Friday, August 29, 2008

lessons from the world.

meet charlie wilson.

as the democrat texas congressman in the 1980s and a member of the house appropriations committee, he planned, led and executed the biggest and most expensive covert operations which resulted in the end of the soviet-afghan war, and later the cold war.

honestly, you would think that the man who triggered the events that led to such an important historical moment would be remembered, but hardly any americans have heard of him till the movie, charlie wilson's war came out.

confession: i only bought the dvd 'cos i know it's directed by mike nichols, written by aaron sorkin and helmed by tom hanks, which ensured that it'll be a good movie.

but as with any good, well-written, well-shot movie, tv series or book, it taught me and enriched my knowledge of things that i normally would care less about.

so if you're curious, charlie wilson used black appropriations and secretly funded and aided the muja*hideen in afghanistan to drive away that soviets from their country. he got afghan neighbours of israel, pakistan to help with supplying of weapons and vehicles to aid the mujah*ideen. all in secret. he was driven by what he saw at the refugee camps, and frustrated with the CIA's lukewarm position on the war and not doing anything, and hence decided to take matters into his own hands, helped along by CIA middle-east expert and a texas wealthy socialite.

in the end, the once-weak and helpless muj*ahideen freedom fighters and afghan civilians now fought back with much ferocity, to the surprise of the soviets, forcing them to retreat and exit the country.

this marked the first of US foreign policy. funding the anti-communists. then after it is over, they just wash their hands of the blood and leave.

charlie wilson, after appropriating US$1billion for that war, now asks for a tiny fraction more to aid the afghans to rebuild their country. afghanistan was left in tatters. no schools, homes, roads, infrastructure.

the author of the book which the movie was based on, charlie wilson's war, said that this has led to a power vacuum in afghanistan. and this vacuum gave rise to the rise of the tali*ban and osa*ma bin lade*n. together with the weapons, money and military equipment left over from the cold war, the tal*iban was able to rise from the ashes to what it is today, inadvertently leading to the uprising of terrorism and 9/11.

it's really interesting to think about what america can learn from this and apply it to the wars it started in afghanistan and iraq now. which has prompted barack obama to talk about the withdrawal of troops slowly from mid-east and exiting from the region in a responsible manner; while bush is still wanting to send 10,000 more troops there.

it's also interesting to note the idea of freedom fighters. someone once told me, "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". if you look from another perspective, aren't the suicide bombers who are killing US soldiers doing it to drive away the US from their lands, just like how the mujahideen were trying to drive away their soviet occupiers?


today in ST's review section, was an article from new york times. a sharp, insightful commentary on the rise of china and the continued diminishing of US as a global superpower. he compares arriving in dodgy, rundown la guardia airport in NYC and driving through the busy, dirty streets with rundown buildings of queens and manhattan to the big shiny spanking new beijing int'l aiport, getting to the clean beautiful city on the maglev train within an hour. which i can attest to 'cos i've experienced the shabbiness of la guardia and the shine of china's rising cosmopolitan cities.

the world is slowly showing america that it is no longer the superpower. russia's defiance with the georgia conflict, china's rapid rise, india's booming economy, singapore, tiny singapore, investing in its biggest corporations to save them from bankruptcy.

the writer ends by asserting that it's time for america to start rebuilding itself. to turn its attention, money and resources inwards and focus on the crumbling american society where millions have no access to quality education, healthcare, health insurance, in the midst of rising costs of living, high gas prices, the housing market going down, inflation and living under the threat of inadequate gun control and domestic terrorism.

the question: while america goes repair its wounds, is china prepared to assume the role of the global superpower? no doubt it is plagued with 10000 problems of its own. the poverty in its rural areas, the corruption, the backward social graces, the exploding population, the rebuilding of its inner cities and areas hit by disasters, the unrest in western china.

somehow i wish the UN would be the answer. a neutral organization where every country is represented, where everyone pools its resources to help one another. where everyone chips in to help an afflicted country. an organization empowered by every citizen of this world to look after them. like an international government. if we can have the olympics, the world bank, the european union, the hague, why can't the UN do its job?

if barack obama's rise to his clinching of the democratic presidential nomination teaches us anything, it is that any person can become who he/she wants to be, you just gotta defy all odds, exceed all expectations, and work your butt off.

if charlie wilson's war teaches us anything applicable and useful to our small lives, it is that every person is empowered to make a difference.

if i can teach you anything, it is that this difference we all make, can be as small as putting a smile on a friend's face, caring about another, loving one another in spite of our differences. while history does not have space for all of us to do something unprecedented and amazing, i know these things we do not only can change opinions, hearts, minds and lives, i know it's precious in God's sight. (:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

gloomy and quirky.

the next city to host the olympics. today's ST has an opinion written by neil humphreys which was hilarious. i love his writings. he takes a dig at the 8-min strange "quirky" presentation team GB did at the closing ceremony, david beckham (moving to LA, still promoting britain, and kicking the soccer ball really lamely into the field of volunteers), the dismal city infrastructure and congestion and human-traffic. oh well, china pulled it off against all odds and criticism. so i'm sure they can pull it off.

and meanwhile, in the midst of the 10000 deadlines i have in school, 10000 readings and assignments and having to travel to siberia everyday in the week, i dream about travelling again. (:

along river thames, on london bridge. (:

taking a break.
guess what we used to play indian poker - train tickets.
you gotta applaud our improvisation.

now that's NOT london bridge.
london bridge looks really ordinary (like our esplanade bridge).
this nice-looking one is tower bridge.

at big ben, and you see our conquests from absolute vintage.

from the fences of the parliament house. we stayed around to hear the big ben chime 7 times. (:

westminster abbey. we didn't go in though, a service was going on.

buckingham palace on a really gloomy wet day.
and they cancelled the changing of the guard ceremony. :(

so to entertain ourselves, we tried 1000 to fit all of us, a camera under an umbrella.
this was one of the only successful attempts. (:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

the clock doesn't stop running.

many things happened a year ago, and it seems a long time ago; as opposed to time flies.

time, and life, continues. to live life, we must move on and let go of the past that threatens to grip us and keep us trapped in that bubble of the shoulda, woulda, coulda.

i was reading back my blogposts from those times and it was really a time where God's leading saw me through. prayers were answered and i sometimes forget that prayer works. it really does.

i see mr. and mrs. ho in church sometimes, and i recently said bye to them one sunday. and the 1-year anniversary of si qiu's homegoing was near and i was thinking about it quite often this month. i looked at them and i wonder what goes on in their hearts and minds. i look at siyu and i wonder if he misses his brother.

i wonder what kind of courage and faith it takes to reconcile with the Lord after such a heart-breaking event. to know and trust in His will and plan for all of us. to continue in the walk with the Lord, to run the race with more determination, resilience and certainty. to let go of anger, rage, blame and the questions that no one can answer.

"Instead of asking, "Why did it happen?"
Think of where it can lead you from here.
And as your pain is slowly easing,
You can find a greater reason
To live your life triumphant through the tears.

When answers aren't enough, there is Jesus.
He is more than just an answer to your prayer.
And your heart will find a safe and peaceful refuge
When answers aren't enough He is there.
He is there.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

the olympics muses.

the olympic games have managed to do the unthinkable and impossible - make me feel proud to be a chinese-singaporean. i think such things are designed for such patriotic feelings to arise from deep inside; feelings that you never thought you had.

from the amazing, jaw-dropping opening ceremony to the slightly less exciting, but with moments of brilliance, closing ceremony. the hard work that china has brought to the table. the amount of energy and dedication of the more than a million volunteers at the games. a million!! that's 1/4 of our population.

(now how are we going to pull off the youth olympic games? am i the only one with scary doubts right now?)

it's really hard to imagine what goes on behind the scenes. the mayhem and chaos and confusion of tens of thousands of people. so many events, sports, athletes from 204 countries, their coaches, officials, VIPs, judges, umpires, volunteers, crowd control, ticketing, and you-know-the-list-goes-on-and-on.

hence, am very proud of china, beijing. a country that was closed to the world till recently. who rose from the depths of poverty and communism to its global economic and military superpower position today. a country where my grandparents were from.

and having visited china so many times, been to so many cities, china has been seriously misunderstood by the world, and these games was a great opportunity to show the world what it really is. but you really have to be there to feel it. to clear away pre-conceived notions of what it is, to broaden minds and seek to learn. the major cities of china are comparable to san francisco, london, rome, new york, los angeles, sydney and they are actually very hip! (: if you're on a budget, watch discovery travel and living.

however, no country is perfect and china is still laden with povertyand its many problems like education and sanitation in its rural areas (cynics: so is middle america, russia, eastern europe, africa, india). my mum likes to tell me stories of chinese athletes that she reads in the newspapers (fyi: she reads the newspapers cover to cover, including the NTUC/cold storage ads). and how the olympic gymnastics double rings apparatus gold medalist from china trained on 2 simple rings that his father installed on the door of their small small flat when he was young, because they were so poor. and how feng tianwei is going to use the money from the medal to pay for her mum's house in china.

these stories of resilience, dedication, discipline, filial piety, respect - some very chinese values, are really warm and hopeful. (: hope of a country on its rise towards a better future, much like america in the 80s and 90s. and they're catching up. fast.

i really appreciate the theme for the 2008 games - one world, one dream. and at least for 16 days in beijing and neighbouring cities, the people from all over the world, from as north as finland and russia to as south as argentina and south africa, to as remote as the islands of the south pacific, atlantic, indian oceans - they came and competed fairly and professionally, with the only yardstick they knew.

faster, higher, stronger. or citius, altius, fortius if you like latin. (:

i like that despite everything that's going on in the world, the georgia-russia conflict, the war in iraq and afghanistan, the human rights issues in darfur, the mayhem in pakistan, people from these countries stood side by side and showed great sportsmanship.

i wrote about the politicizing of the olympic games many months ago and i'm glad that it was all talk. geo*rge bu*sh and nic*hloas sark*ozy showed up after all, although i'm positive china couldn't care less if they attended or not. (:

onto my favorite swimmer of the moment (used to be ian thorpe many many years ago). mr. michael i-listen-to-my-ipod-and-jump-into-the-pool-and-break-7-world-records-then-go-eat-pizza phelps. i'm just really in awe of him and his neverending wingspan. but more than that, the unsung hero of the US swim team is jason lazek who brought home the bacon (ok gold) for the relay events and made phelps the hero that he is.

and feng tian wei. i almost bit off my nails and threw my pillow at the screen watching the table-tennis semis on tv. she, jiawei and wang yuegu put us on the medal tally. and only 87 countries out of the 204 that took part is on that tally. (:(: and i really don't care if they aren't born-and-bred singaporeans. i've seen chinese people play for US, croatia, netherlands, some african countries and many more. please open your eyes and look at our globalized world. (one world, one dream, remember? actually the better translation would be the same world, that same dream.)

i shall not spoil my nice blogpost by writing about the horrifying mediacorp-programme today in beijing and its incompetent, incoherent, stumbling-over-words, swearing female host. i've lost all faith in mediacorp local programming anyway.

4 years later, it's london 2012. and they have a very high standard set by the chinese to live up to. and i really wish them all the luck, 'cos i cannot imagine an olympic games held in that busy tight, crowded and gloomy city that is london.

meanwhile, there's the youth olympics to be concerned with. and hopefully it'll be just as good as beijing's.

Friday, August 22, 2008

the little red book.

i'm finally saying farewell to my passport which has served me well over the last 9.5 years. i can still remember heading to the old ICA building at geylang when i was in sec 2, needing my own passport to go on the band trip to perth, australia. my first time travelling without my parents, was exciting yet scary. it's a long story and i can still remember the details of my trip. performing, feeding camels, exploring the UWA campus, buying rubbish, feeding the swans, shopping on hay street, making friends with other band peeps from the 3/4 other schools we were travelling with.

well the travelling bug caught up with me as i grew older, obviously, having more spending power and being more aware of the world. my hole-puncher-punchered passport now has:-

22 malaysia chops (11 trips)
2 thailand chops (1 trip)
6 australia chops (3 trips)
1 australia visa
10 china chops (5 trips)
1 china visa
4 hongkong chops (2 trips)
the japan landing permission sticker and narita chop
2 korea chops (1 trip)
1 US student visa and department of homeland security exit chop
1 canada chop (which served for 2 trips into and out of canada)
1 london heathrow chop
1 berlin airport chop
2 paris chops
many invisible chops in the EU countries.

ok i shan't complain. i'm blessed with opportunities to travel and see the world. to learn and love people, culture, differences and history.

hopefully my new little red book will be filled with many other chops. and i'm super excited about my first chop to japan yay! (:(:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

morning madness.

today i took 1.5 hours to get from simei to NTU, instead of the usual 35minutes.

all because of a bus and motorcycle accident.

i was so pissed 'cos i left home 1 hr before class. thinking that i'll sure be earlier this time.

in the morning the entire singapore goes crazy. PIE alone has 3 separate jams.

so i was sitting in my car and i thought of things to be thankful for.

the trees and sights i never saw along the greeny areas of PIE.

the morning sun rising high.

the Lord's protection that surrounds me.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

You are.

On the train from interlaken to luzern, switzerland.

You are -
holy, faithful
Savior, friend
all i'll ever need

every question's answer
every reason why
moving, yet still

"glory, hallelujah"
hope of peace on earth
alpha and omega

comfort, refuge
love personified
kindness, compassion

Lord on high
the way, the truth, the life
the Word made flesh
the bright morning star

You are.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

it's a beautiful night.

(National Space Science Data Center/NASA)

look at our beautiful earth at night. (:

what are we doing to it?

Monday, August 11, 2008

postcards from london.

london didn't live up to my lofty expectations. but thinking back, i think it was still quite enjoyable, save for the rain that fell lightly and continuously for 2 whole days. i'll always remember london for its vintage finds, prince william, the british accent, way too expensive tube tickets, musicals at west end and jamie bamber. (:

early morning rush hour at a king's cross platform.

blue skies and white fluffy clouds.

the grand and old atrium of the museum of natural history.

a cool afternoon for a stroll at hyde park/kensington gardens.

beach chairs dotting the greenery around the lake.

swans-a-gather at hyde park.

smile for Piccadilly circus! those yellow lots on the monopoly board.

somewhere around leicester square. home of west end.

saturday morning at portobello market. my kind of saturday. (:

home-made quiche, anyone?

tulips, my favorite flower. other than daisies.

the colors of portobello.

am currently in the middle of a battlestar galactica marathon. another smart and witty series, because i'm a geek, this is sci-fi and i love it. the show reached cult status, much like star trek (which i cannot appreciate) and lost (which i find so intriguing). within 2 weeks, i'm at the home stretch of its 4th and final season, with the 2nd half of the season airing next year. there's much to think about the issues raised by the show - politics, war, existentialism, religion, race, genocide, sexuality, violence and morality.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

why no dark knight?

overheard, after watching the dark knight:

at the traffic light between tampines mall and tampines mrt station.
august 5th 2008

"eh, why the movie only got batman and no dark knight ah?"