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10,000 Reasons

A major curveball hit some dear friends of mine recently, when the husband/father had a stroke.

As I heard his wife share about the difficult changes she and the children must learn to accept and adapt to, I could not help admiring and being encouraged by her outlook amidst the exhaustion and devastation they must be facing.

She spoke of gratitude for things they still have and cherish; of trusting in God amidst the pain; of hope for the future, and of 10,000 Reasons to sing…

It brought me back to the first time many years ago when I too found myself in a bleak valley where I had lost complete sight of a hopeful future. It reminded me of how the reality and presence of God at that time gave me enormous strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to forge a way out of despair.

Not long after my friend shared,  I heard the song again — this time at a wedding. It was a beautiful reprise to hear the melody carry through dark desperate days to joyous celebrations, from the peaks to the troughs to everything in between…

The song had a way of pointing to something beyond, and reminded me of all the people I know and stories I’ve read of people coming to the end of their ropes, and finding new strength and hope to sing and choose life.



My 27th birthday wish: Teach for Malaysia

The first book I ever borrowed out of my local library in Alor Setar at six years old was Enid Blyton’s The Three Golliwogs.

It started me down a path of discovering new worlds – and a love for reading that has fundamentally shaped who I am today.


Education changes lives. This song has bubbled into reprise after reprise in my heart over the years.

I’ve often looked back at my life and thought: I’ve been very, very fortunate to have received so many learning opportunities! So on my 22nd birthday, I fundraised for Room to Read to build a library for 300 kids in India. A huge chunk of the projects, causes and people I’ve supported in subsequent years have a common thread running through them: they all made learning possible and/or better for others.

I turn 27 on 7 February 2016. For several years my birthday has been a non-event. 😦

I want to celebrate this year! If you are thinking of blessing me with a birthday gift, the best thing you could give me is to help me impact the lives of Malaysian students:

Teach For Malaysia (TFM) is a program I had considered doing post-graduation. Following the ups and downs of friends who have taken 2 years out of their lives to teach in underprivileged schools, I’ve been inspired by their passion, dedication and creativity.

They’ve struggled with teenagers who still can’t write their ABCs. Who wouldn’t be able to read Enid Blyton fluently at 15 years old. They’ve laughed and cried and empowered young Malaysians to dream. Their work matters to me.

This year I will be financially supporting what TFM does for young Malaysian lives. I hope you will consider joining me in your own way -ESPECIALLY if you are a Malaysian abroad!

The giving of jasmines

I never thought life would do this to me – make me tired enough to forget the precious things.

It’s been a long hard year, and the grind of it all has worn me down.

But it must be true, what people say about the importance of stories, and how fundamental they are in shaping us. I guess even more so when the story is in my naming.

Some years ago, a Pakistani friend told me that my name Yasmin means “a gift from God” in Persian, named after their love for the exquisit bloom.

In Chinese culture, the jasmine is special too.

I thought this captured the blossom beautifully: “茉莉花叶色翠绿,花色洁白,香味浓厚,清雅宜人。它虽无艳态惊群,但玫瑰之甜郁,梅花之馨香,兰花之幽远,玉兰之清雅,莫不兼而有之。”

Stories about the sweet fragrance of the jasmine flower have been for me like the resonant strands you hear in your head long after the vibration of the strings soften into silence.

Smelling the jasmine-scented candle I received for Christmas, I could almost hear the beautiful song again – of fragrance released in crushing, of giving life, of blessing others.

I have always thought the sacrificial dying of oneself for the blessing of others to be beautiful.

I remembered it again now: in jasmines, but also in the Christmas story.

A fortune cookie encounter

Tell me: when do you ever get a Chinese man offering you a fortune cookie? The stuff of novels and movies.

“Pick one and see what it says,” he said.
Fortune Cookie幸运饼干上说的是:“有耕耘必有收获。”

这是 King William St 按摩店的新老板。

我们聊了起来,我就告诉他,“我以前在这里干过活的呢,就是脚底按摩技术没学完。” 于是,他让我点评了员工们的按摩技术水平!




These days I frequently answer questions about what WeChat is, and I usually say it is like Facebook+Twitter+WhatsApp all in one.

Today I had to do the exact opposite and explain Facebook to a Chinese businessman! I said it was the WeChat of Australia. I then suggested that Facebook was a great tool to offer targeted promotions to tired workers in the Adelaide CBD.

Crossing the cultural (and age) barrier can be slightly jarring! At least the fortune cookie suggests that one will reap the rewards of their hard work.

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