Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My British badminton experience...

I have been having 3 days of full fledged badminton for the last 1 month. Our coach has been stepping up during training sessions which means we now train at least 7 hours a week. It has been tiring but good. Let's go back a couple of months back to September.
A confident Malaysian flew across half the world to take on the English in Badminton. Well that was not my main purpose but it was definitely on the agenda. I really wanted to test my standard in a different country. I must say i was pretty confident when i got here. I took a visit at the sports centre on my 2nd day here and saw people knocking about in the court. I walked up to tell the coach i was interested in joining the team and he told me to come for badminton sessions. It was not until i attended badminton sessions the week later that i realise how lousy i was. Well, at least i underestimated the english badminton players. I was even fortunate enough to get into the University team of 10. The Brunel Badminton team consist of a Sri Lankan, a Jordanian, an Indian, 6 English and a Malaysian. I realised that the Jordanian guy has played in international circuits before which includes the Asian Games. Out of the 10 in the team, 5 of them are basically National standard players. They were mostly former Junior National Players who didn't make the Senior Team. So basically it was the other 5 of us fighting for one place because only 6 get to play every week. So i was basically a back up player. The coach would also rotate us around when some of the first team players couldnt make the games. So i did get to play a couple of games. I also got to travel to other places like Reading, Imperial College and Royal Holloway for the away matches. It was a great experience.
Brunel were demoted last year from the premiership badminton university league. Because of the wealth of good players that have just came in this year, we easily won our 1st division league. We were basically champions even with 6 more games to go. As champions of our division, we qualified for the knock out tournament to be crowned champions of the UK. For the knockout stages, i travelled to University of Cardiff(Mum's uni) for our pre-quarter finals which we duely beat them 6-2. I was then dropped for the quarter finals because one of the first team players returned. I actually expected it but still continued to attend training to improve myself for next year. It was while i was training yesterday afternoon that the coach suddenly called me over. He said:' Isaac, i see you have been improving recently. So i have decided to let you play tomorrow but promise me you will play like hell tomorrow ok?' I nodded my head with excitement. The coach dropped one the first team players to let me play. Wow.. Therefore we played University of Leicester in our Semi Finals today. I play 2nd doubles and played extremely badly in our first match which we lost in 3 sets to the our opposition 2nd pair. We were tied on matches with Leicester and didn't give ourselves(my partner and i) much hope against their 1st pair. I told myself that i had to make less mistakes, focus and just do my very best for the team. We both played our hearts out against the top pair and our efforts were paid off when we beat them in straight sets against all odds to send Brunel University into the final. The feeling was just magnificient as the whole hall raptured into cheers as we congratulated and embraced each other on our fantastic victory. It was as if we won the tournament, but nothing was going to stop us from celebrating a fantastic victory and more so a ticket to the final in Sheffield.

For all those who think only the Chinese and Malaysians can play badminton, think again. Or at least the guys in my university are really good. I have learnt so much ever since getting into the team. We have a wonderful coach who volunteered to coach us as his job is to coach the England National Juniors as they also use Brunel facilities.

'I just want to Thank God for giving me this opportunity to play for the Badminton team. I want to use this gift that God has given me to glorify His name.'

Come on Brunel!! Let's be champions!!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Is it that urgent?

I was at work in the Chinese restaurant on Saturday night. It was really busy and i was constantly walking up, down and around the restaurant for a full 5 hours non stop. I was quite an experience and i certainly learnt a lot from it. But that was not it. A rather amusing thing happened as the night was nearing to an end. There was this family of about 13 people seated at the main table of the restaurant. I think they were celebrating the birthday of their father/grandfather/father in law who must be approximately 75 years of age. They were all having a good time and i still remember that old man downing a couple pines of beer. As everybody was waiting for their desserts suddenly, the old man started to fall forward with eyes closed. I was a mere 1 metre away from their table. I watched in a bit of shock while nearly every single person at the table stood up. Some just burst out crying, some quickly attended to the old man and the others turned to me and shouted:'Call the ambulance!!'. The chief waiteress quickly grabbed the phone and called for the ambulance. It must have been about 10-15 seconds when the family members kept asking me to call the ambulance. The worst thing was they kept asking me how long it will take for the ambulance to come. All i could answer was 'they are calling now' and 'ambulance should come soon'. They all suspected a heart attack. This all happened so fast and because of the amount of people crowded around the old man i couldn't really see what was happening.
Suddenly i saw the old man lift up his head and open his eyes. I think it was because of the bad odour from everybody that woke him. He explained that he was tired and opted for a 20 winks. hahaha.. i really couldn't believe it and nearly burst out laughing. Strains of laughter broke out among the family members themselves but some of the crying grew worse for some reason. Maybe that proves that tears for joy usually produce more tears than sadness. In the end, the ambulance still came shortly after. They still took the old man in a wheel chair and brought him to hospital just as a precaution. I also over heard the doctor asking the old man while wheeling him out saying:'Sir, you mean the food over here is that dodgy until you fainted?' Hahaha.. It wasn't the most pleasant thing to experience while i was there but how it all turned out, i found it rather amusing.

Another thing that happened during the week was a family friend that passed away. Uncle Ron was dad's former boss years ago in kluang. He watched me grow up and constantly came over to my house to play with me. I do not have any recollection of him and his wife, Aunty Damaris because they left kluang when i was still quite young. The amazing thing was that every single year after they left, they never failed to send us Christmas presents. They were close to my parents and treated us as their own children as they had none. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit them in November with mom and dad. I remembered that time while we were having dinner. I was truly amazed at the way he presented himself as a person. The knowledge he had of things was astounding as well and it must definitely be the amount of books he reads. When dad texted me on thursday to tell me about his passing, i was speechless. Thoughts ran through my mind wildly. A man that i have only met once a couple of months ago somehow has made quite an impact in my life. The promise that i made to him that i would visit him again soon to play chess can now never be done. The thing that breaks my heart is the fact that he hasn't received salvation. At least not to my knowledge. God have mercy on him, please.

Sigh.. I have been feeling really tired for the past week. Not only physically but more so mentally. Issues to deal with, assignments yet to complete, badminton and football training doesn't exactly help much. This 2 things that has happened made me think about life. It made me think about how unpredictable life can sometimes be. In church today, the speaker mentioned that according to scientist our world will totally poison itself in about 15 years time. Not 50, not 20 but 15 years. As i thought about it, there was a sudden urgency inside that leap in me. It seems so foreseeable. So near, so soon. The speaker then further pointed out the closeness of Chirst's return which relates to earth's self destruction . It's always the case of time is short but so much still to do.
We constantly hear this cliche 'Live everyday as if Chirst will be returning tomorrow.'
Are we that urgent for the Lord's cause? Is the return of Chirst important to us? Is it important to me personally?
The thing is that important will lead to urgent if nothing is done. But i think whether we like it or not it is entering the urgent stage already.

Lord, help us to realise the urgency of your return. Let us be ready and not regret. Amen

Monday, February 18, 2008

Alast.. the long wait ends..

It's been more than a week since i posted anything. Why? Simply because the last week has been the most busy week in my time here in UK. Last week, i actually spent more time outside London than in it.

Monday and Tuesday: Lectures at University. First day of work in restaurant on Tuesday.
Wednesday: Travelled to University of Cardiff(Mum's university) in Wales to represent Brunel in Badminton Knock-out Competition.
Thursday: Valentines Day! Brought Alice and Serena to visit Windsor Castle.
Friday: Day off from lectures but second day of work.
Saturday and Sunday: MANCHESTER here i come!!!

I went to Machester with my friends Joan, Serena, Alice and Rex. We left London in the wee hours of Saturday morning and the incredibly long bus ride resulted in us reaching Manchester with half day already gone. WE spent Saturday having a little tour around city of Manchester. We went to Europe's biggest shopping complex, took loads of pictures and played bowling. But the high point of Saturday was none other than Manchester United whooping Arsenal 4-0 in the FA cup. I was unable to get a ticket to the match but i am pretty sure that my presence in Manchester definitely spurred them on. Woopeeee!!

We had a lazy Sunday as usual but finally got out of the house to make my 11.20 booking of the Old Trafford museum and stadium tour. After all the patient years of waiting, the many dreams i have dreamt, the times i pictures myself running out the tunnel and finally the wait was over. I was standing in the Theatre Of Dreams, home of The Greatest football club on earth, MANCHESTER UNITED!! The museum and tour was great. The tour guide took us around the stadium which was absolutely magnificient. I could imagine in my mind the sort of noise and atmosphere during a match day. We got to go to the dug-out and run out the tunnel. I sat on Sir Alex Ferguson's seat at the dug-out.The best thing was actually being able to enter the players dressing room. The very jerseys that they wore for the game against Arsenal were all hung up on the wall. We got to take pictures with their jerseys and sat at their places. What an experience... We spent a good 3 hours at Old Trafford before we left to pack our bags for the trip home.

We had a quick lunch at Burger King before we hit the road with our 4.30pm coach ride back to London. It was there that our 27hour visit of Manchester ended. As i pondered on my short yet exhilirating experience in Manchester, i wondered why we even contemplated such a short and tiring trip. It is one of those crazy ideas that was decided at the spur of the moment. Something that is unexplainable and all achievable at a certain age. All in all, the most important element was ever present which was Fun. Even though it was tiring and not recovered from it yet, we all enjoyed a weekend out. During our tube ride back to Uxbridge from the Coach Station, we were actually discussing about our next trip. haha..

'Thank you Lord for granting us a wonderful time together. Thank You for keeping us safe. Thank You for the wonderful weather that u had provided as well. Bless You Lord. Amen.'

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Friends in need become a family indeed

Chinese New Year has always been one of the biggest festivals of th year for me. As i come from big families, it is usually a crowded period. I always remember that it will literally be only standing space in my grandfather's house on the 1st day of new year. What Great Fun!! New Year also feels like a few days in the land overflowing with ba kua and pineapple tarts. Instead of 10 glasses of water a day, its 10 cans of soft drinks a day. Casino has come not only to the door step but into the house. There is no such thing as sleep and it is when everyone seems to be contributing to your annual pocket money. What better day in the year than Chinese New year?

Unfortunately, it was not the case over here in the UK. There was still lectures on New Year's day. I had to work on New year's eve and the festive atmosphere over here was at an all time high of zero. The life of a student is definitely one of improvision because of the limited resources that are available. I had a simple New Year's eve dinner with my 'family' over here. Worked on New year's eve night at a restaurant. Spend 1st and 2nd day of New Year busy sorting my part time job and necessary paper work. Think about it.. isn't it sad? While you all back home are busy enjoying the gourmet food, soaking yourself in beer and working your liver triple hard with all the access sugar and salt. Here i am working my butt off and living on bread and water.

On Friday the 2nd the day of New year, my 'family' and i decided we should make the most of our time here in the UK. Enjoy ourselves, the pride of being a chinese must live on. We played cards, mahjong and all sorts of games thru the night into the wee hours of the next morning. The following day, we had our official Chinese New year dinner. Rex, Joan, Alice, Serena and i managed to cook up a menu of 8 dishes that night for dinner. I was quite astonished yet proud of our feat. After dinner we played games again, tell weird jokes, further stuff ourselves with junk food and ended up all lying on the floor near motionless so that we would digest better.

As i come to think about it. We are a bunch of 'homeless' people in a foreign country who come together as a family to support each other. We share everything together. We know each other inside out. We accomodate and help each other when in times of difficulties. We mourn and celebrate together. It is something i feel is unique. My friends and i have come together to be a family because of something we all have in common. The fact that we are away from home and are international students. Because of the common element it has drawn us closer to each other and it therefores makes us stronger. It is similar in the Family of God. The most amazing thing i realise is that whenever i meet another Christian, i meet the person for the first time in my life and might never even meet again but all we need is a couple of minutes of conversation and we seem like best friends. Why? It is because we have a common element in Christ that draws us closer to each other. It is a fantastic feeling to have. I think this can fully explain the famous proverb: 'A friend in need is a friend indeed.'
But i think for my case it will be more like:' Friends in need become a family indeed.'

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A day i will look back on..

Yesterday was one of my most enjoyable days in my time over here in the UK. It was nothing special or spectacular, in fact it was just a day out with my friends Alice, Serena, Joan and Rex. The weather in England is said to be one of the worst in the world. Malaysian will never really fully understand because it is always hot. Other countries have the 4 seasons of Spring, Autumn, Winter and Summer in a year. The English joke that they have the 4 seasons in a day. Sunny at one moment, raining the next. Temperatures can drop as much as 10C in a couple of hours. It doesn't usually rain heavily but it drizzles. The worst thing is that it can drizzle continuosly for more than a day with a gloom above our head. That's English weather for you.

Praise the Lord that He gave us wonderful weather yesterday. The sun was out, sky was clear, a perfect day to be outside. My friends and I decided to go out for a picnic. We didn't really plan anything, but we just wanted to go out, have fun and spend time together. We took a nice slow walk to Uxbridge. Went to tesco to buy some food for our picnic. Pita beard with salsa, McCoy's chips, egg sandwich and chocolate chip muffins were the several choices on our impromptu picnic menu. We marched our way to a nearby park and laid out our sheets right in the centre of the park. We were the only souls in the entire park and we knew the reason why the minute we sat down. IT WAS COLD!! We hadn't really realised it when we were walking but the wind was blowing and it must have been definitely less than 10C. There was a moment when an old couple were walking their dog. They had a good long stare at us. They were in full winter clothing and must be thinking :' What on earth are these 5 crazy chinese doing here out in the cold?'. We decided we will just stay and enjoy our picnic under the sun. Our picnic didn't last very long but we did cross the half hour mark and were on our feet once again. With numb feet and hands the walk back to town was unusually long and i walked into the first shop i saw just to 'defrost'. It was funny, because we all walked in to this grocery store with no intention of buying anything, stayed there for a good 10minutes and back out again. We were in Uxbridge town centre for the rest of the afternoon doing some shopping and enjoying the little children's carnival that was going on as well.

After dinner later that night, we played some card games. Rex would pop a lame chinese joke once in awhile, Joan would be busy multi-tasking, Serena would entertain us with her funny expressions and Alice would be busy blaming me for beating her in our card game. We just hanged out, relax and spent time with each other. Everything was just simple, straight forward and most importantly fun with company that you enjoy. As i reflect on the day we just had, i realise it is something that we will only do at our age. One day i would certainly look back at this day and think, yeah.. with a smile on my face. Thanks to you my dear friends for a great day out.