Friday, April 27, 2012

How Can I Keep From Singing?

I woke up this morning feeling joyful from fighting a victorious spiritual fight in my dream. But when I realised it was a dream and remembered how I let God down just the previous night, I instantly felt my hypocrisy cover my face in shame. I didn't even feel like looking at myself in the mirror. 

I instantly felt my heart harden, felt it ache, then felt it broken and filled with despair.

Despair from feeling defeated.

Yet, it was in my despair that I just knew that God knows

He knows that I am a weak human being, that I have close to zero self-control sometimes and am born with a sinful, stubborn nature. He knows that the temptor is strong and powerful and he understands our struggles as Christians in this worsening dark world. 

Even though He knows all these things and can remove me, a helpless human being from existence, He still keeps me alive.

I still woke up this morning didn't I? 

That gives me so much hope, because I know that God still has so much more in store for me. God will not let me die before I have fulfilled my purpose in this short life. That I woke up this morning, breathing, healthy and in one piece, is a testament to God's faith in me. He believes in me, this imperfect human being. 

It was then that I realised no matter how many times I fall, I cannot cannot cannot ever stop fighting God's battle. If God won't give up on me, if He believes in me this much to die on the cross for me before I even repented, then how can I give up on myself? How can I give up when I know that He's right there with me in the dark and difficult times?

I won't give up, and I won't stop singing. 

Dear sweet Jesus, help me to overcome the evil one! In Your name, I have the victory! No despair shall hinder me from walking with You on this difficult and narrow path. No self-pity or excuse shall bar me from living according to Your Word. Amen!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Trip To Kelong

I actually started this post on Monday morning, but work kinda swept me off my feet and I haven't had time to write since then. 

But no more procrastination! I've gotta finish this post before other posts get backed up.

Before we begin, there's a song that's been playing in my head throughout for this trip. I don't know if it's just the relaxing and enchanting mood of the song or the title itself that brings the sea to mind, or Anggun's Indonesian heritage racking up sentiments of this region. But here's the song...

Feel free to push "play" as you read through this post.

Last Saturday, while the sky was still dark out, the car came to pick us up from our homes to drive us up to Tanjung Leman Jetty in Malaysia. The jetty was in the Sibu Sea, which really just meant that it was near Sibu Island.

Apparently, Sibu Island used to be a Vietnamese refugee camp and they get annual turtle egg-laying crowds on the beach in July.

We weren't going to Sibu Island though- just a kelong near it.

The drive was about 2 hours and we promptly fell asleep in the backseats, both Huey and I. We were the only ones going on this trip to the kelong since her friend backed out and none of mine were available.

By the time we got to the jetty, it was only about 08:00 but our boat wouldn't come till 10:00. Next to the stalls at the jetty's eating area, I spotted my first kitty cat.

We were still feeling a bit groggy from having to wake up at 05:15 in the morning.

The sun rose quickly and steadily from the east and soon, the whole area seemed to come alive with the buzz of people, birds, cooking noises and boats.

It was a rather gentle cloudy day- just the right amount of clouds to shield us from the piercing sun.

Spotted my second kitty. 

Huey decided to rest at the eating area, so I took a walk toward the water front area.

When I got there, the shore was covered in large rocks (probably to prevent the sea from eroding further into the beach) so I climbed on it and sat for a while.

The clouds parted for a second and it got sunnier in an instant.

That was the first time I got to take a peek at the water away from the jetty. I was surprised by how clean it looked. I remember when I was in Penang last year expecting to see clean water, I was met with a similar green sludge to Singapore's surrounding waters.

When I got back to the jetty, there were even more people milling around than before. Mostly tourists from all parts of Malaysia actually. You could tell from the way the Chinese spoke Chinese.

Our ferry tickets only cost 5 ringgit each!

Noticed a quick little bird fluttering around by the fence and finally managed to get a shot of it sitting still. Think it had a nest in the nearby palm tree.

Our boat is finally here!

I really loved the colour of our boat. It made me feel so calm and happy just looking at it.

The other boats nearby were nice as well.

Huey and I could not bear to sit in the stuffy little room downstairs so we climbed to the bow and plopped ourselves in front of it all. 

Just a random shot of the guy who works on the boat. He helps tourists get their heavy bags on and off the boat. 

Within about ten minutes, Huey spotted dolphins! I was too busy staring at something else so I missed them completely. I was so disappointed! 

But it's okay. By our last day, I saw a whole pod of pink dolphins passing by our kelong. They were quite near enough for us to see their skin patterns as they cruised by one by one. I didn't manage to get any pictures though, since my camera died by the first night and wasn't recharged at all even though I'd plugged it in.

I fell asleep during our boat ride, but woke up when I felt the boat slow down and people walking around. Turns out we had reached the first kelong, but it wasn't our stop yet.

That was our first glimpse at what a kelong in this area might look like. 

I'd been to other kelongs when I was little, but they were legit fish-farming, smelly stilted things in the middle of dirty seas near Singapore. So when I saw these kelongs, I was yet again pleasantly surprised and relieved.

Huey's a photographer and she came armed with two cameras.

We're both ecstatic to get away from the crowded streets of Singapore!

We finally got to our kelong and I got to see what it looked like underneath from the landing platform.

Quickly dropped our things off at our beds. As you can see, sleeping arrangements are rather... open. There are no separate rooms in this place. The dining area, living area and sleeping quarters are all open in one big room.

See what I mean? The yellow bucket there is for drawing sea water. The beds are placed next to windows with nothing but a rolled canvas for cover in case it rains.

There's an opening in the middle of the kelong from which you can fish when it rains, and draw water.

Waving goodbye to the ferry that brought us here.

Huey wasted no time in getting to work. Here's her snapping away happily.

This has got to be one of my favourite spots in the kelong. It's the entrance from the landing platform below. It just looks so pretty!

There are bathrooms at one corner of the kelong. They're very rudimentary, but sufficient. The toilet is nothing more than a hole in the ground that opens up to the sea below. Thankfully, the current takes our poop away from the kelong and towards the island instead. For showers, we had a large bucket of rainwater to bathe from. 

View along one side of the kelong. The walls are green corrugated zinc flaps nailed onto wood.

Fishing time!

Huey's very first catch!

Cutting up the sotong (Malay for squid) to bait the fish.

Someone caught a big one and hug it up to dry in the sun. Salted fish anyone?

Huey caught the funniest little puffer fish. I affectionately call him "Mr. Puffy". 

We made some friends on the kelong, but we don't even know their names. They caught a todak! If we're friends on Facebook, you'd see this same todak in my profile picture. 

Todaks are beautiful fishes. The shades of teal and blue on that silvery long thing is breathtaking. In the water, there are flashes of electric blue to be seen as they swim around. Even their teeth are teal!

My first fishy might as well be a guppy! 

I'm really not good at fishing, so I hardly caught anything all day. On top of it all, my equipment was all wrong. Therefore, this one fishy made me very happy indeed!

Huey's other little fishies.

My fishy dried up rather quickly. It was too small to cook, so I used it as bait eventually.

After a few hours of fishing, I decided to take a walk round the kelong again to stretch my legs.

Peered down the sides for this lovely view.

Zoomed in really far to see what exactly was on Sibu Island. Not much, from what I gathered.

Huey is a relentless fisherwoman! 

The first three fishies from the bottom are mine. The last three are Huey's.

Right around 06:00, the sun began to set. It's been such a long time since I could see a clean horizon without a gadzillion ships or buildings blocking it.

The sofa looked comfortable but it had a small puddle of water on it and I didn't have anything to clean it up with.

After dinner (which was amazing), I took a shower and brought my long-unfinished friendship bracelet to the edge of the kelong to relax. The last time I started this bracelet, I was still in the US! That's how long I haven't touched it for...

With a final neon orange hurrah, the sun sank over the horizon and darkness enveloped us. Well, sort of. The kelong had powerful spotlights on every side of it. We could see some stars, but the sky just wasn't clear enough.

At night, we could see even more fish than in the day time.

They were busy feeding on coral spores released at night and a various assortment of zooplankton and minnows. We could also see a few sharks circling the kelong.

Many people stayed up till about 2-3 in the morning just to fish.

I went to bed sometime after midnight. I would've loved to stay up all night actually. The night has a beauty that is incomparable to the day. However I only had an hour of sleep on Friday and couldn't stand another moment of not sleeping.

I look at the people working at the kelong and think: what a great life these men have. They get to sleep out here in the open sea every night. There is no smog, people jostling you on the train or stores of processed food to reckon with. Just you, the sun, the sea and the sky. Instead of cars revving at the traffic light, you hear the cries of gulls and swallows swooping around the sides.

It's so easy to romanticise someone else's life when you don't live it.

What do I know of their trials? They must have gotten those wrinkles from somewhere. If not the saltwater, then some unknown sorrow. But I cannot deny that the air here does one's mind more good than the heavy carbon-dioxide ridden blanket that covers Singapore.

Cities... Maybe I am just not cut out for them.