She lives!

September 19, 2008 § 3 Comments

Melbourne, Australia – in the locked box of my apartment.




thanks to the genius of adam at and craig at… the two handsome daddies to my new baby.


Uncle Sam’s Club

September 3, 2008 § Leave a comment


Honolulu, Hawaii, USA – shopping at Sam’s Club


This is the way we hunt and gather. Our prey contained in cardboard and styrofoam. Chickens that appear plucked and headless, shiny in their glad wrap outfits. Cereal, danish pastries, soft drinks (or should I say ‘soda’), canned soup… trolleys the size of a small car. Big and very American.




An age

August 25, 2008 § Leave a comment


Clarke Quay, Singapore – an old shop house that has served as the living and office quarters for a family business spanning four generations.


See him for what he really is. A reluctantly aging man whose dwindling purpose in life is to see the end of it as best as he can. A man who looks upon the face of his grown children, searches for things he might still teach them, and perhaps some small way to keep them by his side.





The price(s) of salvation

August 25, 2008 § Leave a comment


Shanghai, China – Yu Fo Si Jade Buddha Temple, Anyuan Lu 170


The Festival of the Dead. A time when the souls of the underworld are free from purgatory to roam the living world and invited to Buddhist temples to feast and be appeased by their relatives during a three day vigil of incense burning and paper offerings.

Buddhist temples all over the world open their doors to the general public and the devout to pay their respects in a haphazard production that belies the facts and figures reserved for a select few.

Ensconced within the heart of the temple compound at Yi Fo Si, within a gilt lined hall, smoky with the fragrance of incense from a rare wood found exclusively in the jungles of Vietnam and Indonesia, 400 people are lined in silent and strategic rows. They wear identical black robes and pray separated from the cacophony of the jostling hoards outside. The front row is given to the highest paying local patron to the temple. The second row is given to the highest paying foreigner. The cheap seats are in the back.

Price List:

Front row prayer seats – US$200,000

Second row prayer seats – US$100,000

The cheap seats at the back – US$3,000

One strand of fragrant rare wood prayer beads – US$15,000

Twenty sticks of rare wood incense – US$100

*All available from the temple shop


The total cost of the festival to the temple each year is approx. one million USD.





For the idea of home

August 24, 2008 § 2 Comments


Hainan Island, China – ancestral homestead in a small village about 2 hours drive from Sanya beach resort (host to Miss World beauty pageant 2007)


(The journey)

Verdant mountains, lush country, industry abounding everywhere. We were on the Eastern Expressway, travelling from Sanya to the village of our maternal ancestors. Stretching around me were glistening rice paddies and sun darkened farmers in conical straw hats weaving their way through the harvest. Here and there, we would spot brick farmhouses adorned with the ubiquitous line of laundry strung like a ragged necklace. I raced through this countryside, sucking up as much of it as I could, ensconced with my luggage in the back seat of a teeny, weeny, seaweed green chevvy that smelt vaguely of stale underarms, face to the wind and casting frequent grins of exhilaration to my sister in the front seat. 

(The destination)

We are finally here. 2 hours of lawless highway and another half hour of bumpy dirt road later, Ling and I have been safely delivered to our ancestral home – the same one I stayed in when I was about 5 years old – also the place I last saw my great-grandmother all those years ago when she was 102. 

I am totally blown away.

The way my relatives live here – eking out an existence by their bare hands, with the help of several water buffaloes, chickens, pigs and a couple of mangy dogs (trained as “guards”, but function more as leftover food disposals). The roof over my head has housed 7 generations of blood relations. It has seen the industrial revolution, the cultural revolution and is now languishing unaffected through the digital revolution. 

I visit the rudimentary prep school that mum built over 10 years ago, watch livestock put to the knife in preparation for the feast the villagers are holding in honour of our return to the homestead, use a mixture of mandarin and hainanese to converse with the wizened, old matriarchs and stay up most of the night winning over the local kids by teaching them how to use my digital SLR and photoshop. I am then woken at 4am to witness the final slaughter of the last 5 chickens and 2 geese (because word got out about how enthusiastic I was in photographing the initial 2 chooks in the afternoon), and seeing as I am already awake, I rock down on my haunches and get in the vegetable prep assembly line. Snowpeas, spring onion and celery, here I come. 

I can honestly say, it is an incredible experience – squatting outside on a dirt path that serves as the outside “wet” kitchen, taking part in a task that was probably done by women of 5-6 generations before me in exactly the same spot… Women whose gene pool I share and who could never imagine how far my life has taken me from this place. 





August 24, 2008 § Leave a comment

Siem Reap, Cambodia – an hour drive out into the countryside, away from the temples of Angkor Wat.


Once there was a woman with one glass eye. She had nine children and lived in a thatch-roofed hut. During the rainy season, her family would have to hold a plastic sheet over their heads in the night whilst they slept.

One day, her husband burnt himself alive in the hut, taking away the only working man in the household and their only means of shelter.

In April 2008, they were singled out by a grassroots organisation for aid and were provided with a 4 x 5m brick house. The total cost of their new home was US$1250.




The Heartland

August 24, 2008 § Leave a comment

(work in progress)

Sembawang, Singapore – away from the bright lights of Orchard Road and within the heartland.


Ah Ching is 15 years old. She is bedridden with cerebral palsy and unable to feed, bathe, or move on her own. Ah Ching’s mother, Jackie, used to work nights at a factory and is now forced to stay at home to look after her daughter full-time, earning extra income through babysitting her 4 month old nephew and cleaning the apartment next door. Tommy works irregular hours as a security guard. 

Neither Tommy nor Jackie have gone beyond secondary education, a factor that pushes them both to the margins of Singapore’s meritocracy.  

Government subsidies in housing and education ensure an affordable home and also equal opportunity schooling for Vincent, Jackie and Tommy’s 14 year old son. 

Cultural prejudice over mental and physical disability keeps Ah Ching within the confines of her home and will most likely do so for the rest of her life.






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