THE BIRTH OF Siddhārtha Gautama
6th Century BC:
The old nurse looked at her radiant Queen, Maya Devi. She still had the same sweet smile on her face, and nothing seemed to have changed since the day she was born, the day the old nurse picked her up as an infant. Pregnancy only made her glow more like the full moon. She still insisted doing things her way in that same charming captivating way like now, when she went bathing all by herself in the Puskarini pool, even though she was about to give birth in a fortnight. Her nurse watched helplessly as Maya played in the pool, with her friends amidst the pink and white lotus flowers. The nurse sighed, and got up to ready the sleeping arrangements for Maya. Maya had wanted to leave for her father’s home for birthing her child as was the custom of those times. But instead of leaving earlier by a month, she spent more time with her affectionate husband, King Suddodhana, the leader of the Shakya clan. On the way to her father’s place, she wanted to spend the night at the beautiful garden in Lumbini, which meant ‘the lovely.’
Just as the nurse was about to walk away towards the tents, she could sense something waswrong. She turned to see Maya’s face contorting in pain for just a moment. Or did she imagine it? She squinted her near-sighted eyes, and watched intently for a longer moment, and noticed the same expression again. Maya met her gaze, and the nurse knew it was time. She waded mid-pool and quickly helped her out of the water. Maya insisted on walking all the way to the tent without support, wincing during every contraction, supporting her hips with her arms. She did not reach the tent. She took a quick detour and halted below a strong and sturdy sal tree, under the full and bright moon of the first lunar month Vesak, of the New Year. She rested for a moment, as her womb contracted in divine agony. Her nurse held out her hand, but the all-time-self-sufficient Maya supported herself by clutching a branch, and birthed her handsome Prince, whom she named Siddhārtha, the one who achieves his goal. The Gods from heaven showered a stream of lukewarm water to clean the baby, and then another cooler shower. She thanked the Gods silently. As she gazed lovingly at her just born beautiful new baby boy, Siddhārtha walked seven steps on the lotus in the pond, as the lore goes.
Nativity Scene: The Birth of the Buddha
Maya passed away 11 days later, leaving Siddhārtha in the hands of her sister Prajapati, who was also the second wife of her husband. Prajapati’s motherly love for Siddhārtha never made him realize the absence of his birth mother. The court astrologers predicted that the Prince would either become a great saint of modern times or a mighty Monarch.
As the story of the Buddha goes, Prince Siddhārtha abandoned the palace and the kingly riches in search of meaning for life and wandered away to the forests, at the age of 29. Through the strictest of penance, he eventually attained Nirvana or enlightenment at the age of 35.
Just before passing away at the age of 80, Buddha told his primary disciple and cousin, Ananda, that Lumbini his birth place would be one of the 4 holiest places which would attract Buddhists for all time.
LUMBINI, BIRTH PLACE OF BUDDHA, UNESCO World Heritage site
2500 years later today, the Lumbini garden remains so, as predicted by Buddha. In my eternal quest for all things Buddhist, I was taken to the serene land of Nepal, which is adorned by the whitest and most beautiful Himalayan Range to the north, and by the rather nondescript town of Lumbini to the South. I won’t go into details of how to reach Lumbini by road/air, where to stay once you reach there, or the best things to do there. You can find all of that in travel websites and travelogues written by travelers and tourists who have visited the place before me and who would visit after me.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
For the travel-lusting curios, however, I am going to briefly share my experiences of visiting the Maya Devi temple in Lumbini. This temple is housed inside the Lumbini development complex which also has the Monastic zone and a Lumbini village zone. In 1978, many nations came forward to build monasteries depicting the evolution of Buddhist culture in their countries and I am going to share a few pictures of those different monasteries below. To confuse you further, when you visit, there are many gates to this complex, depending on how you plan to enter. Whichever of the 9 gates you choose, be sure to cover all the monasteries. They are absolutely lovely and unique and give you a flavour of their own respective countries.
A few of the monasteries below …
The Thailand Monastery
One of my favorite monasteries. It stands magnificent in snowy, pristine white glory; embodying purity. It is very well maintained with manicured lawns and neatly trimmed trees.
The insides of the Thai monastery is also very beautiful. The decorations of the Buddha, the culture reflecting in the ornate decorations, information on neat bulletin boards, and so on – all gave a very nicely organized monastery.
Insides of the Thai Monastery
The Cambodian Monastery
This monastery reminded me very much of the Angkor Wat temple in its looks and structure. It is still work in progress with construction work going on, and dust billowing towards us, in the heat. We were forced to make a hasty retreat to the other monasteries, though this breath-taking beauty did not stop beckoning us…
The Myanmar Monastery
The Golden monastery from Myanmar decorated with green and gold paint, and a maroon balustrade to match, was a splendid sight from outside and inside too. It is a replica of the monastery in Yangon. My husband’s bucket list grew, with Myanmar as one of the places to visit, before the end of this year, as we breathed in the sight of this beautiful monastery.
The German Monastery
As we kept walking, we came across a circular lake, and on one side there is this beautiful German monastery called, ‘The Great Drigung Kagyud Lotus Stupa’. Do not let this humble, yet beautiful monastery mislead you, for you are about to witness wonder inside it.
As we entered this monastery, we were slowed down. There was not enough time in the world, to complete admiring the beautiful murals on the walls. There was a prayerful atmosphere which the monks tried hard to maintain inside the prayer room. It was simply splendid. I recommend, you sit down for a few minutes to meditate here. No photography is allowed inside, for which I am thankful, because our senses were already assaulted enough, just admiring the murals inside.
Inside the German Monastery
At times, I was so glad for these “No photography” signs because Nature was giving us a chance to just sit, allow the beauty to descend into you, both in a way of the senses and also into the heart. No more thinking about Portrait mode or Normal mode or other modes, light exposure, and all those umpteen photography things which my husband and son keep discussing about, but just a mind which needs to calm down, and a heart which needs to look inward.
Colorful Murals Inside the German Monastery
And we moved on, because a noisy group of tourist arrived and were discussing with the care taker, as to how they could seek permission to take pictures inside the prayer room.
The International Nuns Temple of Nepal
On the right side of the International Nuns Temple, you can see that there is a place of stay for the nuns from Nepal, and is maintained by the Government of Nepal. It has a long courtyard where footwear was not allowed, and as our feet were getting burnt, we were reminded of childhood memories of playing hide and seek with our cousins, during summer break, on the hot terrace at midday. We had to make a hasty retreat this time too, because we could not bear the burning of the hot grounds on our naked feet.
(*If I did not tell you earlier, you are requested to leave your footwear outside most of the monasteries, as a sign of respect and cleanliness.*)
International Nuns Temple in Nepal
The Singapore Monastery
This was closed and we could not learn much about it. So we resorted to taking pictures of it and us.
The Author and her son in front of the Singapore Monastery
The Chinese Monastery
The Chinese have built the biggest monastery in the complex. It is very well maintained and organized with a lot of information displayed. There was so much to assimilate about the culture and history of Buddhism in China and about the monastery itself.
The entrance of the Chinese monastery is guarded by their traditional ‘Four Heavenly Kings’ and other deities. There was even a Maitreya Buddha at the entrance. This is a very beautiful and colorful monastery.
Guardians of the Chinese Monastery
Though the entrance looks not so huge, the courtyard was heavenly. The visitors who entered never felt like leaving. You would also notice that the entry and exit of the monastery is structured such that it makes you circumambulate in clockwise around the Buddha which is a holy practice of Hindus and Buddhists.
Courtyard of the Chinese Monastery
World Peace Pagoda
We were then directed towards a path by one of the tourists, saying it led to the Eternal Flame, The World Peace Pagoda and the Maya Devi temple. They are all in a straight line.
Inside The World Peace Pagoda
As you walk on this path, you can find the golden Bodhisattva statue glistening in the sun. It is a fairly recent addition, in 2012. It is supposed to personify that image of the infant Buddha when he took the seven steps on the lotus, as soon as he was born.
Golden Bodhisattva statue
The Maya Devi Temple
Our walk brought us to the Sacred Zone at the Maya Devi Temple. There was an ambience of tranquility in the atmosphere. But something else was also missing. I couldn’t quite sense what, yet. There is a pond beyond which the temple stands tall and majestic, in white serenity. It felt that the temple was celebrating Buddha’s mother rather than the Buddha.
Maya Devi Temple
There are rows of small stupas outside the temple. Excavations seemed to be happening continuously since the discovery of the Ashoka pillar in 1896.
King Ashoka in the 249 BC is supposed to have originally discovered Buddha’s birth place and built this iconic pillar with detailed inscriptions and the various stupas around it.
Details – The Ashoka Pillar
Around the temple building, there are numerous small stupas and they have been archaeologically dated back to the second century BC.
Archaeological Ruins Around the Temple
We entered the temple, and began walking on the wooden floor, following the signs. People were throwing coins below into the ruins, as offerings for good luck. We stood above and gazed from the railings, there were coins from different countries. As we kept walking, we finally reached the Marker Stone which marks the exact spot where Buddha was born. Devotees were praying, some tourists were gazing intently trying to capture everything in their memory, as you see, photography is prohibited inside the Maya Devi Temple. The path further leads to the Nativity sculpture where you can see mother Maya Devi holding the branch of a Sal tree and Buddha standing on a lotus. As we walked beyond, the path led to the exit of the temple.
The sun was very bright and almost scorching, and glared my eyes, because the temple was very dimly lit, like the insides of a movie theatre. I waited for a moment, for everything to sink in. Everything seemed like nothing.
I noticed the colorful prayer flags in the garden outside. There was a small pond, and a few monks were sitting around a tree, chatting. There were benches for tourists, and some were meditating on it.
I got the feeling that perhaps it was time to leave.
What did I seek in Lumbini?
As we made our way towards the exit, we halted for a drink of water at the watering pool. A few monks were filling up their plastic bottles too, and we waited patiently for them to move. It gave me a moment to reflect.
When we made this journey, all the way from Chennai, South India, what did I anticipate to find? I was allured to Buddha’s birthplace, but I couldn’t find him here. Lumbini is no doubt a very important and holiest of sites for followers of Buddhism and even followers of other religions and I appreciate the beauty of the Lumbini development zone and commend the effort of the Government to preserve this as place of value and heritage.
However, as I fill up my bottle, with the cool water from the tap, I wonder, “What did I get, which I sought from this visit to the birth place of Buddha?”
Did I get enlightenment like Buddha? But did I seek that? I don’t even know what that means…
Did I seek to find Buddha somewhere hidden in the beautiful monasteries constructed by various countries? Or somewhere near the Marker Stone, which claims he was birthed there?
I was not seeking his physical presence – surely not!
Was I seeking to find some meaning to the strong presence he left behind in this world? Perhaps…! But what of it?
Well, whatever I was seeking or not, I surely was trying to find some essence of Divinity in all of this. One could call it peace, or bliss or a meditative calm or any other word… and it all can be identified with something akin to Divine. But I was vaguely disappointed. I felt generally at peace at a superficial level in some of the monasteries, but I still was trying to figure out what I was searching, assuming that I would know once I found it. And here I was experiencing an anti-climax of having found nothing at all.
My water bottle overflowed and I sensed an impatient monk behind me who was being fidgety with his bottle, tapping it against the railing of the water taps. I closed my bottle and allowed him to use it. He smiled his thanks but I did not have the energy to smile back. I was drained by the heat and my own contemplation.
We walked back along the long path leading to one of the exit gates, each of us silent in our hearts and in our own world.
Long after I came home to India, and decided to write about my experience in Lumbini, I felt emotional about not having experienced Buddha’s presence. I just did not feel him or find him anywhere in Lumbini. It felt like ‘time’ had trapped all of Buddha back in the 6th century BC.
It just felt like memories of Buddha lost in time, accentuated by celebrated tales, and an active humanity in the future which tried to relive the enlightenment of a single man (or God) of the past.
The Ethos of the Heart
As I was wondering about my experience, my friend texted me and offered to have a Heartfulness meditation session, where one meditates on the source of light in the heart. I could not say no. After the session, I felt lighter and peaceful in a general way. Later, I remembered something I read long ago, written by Daaji, the Global Guide of Heartfulness. This seemed to be a fitting climax to my experience.
“Imagine for a moment that we don’t have to go anywhere, or to do anything, except simply sit wherever we are, and allow ourselves to be found? Imagine that heavens are waiting to enter our heart, right here and now! What a powerful concept! How do we make this a reality and allow ourselves to be found? How do we create such a state where the higher presence naturally settles within our hearts?”
He goes on to explain as below …
“The answer possibly lies in cultivating the seeds of contentment within our hearts…
It starts with a simple suggestion that everything we need is already present within us. All the love of the world, the beauty of life, the seed of perfection is present in our heart represented as a source of light. This suggestion is strengthened through actual experience in meditation, as the idea of light leads to a feeling of an inner presence. This inner presence becomes a reality as our consciousness expands, and we become aware of a wholeness of being. When we begin to experience this state of wholeness and perfection at our core, the clouds of discontent and ignorance start to dissolve. The heart regains its light and innocent nature.
Under such circumstances, the egoless heart, the humble heart, automatically draws the heavens towards itself. Such a heart is perfectly adjusted to its external circumstances. It creates heaven around itself.”
Full article here.
I felt light instantly. This seemed to be the missing puzzle to my experience-jigsaw. I had read this article almost 2 years ago, more or less agreed with it, and swiped away to the next article, devouring words and ideas. But the joy of the pudding is not merely in the eating, but in the conscious experiencing of the taste, or the sweet of it. The Universe is so vast, and the world of learning and experiencing is also as broad as the Universe and perhaps even more so. As the human soul tries to imbibe everything or parts of the universe in a quest which is directed external – to new places, new understanding of the senses, and new knowledge, there is something limiting to that, as the façade never fully lifts.
As I try to understand what he meant in the article, I also realize that perhaps humanity is unconsciously seeking an ethos of that content heart, which satisfies itself with everything within, which knows with confidence that indeed the Universe is present within.
What do you look for, when you visit holy lands? Tell me, your experiences …
Photo Credit to the Author.
This is the first in the series of articles by #WorldMom, Purnima from her travels in #Nepal.
You can read the series of articles from her travels in #Bhutan here.
Gangai Konda Chola Puram, UNESCO World Heritage site in India
There was an air of pious anticipation, that one could almost hear the elephants trumpeting while carrying huge granite stones to build the temple, one could almost hear the hum of the 400 odd dancing damsels’ and their anklets tinkling, while dancing for Lord Shiva (as the lore tells), and one could almost envision the talented artisans carving out the beautifully sculpted figures. Gangai Konda Chola Puram is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, and called as the “Great Living Chola Temples”. It is called “living” because it is still very much an alive place of worship. Perhaps it is also called “great” because of the rich heritage of the Chola Dynasty still palpable in the atmosphere. But wait, I was in for a surprise as I was just yet entering the temple’s premises.
The temple was built in the 11th century AD in a record time of nine years by Rajendra Chola-1, son of Raja Raja Chola. He was a mighty warrior, who won over major kingdoms in India up to the Gangetic plains in the North, and South East Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and so on. He had come back to Tamil Nadu State in India, and built a city as his ruling capital, and named it Gangai-Konda-Chola-Puram, meaning the capital of the King who won over the rulers of the Ganges.
The Welcoming Nandi Sculpture
The Welcoming Nandi Statue
The first thing anyone would notice in this compound is the huge 11 feet tall kneeling Nandi (bull) statue, Lord Shiva’s stoic vehicle. This is so similar to the Sphinx in front of the pyramid in Egypt. It is resplendent and majestic in itself, and one can gaze for more than a few minutes and walk all around it admiringly. The strength, virility, and controlled power in Nandi was tangible in the statue. This is one of the 12 monoliths of Nandis in India, carved out from a single granite stone.
The World Famous Dancing Nataraja
The World Famous Dancing Nataraja Statue
As I walked beyond the Nandi, there was a flight of stone steps leading up to the sanctum where Lord Shiva’s idol rested. The entrance was flanked by the dancing Nataraja sculptures, which was a trademark of the Chola architecture. The Chola dynasty was known for encouraging art, culture, dancing, creativity in the form of sculpting, painting, poetry, literature, scholarly debate as a way of expression and so on.
The dancing Nataraja sculpture which is world famous, with a presence even at CERN, Switzerland, originated during the Chola period.
Walking past this ancient relic, I wondered if the foot of the statue held any geomagnetic effects as the lore claimed.
Entry into Lord Shiva’s Abode
The Long Walk – Entry into Lord Shiva’s Abode
The weather was very pleasant, not too sunny, just the right dose of sun for a summery South Indian morning. The entry into the doors of the temple gave me a tiny shiver. There was a man sitting just near the entrance giving out oil lamps for those who wanted it. There were some who walked in without taking his lamps. My attention drifted, searching for the idol. All I could see was a very long corridor, with the hope that there was the idol at the end of it. It was slightly darker inside. I wondered, why the King, Rajendra Chola, who built the temple, had to make the corridor so long? Slowly my son and I started walking onward. There was an opening in the left and right side somewhere ahead of us. But we could already feel a cool breeze from a draft somewhere nearby. We continued to walk. The gentle breeze was soothing. It was perhaps whispering secrets about the beauty of the art and richness of the culture of the Chola Dynasty. I looked around to observe the walls, trying to grasp all that I could from this one long walk. I also realized my mind was numbing me to stop my wandering focus.
We had made this trip to the temple, because we happened to be in the vicinity, and did not want to miss out checking a UNESCO World Heritage site. That was all. But here I was trying to squint my eyes trying to figure out what the idol of Lord Shiva looked like. Slowly I felt my eyes drifting close. I opened them, immediately alerted. I was walking after all. I could not close my eyes.
This was not like the regular temples. There was a special uniqueness here. We both could sense that.I wondered if Lord Shiva knew all the devotees entering this temple.
During all this train of thoughts, I felt the gentle chide of the breeze, nudging me to focus on the life essence of the Universe.
The idol was consecrated, I realized. The breeze was telling me that.
The holy process of PranaPrathishta or consecrating a stone idol, which is an image of god, is done to infuse the divinity into the idol, the temple and the neighborhood too if the energies can be strong enough. So how is it done? In recent history, rituals, hymns, and mantras are used for the process thereby signaling the completion of consecration. However, in ancient times, the sages Agastya and Patanjali were known to perform PranaPrathishta by infusing life force or life energy into the idol. It was a very active and transformative process. They wanted to make sure that all of living habitation across the world should have an environment of holy life energy. Thus this also accounts for numerous temples across India.
Is there a modern day scientific explanation validating the process of PranaPrathishta, you may ask.
Fellow to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, Professor Emeritus William A. Tiller, of Stanford University’s Department of Materials Science, spent more than three decades to validate this.
William A. Tiller says, “For the past 35 to 40 years, in parallel with my traditional science research and teaching at Stanford University, I have been seriously investigating the effects of human intention on both the properties of materials (inorganic and organic; non-living and living) and on what we call physical reality. From this research, I and my colleagues have discovered that it is possible to make a significant change in the properties of a material substance by consciously holding a clear intention to do so.”
More info here.
Our walk in the corridor, from the door leading to Lord Shiva’s abode, was almost ending. We were standing in front of the idol now. I looked at my son. He was silent for a change. His mind was not jumping into all sorts of science and math and mythology talk, which was a relief for me. I was enjoying these few moments of silence too. He had already commented about the similarities and differences between the trident of Shiva and Poseidon, as we were entering the temple.
After what seemed like a long lapse in time, in front of the idol, we looked at each other and then silently walked out.
#WorldMom Purnima from India with her son
The lawn around the temple grounds was well maintained, and we sat down and relaxed for a bit. There were a lot of sculptures all around, and some smaller temples for minor deities. We were in no hurry to check them all out.
“What just happened in there?” asked my son.
“It is a holy place. You felt the effects.” I replied.
“But what really is that, which we felt?” he asked again.
“You tell me,” I said.
“It was peaceful,” he said.
“So it was,” I replied.
“And something more, which cannot be explained,” he continued.
Transformation of man
I felt obliged to explain to him the holy process of pranaprathishta of an idol by pure intent and will, by the holy seers of the ancient.
“If they could transform a mere stone to god, they could do it to living things too, who are alive and receptive, and holy in thought and action,” he concluded.
“Yes, perhaps they could,” I smiled.
Bidding Goodbye to Gangai Konda Chola Puram
As our visit was coming to an end, I couldn’t help thinking that in today’s times, we are gifted with Pranahuti, or Yogic transmission in the Heartfulness Meditation system. The Heartfulness trainers are trained to impart this energy to the seeker.
In the words of the modern-day saint, Ram Chandra, “Transmission is the utilization of Divine Force for the transformation of man.” By such a transformation man is divinized, he says.
Kamlesh Patel, the global guide of Heartfulness says, “The best way to understand transmission remains to experience it practically… For many people, the experience of receiving transmission is so convincing that no further proof or understanding is necessary. I invite you to experiment and experience it for yourself.”
Extending the possibilities of the consecration of an idol through pranaprathishta to the transformation of man to make him divinized through pranahuti, is a giant leap of evolution in the history of mankind.
The beautiful thing about our planet’s rich past is that it has led us to the evolution of the present.
Tell me a little bit of spiritual revelations you have had, from your culture.
Photo Credit: The Author
Hockey is Canada’s national winter sport, with most Canadians huddled around the television on Saturday nights to cheer on their favourite teams being featured on “Hockey Night in Canada”. Boys love hockey. Girls love hockey. And, they love it equally. But the treatment of both genders in the world of hockey is very different.
I live in a country where gender equality is of such importance.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was applauded for electing equal numbers of men and women to Cabinet during his 2015 election. When asked why this was important, he simply said “Because this is 2015”.
But gender equality in hockey does not always exist in Canada. Not even in 2016. And this is incredibly frustrating for the many girls and women who live and breathe the sport throughout the year. I have three daughters, and two play hockey. I have overheard men in our community, as I was rushing into an arena on a cold winter morning with one of my daughters, making comments about how it is a waste for girls’ hockey teams to be given ice time, as it was taking away from the boys. Our highest ranking women’s Canadian hockey teams never get the media coverage they deserve. Most Canadians don’t even know these female leagues exist, despite the incredible talent and sportsmanship these young women exhibit game after game.
This inequality is trickling through to younger generations as well. My one daughter plays on a co-ed hockey team. At only 10 years of age, she is already having to hear the boys on the bench tell each other NOT to pass to her because she is a girl.
One of our greatest Canadian hockey players, Hayley Wickenheiser, has spoken about the challenges girls face in sport. When people would say to her, “Girls don’t play hockey; girls don’t skate”, she would say – watch this!
Staying true to her word, Hayley has won multiple Olympic medals for hockey. Decades later, however, little girls who look up to Wickenheiser are still having to defend their place in Canadian hockey.
This is 2016, so when someone says you “play like a girl” it should be taken as a compliment. After all, this is Canada, a nation that prides itself on equality.
This is an original post by Alison Fraser who is Founder and Director of Mom2Mom Africa.
Photo credit to the author
As a British-American family living in Indonesia, we seem to speak a special sort of English in our house. Although our kids attend the British school, their classmates are from all over the world and the accents they hear are typically mixed. While my daughter generally sounds American, my son tends to favor British vocabulary – he enjoys maths, plays football (never soccer) and cheerfully reports that his day was “brilliant.”
To an American ear, my own accent has a British sound, while to a Brit, my British husband sounds subtly American. We joke that our accents have merged over time, which is further reinforced by living outside of our home countries for many years.
In our family we use British and American terms interchangeably – we have torches and flashlights, throw away rubbish and trash, wear pants and trousers, and occasionally enjoy sweets and candy. Our kids have recently started to recognize and understand some of the differences. The other day my son informed me that I was pronouncing “vitamin” wrong. I explained that I say it differently and my daughter quickly jumped in with her support: “It’s okay Mommy, I say it that way, too!” Tomayto, tomahto…anything goes in our house.
In a few weeks we will be heading back to the US for summer break. While our friends and family are generally charmed by the kids’ way of speaking (“so cute!”), my own hybrid accent mostly confuses people. I once had a job interview after moving back to the US from abroad and the CEO took me aside afterward to excitedly ask where I was from. “I’m from Seattle originally,” I responded. “No, where are you really from?” he continued. “Uh…Seattle?” Clearly not the exotic hometown he expected.
Although it shouldn’t bother me, sometimes it does.
When I first studied in the UK many years ago I was very self-conscious about my American accent. The young people I worked with would often imitate me and I was continually aware of standing out whenever I opened my mouth. Now, with my mixed pronunciation, I blend in more easily and comfortably slip into colloquial Brit-speak whenever I visit. I still sound different but I don’t mind.
Yet for some reason, it does bother me to be labeled as different in the place I am from. Partly I think it’s the perception of being “other” that gets to me. Living in Indonesia, I am used to feeling this way. But when I return to my hometown, I want to be able to fit right back in – even if it’s been years (well…decades) since I’ve lived there.
Despite my pre-vacation efforts to Americanize my accent, I can still hear the well-enunciated sounds tumbling out of my mouth and the British-style intonation. I try to re-train myself to soften my Ts, pronounce my Rs and say “really” instead of “quite”. Yet as much as I try to flick the American switch in my brain, I know I won’t always get it right. I’m bound to ask where the “toilet” is instead of the restroom and I might accidentally order in Indonesian, just to further confuse things.
I sound different because I am different. Perhaps it’s time to embrace it.
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by our American-mom-of-twins writer, Shaula Bellour, currently residing in Indonesia.
The image used in this post is credited to Jeremy Keith. It holds a Flickr: Creative Commons attribution license.
Two months ago, we had our first experience going to a medical clinic in a foreign country.
Come to think of it, we managed nearly four years in Paris without needing to do so. It helped that we lived across the street from a pharmacy (a distinct Parisian ‘landmark’). Those days, we relied heavily on self-medication and the advice of our friendly pharmacist.
This time around, these options couldn’t cut it. Our 22 month-old daughter had already been ill for a week and wasn’t getting any better.
Having only recently arrived in Abu Dhabi, we had no idea about which pediatrician to consult. Armed with a recommendation from a mum’s group, I called up only to find out with some panic that the earliest appointment was in four days’ time. After some frantic telephone conversations with my husband, we made a dash for a walk-in clinic which closed its doors at 1pm.
While this may be common in many countries, it is not something that we would have encountered back home. In Singapore, we could always see our pediatrician at short notice after a quick phone call. This was always reassuring, especially for first-time parents who made a big deal out of every rise in temperature or unusual cough.
Our experience at the clinic made me a little homesick and left me wishing for many things, big and small, that we often take for granted back in Singapore.
This feeling was further intensified a few days later, when news broke that Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, had passed away.
Amid the numerous news reports and posts on social media from friends and folks back home, I felt a keen sadness for the nation’s loss of the man who made Singapore what she is today.
Countless politicians, heads of state, journalists and media outlets inundated us with statements, commentaries and judgements on the life and impact of our “giant of history”. I leave this to them.
What I’ve been mulling over, what preoccupies me as a parent, is what Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy entails; it’s what he has left Singaporeans, our future generations and my daughter.
Every opportunity is available to my daughter:
- She has access to education from an early age and will never have to struggle for the right to go to school.
- She can run around freely in our neighbourhood and enjoy her childhood innocence in playgrounds.
- She can go out with her mother now, or alone in the future, without restriction or the necessity of being accompanied by a male presence.
- She can travel around our little island on public transport, and see marvellous skyscrapers and iconic buildings, all set amidst verdant flora.
- Her safety outside our home is not an issue that her father or I have to worry our heads about, neither does she need to be anxious over whether her parents will get home safely at the end of the day.
- She will have friends from so many different cultures and nationalities, and she can be proud of being able to claim heritage from multiple cultures.
Every opportunity awaits my daughter, for her to make something out of it.
For these and many other reasons, my heart hangs heavy and yet swells with pride for our tiny island and I long for the next time we arrive again at Changi Airport, to see the sign “Welcome Home”. It is a home and country that a visionary built. It may not be a perfect place but my daughter has so many things to be thankful for.
This is an original, first post to World Moms Blog from KC, who is currently stationed with her family in Abu Dhabi but born and bred in Singapore. This is their first international job posting with their daughter, TT, who is now 22 months old. You can read more about Singaporean-expat life through KC’s eyes on her blog, Mummy In Transit, or through her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mummyintransit .
The image used in this post is credited to the author’s friend, Jacob O’Quinn, and is used here with permission.