Counting My Blessings

Ice-creams that I enjoyed in New Zealand!
As I look forward to a brand new year, I’m also looking back to the past year with great gratitude.  While there were many ups and downs, I’m glad that there were more ups than downs.  It was an eventful year for the family and as we went through bitter sorrow, we were also buoyed up by God’s mercies and faithfulness. 

I’m ever grateful for personal health for without a measure of good health, it will be impossible to do much with all the opportunities presented to me.  At the start of the year it is good to slow down and take stock of what I’ve been doing in my local and travel assignments and consider the many interesting people I was privileged to have met.  I enjoy it most when I’m writing on subjects that are close to my heart and I’m glad that I can play a part in making someone’s day.

Heading out from hotel for our shopping spree!
Johor stories are always a joy to write about and my travel piece on the Johor Baru Kwong Siew Heritage Gallery that was published in NST Life & Times during the 2013 lunar new year season, garnered quite an interesting response.  After I posted in my blog, Peter Cheong, a great-grandson of Wong Ah Fook who now resides in Canada, wrote me to find out more about his family in JB.  In May, we met for a tour of the Heritage Gallery and to meet his long-lost relative, Datin Pat Lim. 

It was a pleasure to put them in touch again and in November, I received an interesting email from Paddy Chee, the great-great grandson of Wong Ah Fook, who read my story on the Heritage Gallery and was also seeking to connect with his heritage in JB!  He is the eldest son of Wong’s grand-daughter and has lived in Ireland, England, Singapore, the USA and writing me from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.  He had plans to visit Singapore and JB in December and I quickly connected him with Datin Pat Lim for a long-awaited family reunion.  It would have been fun to meet him too but when Datin Pat set up the appointment for their meeting, I was in Australia.

Ruby [Right] and I at the Great Wall!
Speaking of Australia, I was in Perth twice last year and I did quite a bit of travelling, both for work and family.  My travels started in February with a shopping trip to Bangkok to explore the city malls and the famous Chatuchak weekend market.  In this trip I discovered that the various destinations on our map were now conveniently linked not only by rail but also by covered and elevated walkways.  We hardly walked along the dusty, crowded streets because the train stations are so well connected by comfortable corridors that led us from one mall to the next!

After our visit with cousin Dennis in Shanghai in 2012, our multiple-entry visa to China was still valid in 2013 so my sister and I decided to make use of it with a visit to the Great Wall.  This was one of my must-see destinations and it was good to be in the company of a very pleasant group of Malaysian tourists.  The trip was more enjoyable because the local guide was bi-lingual and the members in our group were considerate and cooperative.  My visit to Beijing was very memorable and the walk through the Forbidden City in particular, evoked all sorts of nostalgic and romantic imagining as [I confess!], I’m a great fan of the Hollywood version of The Last Emperor! 
Grandma's jelly cake for her 101st birthday
One of the highlights of the year must be our grandma’s 101st birthday that we celebrated with her on the 28th day of the fourth moon in the lunar calendar.  After the grand celebration for her 100th birthday in the previous year, we decided that every birthday thereafter must be celebrated because she truly is the Real Champion. 

We could see that her 101-year old heart and body was plodding along and it is understandable that she has good days and bad days as she grows more tired and weaker day by day. 

I’m ever grateful for her every new day and we had fun making more memories with grandma, and especially in tasting the jelly cake that she so enjoyed.

Mum and dad in clinic, waiting for
turn to consult the doctor
The measure of good health that my elderly parents enjoy is also a boon because as in all families, each one of us has a role in managing our parents’ well-being.  July was particularly challenging when my sister and I became victims of the aedes mosquito and just as I was recovering, she fell ill.  It’s amazing how a pesky little insect can wield such power because it took some time for us to regain our strength and fully recover from that awful fever.  Soon after that, our dad was hospitalized and it was particularly difficult for the family because it was weeks before he showed any sign of recovery.

But God is always good.  My sister, brother and I were booked to go to New Zealand and Australia and as dad gradually made a full recovery, we had the peace of mind to travel again.  It was reassuring that in our absence, our supportive and caring church family was on hand to see to our parents’ needs and the use of modern technology kept us in touch with the happenings [complete with photos!] at home even though we were thousands of miles away. 
With Ruby and Kenny at Mt Ruapehu, North Island, NZ
A few days before departure, I received a call from my boss asking me to go on a travel assignment to China.  I explained that I could not surrender my passport to process the visa to China and she understood why I was unable to accept the assignment.  She reassured me that it was fine and even reminded me to bring back some stories.  I’m ever so blessed for the privilege to publish my travel stories even though I was not on assignment!  We did indeed have many new and exciting experiences in our winter holiday adventures and our time together in and around Lake Taupo, North Island, was certainly both healing and refreshing.

The autobiography of Colleen M. Redit
Earlier in May, the autobiography that I wrote for Colleen M. Redit, a lady missionary in India, was distributed for worldwide sale and in Taupo, I was pleasantly surprised to see a promotional poster for the book in the church we attended. 
Some time in October, my sister and I arranged to meet a Singaporean friend for tea and that was when she introduced us to Lilian, the lady who was the book distributor in Singapore.  Lilian told us that Colleen was travelling back from New Zealand to India via Singapore in late November and invited us to join the lunch arranged with a few friends to meet Colleen. 

It was a joy to meet with Colleen again and learn that Christian Missions Charitable Trust will be holding a special event to celebrate her 75th birthday and her 50 years of service in India on her birthday in February. 
With Colleen M. Redit in Singapore
While the mission work she started in Chennai has developed into a wide range of ministries, she still has a dream to build a home for the aged and destitute.  To mark her Golden Jubilee, her dream will soon become a reality with the Board’s decision to set aside half an acre of land at David Nagar, Padappai, to build such a home to accommodate 10 beds, a doctor’s consultation room as well as kitchen, dining hall and a multi-purpose hall!

After I returned from a travel assignment to Osaka, Japan, in early November I never expected to travel again but suddenly I was off to Perth again in December.  That was because our middle sister in the UK had secretly made her travel plans to Australia and she asked us to join her there before she came to Singapore and Malaysia again in January.  It was an excellent opportunity for a sisters’reunion and we did not hesitate to book our tickets, this time for a holiday in Australia’s scorching summer heat!

Dennis [Seated Right] with us in Perth, December 2013
One morning in Perth, my nephew checked his Facebook news and announced, “Uncle Dennis is here!”  I guessed he was on a business trip and should be able to join us for dinner.  Food is truly the best way for fellowship.  So that evening he arrived by taxi and we enjoyed a wonderful family reunion over a home-cooked dinner with a delectable dessert of Perth’s famous Corica apple strudel.  

Big or small – I’m simply thankful for every blessing and opportunity that came my way in the past year.  The excitement from last year did not just end at the close of the year as it is spilling over into January and I cannot wait for the next phase of blessings to unfold. 
That's me with Pleun and Hennie Hitzert at The Lily, Western Australia in September 2013
When I opened the newspapers in the morning of Jan 2, I knew that the year was kicking off beautifully as my WA experience, A taste of Dutch in West Australia, was published in a 2-page spread in NST Life & Times!  As I said, God is always good.


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