Back in 1985


I remember some dates. 25 February 1985 is one. That was when I arrived in Australia for the very first time. Uni was starting a week from that day. Innocently, and perhaps thinking economically/financially it made sense, I stupidly thought one week was enough for me to settle down before classes started.

The next few years were very formative for me. Sydney is harder to like than Melbourne. Maybe it was the eastern suburbs surrounding the UNSW. Kingsford, where I first bunked with a friend, was an old and tatty suburb. So was Kensington, where I eventually found a shared house with 5 other Malaysian students. I shared a room with an Engineering student who studied non-stop, as I started absorbing my surrounds. I made a beeline to the library newspaper sections everyday, as soon as I had a free period. The Sydney Morning Herald was followed by the London Times to catch up on what’s happened in the English first division football. The SMH became a staple and I soaked up what life in Australia outside Kingsford and Kensington (and later, Randwick) was like. I can still smell the musty old carpet of that lounge where I slept that first week I arrived, even as I type this out.

On Saturday, Tress and I drove across town to a part of Australia that is vastly different to the Australia that I arrived to, 34 years ago. We drove up to Woodend, to catch up with Ruth and Jonathan, and their little boy Micah. Ruth is a first cousin on my dad’s side. They have a small farm (it is still over 5 acres), which they bought a couple of years ago. It’s quite a track to get over yonder, so we don’t visit as often as I would have liked. The 100 or so km is a bit tiring to get through, especially those bits where we had to get through and pass, the CBD. It was especially hard on the return trip, when my energy level has dissipated.

We left home around 11am, and didn’t get back till about 5.30pm. There was supposed to be a sports quiz thing at St Alf’s that night but we (I, mainly) were pooped. Tress had been unwell the night before, and woke up in the middle of the night with tummy pain and got sick. It could have been the Japanese we had on Friday night, but I was unharmed, so it could be something else. The Japanese restaurant we went to was very nice. It was just round the corner from our home, and on Friday night, we were seated on a table that was next to an elderly Japanese man with two elderly ladies. It turned out he was the owner and we received very generous treatment. So I hate to think the food made Tress sick but the end result was we were both tired when we got home from Woodend, so we simply stayed home and gave the quiz night a miss.

On Sunday, when we were at St Alf, a young couple made a presentation. They had been in Thailand the past 4 years and recently returned to Melbourne. They did work helping girls who succumbed to the evil human trafficking trade. We had made some financial contributions through their 4 years so it was very heart warming to hear of the really good work they had done. When they returned to their seats, I noticed they were sitting next to the Collie’s. Michael Collie head up Sparklit. We also make small regular financial contributions to Sparklit, so as Mike McNamara spoke of doing our part and responding in obedience, I thought that in as much as I always felt I ought to do more, I am in some ways, already doing my bit as we chug along in what feels like uneventful lives. The quiet, sideline-contribution role is perhaps what we (I) have been called to do.

Later in the arvo, as Tress went out for her ethereal pursuits, I went out for a haircut, cooked something for lunch at work, and went out to do some work in the garden. I gave every single plant a dose of seasol, rendering the house a lingering fishy smell… The lawns also got some feed and weed stuff and when it was all done, and Tress had walked the little guy, we settled down to watch some tele. There was really nothing to watch so I found some YouTube stuff to watch. Someone in a forum had mentioned Savage Geese as a car reviewer and I soon marveled at what a terrific reviewer he was. I watched his review of the MX5, and was thrilled to find out he loved the car as much as I do. Tress heard all the good stuff and when it was over, she said why don’t we take the car for a ride. She wanted to take the wheel… thank you Savage Geese… What I didn’t tell her was, while waiting for the sun to abate a bit (it was a hot day) before I went out to the gardens, I had also watched Savage Geese do a review of the Lexus RC350. He had even better things to say about that car – a car I have been eyeing in recent months. However, now that Tress is starting to warm up to the MX5, I wonder what the equation looks like now. The reason I had eyed the RC350 was her aversion to the MX5 – she always had me back the car out when she wanted to go out, so she could take the 6 Wagon.

This morning, going through my mail, I saw something from Don, the Chair at Steer. He asked what we thought about the business case of the MST proposal (if there was one). Thinking about that, I wondered about how that proposal mixes commercial issues with spiritual ones. That dichotomy would never leave us. The idea started as an investigation for an office space and it has now turned out to be a proposal that involves land development and investment of a very involved kind. It made me recall what grandfather did during his time with the MBS (Malaysian Bible Seminary), back when they were only shophouse occupiers in Taman Rasnah in Klang. Today, they have their own sprawling campus somewhere in Selangor. I don’t think grandfather survived to see that transition.

I hope I get to see a transition where Steer develops into a much more mainstream mission enabler. That would be a wonderful next phase of a journey that started, in many ways, 34 years ago today.

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