To hide or not to hide

Discovered a pretty big mistake I made in one of my previous reports. And I only discovered today because the recent update looked so different from the previous report. 

Gah, actually struggled for a good while on how I could potentially cover it up and pass it off as some technical error. But decided to own up to it in the end and I’m glad I did. The more you try to hide, the deeper the hole you dig yourself into. Will have to discuss this mistake with boss properly tomorrow. Augh repercussions at work are so much bigger than in school. 

Also have to rush out minutes for this 2-hour meeting and there’s a 24-hour turnaround deadline. Tomorrow is gonna be wonderful…not.

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Freedom from… what?

Freedom is the state of being free, or not being imprisoned/cooped up. A lot of people use it on its own — “I need some freedom”, “Give me my freedom”, but the more important portion of the statement is often unsaid… freedom from what?

We must have been previously felt imprisoned by SOMETHING, for us to want freedom from it. And I think a lot of people often used it in terms of freedom from rules, from parents etc. But no matter how free you get from all these things, most of us are ultimately still enslaved by certain societal expectations — material wealth, being in a relationship, career success.

And ultimately, only God can offer us the true freedom from this world’s societal expectation, rules, and sin. He offers a different type of reward, so we can be free from idolizing money. He has a plan for our purpose in life, so we can be free from chasing career success. His love is so overwhelming, that we can be free from unhealthy desires for attention and love. He died for us and forgave us, so we can be free from sin.

But being free from societal’s rules and expectations can be scary, because what else do we have to live for then? Human can’t live entirely free, a lack or purpose or structure can be fairly aimless and confusing. It’s still a challenge for me everyday to break free from societal rules and live only according to God’s rules. It’s a struggle because some people look at you and wonder what the hell you doing. It’s tiring because you are always denying yourself the easy way out. And most of all, it’s worrying because sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it.

And of course, the answer is always a resounding yes. While I occasionally falter and give it to my sinful nature, God is graceful enough to embrace it and I think he appreciates the struggle I go through to steer myself back to the road that has freedom from the world and sin, and only has His rules.

 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”– Luke 18:29–30

So what freedom are we each looking for?

bye bye jie jie

Reached back in Singapore yesterday afternoon, and my sister had to fly back to US twelve hours later 😥

It’s shocking to realize that I’ve spent almost half of my life, living apart from my sister. She went abroad to study since I was 13, and ever since then, our interactions have been reduced to the 1-2 months/year visit we manage to squeeze in here and there. We both don’t do a particularly good job of keeping in touch other than sending each other random memes and photos. Granted I was fairly young when she left to study, and it’s hard to really have a strong sibling relationship when you never really had one from the start?

Not that we’re on bad terms, but perhaps our age gap, and the fact that she left just as I was maturing and becoming a less annoying sister never gave us the chance to build a firm foundation for our relationship. It’s quite a pity, because I think we both grew up to be quite similar in terms of values and what we care for.

It’s still sad everytime she has to leave, because it’s a good 2-3 months before I can even see her again for 1 week. We try to squeeze 3 months worth of socializing/cafe-visiting/nua-ing all into that one week, so at least it’s a fruitful one week? It’s also funny how quite a few of my colleagues know my sister from rgs days, and the first thing they have to say, is that they were booked by her. rgspb ftw

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On a separate note, La La Land picked up SEVEN Golden Globes awards yesterday, breaking the record for the most number of awards won by a single production in the entire history of Golden Globes. Wow. Was is really that great? I get that the whole film was a very fresh and realistic take of life, presented in a musical form which was a ‘hipster’ thang. But I was really not impressed with the singing, or the pace of the plot. I love Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, separately AND together. I guess they do deserve their respective Best Actor/Actress, but their singing honestly left much to  be desired. Even Moana’s singing was miiiiiiles better. And La La’s songs weren’t that memorable? I didn’t even come home to search for the soundtrack and that’s fairly rare for me, being a casual fan of musicals. Maybe I’m just too mainstream and don’t have a thing for non-happy endings. GIMME MY HAPPY ENDING

Meryl Streep went viral for her thank-you speech that veered political. She’s been a pretty big Hillary supporter, and while no names were mentioned in her speech, the gauntlet was thrown.

But who are we, and what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island; Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids in Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in London — no, in Ireland I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a girl in small-town Virginia.

Ryan Gosling, like all of the nicest people, is Canadian, and Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, and is here playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

They gave me three seconds to say this, so: An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.

But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose. OK, go on with it.

OK, this brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in the Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

One more thing: Once, when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something — you know we were gonna work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight.

As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art.

It’s pretty interesting to link the xenophobic nature of Trump to the under-representation of minority races in Hollywood. It’s been a issue that’s been brought up over and over again – miscasting minority characters with white actors (white-washing), the lack of coloured leads etc. There was a viral meme in 2016 #StarringJohnCho which photoshopped Korean-American Star Trek actor John Cho as the Asian lead of many Hollywood movies. While Trump’s take on immigration policies could be fairly different from this showbiz stuff, it perhaps stems from the same societal issues and perspective. Showbiz and politics ultimately is an appeal to the majority, and if the majority is white and white is what they want, then white is what we’ll see.

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Mic drop. Peace out.

And yay Zootopia won Best Animated Film. Rightfully so.

Image credit: BBC, Telegraph

Vietnam (II) – Hanoi City

Second day started off with a tour of the Ho Chi Minh complex. HCM to Vietnam is essentially what Lee Kuan Yew is to Singapore. He was the first President of Vietnam and founded the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, their “National Liberation Hero”.So he has a complex built in his name for all the Vietnamese to commemorate and remember him for what he has done. Hm, will Singapore someday build one for LKY too? 

The first stop in the complex was the mausoleum, which houses Ho Chi Minh’s preserved and embalmed body. We had to line up in twos to enter the mausoleum, remove sunglasses etc, everything was very solemn and forced to be orderly. His body was kept in dim lighting to better preserve the body. And I remember my colleague mentioning that when he visited in 1999, the body was actually not in Vietnam as it was sent to Russia for touch-ups, since Russia is apparently the expert in this embalming industry. No pictures were allowed in the mausoleum so all I got was a picture of the outside. 

Next is the Presidential Palace which was built by the French colonists. The Vietnamese government took over it in 1954 and offered it to HCM as his residence but he refused as he thought that it was too luxurious. In the end, he just used it to meet high-level diplomats. 

All the government buildings built by the French are yellow with a red roof, as yellow was a colour only used by the king, and it was their way of exerting their authority. 

We also saw his actual residence which was next to a koi pond/lake. A very humble abode. 

He also lived in a house on stilts from 1958 till the day he passed away. Near the outside of the complex, there was also this super cool coconut tree growing from within a banyan tree, which was scientifically mind-blowing but photogenic-ally not very appealing.

Our next stop was the Hoan Kiem Lake, and on the way there we passed by super colourful Pasar Malam-like shops. 

The lake has a bridge which led to a temple, which was when we realized that all the writings were in Chinese due to the Vietnamese language having Chinese characters roots, along with many other Asian languages. 

The roads outside the lake are closed to allow pedestrian traffic, so I could properly enjoy and appreciate the atmosphere and the space. 

Everything here looks like a thousand calories. 

We walked through the old quarters for lunch, and man, Vietnamese traffic strikes again. The roads in the old quarters are extra narrow and there were so many scooters weaving around me, it’s amazing that nothing ran over my foot. 

As usual, I was too busy eating to take any photos, but the menu was funny enough for me to snap one. 

Beautifull girl? Emotion smoothie? Lol

Vietnamese is super famous for its coffee, and they have this egg coffee creation that’s apparently super yummy. So we decided to check out this cafe which was super hidden (store fronts are small because theyshops are supposedly taxed by the size of their store fronts). 

The cafe has this super cool indoor nature concept, but it was so crowded that we didn’t stay thaat long. Since I don’t drink coffee, I decide to get iced egg chocolate. Which is milo powder mixed in beaten egg white and probably sugar and milk and stuff. It was surprisingly yummy, despite its suspicious look. 

Whole fam was pretty tired so we went straight back to the hotel to nua. And then we went back to the same restaurant for dinner, the one we went to for our past 2 dinners. 

Roasted pigeon

Empty bowl of chicken pho 

Yep, that’s pretty much a wrap for the whole trip. Off to the airport tomorrow and then back to Singapore. It was a pretty relaxing trip, not as packed as how my usual trips are, which is a good change. Had the time to actually enjoy the hotel room and get enough rest. Maybe one of the few holidays where I actually sleep before midnight constantly.

Vietnam (I) – Ha Long Bay

2017 started with a family holiday in Hanoi, and the highlight of the trip was definitely the 2d1n cruise on  Ha Long Bay itself. But before we got there, we had to endure a 4-hour bus trip from Hanoi to Ha Long city, before this scene greeted us. 

And apparently, the government wants to develop the city itself into some tourist centre by building a theme park, ferris wheel, cable car etc

And eventually we got on board the cruise ship. It’s a fairly small ship with a hilarious tour guide, Tommy. His English was wonderful and I half wonder if he learnt his English from watching American dramas because his humor felt very American. 

“only rich people can afford to take drugs, but they won’t be rich for long because they’ll be DEAD.”

Um okay. 

And more photos of the 3000+ limestone Islands in Ha Long Bay. 

I know, they start looking the same after a while. But I do so loooove the emerald water colour. 

The afternoon of the 1st day was spent kayaking in the Bay! Eggcites. And it was great that my mom and dad could join too since my sister and I paired off with them, and of course my dragon boat experience was put to good use. It was quite fascinating to see that part of how these floating fishermen villages earn their keep, is in helping the cruise ships take care of their kayaks. 

Imagine living here… 

Anyway, so we kayaked to this natural beach and it was really serene and just amazing to see all this nature created by God. 

And back to the ship for dinner. They definitely fed us very very well for those four meals. We did some fishing and puzzle-playing  after dinner and my sister actually caught a fish! Bloop. 

Next morning, we went to visit a cave on one of the islands. I don’t recall the name of it because Vietnamese names are really difficult to remember

The view from the island is quite beautiful. The rock on the right looks like a whale eating the ship heh. 

The cave in the other hand, is not so photogenic. But what’s cool is how it was formed by the water flowing through it over the thousands of years and then carving out the cave in the process. Now, that’s impressive.  

So many people in the cave though. 

Then back to the ship and we had a cooking demonstration on how to carve flowers out of vegetables. From which I learnt 2 things: 1) this is a way to get kids to eat their veggies “eat the flower or the butterfly”, 2) cooking is difficult. 

And then it was the end of the cruise and we endured another 4 hour bus ride back to Hanoi. We filled in the feedback form for the cruise and we indicated that they didn’t give us a connecting room when they said they would. They were so concerned about this minor complaint that they actually sent someone down to our hotel to talk to us and bought us some Vietnamese cakes and coffee to “compensate” us, even though we were really satisfied with the cruise on the whole. Vietnamese hospitality is 👍

For dinner we went to this super huge restaurant, Marche-style with tons of different stalls selling different stuff. I’m really bad at taking food photos because I tend to forget. But here’s the limited amount I captured

(there were 6 prawns but I only remembered to take a photo after everyone took one) 

Chwee-kueh looking thing

Yeah that’s all I remembered. Vietnam does indeed have amaaaaazing food. The variety is huge and everything is so delicious. Ha Long Bay was definitely a highlight since I love being)  surrounded by water. The calmness and the serenity water brings to me is something I always look forward to. 

The non-stop honking of Hanoi though, is quite unbearable. The sidewalks are all used for the street stalls and scooter parking, which forces the pedestrians to walk on the side of the road. I legit fear for my life, but I’ve been reassured by our tour guide that “it’s chaotic but it flows”. So there’s order in the chaos, I just can’t see it. It’s quite amazing that traffic accidents are apparently quite minimal…

Last day in Hanoi tomorrow!  

Shining the Spotlight on The Goblin: Gong Yoo

Wheeheee. I’m so delighted that Gong Yoo finally has his turn to shine after the Song Joong-ki and Park Bo-gum phenomena earlier in the year. I first chanced upon Gong Yoo in my all-time favourite drama – Coffee Prince, and that drama got me so entrenched in the Gong Yoo camp. For all the right reasons, I’m sure. Not ’cause of those dimples or those boyish good looks.

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His first starring role was in Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy, opposite Gong Hyo-jin. I only started watching this show a few years after it aired, after falling in love with Gong Yoo in Coffee Prince. And while I’m usually totally against teacher-student romances, Gong Yoo was reason enough for me to marathon this show. Biscuit did fairly well in Korea and it definitely put Gong Yoo on the list of “Up and coming actors to watch”.

Gong’s style of acting is very natural and sincere and he manages to make his characters relatable to the audience, which is likely what got him casted in Coffee Prince, good looks aside. Coffee Prince did wonders for his career and popularity — It managed to reach 30% ratings during its run, and the Choi Han-gyul craze throughout Asia was very real (similar to the DOTS craze, just rewind 9 years). Everyone wanted a Choi Han-gyul for themselves and it skyrocketed Gong to Korean Wave star status.

Not to put down Gong Yoo, but I think any capable actor who acted Choi Han-gyul would have made it big. It was just Gong’s luck that he hit the jackpot and met this amazing character who that was destined to make girls swoon to the ends of the earth and back. There’s something very addictive about the cross-dressing nature of Coffee Prince that makes it extra romantic. He falls in love even when he think she’s a guy! He’s falling for the real her! This is true love!

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Whether you’re a man or an alien, I don’t care anymore. I tried getting rid of my feelings, but I couldn’t. So let’s go, as far as we can go. Let’s give it a try.

*swoons*

It’s hard to really capture what’s so memorable about this iconic scene, goodness knows how many times I replayed it. But it was really Gong Yoo’s heartwrenching portrayal of his rollercoaster emotions though the accumulation of events — his pent-up frustration over his possible gayness, his confusion about his feelings, and his eventual surrender to give in to his feelings without concern for the possible societal insinuations. His hit every emotional moment perfectly, and it’s no wonder his character made the impact on the K-drama the way it did.

Gong had to enlist in the military shortly after his Coffee Prince success. And when he entered back into showbiz two years later, he was understandably conscious about his follow-up project since there was so much hype about how he would follow up his Coffee Prince success. Is he a one-hit wonder, or would be use it as a springboard to further his career?

He filmed a couple of movies (Finding Mr. Destiny, The Crucible), which were his attempts are broadening his acting scope. Crucible is based on actual events that took place at a school for the hearing-impaired, where young deaf students were the victims of repeated sexual assaults by faculty members over a period of five years. His co-star in the movie was Jung Yu-mi, who teamed up with him again in Train to Busan. The film did very well in Korea, and it sparked such public outrage that it resulted in a reopening of the investigation of the incidents. Pretty much the goal for any actor.

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In 2012, Gong Yoo eventually chose a body-swapping comedy Big (Freaky Friday style) to star in, and anticipation was sky-high for his follow-up drama after Coffee Prince. It didn’t reach the same craze factor that his previous drama did, but it was still fairly successful. The drama was hilarious and he did a great job of being a nineteen-year old stuck in a thirty-plus year old’s body. Unfortunately, the drama was marred by a not-great ending, which is honestly the one thing all viewers remember from a drama.

He went back to the silver screen with The Suspect, taking on a much grittier role as a North Korea special forces defector. He shot most of his action scenes without the use of a double, and his change in image was very drastic. In fact, he was almost unrecognizable after three months dieting to cut down his body fat for the role.

His next hit was Korea’s first zombie movie Train To Busan. And as you all know, it was incredible popular, inside and outside of Korea. It was a fairly significant risk for Gong to take out this new genre in Korea, and a lot relied on how well the overall effects and editing was handled. Fortunately, it was such a big hit throughout Asia, and it propelled Gong to higher heights of popularity. And 2016 continued to be Gong Yoo’s year with his hit drama Goblin.

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Goblin is written by the same writer behind DOTS, and I’m pretty sure that was enough for Gong to sign on to the project. As ridiculous as the premise sounds, the Goblin is actually #husbandgoals, save for his 900+ years of age and his strange abilities. The role requires a fairly versatile actor,  injecting comedy whenever the situation requires, but also pulling out the melodramatic chops at the right moments. And save to say, Gong is nailing it. It’s the perfect role he needed to remind people that it can be 9 years on from Coffee Prince, but he’s still one of the rom-com kings out there.

It’s ironic that this Goblin-Grim Reaper pairs seems way more popular than the Goblin and his bride, but one can never get enough of bromance between two handsomegoodlookingtall frenemies (more friends though). The age gap between the Goblin and his bride makes me uncomfortable, but then I remember, he’s actually 900+ years old anyway.

Part of what makes an actor successful is the skill (and perhaps luck) to pick the right projects. Choi Han-gyul is one of K-drama’s iconic characters, and the Goblin looks set to follow suit as one of those #neverforget K-drama characters. Gong’s filmogaphy isn’t as long as some of his counterparts, but what he lacks in quantity, he makes up for it in quality. He could have easily typecasted himself as a typical romantic K-drama lead, but his action-thriller forays have proved that he’s interested in being more than that. Granted that his images fits perfectly with rom-com, I think it’ll be interesting to watch where his directs his career path in the future years.

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And he’s also freaking adorable.

I’m already feeling the back to reality/work/life blues after a pretty fun weekend. Is there any job that just pays me to organize games, eat food, and hang out with friends? No? Well… fine.

The end-of year holidays really just gives people an excuse to cook yummy food and hang out and chill. It’s a pity sometimes we have to WAIT for such occasions and holidays before we think about organizing such events. What’s stopping us from doing such dinners on a more regular basis, just randomly? Do we really need a holiday before we can jio people?

Which is why I’m half thankful my family isn’t too big on these type of special holiday celebrations. I’m a firm believer in just going out and spending time whenever you want it, without the need of an occasion. Isn’t the reason of “wanting to spend time together” good enough to bring people together?

Since my sister is back, my dad randomly said to both of us, ”Hurry up and get boyfriends. I only have 20 years left to live.”

Okaaaay, but life expectancy is longer now, maybe 30 more years?

In any case, it made today’s devotion extra appropriate.

 Let no foreigner who is bound to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.(Isaiah 56:3–5)

Maybe the use of ‘eunuch’ is a bit extreme, but the crux of it is that the ultimate thing we should really desire is God. And while there’s a lot of societal pressure for us to start a family, buy a house and all that, God assures us that we don’t need any of that, because He’s going to give us something much better and eternal. And honestly, shouldn’t that be enough?

This isn’t saying that we don’t NEED anyone in our lives, but that our goal in our lives shouldn’t be about finding this Mr. Right. It should be about God and his promises, and if He does bless us with a life partner, that’s great. But if His plan doesn’t include this partner, it’s not the end of the world, since God’s promises is worth so so so much more. Theoretically, it’s always easy to recite this truth, but it’s much harder to practice it since this idea of the perfect family unit is so ingrained in our society that it you deviate from it, you probably have issues. Or you’re weird. Or you’re undesirable. Or… you’re weird, did I say weird already?

If I rewind back to 5 years ago, I never expected I would still be single and mingling at 23. And perhaps my life hasn’t gone according to my plan, but I’m still really happy and content with where I am in life, even if my friends one-by-one getting snapped up and off the market. God has blessed my life with so many other ministries and communities that I see his hand in every part of my life and I just feel so loved. And while I occasionally slip up and wonder if there’s something wrong with that I’m still single, I have to consciously remind myself to trust God’s plan and timing. Remember, God’s standards, not the world’s standards.

“To be wanted by God is better than being wanted by a thousand men.”