Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and to know the place for the first time.”

 

And that’s how it began……..with the T.S. Eliot quote in mind, I started my 50km run at about 6.30am at the foot of the path leading to Jayne’s house. Dawn was giving way to sunrise and all I can see ahead was the rear lights of the bicycle Jayne was riding on. It was comforting to know that I was not alone in my quest and my lovely partner was as invested in this cause as I was! The first loop was an awakening of my senses as I see creatures great and small waking up to the day – 4 kangaroos hopping in single file across the track, looking askance at this lone figure jogging towards them; snails and millipedes starting their day inching their way to the other side of the track as though reminding me that slow and steady wins the race 🙂 About 10.5km into my first loop, I saw an iridsecent blue fairy wren in luminous indigo plumage in the middle of the track. As I advanced, the shy bird flew into the bushes but hovered on the sprigs just proudly strutting its colours for me to view albeit away from harm’s way. I took note of this but didn’t tarry a bit more as there were still many miles to go.
Where I saw the 4 kangaroos hopping across the track

Calm Reserve – where I saw the 4 kangaroos hopping single file across the track

Following PK’s tip to the ‘t’, I drank 250ml of water every half an hour followed by coconut juice the next half. That landed me in the loo at Neil Hawkins Park, about 13.5km into the first loop. For anatomical reasons, I hate toilet breaks during long distance runs as it is oft more a waste of time for the women than men! Still, I obediently went in search of the cubicle to relieve myself just so that I can continue to hydrate as instructed! Energy fuelling every hour was a breeze as I enjoyed the GU chomps. The first loop passed uneventfully with Jayne giving me the kind of encouragement that long distance runners dread to hear 🙂
The second round began with Claire, Jayne’s lovely friend, joining us! So, three is definitely not a crowd at this point as the unofficial run was beginning to take its toll on me……there were no spectators, no music, no banners, no mileage markers, no nothing to remind me that I’ve an official finish line to cross! I will myself to focus on the children, the cause I’m running for and the many who have pledged their support in kind, thoughts and spirit. I recalled one of the Peruvian kids, a precocious girl, who came running to me and curled herself into my arms during a farewell performance for one of the volunteers.

 


Child at PH curling up on my lap

Child at Picaflor House curling up on my lap

 

I remember the end of an art and craft lesson where the children proudly flashed the animal masks they made and uninhibitedly growl, bark, roar, moo, cock-a-doodle-doo etc at the camera! Such spontaneity made me chuckle because all the kids were told to do was to smile at the camera and we got a bonus instead 🙂
Children at PH making animal noises

Children at Picaflor House making animal noises whilst posing for the camera

So, on I trudged, putting one foot in front of the other, I moved to 20km…….that was the longest distance I’ve trained before this run! By then, my stamina had waned, sprightliness dwindled and spirit heavily taxed! With Jayne behind me pushing me on with encouragement from behind and Claire ahead pulling me forward with her sunny disposition, I crossed the halfway mark. As I passed the spot where I saw the blue fairy wren, I noticed a white feather on the track. This time, I stopped, ran back and took a good look at the feather, taking the opportunity to stretch my tired legs as well.
At 25km - second time running along Calm Reserve!

At 25km – second time running along Calm Reserve!

As I went into my third and final round, my heavy laden legs felt like they had just been bulldozed and crushed. Even though I put one foot in front of the other, progress was seemingly stalled. It felt as though I was running on the treadmill – moving a lot but going nowhere. At times like this, the dichotomous human condition is clearly seen – fear and hope co-exist; pleasure and pain mingle; darkness and light merge. One part beckons me to give up; the other reminds me that I’ve promises to keep. I shut out all the self-talk and listened to songs on my iPod instead at 35km! Cold Play and Fun did spruce things for me, albeit negligibly.

 

After 38km, I had to stop and stretch every 100 – 200m until the 40km mark when Kirsten, a very dear friend and her partner Orla joined me for the last 12km. Seeing them was such a welcoming respite as their chatter and singing of old childhood songs distracted me from the pain and agony! Truth be told, I cannot remember what transpired save for the focus on my feet as I planted one foot in front of the other. However, I do remember the butterfly that flitted across our paths at 45.5km and then the rainbow that arched across the horizon at 46.5km! The French believe that things always come in threes and as a stauch believer in synchronicity, which I deem as meaningful coincidences that dot our lives, I believe my late partner (who was part French) was there with me throughout the run lining my path at 10.5km with the blue fairy wren, at 28km with the white feather and 45.5km the monarch butterfly. The rainbow symbolises the bridge that unifies heaven and earth. I was rendered speechless and continue to be so even as I write and mulled over the allegorical significance of the rainbow as a bridge that seals the promise I made to the children at Picaflor House and the promise that my late partner was making to me.

 

But back to the run…….I was too exhausted to comprehend fully the significance of the message. All I wanted to do was to finish the damn run! With 3.5km to go, I mustered every bit of good I’ve left and move unflinchingly towards Picnic Cove, the finish line and complete the 50km run in just under the 7 hours I’d anticipated. A small celebation, courtesy of my beautiful partner Jayne, took place! There was no crowd, no cheerleaders, nor congratulations! Instead, there were genuine hugs around that showed the camaraderie fostered, the close bond that was formed and the communal spirit that developed as we all are came together to do a bit of good for the less privileged in our world.
Hugs all around at the finish line at Picnic Cove.        L to R - Claire, Jayne, Moi, Orla and Kirsten

Hugs all around at the finish line at Picnic Cove. L to R – Claire, Jayne, Moi, Orla and Kirsten

More than the monumental or crazy feat that many might think I’ve achieved in running 50km at 50 years old, I think I’ll always look back at this moment with childlike awe that I am never the same runner who began the run 7 hours earlier on……..well, not until my next foray into an unknown longer distance 🙂

 

Thanks so much for being a part of this journey in which I started with the hope of raising USD2500 for the children at Picaflor House but now, the fundraising has almost hit £2500. The deadline for donation closes on 20 July 2015….so there is still time to do a bit of good for the children at Picaflor House!

 

A Letter to My 15-Year Old Self

Posted: October 15, 2012 in Life

To commemorate the first ever International Day of the Girl, 11th October 2012

Dearest Irene,

I write to you with so much apprehension because the next 32 years may be one hell of a ride. Yet, how can I begrudge you the discovery of coming to yourself, a solitary sojourn that will evolve into a soul-stirring journey? Thus, I bequeath you these hindsight that you may have all the wisdom to fathom the insights deeply.

Remember……..

That discipline in all aspects of life usually begins with a discipline in a specific passion. Follow it fervently and do not yield to temptations to give up or give in.

That many whom you thought as ‘friends’ actually need the passage of time to be proven true. Don’t be disappointed if only a handful stay the course.

That your inner self needs to be guarded zealously and only revealed to the select few. Don’t give away pieces of yourself to everyone because very few really understand although many will claim they do.

That the world is full of people who by their sheer numbers consider themselves ‘normal’. Do not be afraid to speak up for the marginalized and the minority.

That the way of the world is very simple: the hankering for the exterior. Don’t be afraid to go the other way: the humbling of the interior.

That the media is full of subliminal messages (especially for young girls like you) influencing you to be of a certain shape, size and seniority. Be very discerning with these subtleties because your inner self is the aspect you need to mould, magnify and maturate.

That sexism has been alive, is alive and will continue to be alive through the ages. Be the voice of the voiceless, help the helpless, profit the penniless and shatter the stereotypes in Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan and even more so, closer to home, in developed countries where a woman is still objectified by her age, her shape and her beauty!

Well…….

Even if the next 32 years will not have changed one bit since my letter to you, don’t despair. Be still; withdraw to recharge yourself, meditate on the wise teachings of the sages and be steel; face the challenges head on, draw on the strength of the likeminded; finally, be secured in the knowledge that the longer the ride, the further you’ve left the hellish part behind and heading towards the heavenly one!

With all my deepest love,
irene

penned: 15 Oct 2012: 01:14

The “WOW” Factor

Posted: October 6, 2012 in Life

There are very few good things in life to savour, really savour: A good glass of wine in one hand and a good story to tell on the other. Here’s one for you to sap all winery and literary pleasure from. Enjoy!

Amuse-Bouche /a.myz.buʃ/

When it comes to wine, we all have a first time; this special defining moment that makes our life change in a sip. There’s always a before and an after, a sense of virginity being lost. And most of the time, it catches you by surprise.

I was a late bloomer. My first time occured shortly after my fourties. For a long time, wine was just a recreational presence in my life, a nice complement to a meal or an evening out in the town. It never occured to me that I could fall in love with it and devote most of my free time to its fascinating study and demanding devotion.
Memories, memories…. which will be unveiled very soon I promise! As the topic for today is not about how I popped my cherry, but much more about the rarity of a very special moment.
What brought back this…

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Birthday Tribute to 47 years

Posted: June 24, 2012 in Life

“Is someone different at age 18 or 60? I believe one stays the same.” – Hayao Miyazaki

Stepping into the Ghibli Museum, one is not only transported to a special moment in one’s youth but one is zapped of the passion that film director Hayao Miyazaki exudes in every nook and cranny of this place – the labyrinth of rooms have no entrance nor exit, the helix of staircase spirals without a beginning nor an end, the grottos sinks in one instance and bulges out the next; concave and convex all at once. Such is Miyazaki’s passion, fluid yet firm, flowing yet sticking to fundamentals. Here and there are strewn the labourious efforts that fuel the passion – drawings after drawings, story boards upon story boards, reference materials piled one on the other, used crayons and pencils of different hues intermingled in metallic canisters, cigarette heads lining the ash tray betrayed the countless waking moments when he hunches fastidiously over his meticulous sketches.

Through it all, be it navigating the miniature stairways, traversing the bridge to nowhere, gawking at the many stained glass murals hovering high above, entering a seemingly magic garden on the rooftop with a gargantuan robocop in Laputa standing sentinel-like as though guarding the Gaudian-like museum , one seems to be led deeper and deeper into the Miyazaki’s forest of passion with him bidding us with this message printed on the entrance ticket – Let’s get lost, Together.

And I did.

I soaked in the moment, sapped all its whimsicalness, strapped myself to the flight of fantasy and snaked my way where my imagination carried me to a lost childhood – to see only what a child, untainted by the ways of the world, can see. I spent my 47th birthday as though celebrating my 7th, allowing my mind to wander, no holds barred, to the wonderment of a wide eyed youth:

At 47,

I saw my worries of growing old crumbling like sand to the ground
In their place, hope sprouted on the mound
I saw fears of living in an ageist society dissipating in thin air
Replaced by a waft of healthy optimism that all will be fair and square
I saw insecurities stripped away as I near the retirement bank
And chose instead, to cross over to the other side, where new opportunities flanked
I saw debilitating aches, stiff muscle joints and physical ailments miraculously healed
Picturing myself with lissomeness, doing somersaults, handstands and cartwheels
I saw lingering doubts of running another full marathon smothered
By a renewed commitment to train for an ultra, which is even farther
I saw concerns of not having my own family to pass on the lineage cast aside
Visualizing instead the extending arms of friends and their family, far and wide
I saw receding threats of lines and wrinkles crisscrossing the facial terrain
By repeating that “physical beauty is temporal , inner beauty’s not” refrain
I saw clouds of anxieties of not having enough time to do the things I want blown away
And focused on doing whatever I do passionately, unflinchingly, holding sway

At 47,

Others might think it’s time for the setting sun
I discover what it is like to a child again, getting lost in the run
Others might think it’s time to slow down, take stock and unwind
I discover, on the contrary, there is still so much to do, so many treasures left to find
Others might think that Laputa, Totoro and Porco Rosso encapsulated their growing up years
I’m not ashamed to admit, I discovered them when about half a century I neared

Standing in the Ghibli museum, on the threshold of having another year added, my first encounter with the old school 71-year old animator and director, Hayao Miyazaki, was nothing short of sheer magic.

– dedicated to my partner, my bestest friend, for arranging this trip 🙂 –

 

In my little cell, with my little self!

Posted: April 17, 2012 in Life
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The rain pelted down relentlessly as I stepped out of the lift! How on earth did I not know that an amber storm warning had already been hoisted. Quite possibly due to the windowless cell (aka my humble office)!

More than the impending storm looming in the not so distant evening, the warning was a harbinger of more foreboding news as I mused on what it means to be in a little cell with my little self….

It is so easy to remain detached to the world – its cares and carousal, its gloom and gaiety – all rolled into a seamless imperceptible blur of grey when I am caught up in my little cell with my little self.

And then I looked around me enroute home and I see thousands of commuters are not free either as they are so caught up with their little cells and consumed with their little selves!

To probe a little further, away from the naked eye, I have observed countless times those who have erected cells in their minds to establish their righteous selves – boxed in by their impeachable belief and value systems.

The writing is on the wall – we actually don’t need walls to hole us in or hold us up. We have set perimeters that are more pervasively invisible than we would care to admit! The danger of being fenced in this way is far more grave than closing the doors to shut our neighbors out or hunching over our shoulders to shield the fellow commuter from looking in to our display screen.

The danger is that wars have been fought in the mind and battles lost in the abyss of grey matter. The danger is that this is an invisible war, remotely removed from prying eyes. The danger is that once colonized, the grooves stay indented. The danger is that the divides are more subtle than your obvious race, gender or class divisions.

As I mused, streaks of lightning flashed across the darkened sky. It seems to suggest that there should be hope, no fear in the little illuminated cell, with my little enlightened self.

– penned 16042012: 20:15 –

The Way of the New World

Posted: January 28, 2012 in Life

The onslaught of the digital revolution has its fair share of bloodbath. The most recent victim is Eastman Kodak company, founded on a simple slogan, “you press the button, we do the rest,”. George Eastman put the first simple handheld camera into the hands of consumers in 1888, simplifying a cumbersome and complicated process, making it easy to use and accessible to nearly everyone. Yet, it’s with profound sadness that we have to witness the very digital world that have ridden on the crest of success of its forefathers and that should have at least stayed gratuitously beholden to Kodak for having paved the way in the world of photography, has helped to hasten its demise. Indeed, in the pursuit of another technological breakthrough, the new world order is relentless and merciless in threshing the harvest. The chaff must be sifted from the wheat; the irrelevant cast aside; the value-less buried.

I remember my Kodak photos with fondness – the distinctive gold backprint that is an embossment of pride that my Kodak moments are made of Kodak paper. I remember too the advertising campaign that Kodak released in the mid-70s, receiving a lot of air time and catapulting to fame the song ‘Times of Your Life’ and reviving Paul Anka’s career in the process. I guess that tells the tale. It’s not a picture-perfect tale that will be remembered for the inroads that Kodak has made for the world of photography; nor will it be the poignant Kodak moment tale that will be remembered for its 130 years of contribution in the history of photography. Sadly, in the way of the new world, it will be a tale of ‘Gone in a flash’, ‘Kodak pays for missing the digital moment’ and ‘The last Kodak moment’.

For all that’s worth and in an almost ironic way, I’m immortalising those Kodak moments in a digital archive to help me savour the inexplicably beautiful moments that film photography has contributed to my life.

Acknowledgements: The video is created by a friend of a friend, Robert Wesley Seng.

The Men, They Don’t Get it!

Posted: November 19, 2011 in Life

Ashton Kutcher probably didn’t appreciate it. And the truth of the matter is that many men probably don’t. No matter because by the time a woman matures and comes of age, she doesn’t really need the endorsement of man, or anyone, for that matter!

What she needs is the confidence that she has something special to contribute that younger women don’t. She has the years to show, not on her face but on the lines of well-crafted words coated with pearls of wisdom that only age and experience can afford. As a woman gets older and rests more in the confidence that her gifts are unique, she radiates a more alluring attractiveness, not by slapping on dollops of La Prairie, but by standing on her convictions as a mother, daughter, wife, woman and friend.

As a woman gets older, she comes as a wholesome package where her mental, physical and emotional states are integrated holistically and where she takes time to triangulate the three, dividing her attention equally to nurture the trio. And in so doing, she exudes charm not only in the physical realm but in her mental and emotional faculties as well. Her appeal is where beauty, brawn and brains converge.

As a woman gets older she becomes sexier. She becomes a better lover as she learns to accept herself, becomes comfortable with her sexuality and much freer in her expression of it. She internalizes this belief and allows the more erotic attractiveness to manifest from within. When she embraces her midlife sexuality, becomes fully available to herself, she can then soak in the unexpected pleasure and joys that come along with it.

But alas, in a stereotypical ageist sexist society, very few men appreciate ‘the older, the better’ axiom: Ashton Kutcher didn’t get it and neither would scores of other men!