a ton more. There goes your chance to go home on time. Is there ever an end to this all?

I don't ever think there is.

In such a performance-based society, you have to make the cut or you'll be cut off. It pushes us to strive harder, and sometimes its demands have adverse effects on us. It's been a month since I've started work and I'm learning new things each day, both in life and in work.

Most recently, I've been working on a project that has been rather challenging for me. And I'll be honest -- I couldn't cope. I learnt that I can't be the best (or at least not so soon), but I can be the best stewart to God. Being faithful to our bosses and authorities and eventually to Him.

Thank God that in His Kingdom we don't have to be the best to be loved by Him. He loves us unconditionally, unwaveringly and abundantly. At the end of the day, he wants us to be good and faithful stewards, making the best use of our time, talent and treasure on earth for Him.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Beer, Bavaria, Bretzels, Bacharach and Berlin (Part 1)

I'm picking up from where I left off and that would be me just stepping foot into Germany. It was quite a change stepping into industrial Germany, having come from clean and polite Switzerland. My first stop in Germany was Munich, synonymous with beer, beer gardens and more beer! Beers were brewed by monks in the monastery and in fact the word "Munchen" which is old German means the monks' place.



I heard funny stories of missing items during Oktoberfest. Among the usual suspects like wallets and room keys, there were funny ones like false teeth, clothing of all shapes and sizes, missing children and the funniest - a wheelchair?! Someone obviously got too drunk and believed he/she could walk...

Munich's predominantly catholic so you see lots of churches around (often with onion shaped domes, quite a trend really). And I present to you Asamkirche! I kid you not. It's incredibly lavish and rich and such a masterpiece. Story has it that two brothers promised to build a church if they survived the shipwreck, which they did obviously.



Friday, 10 May 2013

Europe highlights

Bonjour/Guten Morgen/Hallo! One month on the road and I'm finally back! It's nice to be back home (despite the weather) especially when you've fallen sick and are down with a bad cold. My right ear is still quite blocked and I can't hear well. Thankfully my cough has subsided and my running nose is well, less runny. Hopefully things will get back to normal in time. 

I've thoroughly enjoyed my trip and I had such a good time, no regrets so I didn't miss it terribly. I do miss my travel and adventures. Moreover, I came to the conclusion that travel is a lifelong affair. No point rushing it because you won't ever complete it in your lifetime I believe. I wonder if anyone has ever finished "seeing the world"?


In any case, if you were wondering, this was the route I took:

Avignon (France) -- Bern (Switzerland) -- Interlaken -- Zurich -- Munich (Germany) -- Bacharach -- Berlin -- Amsterdam (The Netherlands)-- Paris (France)

When I was telling people about my travel stories I felt like I couldn't believe I went there as well. I went to these places?! And did those things? Prior to leaving, people have not ceased to remind me how unsafe it would be for a girl like me to be going alone. As my friend pointed out, I ticked all the boxes of risky travelling - Solo, female, Asian. Well, what can I say? I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb because I was the only female Asian with a backpack.

What's more daunting about travelling alone? Going alone, without the company or the unfamiliarity of a new land? Or both? I found myself asking these questions as I sat alone on the train which didn't seem long at all. In most places I've visited someone would tell me that I'm brave to go on my own. First, it was the French lady selling gelato in Arles, then it was my hostel mate in Bern and Interlaken. I probably didn't think I was that brave but after the experience in Amsterdam and the metro in Paris I think I was pretty gutsy.

Having said so, I still think travelling alone is amazing. I've not felt lonely (at least not all the time) and rather enjoyed spending time by myself. Going solo gives you the chance to meet new people and gain new experiences. If there's anything I learnt, that is travel isn't a competition or a race to tick off all the famous sights. Either way, I learnt it's impossible to see everything in one trip. You are the traveler and you dictate your travel story. You don't always have to follow the opinion of a travel book. After all, travel is about creating your own adventures and adventures, your memories.

Some highlights of the trip:
- Paragliding in Interlaken, Switzerland. Jumping off was the most amazing feeling. I was in mid air and all I saw below me were trees and the town of Interlaken with its 15,000 inhabitants.














- Zipping through the Rhine Valley via bike (Bacharach to St. Goar). There are many ways to explore the Rhine Valley- boat, train, hike or cycle but nothing beats cycling in my opinion. It was picture worthy moment everywhere. Castles, forts, vineyards and rocks adorn the Rhine Valley.


- Seeing Jungfraujoch from Schilthorn. The journey leading up to Schilthorn was an incredible experience. Think grass fields, snow capped mountains, valleys and cute cabin lodges. I saw snow for the first time and a kind Swiss man threw me some snow at the top of Schilthorn and suggested I throw it as far as I could. It's basically chilled ice (like ice kachang) but coming from a tropical island snow is a cool thing to grasp, no pun intended!



- Berlin. Berlin surprised me alot. I expected Berlin to be modern, expensive and clean. It is afterall, the capital city of Germany. There were cranes everywhere and the city was still rebuilding itself. Went on a walking tour and I learnt so much about Berlin from that. Saw the Berlin wall but it's fenced all around, quite ironically. I visited the Sachausen Concentration Camp north of Berlin and it was quite an emotional experience.




- Missing my flight and had to wait 12 hours for the next one. Reached Amsterdam city at 10pm and it happened to be Queen's Day on that day and the Dutch pretty much love to party. The city crowded, chaotic and people were singing and dancing and drinking at night. With some help I managed to reach my hostel at about close to midnight. It was truly one of the most memorable moments of my trip.

- Neuschwanstein Castle. Alas the fairytale castle of Germany that inspired Walt Disney! It was shrouded with fog on that day, which added to the mystery of the castle and King Ludwig II. I keep looking back at this picture and can't help but marvel at its beauty.


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Where the grass is greener on the other side

No kidding. I'm speaking in literal terms. The train ride from Mannheim to Mainz today was one of the most scenic rides I've taken in Europe so far.

I was in doe-eyed wonder, alternating my head between left and right, trying hard to take in as much as I could. The fields were in a plethora of green, yellow and brown. There were so many different shades of green and it felt like you were looking at a Pantone swatchbook of green. Even so, those colours would not rightfully depict the actual colours of nature. I could go on and on about the colours but know one thing- not one's the same.

That's just the beauty of God's creation. And He has painted the fields of Germany's countryside so creatively and artistically.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Of land, sea and air

These two days in the Bernese Oberland have been nothing short of fantastic. Just yesterday I've been on air, land and sea. I'm now in Interlaken, which is in the middle of two lakes - Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, hence the name. Interlaken on its own isn't very exciting. There's not much one can do here besides adventure sports and activities. Nevertheless, people stay in Interlaken because they use it as a springboard to the Bernese Oberland.

Interlaken


Over the Lauterbrunnen valley

If there was one place I wish I was born and lived in, it'll probably be somewhere in the Bernese Oberland. The Swiss take pride in their work. The people I've met here are the kindest and most friendly. I took a trip to the Schilthorn this morning and it was full of people who would come here to ski. I met this Swiss couple from Bern and we chatted for a while. He asked about my nationality and told me that he would be coming to visit my country. It will be his first time there and he wanted a hotel recommendation from me. How was I to know? I've never really checked in to stay at a hotel in Singers ever! Now as I think back I should have told him to stay at the MBS. I wonder if a Swiss like him would actually enjoy the modern city living of Singapore. Afterall, Bern is quite different from Singers and I doubt we have any good B&Bs with great hospitality as the Swiss.


Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau

That aside, I continued my journey and took a hike from Murren to Gimmelwald. It was a short hike and I managed to convince two Korean girls whom I met at Schilthorn to join me to walk to Gimmelwald. During our conversation I learnt that we had many things in common- we stayed in the same backpackers hostel, were going to check out on the same day and we would be heading off to the same city next as well.

Murren to Gimmelwald

The hike from Murren to Gimmelwald was exceptional. I couldn't think of a better way to see Gimmelwald than from above. The village is small, and it's traffic free. People greet each other everywhere they go. Gimmelwald is pretty even in Spring and I can't imagine how it'll be in Summer.

One of the interesting thing I saw in Gimmelwald was "The Honesty Shop" which claims to be Europe's first unattended self service village shop. True to its word there was no one in the shop. You walk in, see what you like, buy and put your money in an envelope and pop it into a box! Trust the Swiss to do something like that. Things operate on a system of trust here. In Bern, you buy a ticket from the machine before boarding and you don't need to validate it anywhere.



After Gimmelwald, I took a cable car to Lauterbrunnen, a village in a valley. Lauterbrunnen s truly scenic. I couldn't resist its beauty and missed my train because I lingered on in a café to eat. I wished I stayed there instead of Interlaken. It's peaceful, scenic and staying there makes you feel like you're really on a holiday. It's a valley and when there are valleys there are waterfalls. When there are waterfalls there's a lake. When there's a lake there's usually a mountain. This is why I love mountains so much - it's such a bonus sight! Bernese Oberland is everything that is. Majestic mountains, beautiful Swiss chalet houses and Swiss hospitality- what more can you ask for?


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Basel

Going to Basel this morning was a spontaneous decision when flipping through the guidebook at the store 10 mins before I boarded the train. The best part of my trip was that I had no preconceived ideas of Basel and it was a delightful surprise to my advantage.

Basel's tagline is "Culture Unlimited" and it's hard not to see why. There are about 40 museums and there is beautiful architecture all around. One of them is the Vitra Design Museum which I passed because there was insufficient time.

"How do I get to the Vitra Design Museum?" I asked the lady at he information counter.

"Oh you have to go to Germany!" She replied.

Wait, Germany? She sounded like Germany was just a bus stop away (and in fact it kinda was!) I then looked at the map and understood why. Basel is at the junction of three countries and France and Germany are literally neighbours.



With such a unique location, its no wonder that Basel is a cultural charm. The old town is historic with quaint houses and narrow streets. Every turn and corner will surprise the visitor. It has modern buildings and traditional houses and cathedrals to boast. It's truly an architect's heaven.




Bern

Everyone knows Switzerland is an expensive place to visit, and Bern is no exception. However, the best and priceless sights in Bern are all free. I climbed up the hill (about 7-9 stories high with no steps) to Rosengarten and was treated to a spectacular view of the city. It's a Saturday and families, couples and tourists are basking in the sun.

Maybe it's because it's a Saturday, but Bern feels slow, peaceful and relaxed. Streets are relatively busy with pedestrians and cafes are almost full. People seem to take their time to eat. There's no rush at all. No one's shoving anyone and the cars stop for almost all pedestrians.

Even the bears at Barenpark are out to greet us. A sign at the ticket booth says it'll resume services at 2:30. At 2:36, the staff's probably still on their long coffee break. There is a sticker at the window of the booth that says "Quality service".

At the hotel where I'm staying, I notice the same person who came into the bar of the hotel for a drink last night. I have a feeling he'll return tomorrow.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was my aimless stroll near the Aare River and catching a glimpse of the Alps near sunset. Priceless.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

You have to be mad to be a genius

Perhaps this sentence sums up the life of Vincent Van Gogh.

We visited the mental institution in St Remy de Provence where he was admitted. Today it is part asylum, part museum, where funding comes from. In the museum, Van Gogh's cell is recreated and visitors get to see and imagine what it possibly looked like.

During Van Gogh's time, patients would be treated by having continuous baths to prevent them from having "new ideas". There are probably more humane ways today but one wonders if Van Gogh's paintings would look differently if he were treated in a different manner.

It costs €4.50 to enter the museum, which is quite pricy for a replica cell (bet the asylum didn't know they would be having such a prestigious guest!) Patients at St Paul undergo art therapy today and some of their art work can be seen and are available for purchase in the museum. Of course, they pale in comparison to Van Gogh's artwork which brings us back to the point where you have to be mad to be a genius.

And I wonder which category I belong to for going on this adventure...




Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Arles


Is it French? Is it Roman? This is Arles, once conquered by the Romans (and as my French hostel mate says, Romans conquer everything) and is a 30 minute train ride from Avignon, my base city.

Nestled in Provence the south of France, Arles is a rugged beauty. Much of it was destroyed and what remains are its ruins. One of them is the classical theater. It was once able to hold 10,000 people but it now looks like its been halved. Piece the image of the theater together as you look around you and notice the broken statues and arcs.

Walking down the street, one feels as though they were in Rome. Roman inspired buildings and.architecture surround Arles. One of the main attractions in Arles is the Roman Amphitheater (and also my substitute to the Colosseum). Beautiful and magnificent, the amphitheater used to house 20,000 spectators who would watch gladiators fight wild animals. Today is it an arena for bullgames.

Roman Amphitheatre


 
Theatre Antique

Also hometown to Van Gogh, one can see the buildings and landmarks that inspired him to paint. There is the Van Gogh cafe, the view of Starry night over the Rhone river and Van Gogh's square.

Arles is a very attractive city and one of the most enjoyable things to do is to put down your map, walk around and get lost. It's small and after a while you'll see familiar tourist faces. Beautiful houses with falling paint and cobblestone streets await to be explored. Stop for some gelato, admire the views, listen to local buskers and people watch.

This is my idea of getting lost in a place.


Van Gogh's Cafe