Monday, November 24, 2014

I was surprised that they would celebrate my birthday.
I had a birthday song sang at workplace too.
Even my housemate remembered.

"So what did you wish for?"
I smiled.
It kinda came true already.

Last night, I was alone in the house.
It was raining softly.
As I was chewing my sandwich and sipping my coffee, I stared at my laundry hung at the window.
The wind was blowing softly.
Looking at laundry being in the midst of getting clean or dry has always been therapeutic for me.
Suddenly I realised something.
My wish has finally came true.

I'm in a peaceful place.
I'm finally here for me.
I'm finally me.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Weeks ago, I stumbled upon a homeless man who had many plastic bags with him.
It looked like he had gathered unwanted materials from the trash cans and decided that they worth keeping.
It was clear they are now his private property.
At first I thought it seemed rather silly to take all the trouble to gather and keep such worthless things. I believe he'd carry them with him whenever he needs to move around.

Suddenly, I realized something.
We are all like that too.

We love to gather, keep and carry things that we think are important to us.
What makes them important?
A matter of opinion.

Friday, November 21, 2014

I am Grateful for...

1. Just when the darkness began to cling on stronger unto me, my most cheerful colleague called me over the intercom to invite me to McDonald's for lunch.
Two days ago, we had this conversation.
 'Do you eat fastfood?" she asked.
"I try not to, I fall sick easily." I answered.
 "Ah! You lack the fast food nutrients in your body, that's why you lack the army to battle the illness !" she joked.
It's much funnier in Hokkien, the native Chinese dialect here which I'm excited to learn.

2.After a long time of searching, finally found a Chinese Sinseh (traditional medical practitioner) who helped my 'loosen' my muscles. It's extra bonus that he's young and handsome too. **blush blush

3. A very Helpful colleague S called me, (despite being on leave) just to give me the number of her relative who sells 2nd-hand car. She recently got a very good deal on her 2nd hand car purchase and she hoped that I might follow her lucky stride.
Also, the other day, she saved me a packet of nasi lemak, when there were leftovers from the meeting. Later, I learnt that the leftovers weren't enough to go around.

4.Colleague K gave me a small tumbler of home-made banana shake this morning. Earlier, she gave me some vitamins for my stomach too.

5.Colleague CS, the IT guy, remembered to come to my desk to check on my hardware despite being so busy with his workload.

6.Colleague KY gave me a small bear, telling me it's for the newest staff to keep until the next one comes along. I think the person who initiated this tradition is not only creative, but kind at heart.

7.I have reasonably friendly housemates who would initiate conversation. Sometimes, just talking about the weather does make one feel better.

8.Witnessed child A, who played on his father's customer's motorbike. He was playing the motorist role so well that he even stepped on the clutch and breaks when his imagined journey required him too.
Witnessed child B this morning who was so excited when the bus arrived. The bus I take to work everyday. I should emulate some of his excitement, perhaps?

I am blessed.
Looking for a counselor was among my priority in my to-do list when I had decided to move here.
I googled.
I was very lucky to have found a non-profit based organisation that provides this service.
I even called to make an appointment even before I got here, fearing that a counselling slot may be hard to come by.
I wanted to make sure I was in queue.
So, I've met Ernest (great name) twice.
He had been very helpful.
I won't hesitate to call him again when the need arises.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Your head will go where your eyes are looking,"

"You must do this self-care exercise EVERYDAY. This is important,"

said the chiropractor.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Taken entirely from

Obituary from Shenzhen Evening News, including Xu's departing poem
by Li Fei and Zhang Xiaoqi
10 October, 2014

“On My Deathbed”

I want to take another look at the ocean, behold the vastness of tears from half a lifetime

I want to climb another mountain, try to call back the soul that I’ve lost

I want to touch the sky, feel that blueness so light

But I can’t do any of this, so I’m leaving this world

Everyone who’s heard of me

Shouldn’t be surprised at my leaving

Even less should you sigh or grieve

I was fine when I came, and fine when I left.

-- Xu Lizhi, 30 September 2014

Shy, quiet, introverted, solitary

In 2010, Xu Lizhi went [from his home in rural Jieyang, Guangdong] to work at [a] Foxconn [electronics factory in Shenzhen], beginning life on the assembly line. From 2012 until February of this year [2014], over 30 of his writings were published in Foxconn’s internal newspaper Foxconn People (富士康人), including poems, essays, film reviews, and news commentaries {…} Xu posted the titles of these writings on his blog in a post called “The Maturation Given to Me by a Newspaper,” indicating his gratitude for this platform for his literary aspirations. The first time his friend Zheng (pseudonym) read Xu’s poetry, he was astonished to discover that this young man could be so talented. Henceforth, Zheng always looked for Xu’s writings in the newspaper.

Zheng’s impression was that Xu was a shy boy, “of few words, but not silent.” “Xu asserted his convictions, but he seemed quite solitary – very much the air of a poet.” When Zheng heard of Xu’s suicide, his entire [week-long] break for [China’s] National Day was shrouded in grief. He could not go outside for days.

Turning feelings into poems; fearing they be read by family

Most of Xu’s early poems were descriptions of life on the assembly line. In “Workshop, My Youth Was Stranded Here,” he described his conditions at the time: “Beside the assembly line, tens of thousands of workers [dagongzhe]1 line up like words on a page/ 'Faster, hurry up!'/ Standing among them, I hear the supervisor bark.” He felt that “Once you’ve entered the workshop/ The only choice is submission,” and that his youth was coldly slipping away, so he could only “Watch it being ground away day and night/ Pressed, polished, molded/ Into a few measly bills, so-called wages.”

At first Xu Lizhi found it difficult to adapt to the constant switching between dayshifts and nightshifts. In another poem, he described himself by the assembly line “standing straight like iron, hands like flight,” “How many days, how many nights/ Did I – just like that – standing, fall asleep?” He described his working life as exhausting, “Flowing through my veins, finally reaching the tip of my pen/ Taking root in the paper/ These words can be read only by the hearts of migrant workers."

Xu once said that he never showed his poetry to his parents or other relatives, "because it's something painful; I don't want them to see that."

Failed efforts to get a job related to books 

Although Xu lived in Shenzhen for only a few years, he identified deeply with the city. "Everyone wishes they could put down roots in the city," he explained, but most migrant-worker [dagong] poets write for a few years and then return to the countryside, get married and have children; Xu hoped to avoid that fate. He tried setting up a street stall with a friend, but failed. He also tried transferring from the assembly line to a logistics position, where he would have more freedom. He understood that very few such poets could get out [走出来]: "[we] have to constantly fight for our lives [为生活奔波]; it's hard to go any further than that."

In February of this year, Xu quit his job at Foxconn and moved to Suzhou, Jiangsu. His friend explained that Xu's girlfriend worked there, but apparently things did not go well for Xu in Jiangsu. He told Zheng that he had trouble finding a job, but he did not go into detail about what happened there.

Half a year later, he moved back to Shenzhen. In an earlier interview, Xu had said that he loved this city, that he derived great pleasure from its Central Book Mall and public libraries. If he were to return home [to rural Jieyang], there were only a few small bookstores, and "even if I tried to order books online, they couldn't be delivered" [to his remote address].

Due to his love of books, the first job application he submitted upon his return to Shenzhen in early September was to the Central Book Mall. Zheng recalled that Xu had told him, while working at Foxconn, that his dream was to become a librarian. Unfortunately, he did not get the job, and Zheng thinks this was a major disappointment. Two years earlier, Xu had applied for a position as librarian at Foxconn's internal library for employees, in response to a call for applications, and Xu had been turned down then as well. {...}

Returning to the workshop for one day prior to the incident

Xu was running out of money, so after these disappointments, he returned to Foxconn, beginning work on September 29, in the same workshop where he had worked before. This should have been a new beginning, but it was not. That evening he mentioned to Zheng via online chat that someone had found him another job, so he might leave Foxconn again, but Zheng did not consider this anything special, figuring that Xu would not leave very soon, having just resumed work at Foxconn.

The next Zheng heard of Xu was two days later, when people forwarded the news of Xu's suicide on WeChat. Zheng could not believe it: "Hadn't we just chatted two nights ago?" Later Zheng learned that Xu had committed suicide only the morning after they had chatted, not two days later as the media had reported.

Refuting online rumors that Xu was an orphan

[Although it has been 10 days since Xu's death,] when it is mentioned, Zheng still cannot bear the grief. He thinks that Xu's suicide resulted from both internal and external factors: not only the disappointments he had undergone, but even more so the solitary poetic spirit in his bones.2

After Xu's passing, some online obituaries claimed that as a young child he had been orphaned, neglected and insulted until a poor old women adopted and raised him, and that this foster-grandmother had died a few years ago, leaving Xu alone in the world.

Zheng [refuted these rumors, pointing out that] Xu's writings often mentioned his mother and homesickness. His second poem published in Foxconn People [for example], was called "Summertime Homesickness."

Xu's poetry is cold and pensive, directly facing a life of misery. His poems trace a trajectory in which the scent of death becomes more and more pronounced. He had already rehearsed death hundreds of times in his writing, so the final act was merely a small step over the edge.

Selected Poems by Xu Lizhi


They all say

I'm a child of few words

This I don't deny

But actually

Whether I speak or not

With this society I'll still


-- 7 June 2013

"I Fall Asleep, Just Standing Like That"

The paper before my eyes fades yellow

With a steel pen I chisel on it uneven black

Full of working words

Workshop, assembly line, machine, work card, overtime, wages...

They've trained me to become docile

Don't know how to shout or rebel

How to complain or denounce

Only how to silently suffer exhaustion

When I first set foot in this place

I hoped only for that grey pay slip on the tenth of each month

To grant me some belated solace

For this I had to grind away my corners, grind away my words

Refuse to skip work, refuse sick leave, refuse leave for private reasons

Refuse to be late, refuse to leave early

By the assembly line I stood straight like iron, hands like flight,

How many days, how many nights

Did I - just like that - standing fall asleep?

-- 20 August 2011

"A Screw Fell to the Ground"

A screw fell to the ground

In this dark night of overtime

Plunging vertically, lightly clinking

It won’t attract anyone’s attention

Just like last time

On a night like this

When someone plunged to the ground

-- 9 January 2014

"A Kind of Prophecy"

Village elders say

I resemble my grandfather in his youth

I didn’t recognize it

But listening to them time and again

Won me over

My grandfather and I share

Facial expressions

Temperaments, hobbies

Almost as if we came from the same womb

They nicknamed him “bamboo pole”

And me, “clothes hanger”

He often swallowed his feelings

I'm often obsequious

He liked guessing riddles

I like premonitions

In the autumn of 1943, the Japanese devils invaded

and burned my grandfather alive

at the age of 23.

This year i turn 23.

-- 18 June 2013

"The Last Graveyard"

Even the machine is nodding off

Sealed workshops store diseased iron

Wages concealed behind curtains

Like the love that young workers bury at the bottom of their hearts

With no time for expression, emotion crumbles into dust

They have stomachs forged of iron

Full of thick acid, sulfuric and nitric

Industry captures their tears before they have the chance to fall

Time flows by, their heads lost in fog

Output weighs down their age, pain works overtime day and night

In their lives, dizziness before their time is latent

The jig forces the skin to peel

And while it's at it, plates on a layer of aluminum alloy

Some still endure, while others are taken by illness

I am dozing between them, guarding

The last graveyard of our youth.

-- 21 December 2011

"My Life’s Journey is Still Far from Complete"

This is something no one expected

My life’s journey

Is far from over

But now it's stalled at the halfway mark

It’s not as if similar difficulties

Didn’t exist before

But they didn’t come

As suddenly

As ferociously

Repeatedly struggle

But all is futile

I want to stand up more than anyone else

But my legs won’t cooperate

My stomach won’t cooperate

All the bones of my body won’t cooperate

I can only lie flat

In this darkness, sending out

A silent distress signal, again and again

Only to hear, again and again

The echo of desperation.

-- 13 July 2014

"I Swallowed a Moon Made of Iron"

I swallowed a moon made of iron

They refer to it as a nail

I swallowed this industrial sewage, these unemployment documents

Youth stooped at machines die before their time

I swallowed the hustle and the destitution

Swallowed pedestrian bridges, life covered in rust

I can't swallow any more

All that I've swallowed is now gushing out of my throat

Unfurling on the land of my ancestors

Into a disgraceful poem.

-- 19 December 2013

"Rented Room"

A space of ten square meters

Cramped and damp, no sunlight all year

Here I eat, sleep, shit, and think

Cough, get headaches, grow old, get sick but still fail to die

Under the dull yellow light again I stare blankly, chuckling like an idiot

I pace back and forth, singing softly, reading, writing poems

Every time I open the window or the wicker gate

I seem like a dead man

Slowly pushing open the lid of a coffin.

-- 2 December 2013

"Upon Hearing the News of Xu Lizhi's Suicide"
by Zhou Qizao (周启早), a fellow worker at Foxconn

The loss of every life

Is the passing of another me

Another screw comes loose

Another migrant worker brother jumps

You die in place of me

And I keep writing in place of you

While I do so, screwing the screws tighter

Today is our nation's sixty-fifth birthday

We wish the country joyous celebrations

A twenty-four-year-old you stands in the grey picture frame, smiling ever so slightly

Autumn winds and autumn rain

A white-haired father, holding the black urn with your ashes, stumbles home.

-- 1 October 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Last night, I was recalling a childhood memory to my housemate.
It was very nostalgic indeed.
I ended my narration with these words.
"Weird isn't it? It is the incidents that were somewhat inconvenient and challenging that we tend to remember best. The every minute detail of it. The feelings, the weather, the colors, even the very scent of it."

This afternoon, during lunch, my colleague shared her family's past at the table.
I was and still am very impressed that she'd feel comfortable sharing such personal details.
Her story was so interesting that no one dared interrupt her for the next 30 minutes.
When she finished, a colleague commended, "Wow, this would make an excellent tv series indeed."
Everyone agreed.

Indeed, we wouldn't remember incidents that were easy and comfortable with such detailed description.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Taken from Lessons From Roald Dahl Books That Prepared Us For Adulthood
1. Learn lessons from those who are different from you

In “James and the Giant Peach,” James befriends giant bugs who become like family to him, after longing to belong and be loved. The same goes for Sophie in “The BFG,” who takes a chance and befriends a giant, whom she comes to have an incredibly rewarding relationship.

It’s important not to rule out friendships with people who are different from us.

Moral of the story: Variety is the spice of life.

2. It’s okay to be different

Many of Dahl’s strongest characters certainly don’t fit in with the crowd. Willy Wonka is an extremely eccentric man; Matilda’s family only enjoys watching TV, while she prefers reading; James’ aunts have nothing in common with him, and he longs for something more.

Moral of the story: Being unique can be magical.

3. Independence is key

Many of the child protagonists’ parents or guardians in Dahl’s books are cruel and crude. This is true for “James and the Giant Peach,” “Matilda” and “The Witches,” to name a few. In these tales, the children have to take situations into their own hands to find enjoyment in life.

Dahl teaches us that we won’t always have parents to act as our infallible role models.

Moral of the story: We need to be able to support ourselves.

4. Reading is good for the soul

Matilda teaches us that people can escape through reading, as she struggles to understand or be understood by her own family. A great quote from the book reads,

The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling.

She traveled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.

Moral of the story: Reading can transport us to imaginary respites that can bring us much joy.

5. Sometimes, dreams do come true

Charlie longs for a golden ticket to get into Willy Wonka’s factory. Guess what? He gets the ticket and, eventually, the entire factory. Matilda’s family mistreats her, and she longs for a nicer family; eventually, she ends up with her loving teacher, Miss Honey.

James longs for playmates and a nicer family, too. He ultimately lives in Manhattan in a giant peach pit, with friends surrounding him.

Moral of the story: The things for which we wish become reality if we do right by others and by ourselves.

6. Two wrongs don’t make a right

In “The BFG,” the Big Friendly Giant refuses to use violence against other giants, even though they’re violent against humans. Instead, he talks to the Queen of England (diplomacy for kids!), and together, they devise a way to capture the giants and punish them humanely.

Moral of the story: Making good is never achieved through acting badly.

7. Appearances can be deceiving

The giant in “The BFG” is, in fact, a big friendly giant. In “The Witches,” the witches take on the appearances of totally normal-looking, attractive women. In “James and the Giant Peach,” James befriends giant bugs, which upon first glance, seem terrifying.

All of these Roald Dahl books point out the importance of making character-based judgments, rather than appearance.

Moral of the story: Don’t judge a book by its cover (pun intended).

8. You should always be confident in your abilities

Mr. Fox from the “Fantastic Mr. Fox” oozes self-confidence, and because of this, he achieves a lot. Of course, it’s not right to reach the point of arrogance, but this character proves that with enough self-assurance, great things can happen.

Moral of the story: Believe in yourself and in your dreams.

9. Make the best of your situation

Many of Dahl’s characters are in extremely unfortunate situations. Charlie’s family is devastatingly poor. Matilda’s family is horribly mean to her, and James’ aunts barely feed him and keep him locked in his room all the time.

These three do the best they can to make the best of what they have. When they realize it’s not good enough, they try to change it. This ultimately leads them to more fruitful lives.

Moral of the story: We can break free from bad people and bad situations if we put our minds to it.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

It was one of those rare dreams where you'd remember even after you have long awaken.

It was in the house where I had lived for 20 years.
The entire neighborhood was destroyed for the railway construction.
The huge futuristic train arrived but only the privileged few can board.
No one said anything.
It was understood by all.
It's so strange that all of us had accepted this cruel fact without any protest.

And I was to be married to a man I didn't love to have a baby I didn't want ?
Wow, what movie did I watch before I fell asleep?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Out of boredom, I checked my phone.
Surprised to see a missed-call notification.
It was from Sw.
Called her back immediately.
Was relieved that she answered.
Her voice was trembling but she remained courteous and asked about my day.
And I asked about hers too.
And if she is struggling.
She was embarrassed but she told me the truth.

I really hope she'd see the light soon.
No matter now faint the glimmer.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Musashi, the greatest samurai & a deeply feeling student of the Buddha, set down 21 Rules to Live by. Here they are.

1. Accept everything just the way it is.
2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.
4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
5. Be detached from desire your whole life long.
6. Do not regret what you have done.
7. Never be jealous.
8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others.
10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love.
11. In all things have no preferences.
12. Be indifferent to where you live.
13. Do not pursue the taste of good food.
14. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need.
15. Do not act following customary beliefs.
16. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.
17. Do not fear death.
18. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.
19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.
20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honour.
21. Never stray from the Way.
Taken from