Deeper in Conversation

Had a much deeper conversation with Pastor J yesterday afternoon. I was rather surprised that I was able to be rather open towards him with regard to certain issues. I am really thankful to Pastor J for taking up this journey together with me. He doesn’t need to given his busy schedule but still he has been making time to talk and share with me for the past few weeks or even months. He has provided me an avenue to share some of my deeper thoughts and connecting me back to God in one way or another. The journey would have been very different if it is not because of him.

One of the main difference between here and Bhutan is that I have to manage more expectations here. Over in Bhutan, life is simple and I don’t have much expectation. However, here back home, even if I can manage my own expectation, I cannot manage other peoples’ expectations of me. Ever since I came back, there’s been much talk about what I will be doing when I return to school. Various people have spoken to me and sometimes I am lost at all these expectations. I guess there’s one thing I can do, that is to manage my own impression of all these expectations. The people around me have all kinds of different expectations on me, including friends and close ones. Some expect me have a positive change, some expect me to behave in a certain way after I return, some expect me to ….. Well and the list goes on and on. Gosh…what kind of world is Singapore!

My VP1 asked me an interesting question. She asked ‘If Buddhism and its belief system is the key to Bhutanese happiness, then what is it that we are missing in the Bible that make Christians unhappy?’ Basically what she is asking is that is Buddhism then the key to true happiness? My answer to the question is that, it’s not that the Bible is not enough or God is not enough. The issue is a lot of Christians are missing the point in the Bible. We have missed too many points while trying to fit the Bible into our worldly system. They do not realise that it is as good as trying to fit a triangle to a square. I should be able to talk more about this in my future blog.

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: Carpenter and Cook@Lorong Kilat

Finally at this very unique cafe, the Carpenter and Cook Cafe. I was so marveled by the entire decor of the cafe. I can only say that the overall decor hit my soft spots….yes…wood! The place is so woody and it is so filled with all kinds of old things. Even without tasting anything I could already savor the aromatic pastries from their bakery and the smell of old antiques. I love this place! This is one of the best cafes I have hopped into so far. Ok, let me cool down and try to decide where to begin.

Let’s begin with the cafe itself. The cafe started with three very interesting who are interested in some very interesting things. One of them is into bakery, one of them is into antique and old furniture and one is like happy with everything. This should explain why Carpenter and Cook. I must say that the cafe live up to its name. Now come to pastries. Had a short conversation with one of the bosses, who is also the pastry chef, and she said that they wake up very early in the morning to do the pastries all from scratch. I must say that if you order any pastry there, every bite of the pastry you will experience that effort and sincerity put into making these pastries. They are so homely and alive when they are placed in the display shelves. But I did something very foolish….I complimented their coffee to the pastry chef. Hahaha…but its ok.

Now, come to the coffee part. They serve the Australian style latte and I must say that the coffee taste as nice as the antiques displayed in the shop. Its so aromatic and the after taste of the roasted beans are so therapeutic to the soul and the spirit. However, I still prefer the organic coffee that’s served at Kooka Cafe along Purvis Street. Honestly, I was so spoiled that day, with one hand having the nice pastry prepared by lots of sincerity and the coffee that so calm the spirit. As if having all these is not enough….you are so surrounded by the old furniture and the old antiques. What more can I ask for?

This is certainly one of the best cafe experience I have so far…..go and experience this place and you will know what I mean!

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review – Nook (House of Pancakes)

This place is a pleasant surprise of the day. I was supposed to be heading for Carpenter and Cook at Lorong Kilat but found that they were not ready for operation. Lorong Kilat is a familiar place to me as my brother is staying nearby. We come here for dinner very often but I cannot remember this place having any exciting cafe. I was so looking forward to visit Carpenter and Cook and heard so much about it…well I had about an hour to wait so decided to see if there’s anything else that is exciting along this small street.

As I approached the end of Lorong Kilat, I found some light at the end of the tunnel. I saw this white-based outlet that hailed itself as the House of Pancakes – Nook. It’s not exactly a cafe but it is certainly a place that will let your imagination runs wild. The place allows you to mix your own pancake mixture and you can shape your pancake in any way you want. Okay, basically, the shop will provide the raw materials for making your pancakes and you will do it on your own. Sounds like those BBQ steamboat kind of things…just that this is pancake. Interestingly I didn’t try their pancakes, thus I cannot really comment on their specialty. I ordered a meaty breakfast and I got a very wholesome one. I was served with a whole plate of meat and all kinds of meat. Well, rightfully I should not be complaining about such wholesome breakfast, but honestly, I think the plate of meat is basically a configuration of all kinds of fridge meat you can get from Cold Storage or NTUC. So really, its nothing very exciting. Having said that, I did find my bucket of baked beans very tasty. I had baked beans almost everyday when I was in Bhutan.

Ok, let’s talk about my favorite latte. The coffee is really not that good as well. However this is really forgivable as the outlet never claim itself as a coffee-house in the first place. They serve australian style latte which is still drinkable but not as nice as those serve elsewhere. I managed to have a little chat with the lady boss and she said that they are very new and still in the process of fine tuning things in the outlet. In fact, they are also looking into revamping the menu. Let’s be gracious, I think we will have to give it some time to get things right. The crude part of the matter is that there isn’t much time as well….doing business at Lorong Kilat is all about fame and familiarity. They need to strike a reputation soon before it’s too late to do so.

Let’s wish them all the best and I certainly hope that they will turn out to be a place with its own character.

the gatekeeper

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Journey with God in Bhutan – Post Trip

First of all, I would like to thank the Lord for a safe trip. It’s been quite a while since I travelled alone. At the beginning of the trip, I was rather not used to it. Especially when I was at the Singapore airport and having to wait for almost the whole night for the first Drukair flight from Singapore to Bhutan. However, the wait turned out to be good one because I spent quite a fair bit of hours talking to my Constant Companion. It’s been a long time since we talked like this. I enjoyed that long coffee session with Him at Starbucks. I took forever to finish the latte on venti.

I have learnt quite a number of things during my trip to Bhutan. Bhutan, like Tibet, is a very mystical place. I think the most mystical part about Bhutan is all these stories and accounts of Guru Rinpoche. As a matter of fact, their lives and their belief system all centre around this saint that came to Bhutan in the 8th century to spread Buddhism to the Bhutanese. He is very much regarded as the second Buddha as Sakyamuni himself predicted his coming just before he attained nirvana. He predicted that someone will come back and continue to spread Buddhism. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche himself is Sakya himself. He was borned not of human descend but from the white lotus flower. Guru Rinpoche’s main mission was to spread Buddhism to the Bhutanese and the Tibetans. The Guru was also believed to have come to Bhutan in a ferocious form and landed on what is known today as the Tiger’s Nest. The Tiger’s Nest is a temple located in Paro, in one of the mountains, about 2000 meters above sea level. The trek up the temple is rocky and rather steep but the local people believe that by climbing up to pay homage to the Guru will earn them great merits. It was believed that Guru Rinpoche flew over from Pakistan on a tigress. He landed on a cave there and meditated there for 3 years. The cave is still there today but under locked only to be opened once a year. If you were to climb three times in your life time, you will go to heaven. Not quite a difficult path if that is all you need to get to heaven!

Religion plays a very important part in all Bhutanese lives. They often talk about Buddhism in their daily life and the philosophy of life behind Buddhism is so embedded in them. The belief that everything is impermanent and that everything will come and go. Therefore, there is no need to be too stubborn about anything. They believe that one needs to have a heart of compassion, like the Guru, in order to know the true meaning of happiness. Happiness is not found in gratifying individual desires but it is in having a heart of compassion for everyone around you, do good to them and to be contended with all that we have in this present life. There is just so much of Buddhism in each one of them. Although I am not a Buddhist, but once you are here you can’t help but to literally see Buddhism in each one of them.

I am so impressed by their duo system of government in Bhutan. While almost all the countries in the world believe in secularisation of government, the Bhutanese believe that they come hand in hand together. In fact, the dharma and the civil law have equal status in Bhutan. In all the Dzongs in Bhutan, the monastic order and the civil administration share the same office. Half of the Dzong will be occupied by government officials and half will be occupied by the monastic order. The King and the chief of the monastic share the same positioning in the country but they do not interfere in each other’s affairs. The main job of the chief of monastic order is to look into all matters pertaining to Buddhism. They also look into the cultural and traditional aspects of the nation as this is often buddhist in nature. This is almost close to a theocracy which the Bible advocates. I do think that such balance is remarkable. The Bhutanese, instead of blindly following the western form of democracy, they have crafted out something that works for them. This is very similar to Singapore. We crafted our own definition of what democracy should be, a democracy that works for Singaporean.

The Bhutanese are nature lovers. They take it upon themselves to protect the haven that they have been given. They do not see themselves as ruler of them all, but see themselves as part of nature and thus they are responsible to upkeep the environment. I have explained this in my previous post, so I would not elaborate any further here.

Finally, what they are very famous for, their measures for success. “Happiness is a place” is their slogan! They truly value their Gross National Happiness index as more important than anything else. Economic development and benefits will always take a second or third place in this country. They measure their GNH according to four main criterions, namely: Equal Development, Cultural Preservation, Environmental Preservation and Good Governance. There are many sub categories under these four broad criterions. I love the equal development concept. For instant, if you wish to introduce something to the nation, the basic guideline is that people in the most remotest part of Bhutan must be able to have access to it. If this cannot be achieved, they will not introduce to the nation. In other words, the entire nation enjoys it. I think this is a cool idea.

There is so much to say about this country of happiness. I just can’t have enough of her. She is so unique in her own way. I love being among the Himalayan mountains. I have mentioned, there’s so much life in them. I have been to many countries and have seen their mountains, I tell you I never experience anything like the Himalayan mounts. They are huge yet they are so personal. The last thing that I did before I headed for the airport was to have a last look at the mountains that guarded me for the past so many days. They have inspired me so much that I felt that God is in the mountains. They would greet me every morning and would embrace me in the evening. I am never out of sight of them. But now, I am certainly out of sight of them. I will be embraced by very different things here in Singapore. 7 days in Bhutan, though short but certainly have changed quite a bit of me. Yes, I have my family and friends here…I love them all. But there is still a very deep hunger for more in life. More not in terms of quantity or quality…but in terms of meaning and greater purpose. I have to truly make a decision for myself.

I met a German gentleman who were also on a tour in Bhutan. He too, decided to take sabbatical, leaving behind his job and career, and traveling with his wife. They will be going quite a number of places including Singapore. He too decided that enough is enough and it’s about time he has some peace and tranquility with his wife. They are a lovely couple and we spent many dinners together during our stay at Paro. He is a lawyer turned property developer and eventually he was dealing with steels and some sort like that. Compare to him I am just a humble teacher in a mission school up north of Singapore. But we both shared the same objective…that is to have more meaning in the things that we are doing. He encouraged me to go into writing. I don’t think I am up to the mark. Perhaps when I am more ready or when I have more exciting things to write about. I shared with him regarding my cafe hopping and writing critics for cafes. He finds the whole thing so cool and I certainly recommended some to him. Our last dinner together he wished me all the best and hope that I will find the meaning that I want. I think I found something but not all yet. I wished him the same and that he and his wife would have many many more years.

This is certainly a long post…and I did this on my flight back to Singapore. I will put it up first thing when I arrived in Singapore…plentiful of wifi and 3G.

Welcome back…myself!

The gatekeeper

Journey with God in Bhutan – Last Night In the Land of Dragon

This is my last night in Bhutan and probably last entry from Bhutan if I don’t find another wifi around. It has been a very extraordinary trip for me this time round. The environment is so different and 6 days I am surrounded by the Himalayan mountains. The Himalayan mountains are so alive and everyday they speak to you so differently. I can’t help but to say that God is in the mountains. Being surrounded by them everyday, I marveled at God’s creation and each time I looked at myself and find that who am I that God should take note of me? If I do not praise God, the rocks will cry out….the mountains will sing…and heavens will declare His goodness! So why me? So why did God take note of me? Interesting isn’t?

I did trekking today. My destination is the Tiger’s Nest up on a cliff about 2000 over meters above sea level. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche flew on a tiger to Bhutan and rested in the cave where the temple is situated now. He meditated in the cave and subdued the evil spirits in this area. He also propagated Buddhism to the people in Bhutan. This was in the 8th century. It was a two hours plus trek. The trek was rocky and if you are not careful you may fall to the cliff. Generally it was a safe trek…there were lots of ups and downs. The best part of the trek was to see yourself getting closer to the Tiger’s Nest. It looks grander each time you draw closer to it. Unfortunately camera and mobile phones are not allowed in the temple. The temple itself has many steps and they all led to different corners and rooms in the building. The actual cave that Guru Rinpoche meditated is still there but locked only to be opened once a year. The view up there from the Tiger’s Nest was very breathtaking and it was certainly worth the climb! At the ends of the climb I exclaimed to my guide, Sangay, that the road to enlightenment is a tough one. But inside my heart, I added and said, “I don’t have to take this road of enlightenment because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life!”

Over the past 6 days, God have spoken a lot to me through my devotion and prayers. At the same time, He also spoke to me through Pastor J. I have come to understand a lot of things. I really can’t explain them here now but I have learnt not to allow small things in life to affect me at all. I have learnt that it is important for us to put away our “self” and to think more about others around us. Sometimes the reason why we are so unhappy is because we fail to understand happiness cannot be found by simply gratifying your own desires. Happiness is found when we are able to see a greater need in this world and the people around us and to make ourselves available for them. I find it so difficult to put it into words…but I know that there is a greater purpose I need to serve. I am not hero neither am I a saint…I am just an ordinary man looking for ordinary things to do. There is meaning in the ordinary. Why try to be extraordinary when you don’t even know what is the “extra” in the ordinary? There is no extra! God has called us to do ordinary things.

I couldn’t resist but to buy a thanka for 400 over dollars. Hahaha….it’s really beautiful and to me I really love the art behind it. The thanka always remind buddhists that everything is impermanent and that nothing will stay the way it is forever. The thanka like Christian icon embodied the teachings of Buddha in a picture form. I think there’s much to learn from Buddhism as well.

At this point of time, I have say goodbye to this land of the dragon. I really enjoyed every moment I have in Bhutan and I hope I will have a chance to come back here again! I think I have found back some part of me here. The challenge now is not to lose it again when I am back to the buzzing Singapore. Things are so basic here and sometimes you really think that life begins here. Why do we always chase for more when the basics are more than enough?

the gatekeeper

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Journey with God in Bhutan – Day 5 Evening

I must say that this Bhutan trip is the most extraordinary trip I have ever had so far. The Lord spoke so much to me during the trip and there’s so much of ministering from heaven. I have never felt so close to God before. I believe that the healing that He is doing in me is going to be a very deep one. This morning Pastor J text me and said that God gave him the word “forgiveness” while he was praying for me. I jokingly told him that I had no clue about this word and just brush it aside. While on my way up the mountain, about 4000 meters high above sea level, the Lord showed me a few passages from the Scripture and I want to just blog it here….they ministered to me and I hope they will also minister to you…

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,

that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word i hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

…Hope in the Lord!

For with the Lord there is steadfast love,

and with him is plentiful redemption.

And he will redeem us from all our iniquities…

Psalm 130 (edited)

“Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned -every one-to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 53

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

Romans 8

the gatekeeper

Journey with God in Bhutan – Day 5 Morning

Normally I don’t do my blog in the morning, but today I just cannot help it but to drop a few lines here. It’s really so beautiful to be here. I am literally sitting in the womb of Mother Nature and you feel like you have returned to the beginning of life, where Eden Garden used to be. I feel myself so close to heaven. I wrote on my Facebook that John Milton is wrong…paradise is not lose…there is one here…one last Shangri-la on earth. I can’t help but to read Psalm 139 where the psalmist said, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your Presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” That’s how I am feeling now. The mountains and the hills are the best evidence of the Presence of the Creator God. I cannot imagine all these poping out of no where! The Lord must have designed it!

I am just so amazed by His goodness and loving kindness!

The gatekeeper

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