Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Only Thing I Could Do Was Cry And Wave

 Picture from Eva Comics

Shall we? Should we?

The memory of the lethargy that came with a 9 hour journey to see him one last time was fresh in our mind. We wondered if we should go to town and send him off.

In the end, we decided we should. It feels right to do so somehow and I was determined to stop crying and send him off with a bright smile.

Bright and early on Sunday morning, we woke and the first thing to decide was.. what do we wear?:P hahaha..

I told Max I have decided to wear white because it is a 喜丧and I wanted to send LKY off with a smile. Max, who was initially quite determined to wear black to support tat wear black movement decided last minute that he will wear white with me too.

Alas, I did not have any white plain tshirt and so settled for my off white cream colored one.

"If Ace doenst have a white t shirt, we can buy when we go to Suntec later.." Max said.

I digged through Ace's drawer filled with tshirts.. most of them had large, colorful prints on them. I then came across his I LOVE SG shirt and decided... this will be it. It has WHITE, BLACK and RED with a heart and the message is apt. So Ace wore his I LOVE SG shirt.

We made our way to Suntec to have breakfast with Uncle Vincent as we arranged to meet him there. After we parked our car and started walking towards mac donalds, I noticed that most of the people hanging around and having breakfast are in mourning colors of black or white. Many were families with children.

While we were eating, it started to rain... I prayed in my heart that the rain will stop.... We checked our mobile phones for updates from friends and family who are volunteering to give our flags today...

My sister messaged me and asked if I wanted to go to her house afterward. "We can watch the funeral procession and cry together lah.." she added. I said OK and asked if she could prepare our lunch and she agreed.

At around 11am, we decided that we had better made our move... our plan was to get to the bridge that spans along esplanade....

While walking towards the exit of Suntec, we passed by many shops. I noticed that most of the shop assistants were wearing mourning colours too. Even GIANT had their cashiers wearing BLACK instead of their usual yelow.

Even the mannequins in Giordano were dressed up in white and black..

When we arrived at the exit, it was raining rather heavily. But we decided to make or way to the esplanade via all the underground links...   Everyone around us was dressed in black or white.. it seemed a little strange to see the crowd in town move about with  quiet sense of purpose and all dressed in sombre colours...

When we got to the esplanade, it was still raining rather heavily.. we contemplated if we should take an mrt and wait along Shenton Way. Just as we were deciding, the rain became smaller and came almost to a stop... so we decided to walk to the bridge area..
When we walked over, someone told us that the casket will be passing by the opposite lane.. and so, we decided to walk over to the opposite lane.. There were so many people there and ... 大家扶老携幼。 Some brought their parents... some brought their young children...

By the time we were across the road, the rain came to a miraculous stop!

We picked a spot that will allow us to see both the casket and turn around to see not just Singapore River but also a little of what is going on at the Padang area..

The family standing in the first row had been here in since 9am in the morning and had already braved one round of rain... that is why they are all wet...

As we stood there, the sky started to get dark again... Then it started to drizzle...

We wondered if the rain will stop in time and I started chanting in my heart for the rain to stop...

Max said that his friend from the Navy who was involved in the Navy Sailpast sent him a photo indicating that the sea state out at sea is not very good...

But we were still hopeful the rain will stop...

The rain got bigger. As we were waiting, Ace got a little bored and started playing with the rain... and then he started chanting, "Rain! Rain! Rain!"

I chided him lightly and said.. "Aiyoh, dun wish for rain lah. so many old folks and children here... and if it rains, it will be difficult for all the people who are going to walk along him in the procession too... we should pray for the rain to stop..."

Alas, seems like Ace's prediction was going to come true.. as we approached 12.30pm, the rain started to get heavier and heavier, we started to get colder and colder. Our shirts got wet, our pants got wet, even the pockets of my backpack was accumulating water...

At this point, we suddenly noticed some fog near the buildings...  That is a rare sight here in Singapore.. thought it is common in Dubai when the seasons change... Max says this is a sign that it is for sure going to rain heavily soon...

As the rain got bigger, more people joined us on the bridge, everyone moved to make way for more people.... "Come, move in move in.. let the uncle come in.." Another uncle told his children.. in bid to make more space for this uncle in his 60s who is here in the pouring rain with his son..

Another family brought along a very young kid maybe about a few years old.. "Do you want an umbrella for your kid? We have extra here.." The kind uncle who asked his children to move in asked...

Turned out they already have an umbrella.. but the mother of the kid said they brought their flag and so they made way for her to move to the front so she could tie up her flag in front...

Another uncle took out some Singapore flags he recieved while he made his way here and was giving them out to other people.. "Do you want?" he asked repeatedly...

We huddled together, held our umbrellas high and try to shield each other from the pouring rain... It did not matter if we were not friends. We were Singaporeans....

Much as I will like to take photo of the crowd, it got so wet it was difficult to take out my phone after this..

Ace said he was very cold.. so I hugged him closer...

While I prayed for the rain to stop, I couldnt help but notice that the rain seemed to be in accordance to the grief I was feeling in my heart. When a large wave of sadness overcome me, the rain will get heavier... as I digested that and moved on to a calmer state, the rain will get smaller... so the rain was heavier, smaller, heavier.. and then it just started POURING...

We are somewhere out there...

We wondered if the procession was going to continue in this torrential rain... we wondered if they will do the Missing Man Formation fly past...

A group of students came on the bridged and were lined at both sides of the road.. "It must mean it is going to go ahead if they are placing these students here.." Max said..

I really pity the students as the rain was super heavy by now... and all they had was this flimsy plastic poncho.. But no one is complaining.. they are dutifully stood by the places. I am sure they must have volunteered to be here and were determined to carry out their task at hand no matter what happened..

Around 12.25, our friend, Vincent took out his phone and logged on to CNA so that we could catch the LIVE coverage...  He was the only source of info as most people around us were unable to connect to CNA... he turned his phone around and we all turned around to watch his phone..

I started tearing at the sight of the casket on the screen... It seems, the procession is going to go on for sure...

"They started.." I tried to share the info with the people around me who could not see the small screen of the Samsung phone..

"The procession is starting and they only provided an umbrella for his picture.. Lee Hsien Loong and family are going to follow the casket in the rain... "

I started tearing again as they walked out of Parliament House  the pouring rain, totally drenched... It seemed the heavens was also crying along with us...

"They are moving towards the Padang now and the crowd is shouting Lee Kwan Yew, Lee Kwan Yew..." I continued my updates for the ladies in front of me..

Then at this moment, we heard the drone of airplanes flying past... They flew! I couldnt see the planes clearly because of the thick clouds.. But I saw them fly bast...  I started crying at how these brave men still flew despite the dangers and the fog. In my heart.. I was just going.. "They flew! They flew!" Tears cannot stop pouring out...

As LKY's casket moved past the Padang, the cannons started going off....

Max suddenly looked up and me and told me, "He is coming..." Ah Gong lai liao...

"He is coming.. he is coming.." everyone whispered to each other...

The kind uncle asked his family to keep their umbrellas.. "We are all wet anyway.. remove the umbrellas so that everyone can see... our whole section along the bridge followed suit..

Uncle turned around and saw Ace and asked if he wanted to come to the front.. he squeezed and made space for Ace so that he can see clearly...

"Remember, Yuanru, bright smile to see Ah Gong off.." I reminded myself.

But when his casket finally appeared... all I could do was wave... and CRY.... All the things I wanted to say just disappeared. I was lost for words and all I could do was cry... and then, I gave him one last salute.... I was just so sad to see him go...

Now, the task at hand was to try to get home as soon as possible to catch his funeral at NUS which was starting at 2pm. By the time we made our way to our car, it was already one plus. We tuned in to the radio and they were announcing who was arriving at the service..

Thanks to the internet, we managed to catch PM Lee's speech in the car via CNA website. We had to go home to bath and change...

I asked Ace in between how what he did as the casket drove past him. He said, "I said to Mr Lee in my heart.. thank you very very very very much... and then I took off my cap to salute him..."Ace said.

"I teared and saluted to him too.." said Max.

Moment we reached home, we turned on the TV and then we took off our wet clothes and continued to have our eyes glued onto the TV while we took turns to bath..

By the time President Tony Tan has finished his speech, we were done bathing and we quickly turned on the CNA website live feed, left the house and made way to my sister's house.

On the road, we were listening to the speeches and I couldnt help but notice that there were really not many cars on the road except taxis and buses. Seems to us that everyone stayed at home to catch the funeral on TV.

We reached our destination and watched the eulogies while we had our lunch for by then, it was already 3 plus in the afternoon.

Finally, they announced that Lee Hsien Yang will be giving his eulogy.. that is it.. the last eulogy. This ceremony was coming to an end. The man gave a moving eulogy about his father and then, it was time to end the ceremony....

They put a wreath in front of LKY's picture.. one by the PM, one my the President.. and an officer blew the bugle....

The island wide sirens sounded.. it was time to end the ceremony with the Pledge and the singing of Majulah Singapura!

My tears were flowing, my lips were trembling.. I was barely able to make out the words of our National Pledge... I have never felt so strongly about the pledge as I said it..
We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.

By the time we started singing the National Anthem, I was a complete wreck...

And then... the whole ceremony ended.. our week of grieving ended... and there in my heart was now this gaping hole like something was missing...

But I reminded myself that he was not missing.. he is there in our hearts and in everywhere in Singapore when we turn around to look at all the beautiful scenery around us... he is there as we read and write, as we blog, as we complain too ;)

Once and again, for the very last time, #ThankyouLKY...

Previous Post: Seeing Lee Kuan Yew One Last Time

Monday, March 30, 2015

Seeing Lee Kuan Yew One Last Time

The Lee Kwan Yew I remember most in my mind...

After discussing with Max..  We decided we will go to the Parliament House to say our goodbyes to this man who have given so much to our country.. I asked Ace if he wanted to go and being very pragmatic... My son told me if he has to queue a few hours just to walk past the casket, he will rather not go.

So we made plans to go on a Thursday early morning after Ace slept so we could be back in time in the morning to help Ace prepare for school.

At 12 midnight, when we checked, the queue was expected to be 8 hours long. That will mean that we will not make it back in time. So we thought we will hit the haysack and try to wake at 2am and go and see if the queue will shorten.. at 2am, queue was still 8 hrs long.. finally my friend and sis jio me to go together early morning BUT alas, queue was 8 hrs long, that meant I couldnt be home in time when Ace comes home, so I did not go.

I comforted myself that at least I already paid tribute at the community tribute event in bedok lah.

But leh, on Friday morning when I asked Ace, he said he wanted to go to Parliament House.

So because of Ace的一句话, we decided, we shall all go together and pay respect on Friday evening, regardless of queue length. Max was still very afraid Ace was just saying for the sake of saying.. we asked if he is sure... he said he is very sure...

Saw this car with huge decal while we were driving there...

So we went to have dinner together, parked our car somewhere and walked over City Hall when the queue started...

Singaporeans Galore
There were Singaporeans everywhere at City Hall. Around me were some youngsters who had arranged to go pay their respects together. Some young Singaporeans who came with their friends after work... some older couples who were my parent's age and quite a few family like ours with children. It was truly what we will say in Singlish.. "People mountain people sea" (which is a literal translation of of the chinese idiom which means there are so many people they seem to merge into a background of mountain and seas)

Somewhere near the MRT, there was someone holding a sign that said 8 hrs... but that did not stop anyone from moving forward to join the queue.. nor did it make anyone u turn... everyone just trudged on with firm and quiet determination to send Mr Lee off one last time in this last chance where he is laying in State.

The route to see Mr Lee again is not a straight footpath all the way. It was meandering here and there and there was a portion where we even had to go through an underground tunnel... perhaps not unlike Mr Lee's path to nation building...

The Padang
After about half an hour and walking here and there, we finally arrived at the Padang. The crowd there was HUGE. There were so many people sitting around... and when we arrived there were some friendly SAF soldiers politely asking, "Do you want some water?" "Please take some biscuits.." with a smile. Since they looked so young, I think they must be serving NS. And I can imagine that they must have been working hard throughout the last few days but they did not look like they were forced to be in service there. Instead, it looked like they were happy to be of help and be in service.

As we moved forward and came to a designated plot for us to rest, another young soldier came and told everyone to please move back and find a spot to rest... "Because for the next 4 hours, you will be seated here and I am sure you do not want to be uncomfortable..." he said.

So we found ourselves a corner and I sat down. Ace and Max wanted to stand and so I let them stand lah. After a while, I asked Ace if he wanted to sit but he insisted on standing and he said he wanted to read and so he started reading this book he brought along.....

Another family beside me with teenage children had a very perceptive and friendly aunty, she took something out from her bag.. "It's ok, come, aunty share with you my mat and you can sit on it so your pants will not be dirty.."

She opened up the mat and Ace was finally happy to sit down.

Right beside us was a little boy who looked no older than 15. He was alone. "Are you here alone?" The friendly aunty asked him kindly. "Yeah, my friends are furthur up in the queue... they were already here two hours ago.. "

He replied. "Why don't you join them? There is only one of you... should be ok... " She said..

"No lah, I dun think people will appreciate me jumping queue...  It is not right..." he said. I was impressed and cannot help but think this sort of integrity is part of LKY's  legacy...

Beside me was a father and daughter team. The teenage daughter brought along her ipad to keep herself entertained. She chatted with her dad for a while about school and then took out her ipad to watch videos.

Since we were very free and since I know many will be coming to join the queue... I decided to update more information on FB...

Queue is estimated 8 hrs. Start at city hall mrt.. U will be directed where to go. Bring fan... Water n biscuits they provide. Mat also if u dun wanna sit on grass... It's not possible to cut queue so if u meeting fren.. Meet at city hall mrt. If not.. Brave the 8 hrs urself... :)

There was really nothing much to do there but wait. I did not want to play games lest I do not have enough phone battery... I checked facebook again and again.. But the 3G network was not really stable and FB is not always available.

As I sat there and stared at the night sky, I am suddenly reminded of the time we went to the desert to see the meteorite showers... The sky was also very dark, there was mindless banter all around. But back in Dubai, we were filled with excitement. The feeling while sitting here and thinking of Lee Kwan Yew was very different. There was like some sort of longing and some sadness...

By 10.30pm, some hour and a half after we arrived,  I decided that Ace should sleep. He had a long day after all. He woke at 6 plus in the morning, went to school till 2pm and did floorball (they had a new coach who is so demanding Ace said you will go half blind after doing all the exercises he asked you to..) till 3.45pm or so. I told him to sleep and he obediently shut off his phone and passed to me.

Now we have a problem. Just how and where can Ace sleep.

Thank goodness we were seated at the corner of a goal post... so I sat down, leaned against the goal post and let Ace lie down on my chest, using my leg to support him while I put my arms around him. He was have been really tired cos the moment he closed his eyes, he was KOed.

By then, Max was still standing and his back was starting to ache.. but he says if he can stand by the bar stool for 6 hours, he can stand here for a few hours.

By now, I was feeling pain in my bum as I had been seated in one position for far too long. I tried wriggling my legs a little. The girl and the teenage boy decided to sleep when they saw Ace sleeping and they too tried to find a comfortable position to lie down.

We tried to make space for each other and some people took turns to stand up so that they can take turns to sit. I tried to push the netting back so the girl beside me can pull her legs straight to sleep. She looked at me with a smile and said thanks..

When the netting from the goal post hit my head, the friendly aunty helped me tie it up higher so that it will not hit me...

The Queue Is Closed
Somewhere around 11pm, we received news from our friends that the queue to the padang has officially been closed. "You are so lucky!" a friend exclaimed as she says many have arrived to City Hall MRT and were asked to go home...

My heart sank when I heard that.. for that meant there are way too many people and it meant we will likely be here for 8 hours or more. I am just really thankful that Ace will get to sleep for a while before we started moving..

We have already been here for 2 hours. But there was  totally NO movement. The empty places beside us are now totally filled... In Max's words, there is no inch of grass to be seen on the padang because it is filled with people.

Despite the queue being closed, our friends who are at City Hall are constantly calling us and messaging us for updates. Alas, we were trapped in the holding area and of no help. Many have not lost hope that they will reopen the queue and still insisted on hanging around at City Hall.

We Are Singaporeans
It is now approaching 12 midnight, there is still no news of any movement. We are still seated there. I finally managed to let Ace rest his head on my bag and so I am now free to stand up and stretch a little. Ace is still sleeping soundly... Many many thanks to the aunty who shared her plastic mat with us.

In the past few hours, volunteers have walked through the crowds to pass us apples, cold drinks, mineral water, sandwhich, more biscuits, sweet potato and even offered wet tissue to wipe our faces!

I had thought that the later it will be, the less volunteers there will be but I was wrong! THere were actually more volunteers around the later it got.

A mother and daughter went around picking rubbish and every now and then some volunteers will come and pick up rubbish from us.

We were chatting about this and my sister said, "The past week has changed my outlook on singaporeans completely.. I always tot we are abunch of bo chup and self centered ppleif disaster were to befall on singapore, like tsunami or something, we wont be like japan, so united and help those in need.. but i was wrong...  we are!!"

At this point, some people gathered around a mother who was pumping milk with the use of a breast pump to form a human shield. She must have known that she would have to wait for many hours in the queue.. still she came.. together with her breast pump.  I really salute her! And she is an example of how determined Singaporeans are to pay their last respects... I hope her milk will not turn bad and that we will be done early

Encouragement From Our Ministers

Somewhere near 1am, we heard some cheers coming from afar, I thought the queue had started moving. Alas, we realized that it was the minister doing his rounds. Mr Teo Chee Hean walked to each section and said something. I dunno what.. too far away from him but i gathered it will be somewhere along the lines of thank you very much for coming and keep it up...

Elsewhere from another corner, I heard more hoo ha... I found out the next day in the news that it was because the PM also walked around to thank the people who were queueing..

Why Are We Waiting?

After that, it was back to a boring wait and I was back to people watching. The wait was agonizingly long, made worse by the fact that I was really tired and so, not in the mood for chatter. I wondered if I was lucky to make it into the queue or if my friends were luckier to have been rejected so they had a choice to go home, sleep and rest and come again the next day.

If Ace were awake, he will likely ask his favorite questions.. "Why are we waiting?" or "Are we there yet?" at a rate of 100000 times a minute and drive me crazy:) wahahaha.. Thank goodness he is sound asleep. I really marvel at how he can sleep so soundly on the hard floor with no fan!:)

A girl who came with the friendly aunty (i think her niece) said she had an event to attend at 9am the next day and hoped she had enough time to go home and change. In fact, it was going to be her birthday the next day...

There was no news, no sound and no color.. Everyone is starting to feel very sian because we were told we have to be here for 4 hours and that 4 hours is fast coming to an end and no one seemed to be moving still. Perhaps we were not the only ones feeling impatient...

One uncle in a sector next to me was giving this speech to this group of ginna seated around him. He stood up and he tried to explain away all the waiting. He explained that we have to wait around because we have to first wait for the ministers to walk around the padang and give speeches.. and then they will go in and pay respect and so we have to wait for them for another hour.. so in two hours, we will get to see Mr LKY.

I cannot really tell if he is trying to appease the group or trying to add oil to fire lor. Come on lah, Uncle, we are queueing because there are thousands of people who came before us lor... dun use this sort of illogical reasoning to make people hate our ministers leh... But Max say I shouldnt be so upset.

But well, it is the time of the month and I am super grumpy and super tired during this period.. can? :P whahaha

We Are Moving!

Sometime around 2.30 am, there was a loud cheer! Everyone stood up and started moving forward.

My friends told me tat once you leave the padang, the rest of the journey will just take like one and a half hours. I was rather hopeful.. but there were people who told me that some of the crowd were dispersed to the floating platform too. I thought perhaps they were just using the floating platform as some sort of holding area... so after they cleared the people there, it will be our turn..

The crowd moved forward and stopped moved forward and stopped. At least we were moving... and after a 4 hour nap, Ace was at least energetic enough to walk normally.

Alas, after about 5 minutes, the movement came to a total standstill. No one moved. Everyone was packed very closely. The air was stale... the sky turned cloudy and then, it started to drizzle. I chanted in my heart for the rain to stop.. after all, there are so many old folks and children around us...

Umbrellas started to come up. And it got even more stuffy.... Someone shouted for everyone to put the umbrellas down... seems like the drizzle stopped.

But the crowds were STILL NOT MOVING...

It was getting more stuffy by the minute.

"Medic! Medic!" Someone called out. Someone had fainted. The people around raised their hands and pointed their palms at the person who fainted so that the medic know which direction to run into.

The stuffiness and tiredness that everyone felt was an accident waiting to happen. True enough, after a short while, someone called for Medic again...

At least 4 people went down...

As the medic arrived with their stretchers, the crowd automatically opened up a way to let them pass so they can get the patient somewhere safe asap.

"Please give way! Please give way!" The medic shouted loudly. But there was no need to do so... before him, a whole lane had been opened up. Singaporeans were determined to show their best behavior despite being tired...

Ace said he doesnt feel well. Max asked if he can hold on.. he said he can. Max said if he really does not feel well, he has to tell us so that we can bring him to the side and rest or go home. "I can continue... "Ace said resolutely... not wanting to give up.

But after a while, he said he felt a little like vomitting.

THe aunty next to us over heard him and said, "Oh, here you go.. I have extra fan here.. you take it.. you so short, must be extra stuffy for you... "

The fan was a life saver and the cool air from the fan help to keep us going. I was feeling slightly dizzy myself.

To be honest, the complain queen in me surfaced at that moment. I wondered who planned all this.. why did they not tell us what is happening. Waiting and not knowing wat is happening under those conditions was tough on both the body and the mind. At least if I knew what I was waiting for and how long I had to wait, it was bearable. I told Max maybe they should have volunteers who went around giving information like that.... something like cheerleaders:) haha.. We wondered if the event was organized by the army or by the state funeral committee...

I started chanting in my heart...
I chanted for it not to rain because there are so many waiting to see him and it is not their turn yet..
I chanted for the organizers have have great wisdom to know what to do next so everyone can get moving...

Someone passed out water... "We don't want water, we want air?" Someone else shouted.

Someone decided to take the lead, "Can we all take one step backwards, we all cannot breathe already..." And people moved backwards.. but it was still stuffy.

Finally, after a really long wait, the queue started moving forward. We turned around and thanked the lady who gave us the fan and returned the fan to her and trudged forward.. energized with the hope that we are now much nearer to our goal.. and with the hope that we will be able to see Mr Lee Kwan Yew in 2 hours time..

And so the queue left the padang and we came alongside the esplanade... however, instead of turning right, we were asked to turn left and move TOWARDS the esplanade... the queue was moving and stopping again.

Just before we crossed under the main roads along the esplanade, an army officer came up to us and said, "Good evening ladies and gentlemen, let me explain to you a little bit what is going to happen from here on... from here till the Parliament House, you have another 6 hours plus minus to go..."

My heart sank when he said that cos at the point when he said that, we had already been there for 6 hours!

He continued.. "It is a worse case scenerio lah.. but you will likely take less than tat as the queue seems to be moving faster now. From here, you have to walk to the floating platform... which will take about two hours... and then there, we have chairs for you to seat and things for you to eat and you can take a rest for another two hours.. and then you walk back again towards the Parliament House.. that will take another plus minus two hours..."

And so... we trudged along... tired, our hearts heavy at the thought of 6 hours more, our bodies weary... But we were determined not to give up. Halfway along our trudge to the floating platform, Ace started complaining... "My leg very pain..." and said that his feet and his ankles were both in pain...

"Ace, jia you! We reaching somewhere to rest soon.. remember, winners dun quit, quitters dun win... " And we encouraged him along.

While walking, we heard people speaking in unfamiliar languages.. I wondered the Thais, the PRCs also want to come and queue so many hours with us... I can understand Singaporeans queueing... but for them to do that too... oh well, perhaps they are new Singaporeans.. or perhaps they just really admire this man..

The SNAKE Queue
As we are about to approach the floating platform, a little girl waved to her friend who had been at the opposite lane that is walking back towards the Parliament House.. her friend said, "Oh my god... there is this horrible snake queue furthur up... it is terrible, I spent 1 hour in that queue!!!" and ran off....

I wondered what that horrible snake queue was and then, there it was.. it was a 6-7 row S queue tat was maybe few hundred meters in length each row... It was moving slowly...

As we walked in the queue.. Ace said he is really tired and his legs are in pain... Max offered to let Ace sit down on him when we stopped moving.. and with these short rest in between, Ace was able to persist on... Max says this will be Ace's first introduction to NS :) wahahaha..

At the queue, I actually saw a few people I knew:) We said HI and continued to move in the queue.. I was too tired to talk... My friends saw Ace and as they knew him as well, they asked him, "Are you still ok?" Ace was too tired to reply.. wahahaha..

I am by then in two minds. On one hand, I longed for a chair to sit down and rest.. on the other hand, I long to quickly continue and get this over and done with. I imagine in times where he felt too tired to carry on, Mr Lee will with his usual blend of discipline, keep the end in mind and push on... and that was what I did..

And finally we finished the snake queue and trned into the floating platform.... only to find.. NO CHAIRS.. no one resting! Just a row of people giving out water and biscuits. Strangely, I felt recharged.. only two hours more to Parliament House.. "Jia you, Peng Yuanru! If Mr Lee can dedicate himself to Singapore, you can dedicate yourself  to going to pay your last respects no matter what!"

We noticed at this point that there is this mother of 4 kids. I noticed her earlier because when the volunteers who were standing along esplanade asking if we wanted water, she scolded her son for not responding to the volunteer... "People are here to volunteer to give water to you.. if they talk to you, you have to respond.. even if you do not want the water, you should say, "No, thank you." to them..."

By now, one of her four kids had fallen asleep, from the looks of it, the kid looks to be 7 or 8 years old. So she carried him on her back on top of carrying two bags across her slim, petite torso.

But I think the thought that we are much nearer and at least moving without stopping gave us renewed energy...

Finally, we could see the clock tower of Victoria Concert Hall. We were so near, yet so far.. cos I knew we were not going straight and had to meander around still... at this point, we noticed that there was a group of people giving out something.. they were giving out iced coffee to the crowd walking past.. how thoughtful...

At the same time, we saw an officer pulling out families with children. Max said Ace should stand by the side so he can see him.. and that I should point out to the officer, the mother with 4 kids too in case he didn't see her.

But he did see her!

He asked her to come out and since we had kids, we just followed! He asked us to stand around as he gathered more children before bringing us over. We were going straight to get our bags checked!

After we got our bags checked, we were asked to walk into the Parliament House.... As I walked into the building, I felt this presence... perhaps it is his presence..  or perhaps just the presence of some angles protecting him... I couldnt help but started to tear..

(Picture from the internet)

As I approached his coffin, I couldn't hold back my tears.. all the waiting, all the struggle.. is just for this moment..

There was a guard that kept asking us to keep moving and as I walked.. I continued to tear.. all the things I prepared that I would say to him, I forgot.. I just remembered to give him a deep deep bow to thank him...

And there.. the deed is done.

9 hours of waiting.. ended with a 2 second bow...

Before we knew it, we were on our way home.. it was almost 6am in the morning... Max had to be back at work at 7am and when we reached home, I was so tired I fell asleep while waiting for my turn to take a bath.

Max said all the waiting was a killer... so he had no emotions left when he finally saw the casket.

I asked Ace later if he regretted all the queuing and leg pain and everything to be there to see Mr Lee one last time.

"No lah, he did so many things for us for so many years. It is only right that we go and say goodbye.." said Ace without a tinge of regret.

"So what did you say to him?" I asked Ace.

"I just told him Thank you very very much..." replied Ace.

We took a short rest and then woke to attend our Lions Club monthly hot meal event where we served food to the elderly living in one room flats i Meiling Street.  During the event, we observed a minute of silence for Mr Lee and I couldnt help but tear again. Even though these are the less priviledged portion of society, they too knew how to show gratitude and told me they were going to Tanjong Pagar to pay tribute later.. some also queued for a few hours previously to pay tribute...

That day, lunch was served with renewed mission to contribute to Singapore.

After that, Ace started to become more interested in what Mr Lee did and asked me more about him.

That night, the two of us lay on bed and looked through facebook together. We watched Ah Boys paid a tribut to THE MAN and we also watched MediaCorp's Audio Post group's tribute...

The tribute is like a summary of what happened in the past few days..

After I watched it.. I couldn't help but tear because tomorrow, Ah Gong's funeral will end and Ah Gong will be no more...

"We are never going to see him again..." I sobbed... Instinctively, Ace put his arms around me to comfort me...

OK, no more tears, I told myself. Tomorrow, I must wave to ah gong with a happy smile and send him away happily. After all, he can finally rest in peace and be with the woman he loves so much, we should be happy for him.

I am taking effort to pen this down because I hope one day, when Ace is older and a grandfather, he can also have a chance to share with our future generation, this part of his life and perhaps inspire them to read and find out more about singapore's history and how it is linked with this great man called Lee Kuan Yew....

Anyway, I think I will never look at the skyline of Singapore the same way again.. everytime I see the buildings in City Hall, I will always think of him...

Previous Post: Why Am I So Sad?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Why Am I So Sad?

Picture from mothership.sg

Yesterday night, before bedtime, while we were having our usual before bedtime chat, Ace asked me this, "Mummy, why did you cry so sadly when we pay respects to Lee Kwan Yew? I have never seen you cry so sadly in my life before... Will you cry so sadly when I die?"

I told him of course I will cry very sadly if he dies lah.. he is my son leh and I love him so much.

But I too wonder... why the grieve is so strong and so deep... and it came as a huge surprise to me that many, myself included, feel this way...

To be honest, I really think most Singaporeans are pragmatic and apathetic. We are more concerned with our livelihood than say politics. Of course, this is slowly changing as more of our youths start to take an active interest in the governance of our country and what they want to see in our country in the future and I am happy to see that.

I am guilty of being rather boh chup. When Mr Lee was alive, he was but this distant, elderly gentleman I knew to be a great man. We learnt about some of what he did in school but never in great detail. His contribution to education, public housing, world class transport system, Singapore's reputation as a garden city and Singapore's reputation for a clean government... I only learnt about the details during the last few days watching the non stop reruns of his interviews and interviews with people who worked with him.

I have never met him actually... or so I thought... till I went to pay respects and realized in one of the pictures that I was there at Bedok Stadium in 1983 with him for one of our National Day Celebrations. But still, I don't remember being up close and personal with him.

So why do I feel so sad and why do I feel as if someone close to me has died? Why did I cry so sadly when I went to pay tribute? Why do I feel so upset when I see people showing him utter disrespect? Why do many brave the sun and queue for hours just to walk past his casket or give him a bow?

I think now that Mr Lee has passed on and Singaporeans stop their usual complains and tirade and look around us, we realize that we actually do have a beautiful and wonderful place to call home.  Even my 9 year old son thinks we should be thankful to him for making Singapore a wonderful  place to live in for that was what he wrote in a card he made for Mr Lee.

My sister said she got emotional while taking  a bus ride home after work yesterday because everything she saw.. reminded her of how much this great man contributed to our lives and also reminded her of how little we have given to him or to our country in comparison.

I had a similar experience when I chatted with the Malay security guard uncle who works in our estate when I met him at the bus stop. I realized we could converse so comfortably with each other in english and felt this sense of bonding (to the extend  Uncle literally told me his life story) because Mr Lee made effort to ensure that this would be the case.

Yes, of course Mr Lee did not build Singapore singlehandedly and I do think that each and every singaporean plays a part to bring our country where it is today... Our pioneer generation grandparents and parents and even ourselves and our children... we all played a part. But it wouldnt have been possible without a visionary great leader who shows courage, tenacity, determination, resilience and dedication.

Still, I was curious if the grief grew out of only gratitude and respect... or is it something more because I realized that people are reacting to this strongly. Many friends who are usually calm and collected or even apathetic to most things say they feel like crying when reading about LKY on the train. One insisted she dun feel much but sniffled and cried along with me when we went to pay tribute together. Some even feel called to unfriend their facebook friends who seem to have no decency to keep quiet about their anti LKY thoughts at this sensitive time.

I was also triggered and cannot help but posted the following when I saw many insensitive people making what I thought were unnecessary and distasteful comment during this time of mourning...

In time of national mourning, i think if people have nothing DECENT to say, it is basic courtesy as a human being and basic decency to shut up and keep one's opinions to themselves. You are free to respect and be thankful or not. But it is a low class act to kbkb about LKY right after he dies. And it is incomprehensible to me why people have to criticize or judge other people who are respectful or thankful to him.

It is like hor..our parents take care of us and bring us up... We may not agree with the method they used or the control they had over us but when our parents pass on... We complain about how bad they are at the funeral to our relatives and criticize our siblings in grief if they say anything good about that parent.

Without LKY, his vision for Singapore and his contributions, sorry hor, u may not even have access to FB or an education that allows to kbkb in English and ur mother tongue...

This comment received more than a hundred likes within a short time and indicated that many of my friends felt triggered in the same way..

I asked my friend and mentor, Sue, about this grief and pain and this is what she shared with me..

"I remember when Princess Diana died and there was a huge outpouring of grief in this country. She was more like an archetype, she represented such a lot for so many people. Qualities of beauty, kindness, glamour, romance, and so on which all of us tap into. I think it is the same with Lee Kuan Yew - he represents more than just one man, he is the archetypal grandfather and pioneer of the family of Singapore. People feel they have lost qualities of wisdom, safety, leadership, all those grandfatherly things. And at the archetypal level we are all connected with each other, and people really feel that connection so it is very powerful."

This explanation totally made sense to me. Not only do I now understand the pain I felt, I also suddenly realize that regardless of whether people were PRO LKY, ANTI LKY or just sitting in middle ground.. whether they were being respectful and thankful, disrespectful, whether they feared over idolization of LKY, whether they were out to correct others if they over promote LKY and his contributions, whether they cried and slumped on the floor at Parliament house.. whether they acted like they don't really care... ultimately it is just everyone's own and different way to deal with this powerful emotion of loss... the loss of this great leader, the loss of our ah gong, and the loss of all these wonderful qualities associated with a grandfather and this great leader.

With this realization, I urge everyone to be more tolerant and sensitive to each other during this trying time of national mourning. Let's focus and put our minds on how we can continue the legacy that Ah Gong left us... and how we can make him proud to stay united as one.. and to work together and "to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation"... so that Ah Gong and Ah Ma can watch over us from the heavens with a big big smile:)

Previous Post: I Will Make This Singaporean Happy

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Will Make This Singaporean Happy

At Ace's request, I decided that I will at least bring him to pay his last respects to Mr Lee at the community tribute event they have in Bedok and try and see if I can bring him to Parliament House later.. given that the queue is soooooo long.

When I went up and stood before Ah Gong's picture, I could not help it and tears just flowed out of my eyes. 真的好舍不得.... But I told Ah Gong to rest in peace and promised to do more for our country...

After we walked off stage, Ace tried to console me... "Don't cry already lah... people will die one.. it is a fact of life... Every body will die... you will die, I will die, everyone will die... "

Wah, that is very familiar lor... Sounds like what I told him when he he started crying when he thought about me dying...

"I am just sad lah... ok.." I replied.

"You cannot be sad.. wait Lee Kwan Yew wants to get up from his grave because he says... I must make this Singaporean happy!" Ace said with a touch of drama.

"Huh.. what do you mean.." I asked him..

"Because hor, Mr Lee is all about Singaporeans and our happiness first mah.. " Ace explained..

Haha.. good joke son.. ;) I must say it cheered me up immensely...

Anyway, today, Ace told me that they got to make a condolence card for Mr Lee and he made a card which had a great big Singapore flag in the middle with the words, "Thank you, Lee Kuan Yew for making Singapore such a wonderful place to live in.".

"Then I decorated with alot of colourful patterns and designs all around." he added.

Yes, thank you sir:)

Previous Post: Thank You, Mr Lee Kwan Yew

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Thank You, Mr Lee Kwan Yew

Ace first discovered that there is a great man in Singapore called Lee Kwan Yew when he started going to school.

I don't know what his teacher in his child care centre told him but some time after they started to learn about National Day and started preparing for their national day performance in school, Ace started going on and on about what a great man Lee Kwan Yew is and how this Mr Lee Kwan Yew is a hero because he made Singapore such a wonderful place filled with wonderful people.

He would go on and on and on about him and how his teacher said what  great men this Mr Lee Kwan Yew and his son, Lee Hsien Loong were.

However, on the morning of 23 March 2015, almost a good 6, 7 years later, when I told him that Mr Lee has passed on, he gave me a shrug and said, "Oh... How old is he?"


As we were in a rush to get to school on time, I was unable to digest his reaction. I wondered why my son is totally indifferent to the death of this great man who helped build this nation. Perhaps he has forgotten, or perhaps, he doesnt really know that all he has and enjoy now might not have been possible without this one man.

I was tearing inside and bleeding in my heart, when news of his death came, grief literally rushed in and it was as if someone in my family dear to me had passed away.  I had never met this man. My oldest memory related to him was some ditty we sang in school that went like this:

"Tee tee tee, whose shoe is very dirty...
Please go home and wash it out...
S, T, O, P, stop, bus stop...
Who are you?
I am Mr Lee Kwan Yew"

Yet I was devastated about his death and couldnt help but tear. It was as if someone very close to me in my family died....

As we watched the PM's speech together this morning, me and Max teared silently. I really hoped that he would have been able to celebrate our 50th birthday with us but that was not to be.

During one of the interviews with Professor Tommy Koh, he mentioned that Mr Lee had always been a very considerate person and treated them with kindness and respect. When I thought back, he is, even to his death, very considerate in his fashion.

He passed on... only after the major fund raising program that SPD was doing so it will not interfere with their fund raising... he passed on not during the NDP SG50 celebrations because that would have made it a celebration no more but a mourning.. he even gave us enough time to recover from to grief to celebrate with him in our hearts in august... he passed on late in the night and gave all the respective departments time to plan and send out the news.. he let Singaporeans have a proper nights sleep...  He was a very considerate person indeed.

Granted, most of us do not agree with everything he did but almost everyone I knew really respected his conviction and his dedication to building a successful Singapore. All the little ancedotes that people around him shared and the glimpse into his life through pictures only made me certain that this was one man who only has one thing on his mind- how to make Singapore successful. His son, Hsien Loong, mentioned that his dad felt that Singaporeans were his responsibility and that was why he worked so hard as Singapore's number one "public servant".

Yes, he is a stern and strict "father" but nevertheless, loving father... He always tried to control what we did... whether we got an education, whether we got married, whether we had children.. whether we should be allowed to chew gum... If anyone seemed to be a threat to the peace, harmony to this "family" he built, he will use all means to wipe them out, sometimes sending them away to far away places and never allowing them to return, even if it meant others will say he is mean or nasty.

But like all growing children who mature into teenage and eventually adulthood, we seek independence and start to have lots of judgements about how he showed his love for us. We complained that he was a tyrant, we complained that he never listened to us, we complained about his need to seemingly exert control over us. But we knew deep in our hearts he did it... as all parents do... for our own good.

Looking back, I think Mr Lee did what he think was best to the best of his ability at the given time when he made many decisions. Not all of the were great decisions but they were made in bid to make Singapore more successful. Without any model to follow, he just did what he thought was best. Given that Singapore was in a precarious position, any wrong move would mean we will go down and out. He had to be very careful so that he could protect us.  Just like how we always do what we think is best for our children. As Singaporeans mature and as the policies of long ago past become somewhat out dated, Singaporeans are starting to want more say in what sort of Singapore they want to see in the future and requesting for changes. But our common desire to see a successful, harmonious Singapore where people enjoy happiness, prosperity and progress together will still remain.

Later in the day when we had time to talk, I shared with Ace that both me and Max teared when we heard about this news. Ace was surprised and really intrigued. So I tried to put it into perspective for him.

"Back in the old days, life was very tough. The older generation had to struggle for life and they saw how the leadership of this great man turned the country from a run down place where people did not have proper places to stay in... into this prosperous country now which gave most people a roof over their heads, fantastic world class transport and education for all regardless of race or gender. One of such person is Godma A's mum who said she is deeply saddened.. for without Mr and Mrs Lee Kwan Yew, she would not have become a seamstress and would not have been able to make ends meet and feed her two children... she would never be able to imagine travelling all over the world."

We were having dinner and  watching TV at the same time and Ace asked me what it was about. I explained to Ace that the clip we were watching was a part in history where LKY and his group had to fight with another group who were pro-communist.  Because if the pro-communist group became stronger and won, we will be living in a very different Singapore.

"Do you know what is communism?" Max asked Ace.

I tried to explain it in a way I think Ace might understand and explain that communism is about allowing the government to own everything and decide how much everyone gets. The government decides if you go to school, decides how much you are paid (not whether what you do is valuable to the market), the government decides what sort of house you might live in and what sort of job you should have.

In short, it will be a very different life.

I also explained to Ace that the film that we saw called To Singapore With Love featured some of these people whom LKY thought were pro communist or will help those people become stronger and that is probably why he sent them away forcefully.

Was that a nice thing to do? Maybe not.

But it was wat Mr Lee felt at that time, with what he knew and what he could do, the best thing he could do.  While I do think those people really love Singapore but Mr Lee, did what he did too, out of his love for Singapore. Who loved Singapore more? I can only say both sides gave up their lives for Singapore in different ways.

Ace told me that he doesn't really feel for LKY's death much because he doesnt really know him. I hope that Ace will understand in time.. that Mr Lee and his vision for Singapore + the policies he put into place to achieve the success he saw in his mind are the reason why...
  • Ace gets a good education
  • Ace can learn ENGLISH AND CHINESE and has a chance to become effectively billingual
  • Ace is welcomed very much when we went and live in Dubai
  • Everyone tells us what a wonderful place Singapore is
  • We seem to gather respect when we tell people in Dubai that we are from Singapore
  • We live in relative peace and harmony despite being multi racial in Singapore
  • We enjoy a clean and green city
  • Why we have this relatively comfortable life we have now
  • We live in an environment where one is not penalized for being just, upright and honest.
A friend reminded me that our children may have their own heroes and I think he is right. So I decided to let go of my expectation on Ace to have the same emotions or thinking about Mr Lee. Interestingly, Ace's attitude started to change.

This morning, on our way to school, I shared with Ace the little snippets of history I learnt again while watching all the programs about LKY on tv. I thought it was a very apt warm up as Ace told me they will be having special assembly today and will be given a talk about LKY and his contributions to Singapore. Ace told me that they also had a minute of silence and during that minute, he too, had felt our grief.

"Our principal gave us a 10 minute talk about Mr Lee Kwan Yew but some of my classmates were so disrespectful. They were laughing and making jokes throughout... I was really upset and angry at them..." said Ace.

Now, he has requested to go with me to the Parliament House to say goodbye to LKY one last time. "I want to see him and know him." Ace said.

My mother says that while she feels as if someone close and dear to her.. almost like someone in her family has passed away, she thinks we shouldnt be sad since LKY has led a full life and has done so much, surely he has passed on in peace with a smile on his lips.

阿公,对于你的离开,虽然我非常难过,但是我会节哀。 一路好走。别担心,我们会继续为新加坡奋斗,让这个岛国上的人民幸福,快乐,让这个国家继续繁荣,进步。谢谢你为我们做的一切,我爱你。我会好好教育我的孩子,让他们也做对新加坡有贡献的人。你会永在怀念中....

Previous Post: Weapons Crazy

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Weapons Crazy

Ace has been weapons crazy lately...

He has been making lego guns, paper guns, dart machines, etc etc etc...

That is him and his home made dart blower..

He is so happy that his dart could pierce through the banana..

We tried very hard to explain to him why we do not like him to be so obsessed with weapons but it did not make any impact on him. He says when he grows up, he wants to be a weapons designer.. I think weapons kill many when in the hands of people who abuse it and so it is bad karma to design weapons and told him so... he said he still likes weapons despite that...

I can only hope that he will outgrow his weapons phase just like he outgrew his phase of wanting to become a doctor police (forensic scientist) , policeman, prime minister of Singapore, spy, game designer, scientist...

Anyway, on a seperate note, Daddy says he wants to reward Ace for braving it with us to see LKY one last time  and queuing with us for so many hours and so he says he will bring Ace out for ice cream..

Since there is an ice cream place near Yeye and Nainai house, we dropped by the other day after visiting them...

I think the ice cream is so so only lah... Dun think we will be back again...

Previous Post: An Arty Farty Day!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

An Arty Farty Day!

We had an arty farty weekend the other day...

Pottery Exhibition

One of our friends, Grace, had a pottery exhibition and so we decided to go and view her exhibition and support her even though.. seriously speaking, I am no art lover nor do I boast of any art appreciation abilities:)

 I learnt alot of things during the exhibition... Eg, I learnt that pottery is very difficult when you use porcelain... it has a very good memory and so if you screw up while moulding it.. when you undo it, the mistake will still appear after you fire it... so you really need to be precise and meticulous when you work with porcelain...

I also learnt while eavedropping on some master potter from Japan who was giving a talk when we arrived... and learnt this very important thing... you see, most of the time, pottery is about understanding your craft very well so tat you can create this final product tat you see in your mind. Eg, this master potter understands that putting different composition in the glaze and putting it in different parts of the kiln can reap different results.. so she actually made 100 cups, made 10 different types of glaze using different components and then put all 10 different types in different parts of the kiln and kept all these cups as reference so she knows how to get that exact shade or colour that she wants... But she says.. sometimes, the act of losing control itself is a good thing as it is another form of creativity... In order words, while control to make your art piece look like wat you want is good.. surrendering to not knowing what comes is beautiful creativity too:)

While I enjoy the exhibition and it reminded of my Jap art and aesthetics module I took in university, Ace is a little too young to appreciate it all. He does however like the same art pieces as I do and I guess, you could say part of art appreciation is just appreciation of beauty ;)

These are the works of my friend.. we asked if she could make two wine cups for us the next time for us to drink sake:) haha...

I did not take photos of the other works which were quite amazing too.. I was told need permission from the potter.. too much trouble :) So I just show you wat my friend did.. if you like what she did and wants to purchase, they are available for sale too :) Just PM me and I will be glad to link you up ;)

Balloon Sculptures Galore!
After that, we were wondering where to go and remembered that there is some Dinosaur Balloon Extravaganza at Marina Square and so we decided to go there and take a look.

When we reached there, it was really scary! Cos it was people mountain people sea lor... So difficult to take good pictures cos it was so crowded!

Can you tell what sort of animal is eating Ace?:)

Oh no, why is one eye missing?

Ace pretending to get eaten up by the plant. not bad.. acting quite well... 果然有他老母的真传.. hahaha:)

I thought maybe we could take BETTER photos if we took from outside in.. so I walked around the parameters, trying to find a better angle..

Now you can see the animal tat was eating Ace:)

While walking around.. we passed by a cafe with a Mr Bean standee and Ace said he wanted to go there later...

I told him we go upstairs and take some photos first...

Time to visit the cafe which is called Teddy And Me...

They even sell Mr Bean's Teddy Bear and the interesting thing is tat the pple buying the bears are actually tourists from UK! :) wahahahahaa...

Ace ordered an ice cream...

Me ordered a coffee...

And the two boys spent the next hour totally glued onto TV.. watching old Mr Bean reruns...

And the beauty of Mr Bean is that... it is still funny... so many years later!:) Hahaha...

LIVE Bands and Darts
While we were thinking where else to go after that... a friend posted on FB tat he will be playing with a band at this cafe that we have been to before and said will like to bring Ace.

And so we decided to just go and support lor;)  I have known this friend to be a international musician for some time but have never seen him play LIVE:)

 Ace tried to play darts with Daddy.. and since there is darts to play.. Daddy called Shu Shu to join us with Shen Shen later...

 The band playing... the lead singer, Roman, looks like a IT expert of sorts but he is actually very talented and writes his own songs and sings well:)

 Ace was just happy to be playing with my friend's son, A... they were trying to throw darts too..

 Drinking game, anyone?

 My friend Mohan on the guitar..

Afterward, there was a band that had a member doing a CHINESE FLUTE solo! How cool is that ;)

Anyway, it was a very arty farty day.. wahahaha ;)

Previous Post: Best Play Date Ever!