Our vegetarian wedding

2013 will be a busy year for us, with the new home and wedding happening within a span of months.

We are more excited about our home than the wedding.

Planning for the wedding (I cringe to say *my* wedding) makes me feel self-indulgent. I don’t think I would regret it if we did away with a wedding, and jumped straight to married life in our new home 😛 But Derek wants it. I think.

To minimise the carbon footprint of this event, we’ve decided to hold a vegetarian wedding party.

Derek does not fancy Chinese vegetarian food, so we are going for western.

Our number 1 preference is Flutes at the Fort, which is able to do vegetarian weddings. Its website rightly calls it a hidden treasure: I love that the restaurant is housed in an old colonial house that used to be firemen’s quarters, tucked away in lush foliage behind the Civil Defense Museum. It is a ten-minute walk away from City Hall MRT, which is incredibly convenient as far as colonial-housed restaurants go (Think Dempsey Hill, Rochester, Bukit Timah). We also went there for dinner on my birthday, and loved the food, ambience, and service. Unfortunately, they are making plans to renovate and can only accept bookings from July onwards, which is just too late and too bad for us. One thing though – they only provide plated service, which does not go down well with our parents. They have the perception that western plated meals are small in serving, unable to satisfy guests, and hence, not “presentable”. I think we need to treat them to a meal there before they can change their minds.

Second choice: The Halia

This restaurant is very interesting. When I first enquired a few months ago, their event coordinator said they do not do vegetarian weddings, as “Halia is a modern European fine dining restaurant (sic)“. It was a most peculiar reason, as I never knew vegetarianism and European fine dining were mutually exclusive. She also asked “Vegetarian meaning no meat, no seafood?” to which I rolled my eyes and said: “Seafood is meat what!” I am surprised that the staff from a reputable restaurant like Halia did not know what vegetarian food meant… From our conversation, I get the feeling that she might have equated the word “vegetarian” with 斋米粉. After spotting a vegetarian menu on their website, I felt compelled to get to the bottom of this. So I messaged them on Facebook, hoping to get a second opinion from the FB admin who should be their marcomms person. A few days later, the same event coordinator called me, and apologised for the “miscommunication”. It turned out that they can host vegetarian weddings; what a surprise. I am now awaiting their vegetarian buffet menu. They have two locations: Botanic Gardens and Raffles Hotel. I am inclined to go with Raffles Hotel because of its convenient location. I have heard of people getting lost inside Botanic Gardens.

Third choice: Artichoke Cafe

Which is an accidental google find. So convenient, at Middle Road! I pass by Sculpture Square all the time, but I’ve never noticed its existence. From the online pics, it looks casual, relaxed and unpretentious*eyes hover upwards*. I like that. But I am still waiting for them to reply my email.

Fourth choice: Riders Cafe

Colonial housed restaurant in inaccessible Bukit Timah. Email bounced as their mailbox is full.

A turn of events

I have many updates for you, blog!

  1. After two good years of freelance work, I am now officially unemployed and looking for a full-time job. The job should: pay enough CPF so that I can finance my house, be something I enjoy doing, not upset my work-life balance.
  2. (I believe I need a good life outside of work in order to be happy)
  3. Derek proposed and I said yes (can say no meh?)
  4. The ROM and wedding was planned as a combined event for Dec 2013 but we have to ROM within the next few months just so we can buy a house together, and enjoy the $30K CPF grant while doing so
  5. Why the rush? We chanced upon a resale flat online and found it a good deal, albeit with a catch. 
  6. We have already signed the Option to Purchase, which means the flat is ours, subject to HDB’s terms
  7. That’s a rather big turn of events within a span of two months, lor.

As I am very free now, I have started to shortlist wedding venues and caterers. I’d be happy to do without a wedding ceremony and spend the money on renovations, but my father will not be happy. Derek does not want him to be unhappy, so I guess we’ll have to respect his wishes somewhat. We had wanted to cap wedding expenses at $5,000 because we felt spending anything more than that is irrational. The money could be put to better, more tangible use – like reno, buying furniture, paying off housing and car loans….

Unfortunately, I think we may have to double this budget, given the number of relatives my father wants to invite. He listed 60 people, and that’s excluding my own friends. In his books, the “closeness” of our relatives is defined by their attendance at my late grandparents’ wake, and if they paid any 白金, although I’ve never met some of the people he listed。 I was pissed off about how 爱面子and 思想老旧 he can be, after questioning him about the relatives he listed and why we should invite them. I think inviting people whom you are not close to gives them pressure – they probably don’t quite feel like coming in the first place but feel obliged to, since you asked. Awkward.

Am I willing to put down my likes and dislikes in order to please him? To what extent? Much as I yearn to hold a low-profile, quaint, intimate wedding attended only by people I know and like (max 50 pax), I don’t think I can without making my father feel disrespected. As I cannot imagine myself holding a banquet/hotel wedding (the pomp!), guess we’d have to find a middle ground and package it nicely before selling it to my father. No far-flung locations, no angmoh food, must have aircon, must have vegetarian options, no mosquitoes. To sum it up, friendly to the typical Chinese-Singaporean elderly. 

No matter what we do, we have to do it in a 心甘情愿 way. 钱要花得心甘情愿,才有意思。我还是相信,我们可以找到一个不用委屈自己,也能令老爸觉得有面子的方法。

怎么没提老妈?她跟老爸截然不同,是个思想开明的新时代女性,跟我一样讨厌搞场面,支持我们“裸婚”,不用请客,去蜜月旅行最好。幸好,我有这样的老妈。

The fare hikes will not stop me from taking cabs.

The feeling of cruising home in air-conditioned comfort after a long day at work, without having to battle queues and commuters who are too absorbed in their iPhones to move into the centre of the MRT carriage, is priceless. A one hour journey(with 2 transfers!) shortened to just 15 minutes is a lifesaver, especially on days where all my body parts conspire to ache.

I will still take cabs whenever my ailing body wills me to, provided I can get one at all. Ubi Ave 1 is just not the favourite haunt of cabbies.

Meeting Venerable Thubten Chodron: Reflections of a Buddhist Youth

Yesterday, I had the immense good karma to chat with Venerable Thubten Chodron and my fellow Dharma friends, Perry, Ching Wi, and Niki about our practice and innermost thoughts toward Dharma work. I went without any expectations; and I didn’t even have a single question in my head for the Venerable.

Perry started by sharing a framework for Dharma education, that he and Wen Jie, another Buddhist youth leader, came up with. In just a few words, Ven. Chodron summed up the key characteristics that such a framework should have:

  • People like to know there’s a structure to the path, so it’s good to provide this for them.
  • How the discussions happen is key. The session has to draw people out so they can share about what’s going on in their lives. (And isn’t this what the Dharma is all about?) When people come to Buddhist centres, they’re not just seeking information. They’re seeking virtuous friends and internal transformation. So we need to create an environment conducive for this type of sharing.

Perry mentioned the word “frustrated” quite a few times. Having been (actively and not-so-actively) involved in Dharma propagation since 2007, I, too, have been through periods of intense frustration and disappointment with the conditions and people that I had to work with. So I could understand Perry when he told us how frustrated he was, with the Dharma being so perfect, and yet he still hears people telling him they “are lost even after five years of being in a Buddhist group”.

I have come to realize that for me the best way to propagate the Dharma is to embody it. However, I do not practice very hard. The only sutra that I can memorise is the “Heart Sutra,” as my mother taught me to chant it when I was young. I attend meditation retreats, but I often doze off. I am seldom able to solve kong-ans (Zen riddles). I often have thoughts of aversion towards people I dislike. But I tell myself that it’s okay, as I am trying. Like all my spiritual friends, who are trying so hard to make time for self-cultivation and helping others at the same time, I do what I am able to do. This thought alone comforts and moves me deeply. I do not feel guilty, and I know I do not need to.

In my hiatus of sorts, I came to realize that being kind to myself is the only way I can be kind to others. I have to make time for my own practice. I am not there yet, but I am trying. Ven Chodron told me before I left that this was a good attitude to have.

Ven Chodron pointed out that people often do not see their own good qualities and that part of our Dharma practice is to point out people’s good qualities to them. We do this not to flatter them, but with a sincere mind that admires others’ virtues and good qualities. Hearing that others see goodness in them, people are encouraged to practice. I am fortunate enough to have friends and family who are extremely affirming of my talents and abilities, while wisely guiding me along the way. Perhaps we should go about surrounding ourselves with such friends.

Ven Chodron also reminded us that right motivation is the most important thing. Sometimes we can be so goal-oriented (having grown up in Singapore), that we forget about the process. But the Dharma is all about the process, she said. “All this doubt and frustration is part of the process. It is what you have to work with, to transform into the path. What you’re doing and the difficulties you experience are not wasted energy. Learning how to work constructively with these circumstances is the bodhisattva path.”

Thank you, Venerable, for this teaching. It was so gratifying to hear this, as I still feel helpless from time to time, wondering why things are this way and that, why I just cannot work with some people. “There are so many conditions that must come together, and everyone has different karma. You cannot control others’ present actions or the karma they bring with them from the past. All you can “control” is your own mind, your own motivation. In addition, when you work on a project that can benefit many people, its success depends not on your actions alone, but on the karma of all the people who have the potential to benefit from this project.”

With practice, I think I can learn to accept this fact of life, and my “trying” can be done with so much more joy. Ven. Chodron also advised that as Dharma workers, we have to ask ourselves, “What is it that moves me, and what do I aspire for?” When we know this clearly, we’ll be much more patient with ourselves.

Measuring the “success” of our Dharma propagation work could be an issue in results-oriented Singapore. Ven. Chodron shared that the way she measures success is not by numbers—the number of people attending an event or the amount of money raised for a beneficial project. Rather, success is when the friends and family of the people she works with say, “You’re a lot nicer person now. You don’t get as angry as you used to; you’re kinder and more peaceful now”. Isn’t this the Dharma’s function, and isn’t this what the work we’ve been doing is all about?

That day, I went home remembering all the affirmation, unconditional help, and scathingly honest advice that I have received from likeminded spiritual friends and teachers all these years, and I felt deeply grateful that our paths have crossed. That was the first time I could fully identify with what the Buddha said about spiritual friends, “Spiritual friendship is the whole of the holy life”; and my wish to practice hard so I can benefit myself and others, became stronger than before.

The writer is from Dharma In Action, a gathering of Buddhists from all walks of life collaborating on innovative and pertinent initiatives that foster stronger fellowship within the Buddhist community in Singapore. They see themselves as a dynamic platform where engaged Buddhists can share resources and work together open-mindedly, for the betterment of the Buddhist community, and ultimately, the society. Hence, they always welcome collaborations with fellow Buddhists and organizations. Website: www.dharmainaction.net

老妈的朋友最近花2,800块买了一只狗。

真正爱动物的人,为什么需要花钱买狗呢?

口口声声说爱狗,怎么不去领养一只被遗弃的狗,给它一个避风港?

因为宠物店的狗比较可爱,干净,讨喜,对吗?

因为这样, 能满足你。

追根究底,花钱买宠物的人,其实爱的是自己,狗儿只是满足自己虚荣心的工具。

闲时玩玩狗,拍几张照放上网。 吃饱饭,带去公园炫耀一番。

狗儿可能过得很幸福,可是那未必能长久。

当新鲜感慢慢退去,当你发现照顾狗儿是一件相当繁琐的事(尤其生病的时候),当你为了某种理由必须搬家,当你有了小孩对狗毛过敏,当你找不到人帮你继续照顾它……

它的下场,可想而知。

还有,我劝考虑买狗的人面对这些现实故事——

http://dogpeople.org/PuppyMill.htm
http://sgpuppies.com/
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1153292/1/.html

如果你知道,很多宠物店里的小狗是在龌龊不堪的“狗儿工厂”,以不人道的方法“生产”的,你还会买吗?

记得,你的选择,是在告诉无良的饲养者,市场仍有庞大需求。

你说爱狗,其实是害了他们。

真正爱狗的话,请你去领养一只被曾经也很“爱狗”的主人抛弃的狗吧!

再见爱

Please support 《再见爱》 re:kindle love, a Mandarin theatre musical I’m involved in. Am taking photos that will be featured in the musical. Early Bird tickets on sale till 15 Jan!

Re:Kindle Love (Show Only)
«再 见 爱»Re:Kindle Love
西方情人节与农历正月初一体验一场精致温馨的中文音乐剧
First ever Mandarin Dinner-Musical experience in Singapore

Re:Kindle Love «再 见 爱 » is a tale about promised love that is destroyed under devastating circumstances. The story revolves around a young man and the various complexities which he faces with three women from different generations. It celebrates the optimism and hope that springs from true love, which is shared by a courageous man with those whom he loves during the journey of his life. But most of all, Re:Kindle Love «再 见 爱 » reminds us to cherish our present and our lives and to stay positive no matter how tough the going gets.

The special moments and songs that we have created for Re:Kindle Love
«再 见 爱 » will warm each and every heart this coming 2010 Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day!

Additional Information

The Arts House and Ko-Nen Creative
The Hall

5-7, 9-11 Feb 2010 | 8pm (Show Only)
12-14 Feb 2010 | 7pm (Dinner Package) For more information on performances with dinner, click here.

$48 (5-7, 9-11 Feb)
*Free Seating
*Early Bird Discount: 20% off regular normal ticket prices (Valid from 20 Nov – 15 Jan 2010 Friday 2359hrs)

Buy tickets here