What is success? -Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is Success?

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Feeding the Enemy




animals food cups peanuts chipmunks eating_wallpaperswa.com_95 Wallpaperswa.com

We knew he’d been living  in the front yard for a while.

What we didn’t know was that he was munching on the tomatoes, leaving them on the vine.

Then, he got sloppy.

He left seed drippings around the outside of the pots.

Busted. In broad daylight.

Like most of us who grew up with Alvin and those adorable cartoon chipmunks, I was always delighted to see them. Until now.

He was eating them green. By the time we caught him, 10-12 tomatoes were ruined.

We had just come to terms with the rabbits and squirrels in our yard.

But this one was bold. We caught him mid-meal.

We tried blocking the entrance to his abode. He just dug out another hole.

Maybe we could devise a trap, and relocate him to the woods ?

And then, a simple suggestion.

“Maybe they are just hungry…try feeding them something, like…

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Eating mindfully



When I was very little, I did not know where noodles came from. I always found them in a bowl, cooked, I liked them, and that was all I was aware of.

When I was in primary school, we visited a family owned noodle factory. They were noodle makers who inherited noodle making business generation after generation. They educated us how they traditionally made noodles, and how they recently implemented machineries to make their tasks easier. They said that it was less strenuous to their body, and more productive; which meant that they were able to afford their life easier.

That day, I was inspired by the idea of factory-made-noodles. What if we occupied a huge warehouse with noodle making machines? Line the whole building with production line, and let the machines do the job; people won’t have to work hard, but they can make a lot of money. I thought if a wealthy person decided to invest in this project, life could be made a whole lot ‘easier’ for the artisans. I presented this idea to my teacher, who paused a question, “Do you think the ‘wealthy man’ will then share the profit?”

What I did not know was how ‘my innovative idea’ was already out there and flourishing. I also could not comprehend how the ‘wealthy man’ never seemed to share the profit equally. I begun noticing packaged noodles in the supermarket. I used them for convenience. Artisans were going out of work. And the art of noodle making was struggling to find its inheritance. Noodle became just another food, which you buy without much notice; cheaper the better.

When I came across a video on Facebook, I thought of conscious living. When we eat food from people who made those with their hands, food taste different. We know that it took time and effort. We know that they had to negotiate the weather to ensure the whole process would complete as planned. We know that there is a secret recipe behind it, and it involved the magic touch by the experienced. I remember making noodles as a part of a school project, and I recall how impossible it was to make them look like noodles. The noodle maker would then sell his noodle in exchange for money, and then he would buy his daily needs.

I now know why my grandmother used to thank the food she was eating, and how my grandfather used to appreciate the quality of its making. First, there was food on the plate so we could eat. But mostly, the food was there because somebody made it using their hands. Good things go around. And I somehow think that world would be a kinder place if we all had so much to be thankful for.

Can you commit a crime and walk away un-noticed?


“Can you kill a person and walk away without ever being held accountable?”

My grandfather asked me out of the blue. I was about 8 or 9 years old, and killing was not on my card by any chance – I was somebody who had to be taught it was ok cut cut a piece of paper with the scissors, that it would not have ‘hurt the paper’ if I cut it.  I remember my grandmother almost burst with disapproval, however quietly, but only held herself together with the strong faith in her husband and the intension behind his words.

We were sitting over a pot of green tea. Hot water was poured into the pot, and we were waiting for it to steep. “What do you think?” he asked me. And he went on laying the tea cups on the table before us.

I had to think.

If I killed a person: starting right there, it required a great amount of imagination. If I did, the police man would come and catch me. But what if nobody saw it? Is it possible to commit such an act without ever being seen? What about preparation? What would I need to do to hide everything after the act? Could it be possible to do all of those steps without ever being seen? – remember,  Japan is a collectivist nation with an extremely high context culture. If you planned something deviant, you would not likely pull it off without somebody sensing the change in your mood, life style and routine, and the mannerism that would have come with it. But all that granted, if you did managed to commit the act, never mind how, you would have to clean up the trace behind the act. One might flee overseas, because I was already aware that Japan was not the only country in the world, but police man would have chased you as long as you left a trace behind. So is it possible to commit a crime without leaving a trace?

“I don’t think you can do that. Somebody would have seen it, and if you killed that person too, it means more people would have seen you commit the second act.” I answered.

My grandmother was now gasping for breath beside me, but she still managed to hold her words in. And my grandfather asked me. “And if nobody saw you doing any of that, who saw it?”

Was that a trick question? I knew the green tea was almost ready to serve.

And I realised that there was one person who would have seen the whole event, even nobody saw me commit a crime. “Me.” I said.

“Well done,” said my grandfather. “Well, that was a lesson,” my grandmother said, who finally regained her breath. And with that, grandfather poured the tea, and we never spoke about that again.

Murder was a large theme, but any crime would be the same in essence. Whatever the decision you make, you will live with it for the rest of your life. I learned something important that day, drinking a cup of green tea with my grandparents. Had he used a petty crime as a subject, would I have understood the lesson as well~ that I would never know. But I am glad that he taught me this lesson early in my life. Life lived hiding away from the world would be too hard for me to bear.



Weipa was very far away.

It was a mining town on red soil. They did surface mining, and I noticed the land around the airport was almost unnaturally flat. Also, there was no McDonald in this little town but they had a Woolworth super market.

On arrival, I was told not to go near water. My work/ accommodation was on a private beach, so it was obviously tempting to spend some time by the water. There was also a fresh water stream meeting the sea nearby. And so the warning: “The water is great around here. But you cannot go in,” because the crocodiles owned the water. And the stream, protected by the crocodiles, was pristine.

Within the first 2 weeks of my arrival, I heard of 2 ‘croc attacks’. Both victims were injured but their lives saved. Everyone knew what was guarding the water, but people still went to the stream and spent time fishing. Rangers came and captured the 6-metre-crocodile after the second incident – and none of that made the mainstream news. The crocodile was sent to a sanctuary, in Brisbane, for a memory. I saw him being lifted onto the back of a track; thankful for not having to hear the news of killing the creature, just because they tried to eat those two legged mammal while on their territory.

It was hot in Weipa. You could feel the humidity build up in the air and then it bucketed down with rain. There was no use using umbrella in such rain, as mother nature reminded us warmly. And there were many frogs. 2 little green frogs occupied my shower, and I always made sure that they were above my eye hight before I took shower, making sure that I did not flick detergents on their sensitive skin. One night, this palm-sized green fellow landed on my window in my sleep, and I woke up with a jolt, thinking that there was a drunk person outside. The frog was only chasing a bug for food. But I did not appreciate being woken up in the middle of the night like that. Sad was about those cane toads. Those brown toads were pest to Australia, as they were introduced species grown invasive; human introduced them hoping that they would eat the grey-backed cane beetles and reduce the damage to their sugar cane crops, but nobody prepared an exit plan for them. I hated how people would go out to the field after a few drinks at night and swing golf clubs at those toads. It seemed wrong to me.

Life there was different. People would throw a line from the beach and catch a kingfish in an hour or so; a reasonable size to feed a number of people, and people used that as an excuse for them to be late for work. Time wound slowly there. Local dogs visited our accommodation, and I sat there and picked ticks off them. They were loaded. We were told not to feed them, but dogs still came for a visit.

People were kind. There was a mix of profiles and nationalities. Indigenous people in the area was friendly. There was a number of Immigration / boarder security people in Weipa. Pilots of airlines came around of food. Locals coming for a drink. People were from all over Australia; young people travelling, some working away from Brisbane, couple of guys from Germany. And I recall, come to think of it, I might have been the only one asian I saw in the period I spent in Weipa. Nobody reminded me of what I looked like. No deep conversations; that kind of explains how people were not suspicious of one another. Nobody was competing. We just kind of went along. I liked Weipa. It was a kind place to be.







Kakadu National park

I almost worked there too. It rained and the road closed; and they stopped looking for staff. I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to live in an area where you may have a long period of isolation due to the weather. You would certainly come to appreciate the greatness of the nature, I hope. One day, I might visit Kakadu National Park.