Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lessons to be learned from the disasters in Padang, Samoa Islands and the Philippines

The recent major earthquake in Padang and Samoa Islands and typhoon bashing into the Philippines leaving trails of destruction and lost lives should prompt many of us lucky souls living in the relatively safe areas from natural disasters to stop and examine our own lives, especially on the things we often take for granted. There are many things I can really count my blessings for, despite the serious life's challenges and issues I am now facing:
  1. The very blessed country I live in, with virtually endless food supply to the extent where people can start discarding excess food without sparing a second thought about others who are even deprived of staple food such as rice, bread and potatoes. This also includes safe drinking water and proper sanitation. I hate to see food and water go to waste. Thus, I always make sure every morsel of food and every drop of water are utilised properly, regardless of whether I get it for free or I have to pay for them.
  2. Stop and smell the roses. How many of us stop and think that we should be thankful for all the things we have in our lives? I do this often but like most people, I tend to forget to 'stop and smell the roses', as I am also very much caught up in the rat race in life. One 911 survivor I know did that 'literally' on the exact time when the two planes slammed into WTC eight years ago. He decided spontaneously to stop at a nearby park on his way to his office located in WTC on the fateful day. The planes crashed into the buildings as he was enjoying the beauty of the park. On any other normal working day, he would already be in the office working furiously to meet the tight deadlines. This decsion saved his life.  
  3. Treat other people with respect and accept them as the unique individuals they are. You will be treated likewise, if you can respect other people and accept them for their good points as well as not so good points. We are all only humans and we DO make mistakes.
  4. Appreciate the simple things in life. This is probably the most underrated aspect in life for most people. Even for me, until I'd experienced DEATH knocking at my door not too long ago. Now that I am still very much alive and kicking, I try my best to take time to appreciate simple things in life; for example. the beauty of a full-bloom flower and birds chirping early in the morning. You will never know what tomorrow will bring, or you if are going to be alive to witness another day.
  5. Treat Mother Nature with respect and never underestimate the wrath in which she can unleash. With the unstoppable rapid development around the globe, sustainable development should be the way of life for all of us. Do we want our future generations to inherit a battered Mother Nature to the extent she would not be able to function well for our family lineage? We are currently living in a vulnerable environment. It is time for us to rethink our way of life to live in harmony with Mother Nature. 
I think it will be good for all of us to take stock of our own lives (in which I am no exception) as well offer comfort and assistance to the victims of the above-mentioned disasters, which can be in the forms of cash, kind and even prayers. The power of prayers is an excellent spiritual, psychological, and emotional catharsis in times of need.

Amen to that.... 

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Being hydrocephalic - Part 2

Source: www.sophysa.com

Fast forward to 25 April 2006.... It was the date I was diagnosed to be suffering from hydrocephalus. The initial diagnosis that was done did not rule out the fact I might have brain tumour. The shock of the news was beyond description, I spent days on end crying because I was in deep despair and fear of my life and future.

I was in the midst of writing the final project paper for my Master degree studies. I was at the verge of giving up in completing my Master degree studies; my parents were ready to give their consent, seeing me suffering tremendously from the pain I was experiencing. Only one other person who did not want to give her consent to me quitting my Master degree studies. She was very determined to see me walk down the stage to receive my Master degree during the upcoming convocation in September that same year. She was my project paper supervisor. She told me that I should concentrate to complete the project paper and she would negotiate the necessary deadlines to ensure I could attend the convocation ceremony that year.

I managed to complete my project paper within the deadline set by School of Graduate Studies. Exactly one week after handing in the project paper to my supervisor, I was in the operating room to undergo the ventriculo-peritoneal shunt insertion procedure. The date was 15 May 2006. My brain just stopped thinking at the moment I was being wheeled into the operating room. I had decided that the fact I would survived hydrocephalus was very much up to GOD's will.

The procedure lasted two hours. I remembered waking up in the observation area just outside the operating room. The nurse called me, saying the surgery was completed. I saw my neurosurgeon looking at me with a concerned expression. He wanted to know if I had experienced any neurological deficits from the just concluded procedure. I remembered telling him I was fine but still groggy from the general anaesthetic they had administrered during the procedure.

The recovery period took three months. It was the toughest three months I could ever recall in my entire life. I faced numerous side effects from the procedure and I never anticipated them to happen. My doctors did not even have an inkling of the kind of side effects I had experienced. The side effects started on the third day after the procedure, which I guessed was from the general anaesthetic I had been given. I thought the side effects would have subsided after a couple or days but it dragged on for three whole months.

I felt miserable and did not think much about the fact if I was able to attend the convocation at all in September that year. Honestly, I did not even care if I pass my Master degree studies. All I wanted was a life free from pain and suffering. I had always wondered why have I got to experience so much of pain and suffering compared to many of my peers who would just breeze through their lives without experiencing much of life's challenges like I did and still do. I just wanted a life where I can be contented with all that I have and make the most out of it.

Things began to improve after the three-month recovery period. I was able to attend the convocation ceremony in September 2006. In fact, my name was one of the last names to be approve by the University Senate for convocation. My health continued to improve and I was thankful and happy I was able to attend the convocation ceremony. I think my parents felt the same way I did, after we had all been through that year. However, I felt very sad only Dad was able to witness me walking down the stage to receive my Master degree.

Looking back, it was a long and challenging journey I had faced to be where I am today. I express my utmost gratitude to my family, lecturers who have taught me during my Master degree studies, friends and doctors who have treated me for my hydrocephalus - just for being there and continuously encouraging and rooting on for me to have the will to complete my studies and lead as normal a life as possible. This big challenge almost cost me my life but I guess being able to face it at a time where death was knocking at my door needs tremendous courage and love from the people who matters most in my life. I have learned to never underestimate the power and strength of human spirit, it was the main reason I am still very much alive today and I am grateful to everyone who made it happened for me....

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Being hydrocephalic - Part 1

Source: www.sophysa.com

I never thought I would become hydrocephalic. Never even dreamed of it. To me, hydrocephalus only happens to babies, i.e. congenital hydrocephalus. The fateful day I was diagnosed with acquired hydrocephalus saw my whole world came crashing down on me like a tsunami. That fateful day was 25 April 2006.

I was in the final semester of my Master degree studies, in the midst of writing the final project paper. Actually, the disturbing symptoms and signs began to appear the year before, i.e. in 2005. However, I did not take these symptoms and signs seriously. I thought they were due to the stress I had experienced while studying for the Master degree.

It all began with the symptoms of migrain-like pains and excessive sleepiness. The migrain-like pains came and went, consistent with the usual onset of migrain. However, I could not put a finger on to the fact why I was sleepy most of the time; even though I had sufficient sleep the night before coupled with naps during the day. In other words, I lacked energy and found it difficult to go through my daily rountine.

I couldn't understand what was happening to my health because the signs and symptoms I was experiencing could also be found in common illnesses. I thought I just had to live with all the pain, suffering and inconvenience associated with these signs and symptoms. However, as time passed by, the signs and symptoms became more intense and disturbing.

One of the first major disturbing signs was I tend to stumble when I walk. My legs felt very heavy and my left foot tend "get stuck" on the ground for no apparent reason. When my left foot had gotten "stuck", I would stumble and fall flat on my face without any prior warning. I also had periods where I would often black out without realising it happening. When these two major disturbing signs happened at the same time, I would find myself sprawled on the ground without remembering it happening. It happened once and I landed myself overnight in the hospital due to a bad fall I had when I was about to do some grocery shopping in town; one night in August 2005.

Lucky for me, I'd only suffered minor injuries and a good Samaritan helped send me to the hospital when it happened. Of course, at the same time I had other people around me staring and gawking as I sprawled on the ground. This incident left me feeling extremely confused as I couldn't understand why these signs were happening.... Three years later looking back at the events leading to the eventual diagnosis of hydrocephalus, I can't help feeling grateful that this diagnosis was made just in the nick of time to save my life.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Life Committed to Ballet

I was a ballet student for ten years. I took classes for eight and a half years in Malaysia and another one and a half years in Australia. I learnt my first pliƩ at the age of 12. Going by the ballet standards I was a late starter. I felt very awkward in the beginning, but as time passed by I became good at it despite of the fact I am a special needs student.

I LOVE ballet A LOT! In fact I can go on and on and on about it forever.... I think it's quite safe to say my love for ballet is close to compulsion. It suits my personality well, being the quiet, and shy person I am. Ballet provided me with the opportunity to be able to express myself better. It functioned as an emotional outlet for me and did wonders to calm me down when I was experiencing a particularly lousy time.

I was trained on Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), UK ballet syllabus. However, I was unable to take its examination, as no teacher wanted to take me through the process. I was quite sure RAD would be able to cater to my special needs. This setback made me work so much harder than most students in my class, as they were younger than me and needed less effort to achieve what was required of them. What I had achieved was a surprise to many people. Despite my physical challenges, I have managed to find ways to cope in learning demanding dance steps and combinations. Not only that, I seemed to have an encyclopaedic capacity to remember the terms I have learned throughout the ten years as a ballet student.

This bode very well for me when I attended ballet performances when I was a university student in Perth, Australia. I was able to understand and appreciate better the abstract and beauty aspects of the ballet performances I had attended in Perth. Watching these performances motivated me to strive harder for excellence not only in my ballet classes, but also my academic pursuits and many other things in life which require a lot of effort and hard work.

Some of the habits of being a ballet student for ten years have spilled over to my daily routine, which many people might find them strange and quirky; from the way I carry out my daily routines to the way I behave, especially when I walk and stand. People who knew me all too well have understood and accepted me as who I am. I would say that ballet has inculcated mostly good habits in which complement my personality and character.

I would not have been who and where I am today if not for ballet. Ballet has taught me many positive values; some of which I held as part of my life's principles. It also helped me to be a more resilient person to overcame many challenges I face in life. Two of these challenges were to obtain my Master degree in English Language during the time I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and to learn to cope living with hydrcephalus for the rest of my life. The discipline I'd obtained as a ballet student showed me that I could use the unique strength of human spirit to overcome the tough challenges I face throughout my life.

Thus, this saying will apply to me very well, "You can take the dancer out of a dance but not the dance out of a dancer". I believe the quirky habits from being a ballet student would remain in me for the rest of my life. This would be one aspect of my personality I would not trade for anything in the world.

Paloma Herrera, Principal Dancer, American Ballet Theatre

Monday, August 10, 2009

On Music and Songs

I can say music rules my life.... you can't help it when you are involved in any type of performing arts. As for me, ballet is the key to unlocking the my interest in music. I enjoy different genres of music, pop, contemporary, classical and Latin American.

I don't just listen to music for the sake of listening, I appreciate the fine nuances of the music in which makes a particular music or song unique in its own way. My favourite singer for many, many years was Gloria Estefan. I still like listening to her songs, they are IMO never go out of date like most songs do these days. However, I still do pay attention to new songs and music being released. New talents like Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Jordin Sparks are worth noting, they have what it takes to become excellent singers.

I listen mostly to songs from the 80s and 90s. I grew up during these two eras so I can identify with and relate to the songs of these eras. Of course, songs by the late Michael Jackson dominate the lives of most people who grew up in the 80s and 90s and I am no exception. My all-time favourite Michael Jackson song is 'The Way You Make Me Feel'. This song was used in a ballet choreography in the film 'Center Stage'; it was fantastic. Way cool piece of choreography! I never dreamed that a Michael Jackson song could be used as music in a ballet choreography.

Apart from the late Michael Jackson, 'Center Stage' also uses songs by Jamiroquai and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, all these songs are so danceable you just want to move with the music. I do.... and it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. I guess I'm meant to be doing things related to performing arts, I think it fits my personality well. Or I should be doing things related to English language, mostly academic research, editing and writing; it's okay even I don't get to teach.

Music is a universal element bringing people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds together. One fine example I can think of is 'We Are The World - USA for Africa' released in 1985 to assist the famine-striken countries in the African continent. Singers of many different genres came together to perform this song - Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Tina Turner, Cyndi Lauper, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross, just to name a few. It is also through this song my Dad taught me the value of giving to help others who are less fortunate. I remembered Dad teaching me for the first time how to write a cheque, I was only nine at that time. This simple act left a very deep and lasting impression in me as a young child. From then on, I became very sensitive and receptive towards the genuine plight of less fortunate people around the world, especially of those from Third World and war-torn countries.

Music and songs have profound effect on me.... some songs and music can really move me to tears. The song that currently moves me to tears is sung by a group known as The Fray and the song is entitled 'How To Save A Life'. This song is the theme for the TV series 'Grey's Anatomy'; strangely I don't take to watching this series at all. I used to love watching 'Chicago Hope' and 'ER' but not 'Grey's Anatomy'.

'How To Save A Life' reminds me so much of the passing of my aunt earlier this year from lung cancer. Frankly, I have yet to get over of my aunt's passing. It really hurts.... just to think about it. However, songs and music provides me with the escape I needed when I'm facing a lousy day and/or experiencing a particularly bad time. I love music and songs so much they'll always be an integral part of my life.

Not a day goes by without me tuning to my favourite songs and music... Now that's a tune for thought! :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Newbie to blogging...

I am new to blogging. I didn't catch on to the craze like most people. However, I do enjoy writing... it's a form of emotional catharsis for me. Maybe I am destined to be a writer in the near future, I dunno...

I enjoy reading and learning a lot. My topics of interests vary, from science to performing arts to language to sports; practically anything that catches my interest. In terms of physical activities, I enjoy swimming and ballet (although I don't dance anymore). Also, music is my ultimate escape when I am facing a lousy day. I enjoy many different genres of music from pop to classical to Latin American.

From young until now, I am always different from my peers. Initially, it was a struggle for me to understand why I don't fit in easily like the rest of my peers. In fact, I very much loathe the fact I am different from my peers when I was younger. But now, as an adult I really like the idea of being different from my peers. In fact, I like the fact that I am different from my peers. It makes me stand out when I'm in a crowd.

People tend to notice me more, I don't care if it's good or bad impressions these people may have in their minds; most importantly I am myself, it's just the way I am. I believe I should not let people dictate the way I behave or live my life. What's more important I have no regrets in life and I make sure I live by the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Lord Jesus in the Holy Bible.

CarpƩ diem is my life motto... having experience Death knocking at my door not too long ago, I believe you should try everything in life at least once, but not the things that will harm other people and yourself in any way. I truly believe we must be responsible for our own actions and realise we are accountable to the consequences arising from our actions.

I will post more blogs on the issues I have raised in this maiden blog in the near future. In the mean time, I welcome feedback, comments and criticisms with reference to my blog postings. Constructive ones that is and no personal vicious attacks allowed. It's a free world out there but all Netizens must realise their responsibilities to each other.