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Saturday, January 31, 2004 

new and old

Today was my first packed day - besides the KL trip - that I've had in ages. I must say it feels good to get out of the house but at the same time, I'm quite mindful that I can't have too many of these. Unless I find a source of income, temporary or permanent.

This said Saturday began with squash at Yio Chu Kang with Cheryl. I haven't played squash since just after the exams. I've grown fatter since then, so I was quite slow today. Still, it felt great to exert myself a bit. And my competitive spirit/streak had a chance to be let loose. Cheryl has been playing on and off, and we're both still evenly matched. I honestly thought she wasn't playing 100% today. After about half an hour, I was really tired. But then, when I played in Melbourne, there were always a lot of people to rotate with. Today was just one hour non-stop squashing the ball. Damn, it felt so good...

Went home, showered, then went to Mount Alvernia hospital to visit Yani, Ben and baby Sophie. I didn't stay long, and Sophie was asleep while I was there. She's really adorable... So small and fragile. Truly amazing...

I then headed to Sixth Avenue for Nasi Bryani with Michelle and Sam. Really good to see Michelle again, the last time was at graduation, and prior to that was before she left Melbourne. Sam, I haven't seen in a year or so. Bryani was excellent, just as I remember it... only not served on banana leaf. They claimed they ran out. I'm always surprised by my meetings with Sam. To think that we were not exactly on talking terms during first year in mass comm. Well, stranger things have happened in my life. And most people know that a similar dynamic existed between me and Damian for ages. How things change...

Lately, long lost friends have been getting in touch with me. I don't recall mentioning it before, but a primary school classmate got in touch with me. He got my contact info from ICQ. So, when I got a strange SMS from Indo asking me if this is Kenneth Pinto, I was quite sure it was someone from COSDU playing around. Well, turns out the SMS was sent by an Indonesian guy who was my classmate in upper primary at Saint Anthony's. He also found the link to my blog... which is how he discovered what happened to Miss Tan/Mrs Choo. He did want to contact me to see if he could get in touch with her. I'm quite sad he had to find out that way.

Anyway, still on the long lost friends road: I went for sunset mass after meeting Michelle and Sam. I hadn't attended sunset mass at Risen Christ for ages. I usually attend 6 p.m. on Sunday or go somewhere else. I've never really got used to the new priests, the new atmosphere, the new surroundings. Nevermind the building, the church community I knew and loved had 'disappeared' for me ever since I was studying in mass comm. Those were low days, then I had the half year break before uni which changed my life. That change continued on in Melbourne. But returning home, it was hard to find my niche in church. It had become a building once again. One I wasn't entirely familiar with (since the extensions were added) at that.

I saw Adrian Mak. As surprises go, this one ranks up there with my many birthday surprises. But that was merely the glint of sunlight through the crack of the window. Adrian was an altar server way back. He joined before I did. I joined in primary six, and got to know him then. He then went to SJI, as I did. And we were classmates in Secondary Three and Four. He quit the servers before I did, and we went to different junior colleges, which spelt the end of our keeping in touch. National Service brought us back together for two months. We were in the same Medic Specialist course. I've seen many sides of Adrian, and he was at one point, my best friend.

This guy is an absolute genius. How he never made it to medicine remains one of the mysteries of the universe. He was devastated to say the least. His application for dentistry didn't go through, and he found out while at the medic course. But the Adrian I met today would probably have said that was God working in his life. He became quite withdrawn - so I heard - when I was in poly. I knew he attended mass at St Bernadette's. And I suspect he, like me, stopped going for mass regularly at one point or another.

Back to the present: He told me he was doing his PhD in Chemistry. Did I mention that he learnt Tamil in class in between lessons? Anyway, I told him that he took another route to being a doctor. He said it was an even better route... Something was definitely different about him. Another surprise: he was a cathecist.

Digression: Now I have two old friends who are cathecists at Risen Christ. Lester and Adrian. Both Altar Servers. Both Josephians. Both know my aunt who is also a cathecist. (Oh, and Joseph Soh, who works with refugees, knows my uncle Gordon.)

Needless to say I was gobsmacked. He asked what I was doing, and suggested relief teaching. Said that he did it, and it was a life-changing experience. Anyway, he half-jokingly suggested I become a cathecist too. He was the second one to do that. No prizes for guessing who was first.

Mass. An unfamiliar priest said Mass - Fr. William Goh, professor at the major seminary. And the sermon was surprisingly fiery. He started off saying that the problem with the world today is amorality. Faith issues aside, he went from pro-PAP (paraphrase: as GCK said, if the family falls apart - goodness, the Asian values arguement. If only that was truly Asian, and there are universal truths). I was saying to myself at one point, it's no wonder Singaporeans will never vote against the PAP... even church leaders are preaching their word from the pulpit. He even quoted, "regardless of race, language or religion". THEN, he said that Jesus came to save us ALL, not just Catholics. Hmmm... agreed there.

From there, he swung to anti-government (or at least took a contrary view to the party in power) concerning the death penalty. That, he said, was not on. He did make good points about love and forgiveness interspered with highly debateable theological and political views. Anyway, I was seated in the gallery, looking down... and saw another Adrian. Fannster. Great! Someone from Melbourne to discuss the sermon with. Well, I'm quite sure Fr. Goh was not making a political statement of any sort. Still, it was thought and faith provoking stuff. Finally, a sermon that spoke to me... If I was a seminarian, the seminary would be all blood and thunder. Metaphorically.

Anyway, also spotted in the crowd: Adrian Mak's and my fellow friend, Lester. Hmmm... We used to all stay in Bishan, so we'd go home after classes together, especially when we were in the afternoon session in Secondary One. Those were great days. Weekdays we saw each other in school. Weekends, we saw each other in church. We knew who was interested in whom. Ooops... reminiscing again...

After mass, Adrian and I chatted with Lester for a while. Lester, too, was surprised he became a cathecist. Adrian said it was a long story... We're going to meet up to hear it. From the little he has revealed, I know it's going to be very interesting, and would probably echo some of my personal experiences.

I went home feeling good about having attended sunset mass. It was no coincidence. Adrian said he hardly ever attended sunset mass too. For the first time in a long time, I felt community in church. My good old friends seemed not so far away, not mere figments of my memory... Chapters that I considered closed in my life have reopened. There are more pages to write yet. Having to leave COSDU opened a gap in my spiritual life. Perhaps that gap will be filled soon...


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