I don't know much about the holiday, neither had I ever celebrated Thanksgiving. But it's an apt time to finish a post that I had been drafting on and off for months. I wanted to complete it because this is the space in which I had often expressed how exasperating church life is in the past year.

It hasn't always been so. I had often regarded church and fellowship to be family. From the friendships and fights during my childhood years, to the medical fellowship at NUS which prepared me for the challenges of group dynamics and hospital life during clinical years (for which, I will always be immensely grateful for). Then more recently, there was the church community I loved, which continued to be an encouragement to keep loving, as I remember how I was blessed by their warm hospitality which arose from their faith in God.

The troublesome life of a troubled church goer

For sure, church life is troublesome. Fellowship is accompanied by a whole range of difficult emotions - sadness at not having friends, hatred when I feel snubbed, venomous envy when I compare my own talents or "role" in the church to others, being proud or self righteous as I judge the knowledge, abilities, motives, manners, and attitudes of others (that's hypocritical, isn't it).

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? - Matthew 7:3

I usually look forward to attending Sunday service. Not so much with the regular service I attend but more often on the odd occasion when I would find myself at other churches, I would be distracted by everything - the building would be too bright and flash (money hungry?), the organ too grand, there would be one too many overdressed girls with heavy make up (are you there to pick up?), the handshakes feel insincere, the songs too repetitive, lyrics without enough depth, the clapping too enthusiastic, the band too loud, the singers were clearly showing off, the pastor told too many anecdotes, the teaching was unclear, the offering tray too transparent, they talked about loving your neighbours but no one stopped to say hello after service... and so on and so forth.

But your (my) attitude and focus as you walk in through those doors, shapes everything. Am I really here to worship God and love my brothers and sisters? Am I here to serve or be served?

Since returning last year, and even from the time I first arrived almost six years ago now, I had a difficult time feeling "at home" in M. In amusement I recall spending first year at a Cantonese church with services translated to Mandarin or English. Many youth group members spoke good English, but spoke Cantonese anyway despite knowing that I could not understand. Later I explored many churches before settling at where I am now. Yet, here, I have always struggled with being from an Asian but somewhat different culture, I often felt disappointed with cliques, with superficial conversations, lack of honest sharing and prayer, with the general reluctance to ask a genuine how are you, and with people still ask me if I am back for just the weekend (fair enough though, I do come and go often - to rotations, to conferences, home for holidays). Less so now, but occasionally, I would be offended about not being invited to this outing, farewell party, dinner, or road trip. At my birthday gathering his year I was reminded of how richly I was blessed with close friends from various areas of my life - except it was also a stark reminder of how few close Christian friends I had, even after all these years in my regular fellowship.

In my previous Bible study group the next youngest people were in their forties, and the mean age of the group was probably in their sixties. So, perhaps being used to falling on the younger end of the age spectrum, in my student fellowship group, I came to realise a novel way in which I did not fit in - I feel old, ha ha. Some are many years younger chronologically. Some are not but have views of life, studies, friendships and relationships, or have ways of talking, joking, pranking and relating to people, which I could have probably related to better, was I several years younger. Not that I am better at growing up. But having a growing relationship with God as I lived away from home, moved here and there, interstate and overseas, got to know groups of new people, old and young, of my culture and of different backgrounds, and the sheer number of years spent in university, may have accelerated that shift a little more, towards adulthood.

Memorable encouragements, incidents, and lessons

"Why don't you try another church?" I was asked many times. I had always felt that I saw a purpose of being here, though I did not always enjoy it. I think, I saw that there were people to care for and share God's love with through this fellowship, and lessons for myself to learn too. I'm thankful for God's grace to help me not merely persevere, but find joy and thankfulness midst my troublesome feelings. I want to remember these times of encouragement through writing.

On weeks when I was able to focus on serving God, I recognised that not being knit in the "mainstream" social group, I sympathised with and was more able to spend time with those who were new, from different backgrounds, or those who were also often alone. I saw how, being non Singaporean non Malaysians, I could more readily understand how international students who were from other countries felt when they were not included socially, or struggled to understand the jokes and cultural references. I saw how English class made for creative ways to present God's message; I also saw, how my frivolous love of singing karaoke, and (thankfully) being able to speak simple Mandarin, helped me to better connect with many students, not only in class but socially too.

Indeed, English class has been an important area of joy and encouragement. In class I often appreciated the input of the other teachers as they transformed a simple lesson into a vivid imagery of God's love, or helped to articulate the gospel clearly and concisely in a way I could not. During my trips overseas at the end of last year, I was surprised at the effort in which those who I had looked out for in M were in turn, acting as hosts in their home cities. For the first time, I had friends in the city of my childhood to take me out - my friends, not my cousins, not cousin's friends, not family friends, not family friend's children. I was inspired too to pray and speak to my own extended family, as I saw the passion and clarity in which these relatively new believers shared God's love to their family and friends back home. Back in M, I was touched by the generosity of one of the students who brought his own ingredients to prepare multiple dishes from his national cuisine in big pots, in additional to our usual pasta dinner. Perhaps ashamed also - for our focus in planning for communal meals is often to minimise costs, whereas his main concern here was to share a delicious feast with each of us, as a token of his heartfelt appreciation.

There were other gentle nudges to keep going with fellowship too. I was weary and growing in discontentment with fellowship during those months, when the door unexpectedly opened one evening. I had prepared to attend the fellowship that Friday evening, but was late and not in the mood to face anyone after a series of bitter arguments. As I walked past the rarely used side door on my way home, the pastor opened the door and was almost directly in front of us. He assumed we were walking in and held out the door, and we felt too awkward to refuse. Throughout the fellowship that evening, I felt that more than an amusing coincidence, this incident was a reminder and glimpse of God's gracious and loving call to come to him just as we were.

Weeks later, there was one morning when I suddenly remembered to give thanks for the church service I take for granted Sunday after Sunday. Giving thanks for the song leaders, musicians and singers, who used their gifts to help us sing praises, to think about God's character, and reflect on his grace. For those who prepared our hearts for communion through their readings and prayers, so that we too might be encouraged to reflect on Christ's death for our sins, and what this means for our lives today. For the pastor and guest speakers who, week after week, faithfully teach from the Bible so that we are better able to not only understand, but also interpret the word for ourselves, in context. For the blessing church is every week, to reflect on my focus throughout the week, to deal with my sins. How effective thankfulness is, in turning cynicism and dislike for others to a heart which is more inclined to unity in Christ, and one which is more willing to praise God!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. - Colossians 3:15-16

For a period of time I found it difficult to respect my Bible study leaders who were younger, or whom I deemed to be less mature in their spiritual life and understanding of the Word. Frankly, I was rather offended that they were asked to lead Bible study while I was not. Yet I am thankful for those seasons, in helping me to see that serving God goes beyond holding a recognisable title or leadership role - for example, being faithful through participating and prompting discussion, words of encouragement to those who do lead, or praying and caring for fellow group members. In an almost amusing way, I am thankful for coming face to face with the truth of the unpleasant remark of - "W, you are so up yourself!" It is only in seeing my pride that I could reflect upon the meaning of, and pray for an attitude of humility and unity. Perhaps these opportunities to work on a heart of service was important, and in this case, more important to God than actively serving in those roles. No wonder Paul instructs Timothy, regarding the choice of overseers and deacons:

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil. - 1 Timothy 3:6

As the year of fellowship gatherings come to an end, I can say honestly express my gratitude for the privilege it is to come together as a spiritual family each week. Even more in times away, do I realise how important these routines are, in spurring me along to spend time with God, talk about God, continue to learn to live a life worthy of God. Time alone with God is important, but so is learning and discussing with others. I think even in my own posts on Bible passages I can see the synergy of these two elements at work - whilst I spend much time reflecting alone, much of the content of those posts can be credited to those who brought the Word to life through sermons, or helped me to understand through discussion in Bible studies. It is also a joy and valuable growing process, to serve in unity with other Christians despite our differences and imperfections. May we continue to be thankful, growing in love and meaningful fellowship, with unity in ministry, to the glory of our God!

One Voice

Father we ask of You this day, come and heal our land.
Knit our hearts together, that Your glory might be seen in us;
Then the world will know that Jesus Christ is Lord!

Now is the time for you and I to join our hearts in praise.
That the name of Jesus, will be lifted high above the earth,
Then the world will know that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Let us be one voice that glorifies Your name.

Let us be one voice declaring that You reign.
Let us be one voice in love and harmony,
And we pray O God, grant us unity.


Whilst waiting for final OSCEs.

Titanic, numbers, medicine

Coming to the end of study week creativity, and blog wars (which I clearly won, muhaha).

During study week, I spent more time on numbers, than I did on medicine. Mean, median, life tables, cumulative incidence, incidence rate, binomial distribution, normal distribution, and so on. Statistics. Yawn? I thought it would be. But it was fascinating, the assumptions and stories behind these ways we use to summarise information.

One set of data really caught my attention. Survival of passengers aboard Titanic (see more detailed figures and analysis). What a story numbers tell!

"Those poor poor people," my friend said. Indeed, it does not take long before you feel the injustice seeping through the page (computer screen). Were the rich informed first? Were the poor systematically excluded from the lifeboats? Was wealth a measure of how much a person's life was worth? There are even journal papers discussing these questions.

The numbers tell a more noble story too, of how women and children were preferentially saved. It's sad - picturing these agonising decisions of who should live, and who should not. The rush, the terror, the scramble to safety, before your ship sinks out in the middle of a cold, cold ocean. Chilling too to wonder, when it comes down to it, would I not also push people out of the way to survive?

Would the movie Titanic be more powerful than these numbers, in impressing these images and emotions within me? I have never watched Titanic by the way, so I could find out, if I wanted to.

Working out answers to mathematical questions recaptured a period of time before university when I really enjoyed learning. The type of interest which consumed you, as much as a good novel you were reading, or a drawing you were working on. Not that maths was my favourite, but I have always enjoyed working out problems, doing questions to learn (like physics). Rather than areas which relies heavily on descriptions, and a good memory (like biology, which I didn't take up for that very reason). When I can and do study, the week before exams is usually one of my favourite weeks of the semester - sleep, eat, procrastinate, study, repeat. But I think, the contrast between intriguing Titanic figures and preparing for exams, has reminded me once more of why I don't find the subject of medicine very exciting.

I have come a long way from first year where I truly fell asleep through almost an entirety of one lecture, every single day. Sometimes I didn't understand the words they used, other times I couldn't see how I was supposed to remember step by step, what goes on in some long and boring biological pathway. Then somewhere during clinical school, I realised to my delight that understanding and problem solving was part of medicine too. Having not much knowledge of the details, you can still work out a basic history to ask, physical exam to perform, investigations to perform, or management issues to consider, for any condition or presentation.

You can get by with that, but it can only get you so far. You will always have those random lists which don't make sense. Obscure symptoms and signs which are barely logical, eponymous names which collect symptoms which should not even exist together, specific terms for radiological findings, associated conditions - some which feel associated, but most which feel unrelated, criteria for scoring for diagnosis or prognosis, staging systems for malignancies. Then drugs, with their hard to pronounce names, side effects which affect every system, dosages which can sometimes vary with brands, even for the same generic medication. Or expected values for this and that blood test. Or fanciful bacteria and parasite names, or body parts in full glorious Latin. And so many acronyms and mnemonics, that I might remember something amusing like I GET SMASHED (aetiology of pancreatitis), but barely remember what each letter stands for.

To be more than mediocre, you do need to remember tiring terms, long lists and fantastic figures. Physician training, or most areas of medicine really, seem to favour people with good memories. Which I lack; I would say, in general people don't get excited about an area that they are not good at. So I wonder at times, would I better utilise my strengths elsewhere, or would there be a suitable area in medicine? Or, would that matter less when you spend more time working and learning, rather than reading and learning? Would people be interesting enough that it wouldn't matter how interesting or disinteresting anything else was? I don't know, but I guess we will know, in time.

University classmates

I've always found it awkward, to not see my classmates for years, then see them again. Then not for months, then again at internship talks and career related events, then not for more months, then again at exams, then not, then again at graduation and celebrations.

I guess, I never liked them much, and don't hold any sentimental attachment towards my cohort. In those preclinical days, I didn't like the fact that all the students from local high schools had their gangs, those from residential colleges were close to one another, those on the same train line got to know one another well, those from an Indian background had their own group, as did the exclusive Singaporeans who rarely associated with anyone else, and as did a group of Indonesians who were always so talkative. I didn't enjoy associating with those who were smart but arrogant, or obsessively competitive until they lived biochemical pathways and breathed anatomy notes. Nor did I share much in common with those who boasted about how many times they had sex in a day, those who were more interested in having a drunken good time than learning medicine, or girls who treated every day at school as a fashion show or beauty contest to win.

Maybe I met some nice people too, but I can't recall many. I disliked medical students altogether and avoided associating with them. Truth is, I probably felt that way because I felt sad and rejected about not fitting into their conversations, their backgrounds, their interests, their lives. I guess now my views towards the medical community have shifted, after encountering memorable friendships, friends who I'm thankful for, both at my clinical school and outside that too, with those from other cities and countries around the world. Nevertheless, being back each time reignites some of those negative feelings.

During our long wait in the holding area, as we held small chit chats with those seated around us, I wondered, what makes two people click, and another two get along awkwardly every time they meet? Is it that the other person is awkward (but they don't seem to have issues getting along with mutual friends), or that I'm awkward, or is it just something between us that will never change? On the other hand, how is it that another person may be socially awkward, but be one that you can get along with easily? What makes one person warm, and another cold as frost? How is it that you can laugh and joke with some people in one setting, and not know what to say to say to them, when the setting changes? Why do I feel hated and snubbed every time I interact with some people, or am I hypersensitive and misinterpreting their sentiments towards me? What is it about an interaction that makes two people want to get to know each other, make an effort to be friends, and how do people decide who are the individuals they will politely greet but are happy to never see again?

It's so complicated. My head hurts.



Ezekiel was a man called by God to warn his people of the destruction and judgment that was to come. At this time, God's people were living in sin and disobedience. The rulers were misusing their power, the priests cared little about teaching God's law, the prophets lied about their visions. The people were leaving God for idols, taking bribes, stealing from one another, mistreating the needy, sleeping with their neighbour's wives, their daughter-in-laws, their sisters (Ezekiel chapter 22).

1. Attack a clay tablet

"...take a clay tablet, put it in front of you and draw the city of Jerusalem on it. Then lay siege to it: Erect siege works against it, build a ramp up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams around it." - Ezekiel 4:1-2

The strange instructions were to be a warning to the people, presumably that Israel would be under siege.

2. Lying on one side without turning

"I will tie you up with ropes so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have finished the days of your siege." - Ezekiel 4:8

God instructs Ezekiel to lie on his left only for 390 days, and right only for 40 days, symbolising the years in which Israel and Judah will bear their sins.

3. Baking bread over human excrement

This was to warn Israel that they will eat defiled foods in the nations where they will be scattered. Ezekiel protests that he had never eaten unclean foods in his life, and God's response was:

"Very well," he said, "I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement." - Ezekiel 4:15

4. Lusting after the strong, handsome and powerful

"...she lusted after her lovers, the Assyrians - warriors clothed in blue, governors and commanders, all of them handsome young men, and mounted horsemen" - Ezekiel 23:5-6

God likens his people to two sisters, who shamelessly chased and prostituted themselves for other men, whilst he was their rightful husband. What a shocking allegory, with imageries of caressed bosoms, genitals which were like those of donkeys, and emission that were like those of horses (Ezekiel 23:20-21)! I cringe at even reading from the page; can you imagine having this allegory preached and explained one fine day at church?

5. Taking away life, for God's purposes

The craziest event yet. Ezekiel was carrying out what God had commanded him to do, and now, God tells him that his wife was to die. Immediately. Whilst the other events so far have been serious but so strange that it's almost amusing, this feels tragic and bewildering.

"Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes." - Ezekiel 24:16

Then, he is told not to mourn for her, in the customary way. Even more baffling, her death, and Ezekiel's response was to be a sign onto Israel for what will befall them. Faithfully, Ezekiel goes out and explains to the people the very next morning, how this was a warning for them.

Reading that, I feel quite sad, and troubled. Is it fair to take away a life of someone so precious to him to make a point onto a stubborn nation? Would I still follow God if something similar happened? How is it that Ezekiel did not give up in his ministry? I guess, he must have personally encountered God, and deeply understood who God was.

The crazy ways of God

It's tempting to ignore these quite bizarre stories of the Old Testament (by the way, The Bible Jesus Read is a helpful book in understanding what the Old Testament is about). But here, we see God's character for what it is - in loving patience, he calls on Israel again and again to turn away from idols, from sin, from a destructive way of life. In his holiness, God punishes and brings justice.

Ezekiel is given outrageous instructions, so that the prophet himself, in physical form and action, would graphically and loudly warn the people, about a judgment to come. God's roar is like that of a lion, which the people (and us also) would do well to fear and heed. Even knowing this, sometimes it still feels that God doesn't make sense, and what he says and does is craaaaaazy. Not to be irreverent though - he is creator, and sovereign, and as clay are not in the position to quarrel with the potter, neither will we quarrel with our maker, whose ways are above ours.

Time, mysterious time

Time, mysterious time.
A year, six years
How long is long,
How short is short?
How do some months
Fly fleetingly, carelessly
Whilst it need not hurry;
And others halt,
Wait out. Waiting
In agonising slowness
For days to be marked.
How are these the same
Circles spun, passing
The same numbers
Twenty-four times?
Time, mysterious time
Ticking quietly, unseen
Labouring without rest
Patiently boring holes
One drip,
One drip, at a time.
A constant friend, a foe.
A healer, a murderer.


1. What is this supposed to be about?

I used to avoid Psalms. That year, when I decided to read the Bible from start to end, I reluctantly and sleepily ploughed through it.

I couldn't understand what it was about. It was set in this faraway land of chariots and swords, wild beasts and deserts. It was repetitive and chaotic - all one hundred and fifty chapters seemed to be about David and others being constantly paranoid about their perhaps real perhaps imaginary enemies (was thinking about this a long time before I learnt anything about psych), then asking for their enemies to be crushed, and then moving between whinging about their fears and anguish, to random bursts of praise of how high God was, and how good he was to them. The praise and complaints were equally perplexing to me.

2. Poetry, and paintings with words.

Then one year, I read in a book that Psalms was loved for its richness in human emotions. So it was like poetry. Painting with words, and even with unfamiliar imagery, or events which are different to what we would encounter, the emotional landscape of the psalmists are what resonates with us, many centuries later.

So it was no surprise that I didn't like Psalms. I disliked poetry and literature for most of high school. Why waste so many words, write so elaborately, when it could all be so simple? Why waste time writing about war and love at all; and even if you have a message to the world, why not write in clear prose instead of confusing the poor students annotating your text with all this rhyme, rhythm, metaphors, alliterations and more. To me, it was so pretentious and unnecessary.

I guess rather unexpectedly, here I am often thinking about how to craft language, and jotting down many (what I would have considered to be) unnecessary words.

3. He was a writer!

During a sermon on a psalm of David last week, I thought about how this man of God, king of a nation, military commander, strong warrior, was also... a writer and harp player. How bizarre! What's more, his outpourings of feelings, his sins and repentance, his relationship with God, and references to life events, are deeply personal. Presumably, psalms were sung publicly, and not only written for his reflection alone. Can you imagine, a king's blog, or a leader making known his struggles and prayers to God?

In Psalm 55 we looked at how David cries out in fear and betrayal, then desires to "fly away and be at rest" (isn't that what suicidal ideations are about...). He cries out to God constantly, recalls God's justice, and finally concludes with, "but as for me, I trust in you".

In Psalms, the feelings of pain, hate, and fear are honestly expressed. Yet these emotions are dealt with alongside the remembrance of who God is - his greatness, holiness, love and faithfulness. One day I was trying to explain why I would take weeks to write stories for myself, and in answering, I realised that just as students draw mind maps to show how they arrived at what they learnt, written words can be a mental map of a journey, so that you don't have to start afresh, finding a new route every time. I think Psalms, parts of Job, and other such passages, are similar. They don't necessarily give an answer to why there is suffering, or provide a solution to our fears, but are a model or map for how to go about thinking, feeling and praying with the knowledge of God, in both troubled and joyful times.

It's good to know that words can be purposeful, and that writers need not to be indulgent narcissists or dreamers who toy with abstract ideas for the sake of it (I guess it depends on how you go about writing).

4. What did the old tunes sound like?

We went through a story in Judges in English class, and at the end of it, the teacher for that week got all of us sing the Song of Deborah to the tune of Australia's national anthem. Which was strange. The same words sung and spoken out loud felt different.

The words of Psalm 23 come alive so beautifully in a sung melody!

I love many songs, but find it particularly meaningful to meditate on lyrics which are closely based on scripture itself. How memorable are verses in a tune! Not being able to read much of the Chinese Bible (unfortunately), but in songs, I can recall 我要向高山举目 (Psalm 121) and 除你以外 (Psalm 73).

Another song I like (not in Psalms though) with lyrics almost directly taken from words of the Bible is Highest Place - amusingly, many time I can't read Philippians 2 without the chorus of the song playing in my head:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name above all names
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow
in heaven and on earth and under the earth
and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord,
To the glory of God the Father.

Ward rounds

Memories of aged care

I wanted to write these things down months ago but never quite got around to it.

In aged care, I came across a consultant who was had this almost mean smirk on her face constantly, and spoke softly but harshly. She hardly said hello to patients, ever. One day she pinched an overweight lady's abdominal fat, wobbled it around, and then asked her - "what is this? You need to lose it." The patient said oh, with surprise, and I was equally surprised. Another lady had an unusual gait, and this consultant demanded to know "Ms X, why are you dancing like a ballerina?" What a strange sense of humour.

It was disheartening that the attitudes of the senior doctors were readily followed by the rest of the team. I remember an old man who the team rolled their eyes at and dreaded rounding because he always complained. As they whisked through his daily observations, talked about his condition and ignored his attempts to engage in conversation, he demanded with his gruff slurred voice - "aren't you going to talk to me?!" Having plenty of time as a student, I answered his questions about what was happening, and listened to his story about the apparently inattentive overnight nurse, and just a few minutes into the conversation, he (quite appropriately, and thoughtfully) said I should really go and catch up with the other doctors.

Somewhere during those weeks, I noted to myself to work hard to be a normal person, to say hi and bye, as you would in any other situation. And to do that even if the tension of scribbling madly, listening to multiple conversations and rushing off to see the next patient pulls you in the opposite direction.

My clearest memory of aged care was this man in his nineties who always greeted us with a hearty good morning, and winked at me, once or twice. I guess he (and others like him) remind me of my grandfather, who is so stubborn, but doting. Anyway, this man had been in hospital since the first day of my six week rotation and was there until something like my final week. Unlike many of our patients, his mind was sharp, and each day there was a pleasant albeit brief conversation. He had heart failure and I was supposed to complete an observed physical examination on him. Before the weekend he had been sitting up, and was getting ready to leave as soon as home supports were in place. Then he developed pneumonia, and was back in bed. I wasn't there to know the details but over the weekend his infection continued, he had acute renal failure, and ultimately died of a gastrointestinal bleed. So I had to find something else to do for my assessment. But that was okay. But every time I walked past his bed, or when I later saw his name on an old handover list, I would feel a bit sad, and wonder about where he was now (not his physical body of course).

The surgeon and his (her) minions

Groomed, with large leather bags or expensive handbags (I was curious and took a look inside, one was filled with multiple medical journals, another with an iPad and a very fat wallet). Hands on hips, arms crossed, walking deliberately, nodding, firing a question here and there. Talking amongst each other as if there is a massive gulf between themselves and the rest, joking darkly about people dying and having metastasis spread everywhere, complaining about the public hospital system, having lists cancelled, etc. Yes, this is your friendly consultant.

Then there are the in-betweens. Energetic but laid back, presenting with confidence but not yet arrogance and self importance, with distinct character but not yet obnoxious or growing an unsightly Hitler-styled moustache, probably having enough to indulge in delicious food but not entertaining a lifestyle of obesity yet. I guess, it's just a matter of time until these registrars become the men (women) in suits.

The team's secretaries - holding piles of papers, running to get files, scrambling to write down notes, looking intently at everyone who is talking, opening doors and stepping out of the way. Anonymous (the intern said so, not me). Behind them, the non medical staff, usually women, sometimes in alternative outfits, with large dangling earrings, talking indiscreetly about how doctors never actually talk to their patients.

Then there's us, with minds half there, half elsewhere, with our short attention spans. Standing at the patient's end of the bed (because there is no room on the foot end) wandering what he or she feels about the mass of doctors who swarm on them every morning. Wondering why this ward smells different to the next, watching the blood nurse sucking blood skillfully like a vampire - okay not really she is just doing her job. Seeing the multiple bouquets of beautiful flowers one patient has and wondering what makes a person have more flowers and cards than the person next to them. Reading educational posters and random signs and notes, looking out the window and looking at the city skyline in the distance. Admiring a colourful fish painting down the corridor and wondering whether a staff member painted and framed it there, or whether it was just a donated gift. Eyes lighting up to a multidisciplinary meeting - a platter of fruit, adjacent to an assortment of muffins, and delicious bacon and egg breakfast rolls. Mmm, that is what I came in for today!

I guess what goes on in hospital life, whilst familiar, still strikes me as strange. I'm surprised that what I paid attention to, the way I perceived my surroundings during those first ward rounds, are quite similar to what I have described here, on my last ward round as a student. Do I really have to switch roles? I don't really want to...

How many have you loved

Who, what, when, where, why. I would not have been impressed with this guy's smooth talk if I had asked the same question, "how many have you loved?"

I've sang it countless times in song lyrics, in English, in Chinese, and more. Wrote it out once, maybe twice, in an indirect, roundabout way. How far along a relationship do you first start to say "I love you", we discussed, in our lovely but not so productive group study session - which ended up to be a delicious feast of Korean fried chicken with pear salad, mango and grapes, jelly and flavoured seaweed, and lots of random chit chats. I can't remember ever having said those three words aloud, ever. Really?! That's so weird. 

Anyway, I thought about how I would answer that question, and whether what the guy in the short film said resonated with me. Did I love at the time; and even if I did, is it fair to retrospectively say that I did or did not love, based on my thoughts about what love means now.

What is love? Oh how it changes.

As a child love was the desk buddy you blamed for something that was your own fault, but still brought your homework books to your house when you left them at school. Or a classmate who twirled red and green pipe cleaners to create a perfectly shaped heart and sweetly handed it to you for Christmas - instead of the other boy who saw what the first boy had done, and made a wonky white and yellow imitation that barely resembled a heart. Love was a poorly written piece of poetry, left beside your scooter, which you tried hard to decipher because it was barely legible, but soon gave up and forgot about shortly after. Love, was the not very academic boy teased and hated by everyone in class, who had the foresight to bravely ask you to be his primary school graduation dance partner a whole half a year (no less!) in advance. Or for some, love was the cutest and most popular guy who expressed his interest.

In high school love was the boy who asked your mother for permission, before asking you out in person. Which was a refreshing change from randomly declarations of love from people who you never spoken to, who said you were beautiful, and declared their love from behind the screen of a computer. Love was the warm and fuzzy feeling that kept you awake after your first date, of watching a movie that neither of you paid much attention to. It was not caring what this or that person said about what he looked like, what his background was, or being together, despite the frownings by the nosy adults in our community who said - you are going to be distracted in your studies. Love was having a Valentine to bring you gifts and endure the teasing of your crazy girl friends. It was drawing a lovely blinking bear in front of a rainbow, childlishly playing footsies under the table, or letting someone hold your hand for the first time.

At the same time, love was not that best friend who awkwardly swapped seats to be seated next to you on a long international flight, then in the middle of the plane trip, abruptly held his hand up and declared that you should do the same so that you could, palm to palm, see how perfectly they fitted one another. Love was not the intensity of one depressed person paired with another sad person to create waves of negative emotions which would wash over from one to the other. Or him, having long DNMs (to borrow my friend's phrase) with other girls on long phone calls, or having other fights which would result in long silences on the phone whilst you felt the time pressure of trying to prepare for your piano exams, as well as high school finals.

Later on, love was being unfortunately paired with an annoying, arrogant jerk for school work, only to later become best friends with him. Love was catching each other's eye in class, then quickly looking away and feeling giddy inside. It was never exchanging words at school, but writing a million emails back and forth, every day, about every thing. Love was having a person to make you laugh after you had a fight with your parents, or listening to his sibling conflicts at home. Love was well, sort of nerdy. Getting through the final part of high school together, studying and racing to solve mathematic problems on practice exams, outdoing one another in assessments, seeing each other at the library every day during study week and pouring water on his head every time he took a drink at the water fountain. Or (get ready for more nerdiness) receiving clues via a message encoded in a series of matrices and colour codes. Love was the fun of changing your profile picture and screen names to be the same so that all your friends were confused. Or the awesome delight of receiving a creatively carved block of cheese, in the shape of a rat!

Love was being relentlessly pursued for years though you had laughed at him, offended him, when he first told you how he felt. Love made the high school formal magical, and made you dance happily until midnight, though your friends had left hours earlier. Love was saying goodbye for a year, waiting and hoping that the lyrics of (Guang Liang's) 童话 and 约定 would really come true. But fairytales are fairytales for a reason, ha ha. Love was going through many seasons thereafter as good friends, listening to each other's new love problems, but that would also end one day.

In a brand new city, love was the boy who shared his breakfast with you, and many meals thereafter. Love was filling an emptiness in one another, until the world seemed to only contain the two of you - only later do you realise how you each had neglected to invest in other friendships, interests and hobbies, to your detriment. Love was exploring the city, learning to do daily chores, and helping each other to get by with living away from home for the first time; vacuuming, laundry, dishes and all those mundane things in life. Love was not - having that closeness, then not acknowledging it by calling it, just friends.

Love was confiding secrets in one another, caring for one another, having someone to sit by you when you are delirious with fever. Love was staying overnight at the airport, so that he could pick you up early in the morning, and leaving you a lovely surprise in the fridge upon your return. Or the thoughtfulness of making a home-made drink out of green tea ice cream for you because you loved it so, and prettily completing the drink with bubble tea pearls and bright green mint leaves. Love was being taken to the highest mountain, or highest buildings in the city, looking out on a beautiful sunset, then being showered with multiple cakes, surprises, long road trips, and expensive gifts. Yet soon realising that you can have beautiful scenes and even beautiful times, but that doesn't always equate to a beautiful relationship. Love was a warm hug, but then seeing, how love was not a valid excuse for lust. Love was, sitting through church services with you every Sunday, and even taking notes; then perhaps realising, love was not about trying to meld two sets of values that were worlds apart. Never being able to agree on the fundamentals about what life and love was about - all that would do was make one another unhappy, or compromise on the essence of who we were.

As college students, love was about being crazy. Running around and literally chasing one another down the corridor, down the street. Having your headband and shoes stolen, and plotting revenge by throwing his shoe outside the window, or apple pieces into the principal's courtyard beneath his balcony. Hiding in the wardrobe and jumping out to scare the other person, smashing the table tennis ball at one another's faces, play fighting and choking one another. Then, love was about the quieter times too - talking until early hours of the morning, walking around the graveyard, learning from the Bible together, praying and asking God for help, and memorably, love was about honestly pointing out something wrong in your life. Love was crazily intoxicating, but it is not about being blind to how you hurt others in the process. Neither was love about taking a huge leap before you take a good long look, and think about what you were doing. Love, it seemed, was the long period of harmony at the begininning; until a year had passed and you saw that it was merely the sweetness that marked the first stage of a relationship.

Back in high school, I would show an interested guy this poem, which would basically ask whether he liked me or liked the notion and feeling of being in love. I would never have admitted it, but perhaps for many years, I too often confused the two. It seemed that anyone who came along the way was suitable enough as long as there was that buzz, or as long as they were totally, "my zing" (Hotel Transylvania, terrible movie). It took me a long time to realise that it's very inadequate not to be able to give specific reasons as to why you like someone - you have to look a bit harder, take a bit more time to work out who they are, whether there is something special, compatible, worthwhile pursuing, beyond the delusional feelings which would fade one day.

I agree with the guy on WongFu productions, how "the final" would contain bits of everything - the crazy times, the fun times, the mutual care, the hopes, learning together, getting through daily life, and more. But, with so many silly and strange ideas about love over the years, after seeing all that love is not, who would really want their final person to embody everything that they found in all their previous "loves"?? Looking back you wonder, how could I ever have thought this or that was true love. Then you wonder, would I mock myself with the same question if I looked back from the future, to where I am now?

What does the picture of love look like in my mind, now?

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