A Zimbabwean Story

on Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It seems that Jo at A Majority of Two is in need of good cheer in the form of jokes. As a gentleman squirrel, I felt duty bound to respond.

Tonight, I would like to share with you a Zimbabwean joke which I recently learned from a Zimbabwean student friend which again features a particular problem in that country.

There is a city on the western mountains of Zimbabwe which is relatively prosperous but on one occassion, it had a terrible problem. All the monkeys from the surrounding mountains all came into the city and caused a great pandemonium. The Mayor called out the army and the police and they came out fully armed and bristling with guns, ready to cull the monkeys.

However, a staff of the National Wildlife Department intervened, saying that the monkeys were rare and endangered so they could not be shot. The Mayor did not know what to do, given those circumstance.

So the army and police were both milling around due to the lack of instructions when a man appeared, claiming he could talk to monkeys and could rid the city of the monkeys. The Mayor asked him to proceed.

The man went to the city centre and whistled and all the monkey gathered round him. He said something to them and the monkeys all turned to look at the police and army men and nodded their heads solemny. Then the monkeys began to disperse.

The man whistled and again the monkeys came round him. He said something else to the monkeys and this time the monkeys all broke up laughing until some were hysterically rolling on the floor.
Once again, the monkey began to disperse.

The man whistled and gathered them a third time. This time he said something and all the monkeys fled the city and returned to the mountains.

The Mayor was pleased and rewarded the man handsomely. The police chief however, stopped the man and insisted that the man explain what he had said to the monkeys.

The man said, "the first time, I called the monkeys together and told them that all the men with guns were soldiers and police and that their job was to uphold justice in the land. The monkeys then nodded in silent respect.

The second time I called the monkeys, I told the monkeys how much you were being paid to be the noble defenders of the law and they laughed.

The third time, I merely said that you had come to recruit them to join the army and police and that is why they all ran away!

Kat Wants Bugs

on Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Here is a collage of some photos that I took at a Butterfly Farm in Penang. This is for you, Kat.

Ramblin' on the La Rambla

on Saturday, September 19, 2009

Here is another post in my series on Barcelona, Spain. I had previously done an introduction to Barcelona entitled "Barcelona Uno" and had also posted on the amazing work of art and architecture which is Sagrada Familia.

This time, I present for your viewing pleasure, a video on La Rambla which is a 1.2 km long tree-lined pedestrian mall which stretches from the old Barri Gotic to the El Raval part of town. More importantly, it is a street alive with interesting architecture and exciting city life. A favorite with locals and tourists alike, it is like walking on the pulse of the city.

If you ever get to visit Barcelona, this is as good place as any to start orientating to the local lifestyle. This video highlights the attractions on the street including architecture, crafts, food, street performers, monuments and the famous Mercat de la Boqueria (iconic fresh produce market). Also keep a look out for my wife who will be "cleverly" hidden thoughout the video cause she is "internet shy".

Oh, by the way, someone has done a photo portrait of the Lone Grey Squirrel. Please drop by using this link, Portrait of LGS, and let me know what you think.

Reflecting on 47

on Monday, September 14, 2009

"Do not try this at home".

Well, this is the first day after my 47th birthday and the first day of the rest of my life. I was completely pampered by my wife this last weekend and had a very nice gourmet meal at a fancy restaurant yesterday. So in many ways, life has been good.

However, as usual, I get introspective at these times. And as I took some time to reflect upon my life thus far, I feel very blessed, happy and contented.

My career hasn't turned out the way I expected but I have had fun doing it (for the most part) and come close to the top of my eventual career path. More important to me is that I feel that I have been fortunate to have participated in some projects that have brought benefits to the community.

I am happily married and my social life is quite satisfactory. Financially, I suffer the fate of working for a non-profit organisation. As such, I am not rolling in money but again, I am comfortable and thankful for that.

I have for a long time held that the secret of happiness is to be content and I find that it has worked well for me. However, one has to wonder if someone can be too content.

There is the anecdotal tale of the experiment where a frog is placed in a pan of water. As long as the water is heated gently so that its temperature increases very slowly, the frog will adapt to the slowly increasing heat and not sense danger. In this way, the frog will make no attempt to escape and will eventually be boiled alive. (Please do not try this at home).

The scientific accuracy of the story is doubtful but the story serves to warn against our tendency to accept small changes and not be alerted to its potential danger until it is too late.

Perhaps this is the inherent problem of being content; that we fail to make decisions or take actions which might further enrich our lives. Being content should not mean that we should have no dreams or aspirations.

Therefore, I think I should be more pro-active in making positive changes in my spiritual life, in my family life, social life and at work. In each, I hope to have a more positive impact on those around me; to build up my personal relationship with God and to be more of an agent of His love.

So as I begin the rest of my life, this is the pledge that I make to myself. After all, I don't want to end up as a boiled frog!

Adventures in the Fast Lane

on Thursday, September 03, 2009

Fast Food?

I apologise if you have lured you here under false pretenses. From the title of the post, you might have thought that this post is about living the life of the rich and famous ...... it is not. Or you might have thought that it would be the confessions of a drug abuser and speed addict ....... but you would be wrong. Or you might have expected tales from the life of a race car driver ...... but you would be disappointed.

Instead, I am writing about fasting. Fasting is the the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. It is now the month of Rahmadan during which Muslims all of the world fast from sunrise to sunset. No food or liquid should be ingested during the fasting period and this even means spitting out saliva instead of swallowing it.
The purpose of fasting is for Muslims to gain more noble values by gaining control of their natural desires and passions. Some Muslim friends have also explained that fasting makes them more appreciative of the suffering of those less fortunate.

Have you fasted before? I have four tales of fasting from my own experiences.

Tale No: 1 (The Early Years)
My first experience with fasting was in my early teens, when as a young Christian, I took part in prayer and fasting sessions. The purpose was to meet in groups to encounter God and to pray for issues and for one another. Aternating between periods of singing praises to God, silent devotion and prayer, these sessions would last from morning to evening (about 6 hours). We would often miss lunch as a result. The idea of fasting in this case was to put communion with God first before even our earthly desires. We used to do this about once a month and I actually enjoyed these sessions very much. Of course, not eating for just 6 hours isn't really a very long time but it was my first experiences in fasting.

When I was at University, I also took part in a couple of these fast to feed the world programs. The idea is to skip lunch and to donate your lunch money to a food aid charity.
Tale No:2 (The Surprise)
When I was studying in the United Kingdom for my A-levels, there was a short one week holiday and as I was staying in a hostel, a friend invited me to spend the holidays with his family. Now my friend is Jewish and his family home was in London. I had a great time and enjoyed their kind hospitality. My friend did tell me that there was a very important Jewish festival (I think it was Yom Kippur) during that week which they had to attend the synagogue. He told me that I could go off and do my own thing but I was keen to learn more about a different culture and religion. " When in Rome, do as the Romans do", as they say.

He was thrilled that I showed interest and even wanted to go to the synagogue with them. Now this is when he sprung the surprise. Apparently we had to fast for 25 hours. With the wild impulse of youth, I accepted the challenge. So I found myself fasting for 25 hours and attending an extremely long service at the synagogue (from morning to mid-afternoon).

Despite the length of the service, I was taken in with the paegent.ry and the strangeness of the language and the go-ing ons. As such, I was distracted from thinking about food but that completely changed after the service. The mind is a little foggy on this point but I think both my friend and I cheated on the fasting thing when his parents weren't around later. Still, it was the first time i felt truly challenged by fasting and gave me a better respect for those who practice it regularly.

Tale No: 3 (The Real Test)
A few years later, I was travelling through Yugoslavia. In those days the Yugoslavia dinar had no value outside of that country. Therefore, you needed to be careful not to change too much money if you did not want to be left with a bunch of notes that you cannot exchange back into any useful currency when you left.

Of course, being frugal, I exchnaged only a little of my traveler's cheques. As a result, I ran out of dinar on my last day in Yugoslavia and spent the last 8 hours effectively penniless while waiting for a train at the train station. I was hungry and very thirsty and all around me was food and people eating food but I was the penilless backpacker looking in on the feast.

It was a very difficult time. Unlike my earlier fasting tales, this was not voluntary and I could not stop even if I wanted to. In a way, this enforced fast made me understand the plight of the hungry more than any other experience.
Tale No: 4 (Still Unenlightened)
Some people say that fasting helps in self discovery and enlightenment. The earlier fasting experiences certainly taught me some life lessons and I am better able to fast voluntarily as a result. However, as this story shows, I was still very far from enlightenment or wisdom.

This final tale was set at the end of a long, tiring holiday. My girlfriend and I was on the way home after a long journey which included a long hike and bus journey. We were tired and dishevelled and had not eaten for about half the day when we got to the train station. We were taking separate trains from there. After buying our tickets, my girlfriend took the last of her money and bought me a hamburger.

She skips up to me and hands me the hamburger, served with a smile. Almost simultaneously, this homeless man comes up to me and asks for some small change for food. I looked and saw the hunger in his eyes. I had no money left either and so perhaps of the lessons I had previously learnt from fasting, automatically, I passed the hamburger to him. I remember two sets of expressions; the gratitute in the face of the homeless man and the sheer shock on my girlfriend's face. Perhaps i should have asked her if it was okay with her to offer the hamburger away. See......not so wise.

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