How I Met My Mother (At A Dumpster She Said)

In one Spanish class, our teacher Alejandra posed a question: How did you meet that someone important in your life? For those who have kids at home, you must have been bombarded by soul searching questions like this.  What a way to relive your childhood.  As for me, attending a Spanish class is as close to reflecting on my childhood education as I can get.

My mother often said: I found you in a dumpster. Looking back, that must be one of the most profound things I have come across at that very young age of mine.  A simple statement that encapsulates so many concepts.  I found you in a dumpster creates a disassociation, a resignation, and a diversion to the million possible emotions that went through my mother’s head when I was hopelessly naughty, when life seemed unbearable.  Often, I saw my mother silently staring out of the window in tears for hours.  And all I could say was I am sorry.  I guess back then it was hard for my mother to explain to her son how disappointed she was, how heartbroken she was.  Hence, I found you in a dumpster is a good proxy to sum up all her emotions.

Besides, I as a small kid would probably understand that statement better than her trying to tell me what she was going through.  Looking back, I guess it was also her way to teach me the notion of a two-way love.  Not just from her to me, but also I to her.  When I first conceptualized I found you in a dumpster, I thought it was a cool thing.  Monkey God (from a Chinese legend) came from a piece of worthless stone.  And I, from a dumpster.  But thinking deeper, I realized that the conveyed message was: You are not like me and hence you are not my son. Even as a very small kid, that blew.

I cannot recall how exactly my thinking process went.  I suppose my optimism has imbued in me since young.  All of a sudden, I have a mission in life.  I vowed to prove to my mother that I am indeed her son and I am going to make her proud.  What a long journey that became.  Over the years, my mother has subtly taught me that love is a two-way highway.  I too have to reach out to her.

Now that I am older and a little bit wiser, I am more and more convinced that she could well be saying I found you in a dumpster to herself, especially when the going got rough.  A reminder of how close she was to lose me in a hospital when the doctors and nurses informed her that my chance of survival was slim.  And that it turned out to be a blessing for her even if she has to accept me in whatever condition I was, so long as I live.  In another word, I was indeed lost and found, not in the most glamorous way.

I am not as articulated in Spanish.  The Spanish version of the story is as follows.  Thanks to Alejandra who corrected my grammar.  I think the Spanish tenses are intense.

La persona más importante en mi vida es mi madre.  Sin ella, yo no existo.  Sé que parece una tontería.  Cuando era joven, mi madre me decía de dónde venía, sobre todo cuando estaba enfadada conmigo.  Ella me decía que me encontró en el contenedor de la basura.   Cada vez que era travieso, me contaba la misma historia.   En el fondo, sé que ella me ama.  La metáfora de que me encontró en un contenedor de basura puede ser cruda.  Pero es un recuerdo constante del dolor que perdura para hacerme lo que soy hoy.

This entry has prompted me to work on a set of photos taken in my 2009 trip to Hong Kong.  My parents, Cynthia, and I have visited this garden.  If I remember correctly, the fossil stones and trees come from China.  My dad used to visit the garden often and he knows where the good spots are for photo taking.  Unfortunately, my photography skill was inadequate (I just bought my dSLR).  And I wish I had the white balancing card with me.  Nevertheless, for memory’s sake, below is a set of photos of the garden.

And another set for my family.

My Dog and My Family, One Day at a Park

My Dog and His Dog Tak Tak

I wonder if any of you remember precisely what you did during the New Year Day, or on that day, what has gone into your mind.  I didn’t.  As I processed my digital mountain worth of photo backlog, the timestamp of this particular photo collection tells me that on New Year Day, my family took our lovely dog to the park.  Ma joined late, it was a cold day, and there were moments when our beautiful white dog drew attention from the fellow park visitors, unintended attention from the dogs bigger than him, smaller than him.  Pa doesn’t like our dog to get bullied by other dogs, I get it.  To the extend of over-protectively keeping our dog inside the house most of the time, I don’t get it.  But then again, I don’t keep a pet, have no clue on what it’s like, and in the rare moment, during our stay in Hong Kong for my sister’s wedding, this is a photo album of my dog and my family, one day at a park.

I understand not everyone likes to go through others’ family photo albums.  And so, I have extracted 12 photos to share at the bottom of this blog entry.  For our family and friends and readers who are more or less in touch with my family life, I have added a new high resolution photo album (59 photos) to my online collection for sharing.  Inside, you will get to see a lot of pictures of our dog, my parents, my sister Lora and her husband Benny, and Cynthia and I.  I have included mostly spontaneous shots, may not necessary be the best shot for my subjects.  Nevertheless, I know how they look at their best, at their not-so-best.  I treasure those moments that I tend to forget more.

My dog’s name is Tak Tak.  The direct Chinese translation of his name would sound strange.  So I would say, he is named after the can-do attitude.  Tak Tak is an amazing dog.  So clever in so many ways, he is a gift from Heaven for my parents who are living thousands of miles away from my sister and I in Singapore.  When he was still a puppy, before my sister’s emigration, Tak Tak had an accident, at my home in Hong Kong, and broke a leg.  The operation would cost more than getting a new dog.  It was a hard decision to make because we have a humble family income, Pa has long retired.  My family has decided to go through the pain and the expense of an operation.  Deep inside, although I don’t know Tak Tak that well, I am sure he knows that he is loved by those around him.  And I can understand the tears in his eyes whenever my parents leave home for an overseas holiday.

My Sister’s Wedding in Singapore – Thank You For Your Warm Wishes

We wrapped up the night with a group photo

It is amazing how pressure can propel us to do the seemingly impossible.  I woke up this morning barely 8 hours after I shot the last photo of the evening and my parents were already pacing around my living room hinting or rather strongly hinting that they wished to take all the photos I have shot for my sister’s wedding as they are.  As they are?!  It is hard to explain to them why they can do that for point-and-shoot photos and not for the 500 pictures I took with my dSLR camera.  I find it hard to believe that too.  It has got to be my skill, or the lack of it.

And because it breaks my heart to see my parents fly back to Hong Kong disappointed, not only have I done the necessary photo shortlisting and touch up in record time, but also have them published online with a less than 24 hours turnaround time.  I am happy with the results.  Some of the shots I really like.  I suppose Benny and Lora may have passed this blog entry to you for viewing.  Maybe you were there, maybe you couldn’t make it.  As a proud brother of Lora and a good old friend of Benny, I thank you for your warm wishes to the wedding couple.  I am pretty sure in time to come Benny and Lora will share the professionally done up photos of the event with you.  Meanwhile, here are some of the candid shots I have taken to complement the event, arranged chronologically in three albums.

PS. Stay tuned for a little write-up on how the day went.  Thank you for viewing the pictures and as always, feedback is welcome.

Delivering the Wedding Gifts the Traditional Chinese Way (過大禮 / 过大礼) … In the Modern Day

Benny, My Dad, and the Wedding Gifts

Here is the thing, I am lousy when it comes to Chinese tradition.  Maybe I shall read more Chinese literature, maybe I shall date a … or maybe I shall just talk to my parents more.

We can talk about the six Chinese wedding etiquette here.  But if you are more of a visual person, here is the link to my personal family photo album.  Yes, in this tidy home of my parents in Hong Kong we have a dog named Tak Tak.  He is smart, he is adorable, and I will share a photo album of just my dog later.  How late?  I don’t know.  I still have my photos taken in Fraser Hill unprocessed, awaiting to be published.

One day I woke up at the apartment on the 5th floor – my parents stay on the 7th floor and it is a long story that you probably can skip – and Benny (my then-brother-in-law-to-be-now-brother-in-law) was loading the 5th floor apartment with gifts.  I looked at the gifts in my wildest curiosity wondering what on the earth he was doing.  Well, according to one of the Chinese wedding etiquette, the groom’s family delivers the wedding gifts (過大禮 / 过大礼) to the bride’s family days (or weeks?!) before the actual wedding date.  In the old days, it was meant to be an elaborate event.  When the bride’s family receives the wedding gift mostly with items in pairs – plus a letter or a book itemizing the gifts (?! … lots of documentations in the old days) – another set of gifts will be returned as part of the tradition.  If you wonder why coconuts, chickens, and even a pair of shoes can be considered as wedding gifts alongside with the gold and jewelery, phonetically, these items mean only good things to the wedding couple.

In the modern day, this tradition is simplified.  As seen in the photos I have shared, I recall Benny did bring wine, fruit, cakes, abalones, and … lots of cash!  In Singapore dollar!  And my parents also returned a portion of the cash received to symbolize the tradition.  When I saw that, I was like … don’t, don’t … let me have it!

At times I wonder, what dilutes the local tradition?  I tend to look at the era of colonization with puzzlement.  One day I may write a blog entry about it.  Perhaps after this ambitious photo trip my friend Ken and I have been talking about for ages – local culture and tradition at a crossroad.

Photo Album: Family Photos in Hong Kong

Captured Moments of My Sister’s Wedding in Hong Kong (2008.12.28)

A Sample from My Personal Collection of My Sister's Wedding

Fortunately I was not the main wedding photographer.  What hard work it was!  With no control over light quality, background, and where everybody stands, I did the best I could.  And I did the best I could with my first dSLR camera that was less than 2 months old and my non-existing knowledge of Photoshop.  At times I am amused by the faith my little sister has in me.  I love my little sis.  I have been practicing hard, for this very moment.

Can’t wait to see the result?  Click here but please do come back.

I have been resisting to ‘photoshop’ my pictures for a long time until now.  Simply because I’d like to show the world what I can possibly do with my camera and my camera only.  Here is an analogy for you.  Showing you what could have done with my camera (to the point of no cropping) is like performing my music live to you.  The artwork is not perfect, it has its flaws, but (I hope) it has its charm, a sense of genuineness.

Most professionals do some forms of post production work on their photos.  Competitions allow that too.  Hence to me, admiring a moderately or heavily ‘photoshopped’ picture is like listening to a music album.  Perfectly finished and generally accepted.  Some cross the line and they have become more like a digital art to me.  No disrespect to those who are skilled in post production work, I personally enjoy playing my music live.  I.e. my photos as they are being shot (or could have been shot).  Having said that, after ‘photoshopped’ this little photo collection of mine, I do enjoy admiring the end result of this twenty odd pictures, out of 500.

It is surreal to think that my little sister is now married.  It seems like yesterday when I changed her diapers, when I was 4.  Now, here are the rest of my photo collection.

Related Link: Personal Photo Collection of My Sister’s Wedding (HK), What a Fruitful Year that Ends with a Bang: My Sister’s Wedding

Final Leg of Our SG-Bandung-SG-Hong Kong-SG Holiday

My Family and I at a Gardan in Hong Kong

Blue sky came with a price.  As the blanket of thick cloud finally got lifted in our last few days of stay in Hong Kong, the temperature dropped dramatically.  This morning, I was greeted by a cool chilly temperature of 11-degree Celsius.  I kept sneezing not used to the cold weather.  Tonight, as I am typing this blog entry, my nose doesn’t stop running either.  Gosh, I miss the heat of Singapore.

There are good and bad being cut off from the news.  Someone at the dinning table started a conversation, “So you heard the news about that London Eye in Singapore?”  “The Singapore Flyer you meant,” I interjected.  “Yes, have you been up?”  “Yes, once.”  Someone else cut in, “There was a recent power failure.”  OK, I have vaguely heard this news before I left for Hong Kong.

“People were stuck for 6 hours!”

“6 hours?” exclaimed I.  “Do you know what was the first thing people did when they were rescued by the ropes?”  “I have no clue.”  “They dashed to the toilets.”  “How do you know?” I asked.  “It was all over the news!”

Here in Hong Kong?  I wonder if they have seen the video of the guy getting pounded by the tiger from the Singapore Zoo.

“I am surprised that Singapore has power failure,” another someone chipped in.  I too am surprised.  “Do you know what caused the power failure?” it was my turn to inquire.  Everyone at the dining table shook their heads.  And like all good gossips in Hong Kong, the topic switched from Singapore’s “London Eye” to local economy in just a heartbeat.

Hong Kong doesn’t change much.  Still full of people, still very vibrant.  The food is so fresh and good, so value for money.  When visitors see rounds of dessert as well as plates of fruit served at the end of a Chinese meal, their eyes beamed out rays of delight and they asked, “It is free?”  Yes, when you dine in Hong Kong, in such a competitive service oriented environment, the restaurants want you to be happy and come back to them.  Besides, what good is a Chinese meal without the dessert and the fruit?  I wish Singaporeans demand the same level of freshness and food quality, as well as the same level of service quality.  I wonder why we don’t.  Are we happy being charged for every single item in life?

What we do demand, I think, is our constant up-to-date dosage of high quality Hollywood entertainment.  This could explain why Singapore has more varieties in movie titles.  And some of the titles come out much faster in Singapore too compares to Hong Kong.  In addition, if I am not wrong, Singapore has some of the best cinema systems (at least our Cathay Cineplexes do).

When I first touched down in Hong Kong, my brother-in-law Benny told me that in every corner, you can see someone carrying a dSLR camera.  How can that be?  At times I feel uneasy carrying my rather gigantic dSLR camera around in Singapore.  I walk into a mall in Hong Kong and I can see a dozen of people shooting pictures with their dSLR cameras (yes, inside a mall).  I visited a garden with my parents today (see picture above) and I saw two groups of people.  The Nikonians who carried a D200 and above with jaw dropping lenses.  I have not seen what appeared like a 200-400mm or a super long telephoto lens in real life and I saw one guy carrying one like a hand held bazooka.  It is freaking long, take my words.  I think he must have shot all that he can in that garden with his other lenses and was aiming for some out-of-the-world-no-one-else-but-he-can kind of shots.

Another group was the non-Nikonians who appeared to carry much smaller camera bodies.  No conclusion drawn.  Just my observation.

Inside the MRT, I saw a couple carrying the exact camera as mine with a huge tripod.  I feel so at home in Hong Kong carrying my mini-bazooka even with my rather gigantic flash gun attached.  For a brief moment, I was one of them.

Some names in Hong Kong tickle us.  Cynthia found the name “Po Hon Building” funny because in her language, pohon means tree.  I spotted the road name “Average Road” and we both had a good laugh.  There is a GP called “Porky Chan”.  Hmmm.  We have yet to meet someone named Porky in our lives.  And one day I was inside a mini-van and saw the road sign “Opposite Sea”.  I asked my mom where “Opposite Sea” is and she looked at me in puzzlement.  Maybe it is as simple as somewhere facing the opposite sea?

Time flies when you are having fun seems to have some truth in it.  And so we have come to the final leg of our Singapore-Bandung-Singapore-Hong Kong-Singapore trip.  I ponder where we will visit next.