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Homeward Bound

October 11, 2014 Leave a comment
“Don’t go home,” she said quietly, away from listening ears,”We don’t want you to go home.”

“We would very much like it if you could possibly stay,” said the Rector, my blushing face spotlit by the glare of assembled eyes.

Over the last few months, those first kind remarks became several, a refrain, a chorus, a torrent, said in different situations and various ways – some surely mere pleasantry, and some more polite than others – the latter involving allusions to church furniture (not a compliment at the best of times and certainly not when the church building has been around since the Vikings terrorised the island!).

“But what makes you think I am going home?” I did not, at any point, say as I hurried on to another topic in embarrassment. London is as much “home” as Singapore. Because…what is home?

A fantasy of the orphan; a mirage in the eyes of the wanderer; a daydream of the alien.

What is home? The sure promise of a faithful God; a place to be rightly yearned for; the blissful rest still to come.

And so all we who live in faith are not yet home; we are homeward bound.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

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Saying Goodbye

July 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Saying goodbye.

dinner with neighboursWe said goodbye to the first of our neighbours in the same way our neighbourly relationship has always been conducted – over a shared meal, laughter, much banter. He will carry a suitcase of meagre possessions to a wet, windswept land and there speak the good news.

He is thin man not given to grand schemes. His hugs are strong and his handshakes, firm.

globe artichoke with lemon butter dipglobe artichoke with lemon butter dip

grilled corn with paprika, fromage frais and parmigiano reggianogrilled corn with paprika, fromage frais and parmigiano reggiano

parsnip chips with parmigiano reggianoparsnip chips with parmigiano reggiano

homemade cherry ripple ice-creamhomemade cherry ripple ice-cream

We lingered over the table till it was late.

See you later, we said. See you in the new creation.

Onward, Soldier

August 19, 2012 1 comment

Taking advantage of free wifi at Suvarnabhumi Bangkok Airport while waiting for my flight to Copenhagen and thinking through, with great gratitude, the blur of the last few weeks:

An amazingly smooth last lap, despite my abject procrastination and general inability to perform tasks requiring any sort of administrative detail. For someone whose life is a muddle of neglected bills and missed flights and messy bedrooms and general forgetfulness, this was quite astonishing. Most thankful, God.

1. The success of my visa application* was remarkable for being unremarkable. We’d been waiting for the immigration rules to be relaxed since 2009 when i was first accepted at the school. Finally got a CAS number some weeks ago, filled in the application form online, then life got in the way and i promptly forgot about it, until nagged at by a fellow student. Dragged self down to the Visa Application Center one afternoon, hoping to have brought everything necessary. Got an email the very next morning saying that my visa had been issued and dispatched. Collected it the following morning, still in a bit of a daze at this non-event.

2. Was nervous about tendering my resignation but the boss had wanted to see me too…to hand me a letter for a pay increase… Asked me to reconsider and hand in the resignation letter, if any, after the weekend. Managed to do so on Monday since the boss, though unhappy, was loathe to argue with my “calling”. Human resources was also willing to halve my notice period so i would be able to get to London in time for moving into church associates’ housing. The director i was being groomed to take over was, despite wanting to retire himself so as to spend more time giving talks, genuinely happy. And being a Christian, he said approvingly that one should do these things when one was young, because of the urgency, because the Day may come at any time.

3. Popped into the doctor’s to get a prescription. Doc and I ended up having an hour-long chat. She’d attended Singapore Bible College before deciding to go back to the medical profession, could not stop congratulating me, then asked to pray for me at the end of the consultation. She had a full go at it until we were interrupted by an anxious nurse, probably wondering if i-of-le-crazy-hair had off-ed the good doc. The pharmacist was full of unsolicited but useful good advice. Which is all i should say here.

4. Would never have bothered to stop at any marketing booth or sign up online, but some time ago, a bank dispatched someone with papers to meet me, in the 3 minutes i could stay seated without my eyes glazing over, signed up for that bank’s premier service so the lady would let me go off for lunch with my mates. Hadn’t even bothered to agree to a time for her to pass me the card for it, but this premier thing came in very useful for bypassing the lunchtime crowd to get my banking sorted (for this bank at least). Even the teller was impressed by how i’d never used any of the bank’s services and also by the volume of things i now needed done at the last minute (“wah, do everything just in time ah?”).

5. One of the friends i was saying goodbye ended up having to sort out my insurance (albeit with many metaphorical fainting spells).

6. Due to the usual procrastination etc, was terribly late applying for a place in a church for the “vocation training” bit of the course. Wouldn’t have chosen them myself but ended up with what promises to be a tremendously nice new family. Have been included in their Twitter prayer list, and they had, of their own volition, sorted out some visa issues (the trainer having given up some allotted summer vacation time to do so), reserved a room at their associates’ house, made space where they thought i could best serve and be trained, and instructed at least four separate parties to make sure i settled in comfortably – which is more care than i’m used to or deserve!

7. Also, I suppose, because of the necessity of equal treatment to the two of us going to the same school, was the collateral beneficiary of the local church’s monetary show of support for the favoured son – no strings attached, no moral obligation to return to serve there. And even more unexpected, unsolicited offers of “love gifts” from people I’ve only spoken to maybe 4 times, to demonstrate partnership in the gospel.

An ex-housemate wrote from London a few days ago,”So, have you packed yet? Oh, what am i saying, you’re you….” Yes and i finished packing with one hour to spare before departure time to rush to Singapore Changi Airport, say hullo to people i had specifically requested not to come, and slump into a seat on the SIN-BKK plane. Thankful for the fellowship that compelled those people to make sure i left Singapore (even though i wasn’t happy to have had a send-off) and grateful for making it in time despite incompetence at packing and time-keeping!

Can’t wait to crash out on the BKK-CPH leg, sleep after all being dependence on God.

________________________________________________________

*For my own future reference, these were the steps I took to apply for a Tier 4 (General) Visa for Adult Students. Obviously I am not competent enough to advise if this will work for anyone else. Yes, I am addressing my future self here (in case I’ll need to re-apply):

This assumes (1) you are a Singapore national (2) residing in Singapore intending to (3) study at a school considered by the UKBA to be a Highly Trusted Sponsor, and (4) you have been accepted by the school and (5) have been issued a CAS number.

1. complete the visa application form online (several sections might require details that will have to be obtained from the school);
2. pay the visa application fees online (fluctuates according to exchange rate: I paid S$604, a friend paid S$595 a few days later);
3. print out and sign the visa application form;
4. if applying under the points-based system, print out and complete the Appendix 8 self-assessment form and sign it;
5. attach a photograph. The photograph must adhere to the following conditions:
be taken within the last 6 months; and
measure 45mm x 35mm; and
be in colour; and
be taken against a light grey or cream background; and
be clear and of good quality; and
not be framed or backed; and
not be digitally altered; and
be of the full face, without sunglasses, hat or head covering.
They also advise that on the back of each photograph, there should have been written the name of the person in the picture, but i didn’t do this.
6. make an appointment with the UKBA visa application centre in Singapore – VFS Global Singapore (138 Robinson Road);
7. on the appointment date, bring with you (i) the official offer letter from the school containing your CAS reference number; and (ii) your original passport (the advisory also suggested bringing old passports but I didn’t and no one asked for it). Note that the given processing time is 15 working days (about 3 weeks) so don’t count on travelling within that period of time;
8. to keep on standby in case these are required: originals of documents used to obtain your CAS number (the school will have a list of these documents since they applied for your CAS number) and evidence of money needed to cover course fees and living expenses (for me, this was form of personal bank statements from the last two months stating:

my name;
the account number;
the date of the statement;
the financial institution’s name and logo; and
the amount of money available

The bank statement will have to show evidence of sufficient funds for a consecutive 28-day period ending no more than a month before the date of application);

10. at VFS Global, you will have to wait in the lobby until allowed in by the security guard. There is a security screening before you are allowed into the waiting area. The guard will also issue you a ticket with a number on it. When your number is called, approached the counter and one of the nice ladies will go through your documents to ensure everything is ok. There is a photobooth within the waiting area (S$12 for 4 passport-sized photos – since you can’t bring sharp objects in, you’ll have to borrow a pair of scissors from the counter);

11. then you go back to waiting until another lady calls your number to issue you a receipt – she will also give you a choice of paying extra for priority processing (3-4 working days for S$158), sms updates of the status of your application (S$3), and having your passport couriered back to you (S$50 i think);

12. then you go back to waiting for your name to be called for your biometric information to be taken in a little room;

13. then wait for your visa or a rejection letter. Your application will be processed in Manila. Because I paid for priority, got an email before lunch the very next day saying that my visa would be dispatched shortly. Collected visa from VFS Global the following day (priority people can collect this at any time the Visa Application Centre is open, not just between 2-4pm).

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