Sunday, 18 March 2012

Accepting praises graciously

        Whilst in the midst of consoling a friend who had recently lost her mother, something she said struck a chord. Throughout the last eighteen months that Mona had been nursing her mother, she never failed to tell her mother how much she was loved. Mona lamented that her mother had been very modest and she doubted that her mother had realised what a joy she had been. "I often wondered if she truly believed that she could generate so much love and affection," said Mona of her mother.
        Likewise, my mum always plays it down when I praise her for this and that. She would protest whenever I compliment her on her cooking. She would look at me increduously when I tell her that her beauty radiates from within. And she thinks I am lying when I say she is the kindest person I know. 
        Most people around us tend to negate praise or even turn positive words into something negative. I am equally guilty. When people attributed my securing a scholarship to my exam results, I smiled uncomfortably and answered, "I was just lucky." When friends heaped flattering remarks on my new hairstyle, I squirmed in embarrassment. When colleagues patted me on the back for some good work that I had done, I was quick to dismiss it, "Oh, it was nothing."
        Worse, at times we may even suspect that the person has an ulterior motive or may be slyly insinuating the opposite when a praise is given. When I was told that I read very well, it crossed my mind as to whether that person was trying to get into my good books. When praised for a new blouse that I was wearing, it occurred to me that the person could mean I look like a fat cow. When an ex-student made it a point to express his gratitude to me for bringing English alive to him, there was a fleeting thought as to whether he had been bored to death in my class.
        All these could stem from a low self esteem or a super active suspicious mind. Whatever reason it could be, I have realised that I am not being fair to myself as well as to others. By rejecting a compliment, I am denying myself the opportunity to feel good about myself. At the same time, I am robbing others the joy of having made someone's day with a sincere praise.
        I resolve to make a conscious change. The next time I am complimented, I shall accept the praise graciously. I will not eye the person suspiciously and dissect the praise. I shall not negate or dismiss the compliment. I will not downplay my achievement or ability. Instead, I shall smile sincerely, thank the person and go on to feel good about myself.
"The more you praise and celebrate your life,
the more there is to celebrate."
- Oprah Winfrey 

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Visiting the Land of Cleopatra

When hubby chose Egypt as our holiday destination in December 2010, I was less than enthusiastic. Although the promise of iconic pyramids and imposing tombs of pharaohs would delight the history buff in me, Egypt had never been in my list of must-visit destinations. But I am truly glad that we went ahead with the trip for we returned with fond memories of an exciting experience.

Which tour to Egypt would be complete without marvelling at the many pyramids around? Our tour included a stop at the Pyramid of Djoser, believed to be the first pyramid to be built in Egypt. Some argue that it is not a true pyramid for its sides are stepped and its top is truncated with a flat surface. Nevertheless, it did take our breaths away, as did the magnificent Pyramids of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only one remaining largely intact. Standing before the enormous Pyramids of Giza, one cannot help but marvel at the ingenious architecture used by the Egyptians in those days.

What else comes to mind when Egypt is mentioned? Surely visions of the sandy desert and its ultimate desert transport would surface in one's mind. Gritting my teeth to endure the scorching hot weather and dusty sand conditions, I joined my tour members in riding a safari jeep across vast desert plains, up and down sand dunes to arrive at a Bedouin settlement. The highlight of that excursion was a thrilling camel ride. Praying hard that this invaluable animal of the desert would not take a dislike to me and decide to fling me off its sturdy humps, I braved myself to go on a ride. For a moment, I felt transported back in time and fantasized being Lawrence of Arabia!

Who can dispute the significance of the Nile River to ancient Egyptians? They prospered because of it and modern Egypt is still dependent upon it. The Nile River also plays an important role in the Bible, being where baby Moses was placed in a waterproof basket and having its waters turned to blood during the Exodus. Therefore, when I knew a cruise along the longest river in the world was included in the itinerary, I could not contain my excitement.

Why is a cruise along the Nile an excellent opportunity to immerse oneself in Ancient Egyptian civilization? It is because the cruise is tailored to stop at a large number of monuments and temples, many of which are superbly preserved and maintained. One such
monument is the majestic and massive Great Temple of Abu Simbel, built as a lasting memorial to Pharaoh Ramesses II. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even one who scorns the belief and worship of ancient Egyptian Gods cannot help but be awed by the Temple of Kom Ombo, an unusual double temple dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek and the falcon god Horus. Many of 

these temple ruins still house intricate wall carvings, as can be seen here at the Temple of Horus, Edfu. I was indeed impressed as I wound my way around the temple to admire the pictures and hieroglyphics left by the ancient Egyptians.

Where can one go for a hot air balloon ride? One answer lies in Egypt, over the Valley of the Kings. Our hot air balloon ride coincided with the morning of Christmas and it was a remarkable way to spend Christmas with a loved one. Compared to the view over Cappadocia, Turkey, the view of the Valley of the Kings, Egypt, is nothing to shout about. Nevertheless, it was a great feeling to be floating over the hundreds of tombs of past pharaohs. Give a holler and Tutankhamun just might hear you from down below!
What other memorable moments did we experience during our Egypt tour? One such unforgettable moment was, without a doubt, belly dancing with the busty lady during our cruise. Hubby definitely had the matching belly, albeit not the boobs. Another unique experience was our semi submarine ride on the Red Sea. Yet another much-cherished moment would be savouring the sunset in the arms of your loved one on the upper deck of the cruise ship.

These and many other things seen and done in Egypt are why our holiday there will always hold a special spot in my heart. Thank you, darling, for suggesting Egypt  :)

Friday, 16 March 2012

Perfecting the art of multitasking

        "Could you stop doing that and listen to me for a minute?" implores hubby, as he waits impatiently for me to cast aside my exercise books. I reluctantly put down my pen, swivel around with an interested smile plastered on my face and listen to him share the latest e-mail.
        Being a man, hubby is multitasking challenged. He is unable to do more than one task at one go. When forced to perform two tasks at the same time, he often gives up midway in frustration. Neither can he accept the fact that others, namely his wife, are able to successfully multitask. He is often irritated when I persist in handling more than an action at a time, as he is of the opinion that I will fail to accomplish both, despite being proven otherwise time and again.
        Now before I arouse anger in any male reader, I must emphasize that I did not conjure the theory of women being better at multitasking than men. Many studies have been carried out and all the results prove this. A neurologist at the University of California has confirmed that the nerve connections in the female brain are thirty percent more developed than their counterparts in the male brain. These nerve connections are responsible for allowing information to flow more easily from one side of the brain to the other, thus enabling women to focus on more than one thing at a time. I do not need these scientists to hand me the proof; both my dad and hubby are the living examples!
        There are many, usually men of course, who do not favour multitasking. They argue that when your concentration is spread around, less quality is achieved. As a modern day career woman,  I depend heavily on multitasking to fully utilise time. Fortunately, I am fairly good at it and practice does make perfect.
        Some examples of multitasking in my daily life :
1.   Clearing the clutter on my dressing table as I blow dry my hair
2.   Folding laundry and then reading the newspaper whilst watching tv
3.   Washing dirty dishes during intervals of stir-frying and simmering
4.   Keying into my phone the list of things to buy on my next trip to Tesco whilst sitting on my throne
5.   Calling up for appointments or deleting messages as I wait in the car for my parents who have gone to get something from the shop
6.   Applying lipstick or pinning on my name tag as I wait at the traffic lights
7.   Sorting out the junk that has accumulated in the glove compartment while waiting for the lights to change
8.   Scrubbing and spraying water on the bathroom tiles and shower screen when I am in the shower
9.   Watering the plants as I wait for my ride to arrive
10. Wiping the kitchen counters or washing something as I wait for the microwave to ding
11. Replying text messages and participating in face-to-face conversations while waiting for the food to arrive at the coffee shop (this is something that I am not proud of and vow to stop doing as it is unforgivably rude to engage in other tasks whilst talking with a friend or family member)
12. Thinking of 101 things that need to be settled as I wait in line at the supermarket cashier or at the post office
13. Keeping a conversation going on the phone and at the same time, marking my students' work
14. Replying emails or checking facebook notifications in between marking exercise books
15. Replying or deleting text messages whilst on the treadmill
16. Running to the bathroom to brush my teeth or wash my face in between commercial breaks
17. Mentally preparing the following day's teaching lessons and maintaining a look of serious concentration as I sit through assemblies and meetings (keeping my fingers crossed that my boss never stumbles upon this blog entry)
18. Planning the next dinner menu or the next day's agenda as I pretend to listen attentively to hubby drone on and on about his latest bug photos and contribute appropriately to the one-sided conversation
19. Catching up on the latest with my good friend at work as we both mark our own books and occasionally attending to students who come to us for one thing or another
20. Pondering on what to write for my next blog to take my mind off the pain as my facial therapist squeezes out my blackheads

        Although I am a compulsive multitasker, I am well aware that at times in life, I need to just sit back and relax. I know life is too short and should be appreciated. Therefore, I do take time to savour life by enjoying a dinner with family members without interruptions, exchanging news on the phone with mummy dearest, delighting in a good book to wind down at the end of the day and having a quiet moment with my Lord.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Missing Toad In The Hole

        Although many people criticize British food as being bland and boring, I beg to differ. Whilst staying with my host parents in Plymouth, they had introduced me to many a local dish, one of which is the toad in the hole.
        Aha! Gotcha! You thought I was going to talk about a certain animal in my garden hole, didn't you? I have no love for toads, as well as their cousins, the frogs, having inherited the dislike for them from my dear dad, who suffers from ranidaphobia. So when I first heard of this peculiar name for a dish, I was most hesitant to try it.
        But one integral ingredient in this traditional English dish caught my fancy. It was the Yorkshire pudding batter that triumphed over the aversion to the unappetizing name. Being a stickler for all kinds of batter, I could not say no to this toad in the hole, which is essentially sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter. It is often accompanied by vegetables and onion gravy. One bite into it, and I was hooked. I remember having my fill of the toad in the hole during my last days in England as it would be difficult to find this dish being served outside the country.
        How on earth was this icky name bestowed upon this delightful dish? Nobody knows for sure but one reason could be due to the dish's resemblance of a toad sticking its head out of a hole. But then again, the Brits do have some weird food names like Bubble And Squeak, as well as Pig In The Blanket. Ah! This is fodder for another blog. Both dishes, as well as many other traditional English dishes, are simply scrumptious. Anyone who claims that British food is unimaginative and unpalatable needs to have his or her head examined!
        The Internet, as always, is a wealth of information. I managed to google many different recipes for this wonderful toad in the hole. And since I am missing the toad in the hole, I am going to try my hand at making this dish one of these days  :)


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Giving thanks for life

     Friday 2 March 2012 began like most mundane Fridays. I woke hubby up for work, then got ready for work myself. On most Fridays, I have to go to school early for my Catholic Society meetings. Never a fan of canteen food, I prepared my lunch to take to school, in spite of a slight headache clouding my day.
     The headache began to take a turn for the worse as I used the laptop to revise Luke's gospel with my charges. I felt my head spinning and nausea threatened to throw me into embarrassment. I prayed for the dizziness and nausea to ease so that I could finish my meeting. Fortunately, I managed to plough through the entire one hour and forty five minutes. Dismissing my boys fifteen minutes early, I went back to my table to rest.
     My discomfort yo-yoed its grip on me throughout the day. At times, I had to rest and at times, I was well enough to carry out my lessons in class. But towards the end of the day, the toll was too much. The dizziness and nausea returned with a vengeance. Driving home was an agony. To make matters worse, it was pouring and traffic was down to a crawl. Throughout the journey, I was praying hard to be able to reach home safely as I was truly in no condition to drive. I kept telling myself that as long as I reached home safe, it didn't matter how late or if I had vomited in the car.
     In the end, God did deliver me home safely. But before I could swallow my painkillers and sink into the comfort of my bed, I had a phonecall from hubby. He was supposedly on his way to Kuala Lumpur as he had a photography workshop over the weekend.
     I was shocked to hear that hubby had been involved in an accident. He didn't furnish me with further details, apart from telling me that he was all right and that he was coming home. My first instinct was to worry, but I was physically unable to do that as I needed to reach for my painkillers and stagger to my bed.
     Lying on my bed, willing hubby to call so that I can glean more information, I prayed. I prayed that the Lord would bring him home safely, just as He had delivered me home safely a while ago. Soon my phone rang again. Hubby had called to update me on the latest and he was able to reveal more about how the accident had happened.
     Folly had got the better of him and he confessed that he had been speeding in the rain. His car had skidded and had spun a full circle, crashing into the dividers left and right. His front bumper had been savagely ripped off and flung to the back of the road. He had a flat tyre and was now hobbling home.
     But the most important thing was he was physically unharmed. At that moment, I was convinced that God must have been watching over him. There is no other explanation how hubby had escaped such a perilous turn of events, unscathed.
     It was close to midnight when hubby finally arrived home. He told me to brace myself before I went out to take a look at his car. An icy cold fear gripped my heart when I saw the condition of his car as that proved how much danger he had been in.
     In those mere seconds, my hubby could have been lost to me forever. He was, and till today, still is, shaken. I have emerged from Friday, 2 March 2012, with renewed awe of God's power and grace. In moments like these, you realize what is of paramount importance. All of a sudden, physical discomfort, money, looks, job, race, politics, reputation...none of these matter much. Life is about more.
     Life is about giving thanks for every breath in our bodies, being thankful for every morning that we can wake up. Life is about spreading cheer and good will whenever we can, bringing smiles and smoothing away frowns. Life is about cherishing every moment spent with loved ones and anticipating the next time we see each other again. Life is about sharing something that we know with others, thereby enriching their lives. Life is about dismissing petty issues and savouring the joys life offers. Life is about building bridges that transcend the boundaries of gender, generation, race and religion.
     One day later, I again discovered how true this is. I learned that my niece's boyfriend had suddenly passed away on Friday morning due to a clot in his brain. He was a young man of 23, recently graduated, poised to start working, had a gorgeous girlfriend. The world was his oyster. How could he have known that his life was to end so abruptly and prematurely?
     He didn't know. I too do not know how much longer my Lord wants to lend me to this world. But for the rest of my time here, I will give thanks for life.