Thursday, September 29, 2016

A life well lived.

6Today we attended a Baha'i funeral of a dear family friend, a wonderful soul whom we dearly call her Aunty Peng. I was asked to give a speech... as I was preparing the speech, I thought about my life and realised that Aunty Peng was a big part of it when I was growing up. For without her guidance, I might still be that timid and shy girl. When we encounter death, we would learn a lot about life. For only when we understand death, we will not fear it. This is when we will truly live a life of purpose. For this life is like a dream..  and our true life is the life of the spirit.

Here's my speech I prepared on the way to KL and together with another childhood friend Kumar, we shared who Aunty Peng was to us.

Dear friends and family,
Allah'u'abha. My name is Shirin Tan. I am here to share some beautiful memories of Aunty Peng, especially during the days when the Chew family lived in Johor Bahru ~around 1988 for almost 8 yrs.

Just a little background- I'm the only girl in my family so when the Chews moved to JB I was so happy to have some girl friends to play with. So me, Su yyn and Su fern quickly became best friends. Thats when dear Aunty Peng became a part of my life as I was growing up.

Aunty Peng has many wonderful attributes that will always be remembered in our hearts.

First, her Warmth and Kindness.
She is always very warm and welcomes everyone to her home. So much so that I am always there at their home and often have sleep overs there.  I even recall calling myself Chew Su Lin to feel part of the family!

Our families and the JB Bahai communities had many fond memories together.  Especially the fun we have at the weekly Bahai children class,  the picnics at Istana Garden, the southern regional Bahai summer schools, and all the Bahai activities. We also took many trips together camping in desaru, waterfall at kota tinggi where we had 10 people in a car, train rides to port dickson for winter school. And not forgetting our late night suppers for ais kacang at the satay celok stall or also known as lok lok( literally translate as dip dip as Uncle Chew will say).

Aunty Peng is our dear loving teacher in everyway. She was always encouraging.
She taught me many things. The first and most memorable lesson I learnt was to finish my food!

When I was a little girl, I would take hours to eat my food and do not look forward to meal times. And I would always end up throwing almost half of my food into the bin at the end of each meal. My mom went to aunty Peng and ask her to help teach me a lesson. So one night I was at their home for dinner, and aunty peng gave me a very small scoop of rice and she told me to finish it first and I can ask for more if I want to. Over time  I realise the wisdom behind that.

She let me realised that I can finish my meal and not waste any. Through this small action, she built my confidence and I began enjoying my meals and eat my food much faster now! This is a small example but it is through her firm yet loving encouragement that she teach every student of her.

Aunty Peng is selfless. She always think about others first especially the children. I remember she and Uncle Chew got a van just so she can ferry more children to Baha'i children classes every week. She would let us roll around literally in the back sit of the van playing sandwich which is pushing and squashing each other. And we would scream and make so much noise that if it were any other person, they would have thrown us out of the van!

Aunty Peng is patient. I will always remember her ways of handling crisis especially now that I am a parent. She would talk to us in a firm yet loving manner when we made a mistake. She never raised her voice or scolds us. She will take time to talk to us and find a fitting consequence for our wrong doings.

She is also a very patient driver, when asked why she said you never know if that you will need to teach the faith to the person one day. We are in deed ambassador of the faith.

Gifts... Aunty Peng always come bearing gifts! Since I was a child, whenever we see aunty peng, she is like Ms Santa claus always giving little gifts for us.

Unlike most people, she never buys us lavish toys or expensive gifts. The presents she gives instead are truly unique and precious and with lots of love ans thought. Often she will give us little  note books decorated with her beautiful handwriting with beautiful poems or quotations or beautiful books for us to get inspired. Some times she will give me a bag of little mystery items like once she gave me a brown paper bag with coasters, boxes, stickers and odds and ends. To the normal person, those stuff may look like nothing useful but we are asked to use our creativity  and imagination as there are endless ways we can do them. She truly sees the potential in everything, a beauty in everything.

I'm often told by my parents and Yyn and Fern to not become like Aunty Peng and clutter up the house with so many things. Fortunately or unfortunately I have picked up the same passion or talent. Seeing the educational value of every single thing and every single trip or opportunity. Of course I will try to do this with moderation. ;)

Lastly, I want to say that Aunty Peng has taught me and many others many valuable lessons for life. One of the lessons I learnt though she never said it but showed through her example was this- To always think about the children, involve the children, give the children a part to play at the feast, holy days, teaching events, every child is unique and noble. She truly sees the gems in us all and make us feel we can achieve anything if we want to.

Dear Aunty Peng, Thank you for your love and encouragement. We will all continue to share this love and lessons to others.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A new year! New challenges! New uncertainties! Keeping hope.

Its the new year! I'm trying to keep positive and driven but it's getting off on a rocky start with doubts and uncertainty.

For many years now, I have been 'obsessed' as so to speak about education as I believe that the only way to make this world a better place is to educate the young minds in the 'right way'. I hope to do my part amongst all these chaos... bitterness.. injustice...inequality... prejudice...

The 'right way' seem very far fetched.. and sometimes I feel like I am not moving any closer to my dream...

I met Montessori, fell in love with the beautiful phillosophy of respecting the little beings, believing in the nobility of the spirit, and that the hope for a peaceful world begins at birth.

Dived into the world of nature with Wardolf. Forest Kindergarten. Green School in Bali. So much reverence and respect given to mother earth... connecting back to where we came from... immersing in the forest.. the sea... the moutain... preserving our earth for generations to come, growing new aspirations.

Inspired by Reggio Emilia, bringing out the creative being in us, freedom to create and build, propelling a forward looking, ever advancing civilisation.

I am a Bahai. Bahais believe in Oneness of God, Oneness of Religion,Oneness of Man,  The truth is but one, ignorance have multiplied it. Search and we will see that we all seek the same thing in life. Peace... Happiness... Unity... Love... Family... Laughter... Health... Shelter... Food...
Human is essentially a spiritual being and all knowledge comes from our Creator God. An education is only complete when we unite all these truths and with our heart and soul turning towards God.

I hope that in my lifetime I will be able to find a true path.. true education. One that is universal and one that is for everyone regardless of wealth or status, one that unites all, one that brings out the latent potentials and virtues in all of us, one that will strive for excellence in every field and most importantly one that will help bring about wonderful selfless beings to serve and make the world a better place.

Reflecting in my 'world' now...
I am currently home with my 3 boys. Despite all the above ideals I have in my head... sadly my boys ( 2 elder ones graduated from a Montessori preschool a few years back ) are not enrolled into any Montessori/Waldolf/Reggio/Bahai school. And I am beginning to feel very frustrated and pushing my kids to meet the ideals of our traditional school. I dont want to... but if I dont push them.. they will fall behind in the rat race. I am at war with my inner self... I feel that my world is in turmoil. It is said that turmoil and out of equilibrium is a good thing. It pushes oneself to discover new truths and find the new equilibrium.

I have contemplated homeschooling for a long time. But never had the confidence that I can do it. Schools are not perfect but it is what it is for now. It gives the children a sense of the 'real' world out there. I dont think we are meant to homeschool our kids, humans are social beings and we need to interact and socialise to survive. It is also a 'waste' of resource I feel, all the work that a parent does just to teach your own?  ( I am looking at it from a point of what type of education society needs.)

I did homeschool my kids. Basically learning begins at home and a child's first educator is the parent. I taught and guided Tristan with whatever I knew, I did it at a more 'formal' level for Trevor and Tyler with my Montessori training and took in students to create the social environment for sharing, caring and interactions to occur. However at this point of life, I am not able to commit and take in student as I am swarmed with housework and managing the kids.

Tristan is independent and is doing well academically and thriving in our traditional school system. Trevor I am getting worried as he prefers moving about and working with his hands, fixing things and building things. He is not sensitive to language, reading... I am finding a hard time teaching him. Pushing him to meet the standards set for him to meet. It is hard to decide which path to take...1- Push him to meet the standards but suffer all the way... 2-Let him be and let him do his best... but getting his self esteem crushed with standardise test...

I hope I find the balance soon... I really do...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Getting use to life on the red dot!

Yes we have officially moved to Singapore! This is a first move to a new country, although it's just a stone throw away, living in Singapore is very much different from JB.

Some years ago, we wished to live and experience life in a different country. But years passed, and that opportunity didn't' arrive and so we settled down in JB - the southern most city in Peninsula Malaysia. Recently, the traffic on the causeway was too much for Chris and the boys to bear and so we decided to take a small leap and move over to Singapore.

Having had three kids and 10 years of collected junk.. moving isn't easy at all. We have become so rooted and comfortable in our little Taman where both Chris and my parents live, where the boys used to attend pre-school and where I teach. Life was good. We had a live in maid, and our meals are being prepared for by the my dear Aunty Cies when she is around, our maid or the maid at my mom's. We had family to call for help whenever we needed that support. I had a car, bicycles, fishes and a small but beautiful front yard and garden. Oh... I miss all that so much. For the first two weeks we were here in Singapore, I keep asking myself why oh.. why did we moved?

Life was tough at first, I had to get use to no maid, no car, needed to learn everything from scratch with three kids tagging along with me and a lot of walking. I was physically drained... Thank God Aunty Cies came and stayed with us until I was on my feet.

Lot of things to get use to.

Though me and Chris both went to school in Singapore, the Singapore now and 15 years ago is very much different. The population has increased! crowd is crazy! For everything you need to queue and you need to pay...

The $$:
 Exchange rate from SG $ to RM is so high now that everything that I buy I feel a big heartache and kept thinking to myself.. "in JB it's only.... RM... and I can get three of what I pay here"... I felt so guilty paying so much for everything!

But that was 3 months back... I still do that sometimes but I am getting use to it. And surprisingly, somethings are actually cheaper even after the conversion.

Couple more stuff to get use to... :
The laundry:
Hanging clothes on the poles!!! One my biggest fear. I even had nightmare dropping the poles from the 12th floor! I still don't do it often, as I'm not tall and I have to tip toe to put the pole out. I only do it if I have towels to hang and it needed some sun. If not I just hang them in my study.

The school bus: 
Trevor travels by the school bus. The bus aunty was my biggest nightmare! In Singapore everything is very punctual (almost), and I am not! (Not proud of it but time has always been my greatest weakness, I just cant keep track of my time... :( )

Anyway, the boys used to take school bus from JB to SG, and our beloved superman bus uncles and aunties are so friendly and patience. Boys sit in the porch and wait for the buses. If you are a bit late, they honk and wait for you.  But here in Singapore school bus comes on the dot and leaves if you are not there! So everyday I run downstairs carrying Tyler in my arms and Trevor's super heavy bag and race to reach the place where the bus will pick him up. I have to do the same when picking him up from the bus stop. The first time I forgot the time and was late picking him up. The Aunty called and screamed at me!!! She warned me that if I forget again, they wont want to pick him up anymore! I am at her mercy because that's the only bus company that their school have. The second day I was late again.. by 1 min... And they left without Trevor.. :(  Me and Trevor were devastated... who knew taking school bus was so difficult... and missing the bus is so depressing. Chris talked to his colleagues and its true.. they wont wait! Not because they dont want to  but Singapore roads are mostly " NO PARKING, NO WAITING, NO STOPPING!!" so they cant stop & wait for you if you are not there... Even road systems and laws shapes the way people behave... Friendliness is a foreign word here...

Oh well...after that experience... I set alarm on my phone with 3 snoozes to make sure I get Trevor there on time for the bus to pick him up... The bus Aunty and I got off on the wrong foot. One day few weeks later, we were walking towards the bus stop and the bus came... didn't see us walking there, it didn't stop and just left.. when we called up, the bus driver screamed over the phone and refuse to turn back to fetch Trevor. I was pissed... called up the manager and complained that the bus didnt even stop. The manager called back to talk to me and the bus aunty also called to talk to me saying she would have turn back if it was up to her. The bus driver is a bit deaf.. so he keeps screaming at people and at her. She also has her limitations.  I feel sorry for her too... after that, she and I were ok, and she finally smiles when picking or fetching Trevor.

Dont have a car, but I got a bicycle with a baby seat that I can ride and park anyway (almost) I like! A little bit of freedom and mobility for me. I'm happy. Public transport is convenient, just need to plan ahead - a challenge for me.

After 3 months... things are finally settling down. There're still ups and downs. Some days are great, other days are just so hard. But I'm getting there, we're getting there! I guess one thing I learnt is to accept my situation and my role now and try to have a bit of joy daily.

And another big thing I am doing now is COOKING! I never had to cook... I love it, but I take forever to prepare and clean up. & I am fortunate to have super great cooks like Aunty Cies and my mother in law around me. But now I have no choice. So I cook, and I'm learning to love it! Cleaning up is still a pain... but luckily Chris helps me out with that.

Oh ya! the boys are a great great help too. We use to have help.. lots of help however I always ask the kids to feed themselves, clean up, help around the house. So now the kids help me clean, mop, wash toilets, cook, wash dishes, hang up the laundry, keep the clothes, water the plants...etc..All the years of training them.. and letting the help out even though they made a mess had paid off.  I am blessed.

Sushi, I cooked, they assemble.
Trevor is great with Tyler, he showers him, wear his clothes, makes his milk, reads to him, plays with him.

They love scrubbing the toilet.
Hanging out the clothes.

Cooking-Pepper Rice



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