Bread End


I eat the two slices of bread at both ends of a loaf of bread, not because I love to eat them. I actually don’t like them much. Its texture is vastly different from the other slices of bread in between the two ends – soft, bouncy and aromatic.

I eat them because no one else would. To throw them away is unacceptable. I’ve been brought up not to waste any food. Mum would make us eat leftovers until there are no more before she would make something new.

As I sit and watch my kid dipping his hand into the plastic bag containing a fresh loaf of bread and carefully extracting a slice of that soft, bouncy aromatic bread in between the undesired two ends of the loaf, I wonder if I had been a poor parent – I have failed to help my children take the bad with the good.

Haze-White Christmas

christmas-tree-dry-211x300*to be sung to the tune of ‘White Christmas’

I’m dreading the haze-white Christmas
Not like the ones I used to know
Now the tree tops are missing
And children are wheezing
Asthma with low expiratory flow

I’m dreading the haze-white Christmas
My middle finger is upright
Indonesia is burning and bright
Making all our Christmases haze-white

I’m dreading the haze-white Christmas
Never like the ones I used to know
Now the wards are buzzing
With old men wheezing
C…O…P…D…wracking them poor souls

I’m dreading this haze-white Christmas
To every fire-starting-arse I write
May you get cancer and die…
And may all your Christmas asses
May all your Christmas asses
May all your Christmas asses be fried

Despair to hope


Recently I had the opportunity to attend an ’empowerment workshop’ over a weekend organized by an NGO that I have been working closely with for several years. The attendees consisted mainly of people who had been recently diagnosed with HIV infection. The objective of the workshop was to help and empower them to learn to live with the condition through mutual sharing, mini talks and games.

It’s really a lot like the many Christian camps that I have attended in my youth, without, and understandably so, the emphasis on faith and beliefs.

Most of the attendees were young men, most of them were MSMs (male-who-have-sex-with-men); some were as young as 19 years old.

It was my first time in such a workshop. My role was minor – just deliver a mini lecture on opportunistic infections in HIV. That’s all. Beyond that, I was merely a spectator to most of what unfolded over the weekend.

And what an eye opener it was for me!

The stories they shared touched me deeply.

A few were infected because they were broken hearted by broken relationships and sought solace, with the wrong people in the wrong places,

Others came from broken homes and suffered under abusive fathers.

Others tried chem, or drugs and went through the path of living hell.

Some acquired the infection from the people closest and dearest to them.

The stories were painful and sad. But the stories were also powerful and strong. They were shared by people who had been shipwrecked, often at the prime of their lives – at the pinnacle of a successful career; just before graduation; right after a promotion; after acquiring material wealth and relational happiness; at the height of their physical ability, and the list goes on and on.

And then, the little virus, bearing a single stranded RNA took it away.

But not all of it.

The stories were shared by people who arrived a point in life where they decided they will fight the infection. At least two contemplated suicide but did not go through with it because that would mean the virus wins. To give in would mean accepting defeat. Others clawed their way back to health, through medications, religion, strict exercise regimes, and healthy living. Many paid tributes to their mothers, partners and friends – people who stood by with them when they needed help most, people who would not let go.

A few shared that their infection actually helped them become better people – now everything is more beautiful, brighter, more colorful, and more meaningful. HIV made everything more precious.

Forty went to the workshop as strangers and left as friends, sharing a unique bond that only they could truly appreciate. There were times, I almost felt like an outsider, sitting in a corner, given the rare privilege of a glimpse into their secret lives. It touched me deeply and I’m grateful to be privy to it all.

I came away with a lot of positive feelings in me. The human spirit is strong. It has to be. I believe it is divinely patented. It will not yield. Given the proper support and nourishment, it will rise. Despair can become hope.

I felt encouraged, strengthened, refreshed, and grateful.