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Postcards from St Andrew’s Church, Abu Dhabi

At St Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi, I met and entertained many children. I feel that “the sky lovingly smiles on the earth and her children,” quoting Sir Henry Morton Stanley.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart Jesus cross

The present St Andrew’s Church was built in 1984 on a land generously donated by the Late H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of the Al Nahyan ruling family. The area is known as the Churches area in Abu Dhabi.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

The website of the St Andrew’s Church mentioned that “somebody once described St Andrew’s church as Evangelical in the pulpit, Catholic at the altar and Charismatic in the pews”, to highlight their diversity.

It is likely that baby Ren will be interested in the St Andrew’s Playgroup (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, between 9.30am and 11.30am) with the entry fee of AED 15  per parent/carer, for children regardless of nationality or religion.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

In the autumn 2014, I started to study the Bible daily and have crafted prayers or made simple take-home messages. Once I complete studying the Bible, I plan to study Al Quran, as envisioned in our lifelong curriculum.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

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In the summer 2003, I almost became an angel as a mascot for inter-school games. Siew Hwey had kindly made the feathery-like cotton wings and the angel halo headband, but in the end those items were not used.

Patience is a virtue. Never lose hope. The universe will choose the right time and the right place to answer your desire. You kind, loving, inspiring desire is your prayer.

This afternoon, I became an angel – without wings, who told a Christmas story to children. I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve children – our hope for the future, and to share messages of love and hope. Yes, a messenger of everything lifeward and positive. The English word “angel” comes from the Greek angelos, which means ‘messenger’.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart audience

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart hi angel
The little girl was excited to see an angel. 

Thanks to Dewi for firstly inviting me to contribute in the early Merry Christmas celebration, Laura for the help with the costume, the storytelling equipment (torchlight and colorful pictures) and the gifts for the courageous and lucky children who did well in the post-story Q&A session.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart angel

According to Jerry A. Coyne PhD, 77% of Americans believe in angels. Do you believe in angels and miracles?

Upon seeing me in the angel costume, Alice (a little girl who just went to Moyenne Island, Seychelles) remarked, “she is not an angle, she is a girl.” It stroke me. Later, Alice told me that she loves the story told by the angel – me.

Perhaps, real people in angle costumes only work for toddlers. A young toddler whose name is Atara, curiously tried to touch me. She loves the pendants of my necklace too, as I realized when I carried her.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart angels

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart angels dance

From the pamphlet, I also learned about a mnemonic of LIGHT.
L = Love (kasih)
I = Integrity (integritas)
G = Generosity (kemurahan)
H = Humility (kerendahan hati)
T = Truth (kebenaran)

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Here is a recap of Christmas service for the children.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart  christmas tree

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart candles

The first song was Jingle Bells.

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Reff:
Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

A day or two ago
I thought I’d take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot

Reff

I always love the classic Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconcile.
Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem’
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

Christ by highest heaven adored
Christ the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail, the incarnate deity,
Pleased as Man with Man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of peace!
Hail the Son of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing sung by a children’s choir:

A way in a manger

You can listen to a story entitled “Let Your Light Shine” narrated by Jing@servicefromheart.

Happy birthday Jesus (with a link from Laura)

Happy birthday, Jesus
I’m so glad it’s Christmas
All the tinsel and lights
And the presents are nice
But the real gift is You
Happy birthday, Jesus
I’m so glad it’s Christmas
All the carols and bells
Make the holiday swell
And it’s all about You
Happy birthday, Jesus
Jesus I love You

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart cake

Silent Night

Silent Night by a children’s choir

Silent night! holy night!
All is calm all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace
Silent night! holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia
Christ the Saviour is born
Christ the Saviour is born!

♥ ♥ ♥

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart children smiles innocent

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” ~ Denis Waitley

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

While I greatly love to take photographs of people, they are also among the most challenging ones, especially children. There are a number of shots of mine that captured the joyful or amazed expressions of our little friends, but the photos turned out to be out of focus.

This morning, a girlfriend flying to Abu Dhabi today inquired me what things that I want her to get for me from Kuala Lumpur. At that time, I want nothing, but her safe flight.

However, after going through some of the photographs that I took at the St Andrew’s Church, how I wish I could have a light-field / plenoptic camera manufactured by Lytro, founded by Yi Ren Ng PhD. I hope that its price of US$399 will decrease so that more people can afford it. This is going to be my Christmas gift wish list!

By the way, I enjoyed Ng’s Stanford thesis and summarized it in a wordcloud.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart Ren Ng light field camera thesis Lytro

With love,
ServicefromHeart
20141206

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Losing everything is not the end

In the early December 2014, one of my best friends shared with me about her worry. She learned that her parents are likely to lose a major proportion of their savings due to unfavorable investment.

She asked me to pray for her parents, I will be praying everyday! My prayer list is getting very long, but as I have lived longer, I have witnessed that some of my prayers have been answered miraculously. Thank you very much!

servicefromheart the praying hands of baby Ren never lose hope

I know her parents. They are honest and hardworking people, who started from zero and have become a hero and a heroine for their children, their past customers, their subordinates and their suppliers. My friend once shared the secret of their parents being given opportunities by their suppliers: reliability. They always pay their business loans no matter how difficult the circumstances are.

Her mother is a very frugal lady who bought only new clothes for the new year. Nevertheless, when the family went out with friends of their children, the parents would generously treat others.

Her father is in his 60s. In recent years, my friend felt that it is better for her father to enjoy the fruit of his labor and hardwork done over the past years and decades. However, a single turning point in life has changed everything. He left with much little of what he has saved a-dollar by a-dollar, if not cents by cents over years and decades.

I also empathize with my friend and feel her pressure. She belongs to a sandwich generation. She has to support not only two generations before and after her: her parents and her children, respectively, but also her younger sibling. I am proud of my friend, showing the quality of filial piety. I tried to encourage her that bearing a great responsibility is a privilege. Only the capable and the trustworthy are shouldered with such great tasks of life.

We love to and must take inspirations from the past generations who are able to turn adversity into something positive (逢凶化吉).

♥ ♥ ♥

Among many inspiring talks that I attended in Cambridge, UK, was a talk delivered by the extremely intrepid Christina Dodwell, a British explorer, travel writer, and lecturer.

She vividly described her 1975 trip to Africa with a girlfriend and two men. The men stole their jeep, leaving the women stranded with nothing. Her remark, “Losing everything is not the end,” echoes in my mind that is subconsciously searching for stories to encourage my friend. Christina and her friends then found two wild horses to ride; they survived!

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Another story that I first learned from Hui, is about Lim Tow Yong 林道荣 (1925-20120407), a legendary founder of Emporium Holdings that owned Oriental Emporium (英保良) retail business. Lim lived a roller-coaster life of fortune and success, yet he always show tenacity and never-say-die spirit.

With a humble beginning as a farmer’s son in Suatow (仙都乡), Jinshizhen (金石镇), Chao’An (潮安县), Chaozhou (潮州市), China, Lim ventured to Nanyang in 1940. Hardworking, visionary, charismatic, and a talented polyglot (English, Mandarin, Malay, Hokkien, Cantonese and Hainanese), Lim grew his business, spreading all over Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Hong Kong. It was thriving until 1985.

In 1988, the 63-year-old Lim Tow Yong was declared a bankrupt by Singapore high court. Most people would have given up but not Lim Tow Yong.

In 1990s, Lim started another departmental chain in Sabah, and later Brunei and Labuan, with sheer determination and hardwork. In 1999, Lim Tow Yong was finally discharged from bankruptcy. He sold his business in mid-2000s and became a millionaire once again at 79.

Losing everything is not the end, as long as you are still alive.
Losing everything is not the end, as long as your love, hope, ideas and wisdom are alive in the heart of people whom you care.

♥ ♥ ♥

All these three stories also made me reflect on investment. I was asked by two men older than me, “if you know any safe investment with good return, please let us know.” The eldest, who is going to celebrate his 41st birthday tomorrow, aims to have USD 1million.

You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself.” ~ Good Will Hunting

After thinking and reflecting, I conclude that the best investment is on yourself. Seek knowledge. Master unique skills. Use your knowledge and skills to serve others from the bottom of your heart. Be creative and productive.

You want to transform yourself into a precious talent, such that as you grow older, you become more valuable than ever. As days pass, you become highly desirable to give positively-impactful advice to ordinary people and Fortune 500 companies. As years go, you are wanted for your unique talent and tremendous creativity. As decades change, you give your best to the world, and the world will shower you with more opportunities to make your investment grow many folds.

Invest in goodwill. Love people. Help others and do favors without expecting a favor in return. The power of the universe will do you favors especially when you need it, in unexplainable manners, in unexpected ways.

With love
ServicefromHeart
20141204

You are always a valuable human being

Do you like to take note when you study, travel, attend an event (talk / conference / party) or after meeting people?

Bill Clinton is known to note down the details of his classmates, professors, political organizers and other acquaintances in index cards, so that he could revise them in the years to come. The index cards contain important interchanges Clinton had had with the person. His diligent and indefatigable habit of taking notes and revising them, has contributed to his charm and charisma, mixing glamour and compassion (in the words of Bel Mooney).

The Renaissance most famous polymath, Leonardo da Vinci, wrote everyday, about his studies, observations, discoveries, inventions, comments, and plans. For his entire life time, Leonardo produced around 13,000 pages of work. A left-handed, Leonardo uniquely wrote, drew, sketched in mirror script. A systematic and an artistic creator of notebooks and journals, Leonardo used notes to link art, science, and engineering, synthesizing novel things such as the Vitruvian Man.

Taking notes can also be a form of journaling, one of the five recommended happiness-generating actions by Shawn Achor. Writing more positive emotion words enhances relationships (PubMed 16913946). I find that writing nourish and heal our soul, mind and body.

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In my early days living in Cambridge, England, UK, I was given a Bible of New Testament and Psalms. I did not know the giver personally, but the Bible was printed by the Gideons International.

Founded in 1899, the story of the Gideons International began when a boy named John H. Nicholson, promised his dying mother that he would read from the Bible every day for the rest of his life. He kept his word. One night in the autumn of 1898, when staying in the crowded Central Hotel at Boscobel, Wisconsin, John agreed to share a room with Samuel E. Hill. Both Christian men became friends and developed the idea for the future Gideons International to furnish a Bible for each bedroom of the hotels in the United States. Today, copies of the New Testament and Psalms published by the Gideons International are given to people in workplaces, schools and universities. I am grateful that an idea conceived over a century ago, was so powerful that it has benefited me and many other people.

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There are many breathtakingly beautiful churches in England and Europe. It is indeed a blessing to be able to visit a number of them. Since the Gideon Bible is small and of pocket-size, I could easily carry it while traveling to understand more about Christianity. Sometimes, I just note down interesting inspirations.

Last night, I flipped over my Gideon Bible and re-discovered what I wrote some years ago. The words are very comforting especially if you have been living a compulsively achieving life in the competitive world.

You are always a valuable, worthwhile human being,
not because anybody say so,
not because you’re successful,
not because you make a lot of money,
but because you believe it and for no other reason.

Then, I learn today that the quote is attributed to Dr Wayne Walter Dyer the author of Your Erroneous Zones. Thank you!

There is always be someone better and poorer than us, so stop comparing ourselves to other people. Live in the present moment and focus on using whatever talents and gifts that Allah has given us to serve other people. As long as you are doing better than your previous self, you have fulfilled your responsibility. Surrender your fear, worry, and insecurity to God.

You are always a valuable human being servicefromheart panda singapore river safari
A photograph courtesy of Ren’s paternal grandfather.

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The words of the re-discovered note also remind me on the movie Lan / 我们天上见 directed by  Jiang Wenli 蒋雯丽.

Since Lan was 3 years old, she was raised by her maternal grandfather Tang. Lan was often mocked by her schoolmates for sharing a surname as Chiang Kai-Shek, a national enemy in China. Lan often felt worthless, and would hide inside the cupboard eating candies.

She discovered hope from the world-champion gymnast, who also shared her surname Jiang. In a hope that she would not be sent to a countryside for tough labor, her grandfather encouraged her to start practicing gymnastics. Her grandfather also lovingly sewed a gymnastic suit and made a practice bar for Lan. However, the teacher thought that Lan was too weak for gymnastic and did not bother to teach her. Other gymnastic students also looked down of her, calling her ‘the amateur’. All these experiences worsened her self-confidence until she stopped going to the gymnasium.

However, Lan later proved to be a precious and valuable human being, especially when her grandfather fell ill. She started to care for him, from cooking meals, bathing him, making funny faces to make him laugh, to  painting their home with plants. Yes, plants are soothing.

An important lesson we can learn from Lan is not to link our self-worth to our achievement, but to link our self-worth to internal security. Always remember that you are a valuable human being.

With love,
ServicefromHeart
20141128

Postcards from Chinese Heritage Centre and the inspiring stories of the Yunnan Garden campus

Every graduate (and even dropout) feels something special about his/her alma mater. It is where one spent his/her youth, formed lifelong friends, and undertook intellectual challenges to prepare oneself for serving the society. Herein, I write about Chinese Heritage Centre at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), where I pursued my undergraduate study.

Schools and universities, especially those with history, are among places to visit wherever I travel. On the open house day of the Chinese Heritage Centre, I was very grateful that I could bring baby Ren to visit his mother’s alma mater.

NTU is the first university that baby Ren visited, and I deeply hope that he would visit and learn from a number of great institutes worldwide as time goes.

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart

If there are public transports to reach a destination and I am not short of time, I prefer to take public transports. Yes, I am concerned about sustainability and frugality. Experiencing public transports allow me to sense the feelings and the attitudes of people who commute to a particular destination.

I have been grateful that an NTU student volunteered to help carrying Ren’s folded stroller while we boarded the bus. I was alone, carrying Ren in front of me with a baby carrier, a backpack of his milk, hot water, diapers, toys at my back; my hands were to carry the stroller and tap the EZ-link card.

I really admire single parents, and people in the past had succeeded to raise many children. My thought went that, if these people can do it, so can we!

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart

We just need to be more strategic, such as anticipating possible scenarios and preparing for them. When I travel without Ren, tapping the EZ-link card is as smooth as waving a good bye. However, that day I had to plan carefully, so that the bus would not wait too long for me boarding and getting down from the bus.

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart

Ren’s uncle waited for us at the 179 bus stop. When I was an undergraduate of NTU, I brought Ren’s uncle – then a primary school boy to NTU and he posed for a photograph at the Lee Wee Nam library, one of my favorite places in NTU. Now, he ends up as an engineering student of NTU after studying hard in his high school. Perhaps, bringing young children to campus early can help them to define their dreams.

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart

On our arrival at the Chinese Heritage Centre, opposite the lush Yunnan Garden, two kind volunteers rushed down the main staircases to help us. Thank you very much! I did not know that there was a wheelchair access behind the building.

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart

Baby Ren was given a Doraemon (ドラえもん) balloon. Like many parents who aspire their children to be creative, I hope that Ren would have a lot of creative ideas that flow incessantly out of his mind, just like how Doraemon can always produce futuristic gadgets, medicines and tools from his 4D pocket.

We were fortunate to have a guided tour on two exhibitions: The Nantah Pictorial Exhibition and Chinese more or less (an exhibition of overseas Chinese identity).

I knew about Nantah (Nanyang University) since I was in high school. My chemistry teacher, Madam Yong Mu Lin, graduated from Nantah. She taught us not only chemistry, but also the virtues of hard work and commitment.

I remember clearly how Madam Yong willingly stayed two-day-per-week after school hours, to help weak students with more detailed explanation and to help me preparing myself to compete* in a national chemistry competition. I always think that emerging as one of the winners of that competition, helped me to win a Nanyang Scholarship** that has positively changed the trajectory of my life.

*In the initial stage, there were other students invited to join the training. But I ended up as the last who continued practising using China GaoKao 高考 materials. Grit matters. The psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth highlights that grit plays more significant roles than IQ, social intelligence, good looks or physical health for success.

**I am forever grateful to Nanyang Technological University, especially because my parents told me that I had to figure out the finance myself should I be interested in pursuing a tertiary education.

Perhaps, it was partly because of the tremendous dedication of Madam Yong, that I wanted to study at Nanyang Technological University, even though National University of Singapore has been more established and of higher ranking .

Perhaps, it is the Nantah Spirit and the story behind the founding and the demise of Nanyang University that allured me and many others to the Yunnan Garden.

I wonder if it is human nature to take for granted what we have and only long for things (and people) once they are gone forever. What we can do is to remind ourselves everyday (yes, every morning and every night) the importance of being grateful, as the thankful hearts are always closer to the riches of the universe, so that we can do more meaningful things in our limited hours, days and years.

♥ ♥ ♥

At The Nantah Pictorial Exhibition, we learned more about the history of universities @ Yunnan Garden, Singapore.

In 1953, the Chinese communities in Singapore, Malaya and other parts of Southeast Asia responded enthusiastically on the proposal to form a Chinese language university by Tan Lark Sye 陈六使 (1897-1972), a rubber entrepreneur and philanthropist who firmly believed in the value of education.

People from all walks of life in Singapore as well as other regions of South East Asia, from rich tycoons to poor hawkers and trishaw pullers, had made generous donations and rendered tremendous assistance.

I especially appreciate the contributions from the poor. For example, $1 may not mean a lot to the rich, but one who earns less than $2 has to sacrifice largely to donate $1 away for a cause that he/she believes in. I know each $ equals sweats, tears and bloods, for I also worked as a part-time student being paid $6/hour in the 21st century NTU.

In 1954, William Goode (Colonial Secretary) visited the construction site of Nanyang University, acompanied by Tan Lark Sye and Lien Ying Chow.

In 1955, the arch of Nanyang University / Nantah — the first and only Chinese-medium institute of higher learning outside China, was built.

In 1956, Nanyang University started classes for courses in arts, sciences, and commerce. The certificates of the degrees of Nanyang University were written in three languages, from left to the right: traditional Chinese, Malay, and English.

In 1964, Nobel Laureate Professor Yang Chen Ning 杨振宁 visited Nantah. Professor Yang works on statistical mechanics and particle physics. In 1957, he and Tsung-dao Lee received the Nobel prize in physics for “for their penetrating investigation of the so-called parity laws which has led to important discoveries regarding the elementary particles.”

In quantum physics, a parity transformation is the (simultaneous) flip in the sign(s) of spatial coordinate(s). The conservation of parity states that the parity of the total wave function describing a system of elementary particles is conserved. Parity is conserved in electromagnetism, gravity, strong nuclear forces, and strong interactions, but violated in weak interactions.

Do you think that Chien-Shiung Wu 吴健雄, who performed the decisive experiment verifying parity violation, should also be awarded the 1957 Nobel Price in physics, in a similar way that Rosalind Franklin (whose work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA, led to the discovery of the DNA double helix) should be awarded the 1962 Nobel Price for Physiology / Medicine? Sadly, Franklin passed away in 1958 at age 37.

Sorry, I digress. Let’s return to the history of Nantah.

In 1972, Queen Elizabeth II visited Nantah. Photographs of the Queen – wearing an aristocratic hat and sleeveless knee-length dress, at the same staircases where we just climbed with the assistance of the volunteers, made me imagine the campus atmosphere and the feelings of the students at that time.

At the era of Nanyang University (1956-1980), being a Nantah student was a very prestigious accolade. Not all young people had the opportunities to present the required intellectual requisites to be admitted, i.e. to pass the admission test.

I am curious if financial difficulties would hinder one’s aspiration to pursue study in Nantah.

A piece of story from a former staff serving the Nantah registrar, appears to highlight that financial challenges should not entirely thwart a dream to pursue a higher education in Nantah.

While a staff, he fell in love with a female Nantah student, who was as precious as panda. The power of love can be so great that he ended up realizing his university dream. He secretively prepared himself for the admission test to surprise her, was successfully admitted with flying colors, and worked hard to support himself financially. The only regret that he has is that he did not join as much student activities as he wished.

I recalled how my friends in the 21st century NTU enthusiastically dragged me to attend events, from VIPs talks to concerts. Honestly, I was a struggling student. I realized that to succeed academically, I need to spend more time studying than other students. I also had to do tasks for extracurricular activites (ECA), so that I had sufficient ECA points to stay on campus as off-campus accommodation has always been more expensive. I also worked part-time as a student assistance. When a friend managed to get a Fish Leong / Liang Jingru 梁靜茹 concert ticket for me, I was deeply touched. When a senior walked half the campus to my hall, to brought me a supper of nasi lemak on my birthday, I was tremendously grateful. There are many great memories on the Yunnan Garden Campus.

The friendships formed during our school years are among the most beautiful ones. The relationships of the young people, full of idealism, aspirations, excitements, hope and commitment, in the face of life challenges, will never fail as the themes of any drama, simply because every one is the actor / actress of his / her life, as the saying goes 人生如戏,戏如人生.

I personally know many friends who found the following treasures on campus: their lifelong and close friends (知心朋友), soul mate, wive, husband. All these people have become the support they have for the rest of their life.

In 1980, Nanyang University was merged with the University of Singapore, to form National University of Singapore. If you google to find out why, you will learn different perspectives explaining the destiny of Nantah, and it is up to you to make your own conclusion. The old Nantah administration building  of a beautiful Chinese-style architecture, now houses the Chinese Heritage Centre.

For a quarter of century Nanyang University, affectionately called Nantah, was a hope for the supporters of Chinese medium education and culture in Southeast Asia. Students hailed from not only Singapore, but also Malaya, Thailand, Indonesia, and the alumni are now all over the world.

In comparison with other universities, especially another alma mater of mine that celebrated 800-year anniversary recently, Nantah was indeed short-lived. However, the story behind the founding of Nantah and her development, growth and demise, will evoke strong emotions among many people today.

In 1981, Nanyang Technological Institute (NTI) took over the ground of former Nantah. NTI was an English medium engineering college.

In 1991, NTI was promoted to Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and merged with with the National Institute of Education (NIE).

In the 21st century, on a summer day I arrived at NTU, where the former Nantah was. The writing 自强不息 (continuous self-improvement) stroke me forever. Some places are especially magical because of people who had been there. Places where people have prayed for years and centuries, such as churches, temples and mosques are very sacred. Similarly, places where people have studied with their heart and hoped for the best, have that kind of spiritual forces that will never fail to encourage the future generations.

Every time I listen to the song Chuan Deng 传灯, I will remember Nantah. Perhaps, it is also the Nantah Spirit that has sustained me and my pursue of knowledge across oceans and continents, and now in the desert.

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah spirit Yunnan Garden servicefromheart
Nantah Spirit that I pasted on my study desk in my NTU hall room to remind myself to work hard.

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In 2001, NTU established School of Biological Sciences.

In 2004, NTU established School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

In 2005, NTU established School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

In 2009, NTU established School of Art, Design and Media.

In 2013, NTU and Imperial College London jointly established a new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.

In 2014, QS World University Rankings rank NTU first for Top 50 Under 50, 39th globally, and 6th in Asia, placing it in the top 1% of universities globally.

I am grateful that NTU is rocketing in the global competition. Based on the experience of many people whom I have encountered and mine, a good degree helps one to secure a good job and a good business contracts.

However, we need to remember that eventually it is the substances of the people that make a university strong and sustainable. Modern facilities or historical architectures alone are insufficient to create and sustain a good university, only when her graduates make significant contributions to the society and the world, the university is successful.

♥ ♥ ♥

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden hostel Hall 1 servicefromheart
My (transient) room in the oldest hall of residence in NTU: Hall 1 (established 1957). Looking back at this photograph, I realized that I am still using the same bed sheet of bears and pink stars. Wow!

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart heart love
There is something magical about the heart shape! A student committee posed in a heart shape on my request. Yes, I have been inspired by love and servicefromheart, since many years ago. I admire people who self-sacrifice themselves for others, like Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Mandela, and the list goes on…

 cupid love Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart

An angel or a cupid on campus (thank you our dear volunteer!) brightened the days of many women.

More:

Jurong West Nantah Arch by Remember Singapore
Childhood Memories at Nantah 南大 by Apple, a cancer survivor and a mother to a daughter with Down syndrome

With love,
ServicefromHeart
2014

Last updated 20141115

Postcards from Singapore Central Fire Station

We respect firemen and female firefighters. The latter are a minority in the male and macho dominated profession. They risk their precious lives putting off fire and rescuing people.

To help my little man appreciates firefighters and their contributions to our society, I brought him to the open house of Central Fire Station Singapore.

While many pictorial children books still refer to a firefighter as a fireman, from here onward, let’s greet them firefighters. Why?

Denise Christie, a British female firefighter since 1997, often challenges the use of the term “fireman”. Why?

The “man” in the word “fireman” both consciously and subconsciously excludes girls and women from aspiring for a career (or I would rather say a vocation) as a firefighter.

Firefighter’s job is really one of the toughest, at the front-line of disasters and life-saving work.

In Singapore, firefighting, rescue and emergency ambulance services are provided by SCDF – that stands for Singapore Civil Defence Force (新加坡民防部队).

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ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station gate door

 

At Central Fire Station, baby Ren enjoyed appreciating many rescue vehicles, from ambulances to fire engines, including the huge Pump Ladder and Combined Platform Ladder.

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station engines

He refers to any vehicle as tutu, perhaps from the sound that car horns or traditional trains make.

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station Red Rhinos

Mama, look! Baby Ren was too amazed sitting inside the Red Rhino ~ a smaller and more compact version of the fire truck for better accessibility in tight and narrow spaces.

 

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station

Your kids can squirt water like a real firefighter onto a ‘fire’ target. Have fun with the water gun!

The volunteer guide in uniform, an ‘Uncle’ in late 40s or early 50s, delivered useful knowledge related to emergency.

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station

When someone has a heart attack (cardiac arrest), s/he has only 4 minutes to survive if no CPR is given. That’s why, everyone ideally learns and knows how to perform CPR. The skill can save our loved ones.

What is CPR?

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

In brief, CPR = rescue breathing + chest compression 

When someone is unconscious, remember the DR ABC steps, which stands for Danger – Response – Airway – Breathing – Compression.

1. DANGER: check no further danger to the rescuer (yourself) and the casualty.

2. RESPONSE: can the casualty respond?

Unconsciousness may be due to airway obstruction / choking, apnea, cardiac arrest.

Try to wake the casualty.

If no response, shout for help, ask someone to immediately call for an emergency ambulance (dial 995 in Singapore) and to get an AED (if available). .

If you are alone, use a speaker mode while calling, so your hands are free for the next step.

3. AIRWAY: open the casualty’s airway & check if airway is clear or blocked by a foreign object. Remember the head tilt chin lift method.

4. BREATHING: check by looking if the chest rises, listening & feeling for the air for up to 10 seconds.

If the casualty is breathing normally, place him in the recovery position and monitor his condition regularly until medical help arrives.

5. COMPRESSION

If the casualty does not breathe, immediately do CPR: a cycle of 30 compression followed by 2 rescue breath with the casualty’s nose being sealed.

The compression is delivered at the rate of 100 compressions / minute and to cause the chest to deepen by 1.5 to 2 inches (4 -5 cm).

Count loudly as you compress:
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 10 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 15 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 20 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 25 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 30

After 5 cycles of CPR, check for pulse and breathing.
If no breathing, repeat CPR until paramedics take over.

The air we breathe in contains 21% oxygen.
The air we breathe out contains 16-18% oxygen.
Therefore, rescue breathing still supplies the crucial oxygen to the casualty.

The steps described above are slightly different from those I learned during a Standard First Aid (SFA) course, before becoming a first aider with the Red Cross Youth NTU Chapter.

In my SFA course (more than a decade ago), after the BREATHING step, there is a CIRCULATION step, in which the rescuer checks for sign of blood flowing, particularly through carotid pulse. Since the pulse is difficult to determine, CPR is performed immediately if there is no breathing.

 

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station NTU Red Cross Orchard

A memory of my fellow first aiders who served during a Christmas in Orchard, Singapore. Dad made a surprising night-visit that time, thanks to his Malaysian friend who drove to Singapore. Rarely seeing Dad, I wanted to accompany him strolling Orchard, but Dad insisted that I fulfill my duty. That night, I only served a casualty, who suffered from a minor bruise. Unlike other services or businesses, first aiders hope for less or no ‘customers’, i.e. everyone is okay.

Tips: You may want to keep a free Heart4Life app in your mobile phone.

I like the “CPR mode” because it is very easy to follow, especially when we are highly tense tending to the casualty, who can be our loved one.

The app also includes a 2.5-minute CPR video by Singapore Heart Foundation, which is also available in Youtube.

Important: This brief note here is not a substitute for live training, please kindly go for a CPR training by the professionals at your area, if you are interested to learn about CPR.

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AEDs also remind me on Monaco, where I saw many AEDs and yachts in a single day!

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station Monaco

Yes, both are ubiquitous there.

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Sorry, I digress.

Back to the Central Fire Station …

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station ambulance

Your children and you can get inside an ambulance. This way, your first encounter with the inner side of the ambulance was a happy experience.

Baby Ren and I were standing very close to an ambulance when an older adventurous boy intentionally or unintentionally pressed the siren button.

WEE- WOO! WEE- WOO! WEE-OO! WEE-OO!

Very loud! Baby Ren immediately hug me tightly. It’s okay, honey!

The guide mentioned that a family member or friend of the casualty is usually asked to go with the ambulance. It’s definitely one of the most stressful rides for the person, always asking is his or her loved one is okay.

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When my mother was in her teen, a colossal fire engulfed and destroyed her home and community in Sukaramai. She lost everything except her life and few clothings that she managed to rescue using a bed sheet with its 4 corners tied together as a big carrier.

Many decades down the road, thanks to a kind distant relative, my mother managed to retrieve a family photograph (taken while she was in early primary school). People in the black-and-white photograph includes my tanned grandfather, my beautiful grandmother, my mother, her two brothers and a sister. She cherished the photograph so much! It is the only copy of family photograph that survived.

A photograph can be an evidence that someone had ever lived, especially for people who have never experienced digital world.

Really.

My maternal grandfather passed away when I was a toddler. I did not remember him much, but I cherish so much the photograph of the toddler-me hugging or clasping his leg in Brastagi (Berastagi).

The snap of memory that tells how much he has loved me, his first grandchild.

Waigong died of heart attack, and nobody (including himself) knew that he had a heart problem. Dajiu ( my first uncle), found him too late to save his life.

Pearls of tear drops flow on my cheek now. I wish I could knew more about you in person, Grandpa!

Nowadays, I helped Mom backing-up precious family photographs and videos. Never let fire (or any other disaster) steals your memory!

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ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station reflection photography memory

During my childhood in Jakarta, Dad and Mom had to work until very late at nights. Home alone, with my younger sister and brother, I was always alert hearing the siren of fire engine.

At that time, I did not know if it is either my adrenaline or cortisol that immediately spiked up.

I prayed that the volume of the siren to lower as the clock ticks in seconds – that’s mean the fire happened far from our dwelling.

We lived in the second floor, which was a blessing because Jakarta has suffered from floods at least annually. Relatively safe from the excessive water hazard, this possesses a challenge for fire and earthquake hazard.

Dad, not being paranoid but careful, made an emergency ladder of ropes and small wooden planks for us. The ladder was always placed beneath the window.

Dad instructed us to go down using the ladder in the event of fire and our parents were away working.

Thank you Papa for loving and caring us, for teaching us survival skills!

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FIRE SAFETY (main points are from a postcard of Civil Defense Heritage Gallery)

What to do … when you are trapped?
1. Stay calm
2. Enter a safe room, preferably one that overlooks a road.
3. Shut the door behind you. Cover the bottom gap of the door using wet clothes to prevent smoke from seeping through.
4. Call 995 and shout for help from the windows or other openings. Wait for rescue to arrive.
5. Cover your mouth and nose with wet clothes.
6. If you are on high floors, do not attempt to jump out of building. Help will be on the way very soon. Pray!

Tips: If you have locked window grills, keep the key at the accessible site in the same room.

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We were very happy with the educational and entertaining visit to the Central Fire Station. Baby Ren even dreamed of tutu in his afternoon nap.

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station Red Rhinos

If you have a free Saturday morning in Singapore, I’d recommend visiting the Central Fire Station open house (9am-11am), followed by a visit to Civil Defence Heritage Gallery. Both are free of charge.

At historical level 1, we learned more about the Bukit Ho Swee Fire (河水山大火) on May 25, 1961 at 3.20 p.m. The devastating fire led to the HDB public housing scheme. As of 2014, 82% of Singaporeans (including baby Ren and his family) live in HDB flats.

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station antique old fire engines

Antique fire engines are on display. They played roles in keeping people safe, and now retired they served as educational huge toys for children and grown-ups.

At modern level 2, your little ones can don on SCDF firefighter uniform and hat, or put off ‘fire’ thorugh a virtual fire window.

I appreciate many interactive stations that help children to learn about firefighting and rescue technology.

Baby Ren in a firefighter uniform reminds me on on Paddington Bear who was discovered in Paddington Station, London.

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station firefighters

Baby Ren looks like a trophy won by the fearless firefighters. Cheers to the handsome brothers and abang!

Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, & how to be free from it, that’s the point. Necessity of action takes away the fear of the act, and makes bold resolution the favorite of fortune.” ~ Francis Quarles

You may also want to do a virtual tour of the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery.

Outside the gallery is a souvenir shop with many toys of fire engines being displayed. These really make little boys like baby Ren very excited and happy!

Address: 62 Hill Street 638482 ; nearby MRT stations City Hall or Clarke Quay
Fee: free
Website

What’s next?
♥ Fancy a bird’s eye view? a future night Tower Tour when baby Ren can climb steadily on his own.
♥ See also our other #travelxp & #ministory posts

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station tower spiral staircase

Final words … Thank you very much firefighters! You are our heroes and heroines.

With love,
ServicefromHeart
20140524

Easy drink recipes of dragon fruits

In 2011, an entrepreneurial and creative girlfriend who grew up in Shenzhen, China and did her graduate study in Cambridge, England came to live in Singapore for half a year. Having neither seen nor tasted dragon fruits before, she was fascinated by and loved eating them very much.

You tend to grow loving things and people whom your inspiring friends – your influencers – also love.

Since then, I have developed an appreciation for dragon fruits, also known as pitaya / pitahaya / 龙珠果, which are often served cut in lunch or dinner buffets in Singapore.

You will hardly miss dragon fruits sold in tropical markets or supermarkets, thanks to their beautiful vibrant magenta skin.

In contrast to its eye-catching outer appearance, the mildly sweet flesh of dragon fruits offers delicate aroma. The sweetness reminds me on melon, honeydew and pear, but dragon fruits are softer in texture than them.

Widely grown in the tropics, dragon fruit has been reported as potential anti-cancer (PMID 21535651), thanks to its anti-oxidant phenolic content in both skin / peel (more!) and flesh.

Blending pitaya hopefully helps to break its black and crunchy seeds, which are indigestible unless chewed. Please do not forget to treat your olfactory senses to the subtle fragrance of pitaya, before gulping them down to quench your thirst.

In this post, I lovingly share two drink recipes of dragon fruits. Enjoy!

Easy drink recipes of dragon fruits by ServicefromHeart

Dragonfruit detox juice (火龙果排毒果汁)

Ingredients:
♥ 1 ripe dragonfruit (火龙果)
♥ 1 stalk organic celery (有机芹菜)
♥ 1 tsp honey (蜜糖)
♥ 150 ml water (过滤水)

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Dragonfruit banana smoothie (龙珠果香蕉冰沙)
Ingredients:
♥ 1 ripe dragonfruit (龙珠果)
♥ 1 ripe banana (香蕉)
♥ 100 ml fresh milk (鲜奶)

Directions:
1. Wash dragofruit, cut into halves. Use a large spoon to scoop out its flesh. Trim away any extra inedible skin. Cut into chunks.
2. Peel & chunk banana.
3. Blend dragonfruit, banana, milk together.

Tips: Since the skin has higher anti-oxidant content, consider using its flesh-facing side as a mask before throwing away.

由于火龙果皮肤具有更高的抗氧化剂含量, 扔掉之前, 请考虑使用它的肉面对侧作为面膜

Easy drink recipes of dragon fruits by ServicefromHeart

Other recipes that I love:
Dragonfruit and black sesame mochi ice cream by Maya, a scientist by training @ Foodiva’s Kitchen, Brunei Darussalam, Borneo
♥ Dragon fruit mock mojito by Elizabeth @ Frugal Mom Eh! Canada
♥ Pitaya sorbet by Yolanda Bertaud @ Byzantine Flowers

Check also our other #5minutemeal recipes.

With love,
ServicefromHeart
Spring 2014

Postcards from Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Thanks to MRT Downtown Line (coded in blue), the first visit of baby Ren to Marina Bay Sands (MBS / 滨海湾金沙) was a realization. Except for the transport fare, the visit to The Shoppes (shopping mall) in MBS – the world’s most expensive building at US$ 5.5 – 5.7 billion (as of 2010) – is free.

“Everyday is a journey in our lives, and an MRT ride can be an interesting journey.”

每天是一个旅程;乘坐地铁可以是一个有趣的旅程!

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

Spacious seats of MRT serving Downtown Line make us happy! Thank you MRT.

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

We took the MRT Downtown Line from Bugis via Promenade to Bayfront station.

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

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Designed by Moshe Safdie (an Israeli/Canadian architect) with an inspiration from card decks, MBS is a unique icon of Singapore. “Does it look like ancestral tablets (tombstones)?” a taxi driver once asked me. To me, it looks like an ancient Chinese scholar’s hat (古老的中国学者的帽子).

A canal inside the Marina Bay Sands reminds us on the Venice (Italy) and River Cambridge (England).

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

A tea break by the water side beneath the Rain Oculus created by Ned Kahn – famous for transforming an invisible aspect of nature into visible, is pleasing and relaxing. That day, I had a snack leftover that I bought from near Lavender MRT station whereas baby Ren had grape cuts and a bottle of breast milk.

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

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Luxurious brands … offer a pleasant opportunity for window shopping! They are sources of inspirations: the creative designs (创意设计), the careful attention to details (精心细节) and exquisite craftsmanship (精湛的工艺).

Dior 

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

A different kind of worlds …

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

Are you interested to hire baby Ren as your little model?

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

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I remember …

When baby Ren was in my belly, my maternal grandmother, Dad, Mom and I had a memorable early dinner at Ding Tai Fung (鼎泰豐), Marina Bay Sands. It was a good decision so that we did not have to queue for a table. I did not feel significantly inflated prices as compared to other outlets of Ding Tai Fung, given the posh location.

My family encouraged me to eat more xiaolongbao (小笼包) – my favorite dish. I also like the chilli oil dumplings.

Xiaolongbao was originally from Shanghai and Wuxi, China. Their mini sizes made them so delicate and cherishable to savor.

It is not only about the food, but also the people whom you dine with and the people who transform our food into food art.

“I choose to collect memories instead of things.” ~ Elena Levon

我选择收集回忆,而不是东西。

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What’s next?

1. visit Sands SkyPark that connects the 2 hotel towers and is large enough (1.2 hectare) to park four-and-a-half Airbus A380 jumbo jets. Plan your visit at the end of the afternoon before dusk to enjoy the view during daytime and at night. It costs a visitor SG$23 to get to the Skypark by high speed elevator of the middle tower. The ticketing office is not accessible by lift, and a friendly staff kindly offered to carry my pram / stroller, but in the end I decided to visit Sands SkyPark next time.

2. Alternatively, you can take the free elevator (Tower 3) to Ku DÉ Ta Lounge to enjoy some drinks and scenery of Singapore’s cityscape and skyline. PS: casual dress is not allowed, no shorts, slippers, singlets and tank tops plese.

3. swim @ The Infinite Pool on the 57th floor – the largest elevated pool in the world, which is only accessible to the hotel guests.

4. watch Wonder Full: Light Show and Water Show. Each show starts daily at 8pm and 9.30pm. On Friday and Saturday nights, there is another show at 11pm.
To watch the Water Show, be at the Marina Bay Sands side.
To watch the Light Show, cross the Bay.
Please remember to bring your tripod for taking blur-free photography / video.

Address: 10 Bayfront Ave Marina Bay Sands, Singapore 018956


Other travel posts that I love:
♥ Ku De Ta by Journeys of the Fabulist
♥ SkyPark Infinity Pool by Escape with Style
♥ Light and Water Show by Rosie and Edmund Tay
♥ our #travelxp posts

With love,
ServicefromHeart
2014