Coffee and Conversation with Israel’s Literary Darling

Yes, it sounded intriguing. And Zeruya Shalev books have been translated into 25 languages. Added to that, a view to die for….. Overlooking the cultured greenery of Orchard Road and just behind a potential UNESCO heritage site, the Botanic Gardens. No, no one says No to this invitation.
I like intimate conversation with authors. I must admit I got hooked on this after my trip to the Iceland Writer’s Retreat. Though I stayed only four days, the intense sharing of authors such as Andrew Evans, Geraldine Brooks and Joseph Boyden provided me insights which helped me rethink my novel.

Zeruya underlined the motivations for writing. I an going to note this down here so I shan’t forget. So I can turn to it when sometimes I feel I am getting nowhere with my words. Three pieces of advice I will always remember:

Literature should make changes in people’s lives.

Set emotional borders. Not geographical borders.

Writing is not only about writing. It is also about listening to your characters.

So, yes, sometimes when I struggle, when all seems tough, it’s good to remember those words…..

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Retirement? Hey, what does it mean?

Retirement is a very strange word. It connotes a time when u cease doing anything of monetary value and just wilt away. Or well, look after your grandchildren. That’s what us city folks think it is. So in Singapore, we have the official retirement age raised from 55 to 60 to 62 and perhaps soon, 65. And all around me are laments and rantings that “we can’t afford to retire coz we do not have enough savings to last till we are 80!” Oh! So what exactly is retirement?

I can’t quite grasp the word, and frankly, I wonder why it’s such a scary word to many people I know. It’s like the “c” word which spells cancer. And I wonder if it’s the effect of a kind of xenophobia that is strangling the country I live in? Sometimes I go to our shopping malls, and I see people walking around aimlessly….. Is it the bid to keep ourselves busy so we don’t have to think about our lives? Reminds me of HH The Dalai Lama’s “The Paradox of Life.”
So is it only me? Or is it that I have come to another phase of life? I am just thankful that I have come this far…. sometimes I wonder why I met The Dalai Lama? And why I feel so drawn to his philosophy?
Compassion. Love. This is what the world needs more of. Just like Mother Teresa said, we can only help one person at a time.
Which is why I don’t know the meaning of retirement. I think there’s so much to do. I know my vision of giving each child the right to dream and write somehow will lead me to the Tibetan Children’s Village. I just have to believe and follow my dream.

Love, Japanese Style

On the way to Kagoshima, our tour guide, who happens to be a Taiwanese married to a Japanese, was sharing about the merits of being married to a Japanese wife. Truth be told, or if you are a Japanese wife reading my blog….. Tell me if it’s this tradition today. Here goes: A Japanese wife does not work. She wakes up at 5:30 to wake up her kids for school, sends them off, then prepares breakfast for her husband and off he goes for work. And yes, the husband gives his whole pay packet to his wife. And her husband does not return home till late. He treats the house like a hotel. Out early morning and back really late. Why? Coz the Japanese home is so small that the couple will get in each other’s way. The only time they spend together is during the weekends. Seems to me this is like most cities in the world…… the quest for economic gains has eroded the family togetherness. Yes, I’ve heard this many times, have even lived through this. Therein lies the similarity. Now, again I need someone, a Japanese lady of a good enough age to verify this. The Japanese government actually gives every month, to every couple at age 65, ¥25k for the husband and ¥10k for the wife. Cool, isn’t it?
And my guide said something that hit straight home. The couple discovers love, meaning really knowing and understanding each other, only when they retire and well, spending time together.
Isn’t this so romantic? But will it work in today’s world? I find this really sweet but then, if you have read my book, you’ll wonder how much patience is needed on both sides. Can we? I believe it’s a matter of believing in the positive. No one’s perfect.

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I love Japanese temples. They are so serene.

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The man of my life....

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At Sakurajima. Behind us is an active volcano

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Kumamoto Castle

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The solid strong temple gate

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Big open spaces give breathing space. This is what everyone needs!

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So majestic, the power of nature!

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Coastal Kagoshima

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Overlooking Kagoshima Harbour. Notice the glow..... Just after the hot sand bath.

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Villages nestled in a sea of green. Can I retire here?

The Price To Pay For Peace

9th May 2014. After 16 years, I came back to Kyushu. Last time I came was on a press trip. SIA started flights and invited PHP Institute, and I went along. It was an eye-opener….. for Kyushu, especially Nagasaki and the Peace Museum, made me wonder why we fight and when we do, why do we have to inflict so much suffering and pain to our fellow men?
Aristotle once said, “We make war to have peace.” Noted gurus and philosophers argue that, only in suffering, can we see the true nature of men.” Perhaps this is so. Or how can we explain the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan’s civilians? Who are going about their normal lives on the morning of 9 August 1945? I felt my hair stand as I saw the pictures of the victims, who a moment (yes, just a second) ago, was either reading a book, or tending to their vegetables in the farm, or writing at their desks in school. In a flash (pun intended), the world became a bitter pill to swallow, for the power of science in the hands of men who wielded the most power, begs a question: Should we play God? Or is God playing with us mere mortals?

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The victims of the war

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Mother's love brings contentment in death

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Thank goodness it happened instantly for him

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Clothes are not scant protection from extreme burning heat

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Fatman changed the way the world. Energy became a weapon of mass destruction.

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Death, death everywhere and not a soul in sight