Monday, August 28, 2006

Where have all the pictures gone?

For those of you who are wondering why there haven't been many pictures on my blog lately (and I know that many of you spend significant portions of your day wondering things about my blog), Erik has been a busy beaver posting them at our website. I don't know how to add to it, but there are some photos from this summer, so take a look. When I figure it out (or rather, when my husband takes the time to sit down and explain it to me) I'll put some new pictures up of my own.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The ghosts are hungry again

It's that time of year again, when the ghosts of people past creep out of the ground, or wherever they are, and wander the earth hoping to be satiated by their living friends and relatives. Or so I'm told.

The Hungry Ghost Festival is evident in that many businesses and apartment complexes place a large rusted barrel out in front where people can worship. Hoards of little shops sell piles of paper money and effigies for burning purposes. To burn these in honor of your deceased loved ones is to "feed" their hungry ghosts so that they can rest in peace again for another year.

So it's common to see people standing near these barrels of fire, throwing in paper with pictures of money, cars, houses, anything that might allow your dead to live a more comfortable afterlife. What is interesting about seeing this is the complete disengagement with which people will perform this act. I saw a woman yesterday having a conversation with a nearby guard while she absently dropped her piles of thin paper into the fire without looking. If I have ever seen an empty ritual, this is it.

Why are Asians so superstitious? I'm curious to know the origin of this and other rituals. When I went for a haircut on the first working day after the New Year, my hairdresser told me it would have been very bad luck had I cancelled, being her first appointment of the New Year. She had already had two other people cancel that day. She felt certain there would be one more, because "these things always happen in threes." She sincerely believes that her life is directed by this ebb and flow of positive and negative luck.

As for me, I will not be purchasing any paper to burn. I don't believe in luck, or ghosts, for that matter. On this day I'm thankful that my hope is in something I believe to be much more real and life-giving.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Knowing enough to love for life

Tomorrow Erik and I will have been married for 9 years. When you think about it, even if you know someone for a long time before you get married, you know next to nothing about them when you consider everything that you will encounter about each other. People ask, "How did you know you were supposed to marry Erik?" and I could stammer out a bunch of different reasons, all valid, but in the end I think it amounted to faith that what I knew about him was enough. In fact, when I had known Erik all of about 6 months, a friend of mine, in teasing me about how much I liked him said, "If he asked you to marry him tomorrow, you'd say yes."
"No I wouldn't!" I retorted with feigned surprise, while thinking, "Yeah, I probably would." Because bottom line was, I knew enough.

What did I know? I knew that Erik was a man of God. I knew that his main ambition in life was to serve Him with everything he has. I knew he was someone who would challenge me to go beyond myself, but do it in such an encouraging way that I would really believe I could do it. I knew that I could trust him with my life. I knew that he was wise, intelligent, strong, patient, adventurous, and fun. I didn't know those things nearly to the degree I do know, but I saw enough of them to know I wanted to be with him.

Nine years later I know a lot more. I know that he has such amazing endurance that he can run circles around me, even though I exercise daily and he never did, up until he decided to do a triathlon. I know that he garners respect from his peers for his gentle and approachable demeanor. I know that he loves goofing around with the kids until it's way past their bedtime. I know that he'll fall asleep within two minutes of his head hitting the pillow while I lay awake for another 1/2 hour. I know that he can just get close to a computer and it will stop doing whatever thing has been frustrating you for the past 15 minutes (like he just did now). And a million other big and small, great and not so great things. And I know that in another 9 years, I will have learned even more. There's a comfort in knowing so much about a person, and being known just as well in return.

What hits me sometimes is knowing that God knew all these things about Erik, and He knew how much I would need them even more than I did.

When playing is just so much more important

I'm watching, as surreptiously as possible, my daughter running around with a small Chinese rice measure box filled with coins. She is asking imaginary people, "Do you need a coin? Yes?" and then giving them one. She is running around the living room doing this at a more and more frantic rate as her need to also use the bathroom grows. It's amazing to me that if I were to ask her, "Do you need to go potty?" she would insist with vehemence that no, she does not!

A 30 second bathroom break is just too long to fathom taking when such joy as this is possible. Or so it seems.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Book Tag

My brother cyber-tagged me. Somehow it was more fun when we were kids and we played tag in person, but there it is and I must respond, so here goes:

1. One book that changed your life:
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

2. One book you've read more than once:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:
This is such an unfair question, because it presumes there's some book you'll really want to read repeatedly, but if I'm stuck indefinitely on a desert island, isn't anything I read that many times going to become something I hate? In that case, I wouldn't want to choose something I currently like. I think I would choose the complete works of C.S. Lewis because I haven't read most of them.

4. One book that made you laugh:
I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson

5. One book that made you cry:
Most recently, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

6. One book you wish had been written:
My own

7. One book you wish had never been written:
Many, but none that bothers me so much I care to name it

8. One book you're currently reading:
Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas

9. One book you've been meaning to read:
Gift from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh

10. I'm meant at this point to tag 5 people. I tag Liz, Mandy, and whoever else might read my blog and have one of their own.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

National Library Book Sale

As a woman reared on good books, I jumped at the prospect of the National Library's Book Sale. Admission was free, and all English books S$2. I envisioned myself loaded with great information books to supplement our homeschool times. I even gave myself a spending limit. I needn't have bothered.

Doors opened at 9:30 on Saturday. I arrived shortly after 10 a.m. to find about 2,000 people in the queue in front of me. I seem to have been working off the erroneous assumption that out of 4,000,000 people, I was the only one with an interest in cheap books. Still deeply entrenched in the American disdain for long queues (though I have resorted to calling them "queue" instead of "line") I told myself that if I wasn't in the door by 10:30, I was ditching.

The queue moved with lightning speed actually, so I was in the door about 15 minutes later. Inside I was handed a large plastic bag and set loose on thousands of bins full of manhandled books. I worked my way down to the English kid's books and found that only about 10-20% remained. It seems the way to approach the book sale is to come early, indiscriminately grab piles of books to claim as your own, then find a spot on the open floor where you can flip through them and decide at your leisure which ones you want. I saw people with 3-4 stacks 2 feets high each of books. Fighting twinges of bitterness, I battled my way into viewing several bins until my tolerance for chaos reached the breaking point. Another queue to have someone count my books (7), and a second wait to pay for them, and I was out of there in about an hour. I saw people with what looked like hundreds of books - what time did they come? I learned that the queue began at 7:30 a.m. That's when you have to ask how truly important is the great deal?

There were just as many people waiting outside as there had been when I arrived. I wanted to scream, "It's not worth it! There's nothing left - turn back!!" Next year maybe I will try to be there early. I'll be sure to bring a good book and a partner to help me nab my own stacks.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Majulah Singapura!

I have no idea what my subject line means, aside from the second word being Singapore in Malay. But it must mean something good because it's part of the national anthem. It's in fact the only part of the Singapore national anthem that I can sing, the rest being also in Malay. I have it running through my head right now because yesterday was Singapore National Day. We spent it at our friends, the Wilsons house, in part because they live right next to the stadium where all the festivities were (but mostly just because we really like them).

We were able to simultaneously watch the activities on TV while seeing some of it outside, like the skydivers who flew over and landed inside. And the fireworks. I don't know where the idea of fireworks for holidays originated (probably in China, since that's where they were invented, along with everything else) but my theory for the 4th of July had always been the "rockets red blare, the bombs bursting in air" bit from the national anthem. Maybe that's why Americans do it, but I guess Singaporeans just like the way they look.

Anyway, we ended up having to stay until 10 p.m. because half of Singapore was trying to leave the stadium. That was ok with us - more time with our friends celebrating a holiday that doesn't mean much to us except a day off from work.

Erik's addition: The title means Onward Singapore! Check out photos of our evening.