To Peter

There are always quite a few sad things that happen in our life.

It’s hard to admit and walk through it but we’re lucky we have each other.

There are always quite a few troubles that affect and change our lives.

They really irritate and bother us but lucky we can always plan it again together.

Love Ava

Temple day in Tainan

On the weekend (2004-03-02) I went back to Ava’s home town to go and see something that her parents thought I should really go and see.

Ava goes to University on the weekends, but she thought it might be nice if I take her parents up on the offer and go down anyway to see this quite famous thing go.

So on Saturday morning I managed to book a seat on a very crowded train and take the 4 hour journey down South, followed by a bus ride that took another hour or so.

One funny thing is that often the food that Ava’s mom cooks for us I really can’t stomach. They eat every part of the chicken imaginable. I don’t fancy chicken neck, but they seem to think it’s great. But last time her mother found out that I don’t mind pizza too much. So within 10 minutes of arriving at their home, she had ordered a pizza from Dominoes.

Well that was enough to keep me stuffed well into the evening. So after I had finished we set off. Her dad and I.

What I was greeted by was something beyond what I could ever have imagined…Here’s a little background.

Every three years all the temples in an area, in this case a whole town, come together to hold a kind of traditional event, which no one so far has been able to tell me why. They all come together and for three day they carry their little gods in their carrying boxes and go and visit all of the temples in that town.

All in all their are 39 temples in their home towns vicinity, I never imagined their were so many.

Every group from every temple has some people at the front banging on their “gongs.” They are also followed by all the people who usually take care of matters at that temple and some people to push or carry around the little cart that the god from their temple rides in.

As they approach a temple the real stuff starts. It’s started off by a string of firecrackers. No, not those little ones you had as a kid, but ones that are about 10 times that size, which apparently scare off evil spirits and the like.

Along with these groups they often have groups of people who do special performances, which are traditional dances of sorts. There were some guys on stilts who did some fighting with swords at the entrance to the temple. There were some women who did another kind of dance. There were another group of men who did a Kung Fu display. On another note the group of men doing KungFu always do it in groups of 36, 72, or 108, but no one has told me the significance of this.

Back to the temple approach. When those guys come to the front of the temple they kind of run at the temple as though the god is trying to get into their temple. This is preceded by a loud banging on a very large drum, which gives a cool effect with the atmosphere.

As that god tries to enter the temple, it is confronted by someone from that temple who looks like they are in a kind of trance and being controlled by the god of that temple. When they approach, the temple protector comes in closer and shouts, at which the approaching god moves back. Once the approaching god moves back, the temple protector takes a piece of wood, covered in nails and whacks himself on his back, as though it was a terrible back scratcher. He takes three whacks and then the approaching god comes at him again. He shouts again and they move back. He then hits himself three times on the back in rapid succession. They do this ritual three times in total after which the approaching god backs down.

They then do a little prayer to the temple and move on with the procession.

NOTE: The whacking on the back maybe doesn’t sound too bad from what I have said here. But he really hits hard. I saw the blood dripping down his back, which they mopped up with “paper” money, which is paper with a print on it, which is burned to the gods.

That was probably the most freakish part of the whole event.

The next day on the Sunday we went to see the procession of children.

The kids are put up on pedastel, 108 of them, all in a really long train and are pulled along. The kid who sits at the front is the kid whose parents paid the most money and so on and so forth. They head around the town throwing candy at people who put their hands out for it.

I think the amount of preparation that goes into the event must be huge, many roads are blocked off as the procession is long and slow. It’s quite something to see, and when I remember to take my camera next time, 3 years from now, I will share them with you.

My new job so far

As of the end of January I started a new job.

Many people may know this already but I will restate it anyway for my friends who are not completely up to date on my goings on.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it but it is at “Joy” franchise school. The ones I had been working at before were all owned by the same boss, who owns the whole company. This school is owned by a couple who have had it open for a few years. At this school I get paid as a full time teacher, which means I also get paid for holidays (not many of those though).

The new job has been nice in a few ways.

Firstly, I needed the mental break as I working for the branch schools I have become a bit disenchanted at how they ran things and how things were organized. I don’t think they were really run too badly, I just really thought that they should all fix the school and that everything should be better.

I have taken a far more proactive approach here at this school, which is easier to do as I can just talk to the boss who has the final say and is in fact very reasonable and nice. In the end I have almost complete control over what we do during our classtime. There are certain things that we still need to cover, but beyond that they trust you to get the work done.

Secondly, I have been using my time very well. I used to just waste away my lunchtimes looking at things on the internet and checking my email. This was a real waste. Now I use my lunch to plan ahead and to prepare for upcoming events. So I am better prepared, which pays off, as I then feel better about my class and so feel more inclined to want to plan. And in doing even more planning I feel even better about things, and so all my work gets done on time and I feel good about it.

So, it’s been very positive overall so far. It is amazing what a little proactivity, something I lack, helps things along.

My Uncle’s death

It’s been a while since I last wrote.

Two weeks ago, my uncle died. It was Wednesday, the 17th if I remember right.

That week was the first phonecall I’ve had from my mother for a while, as it’s too expensive to keep phoning, and we just email.

As she started to speak and told me she had bad news, the first thing on my mind was, “Mor-mor has passed away.” (She is my now 94 year old grandmother). I was a little shocked when she told me it was not my gran, but my uncle.

The sad part is that he is quite young, 50 or so, and that he committed suicide. He had been sufferring from bi-polar depression for at least the last 10 years or so. It has been quite a hard time for him, as well as his close family and friends.

Bi-polar depression is a different kind of depression where you go from very high highs, to very low lows. Instead of being in the pit of depression your body swings from good times down to the bad times and back up again. It is often a discease that needs ongoing medication.

He had a very hard time coping with it as the times when he was on the “high” nothing could go wrong and anything was possible. While when he hit a low, the wheels fell off and those times can be especially bad. And as he got older those highs and lows increased in intensity, so much as to make life quite difficult.

In the end, the sickness just became too much. May he rest in peace (thank God he was a born again believer)

It is a terrible thing for parents to have to bury their children, and I pray for my Gran and Grandpa, as this is really tough for them in their old age (both in their 80s). He was really loved by all of us. He will be sorely missed.

Our 1st Wedding Anniversary

Wow, time really does fly, and not just when you are having fun, although it has been.

Today marks the first year of our marriage. On this day a year ago, we were at the Westville Baptist Church making our vows to each other.

Since then we have had two other weddings, so it has almost been a wedding year for us, which is very nice, but was also quite stressful, with the last wedding being organized by only us.

So what can I say after a year together?

It’s been like a whirlwind.

For those of you who are married, you might know what I’m talking about and those who are not might know too. But it has been quite a time learning to live together with someone else in such a personal way, and getting to know about them.

Both Ava and I have both had to get used to some habits that were very strange for each other, and stop some of the irritating things we did, and do some extra things we wouldn’t have done before.

Then there is the area of expectations. It’s funny how we kind of take some things for granted and assume some things to be known. Learning to communicate how we are feeling in a way that is not offensive to the other person is something else we have had to learn.

And after all is said and done, it has not been an easy year, but then again it wasn’t hard. It has been worth it, and like all the best things in life, the pains and struggles only make the end result that much more fantastic. We have grown to love each other in a way that is hard to describe. Learning to give of yourself for the betterment of our relationship.

The act of giving of oneself for someone else is the essence of true love, Godly love. Not to say that I or Ava are God, but I can get a slightly better picture of how Jesus loved people. He did not have a mushy feeling, he had genuine love. Love that is chosen and shown through sheer effort, knowing what it means to do something loving.

I have personally learned how doing the things you know are loving, no matter how you feel, makes all the difference. Taking out the laundry, even when I don’t want to, changing the rabbit’s litter when it’s so disgusting, and various other little things take little effort on my part (although sometimes I make out like it’s an epic drama) but make all the difference in the end. Because I know it means something to someone who is a priority in my life.

And that’s what counts.

Love you very much Ava.

Lots of photos

Announcing major updates to www.peterandava.com

I have taken a lot of time to get all my pictures up on the website with lots of comments on nearly all of them.

Please take the time to browse around and enjoy.

Most importantly my wedding pictures are all up from both the wedding in South Africa and the one is Taiwan

Death and Sorrow

This Thursday August 10th, 2004, Ava’s friend, affectionately know as ‘the boxer’ committed suicide. I know this may seem awfully morbid, but in the midst of such a sorrowful event, there are things to be learnt, and things we can do.

On Thursday night, Ava saw on the TV that ‘boxer’ had died, and immediately phoned his family to find out what had happened. We went together to where it had taken place. Ava was obviously shocked as she had actually gone out with ‘boxer’ for quite a while before, and was still good friends with him. I was not sure what to think. When we got there, his family were there and we went upstairs to the apartment.

There he was. The big cheerful looking guy who I had met before, lying under a bag on the floor of the apartment. Ava burst into tears, while it took me a little longer. But still now a day later, tears come to my eyes as I write this.

After something like this happens, some of the first things to happen are people start asking questions like “Why didn’t he tell us?” “How could this happen.” “Why didn’t he just call.” In the wake of the persons death are a trail of people who mourn for the loss of someone they love. One of the saddest things for me to think about is to imagine how much pain and suffering he must have been hiding from others that he could go this far.

How could someone not know how much they are loved by so many.

But so often we hide our feelings from other people, we’re scared to expose ourselves to the criticism of others which is often what we get when we are completely honest. My appeal to everyone is to show and tell those you love, that you do. NEVER assume the people you love know you do. Tell them and show them. Our lives are a gift from God, you never know when things will change, when that person will be gone, or what may happen in the future.

Jesus commanded us “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all you strength” after this he said “and love your neighbour as yourself.” That’s not the person who lives next to you, it’s every single other human being put onto this planet. Love everyone. Our time on this earth is short, we are given the gift of life, but one day we will die. Jesus said “love your neighbour.” What more can we do than to love others, this covers everything. No matter what techniques there might be to help people or whatever, you need to LOVE them. Nothing else matters. Everything will pass away, your things will be gone, you can’t take them with you, no more fancy car or house.

The only gift you can give that will last for all eternity, is the knowledge of God and his son Jesus Christ. What God has done is undeniable, service to him is the only answer. We are all searching, whether we know it or not, and the answer is Christ.

But the most important is to tell them of the love of God.

He always loves you, no matter what.

His sacrifice to you was his one and only son Jesus Christ.

So my appeal to everyone is to love others. Show others the love that God has for you. It’s the gift for life, and the time thereafter.

If ‘boxer’ had know the infinite love of the Lord, who knows what would have happened, but as God is the King of everything, pray that He revealed himself to ‘boxer’ and that as he saw the awsome love of God he found that love that he seemed to not feel here.

God bless all of you.

So how can we make a difference?

I have been talking about blame in my previous two articles, and how it is so destructive.

But what other choice do we have?

Firstly, we are humans, born free. What I mean is that we are free in our own minds. Nobody can take away what we have in our own heads, at least not yet. No matter what our situation, we are the one who is solely in charge of our own mind.

But that does not mean that our mind is perfect.

What we think is influenced in so many different ways by so many diffferent things. Sometimes it is influenced by what happened in our childhood. Maybe it is influenced by some other event, like the death of a family member or something. It could be effected by even small incidents.

So, back on track now.

My point I am trying to get to is how much impact we have over our own thoughts. We are not slave to our thoughts, our thoughts are created by us. It’s your mind, and trying to say something like, “I can’t help it, that’s just the way I am.” implies that you do not have control over it. You do. Also, your thoughts dictate your actions, so it implies the things you do are not of your own making, but yet you are the owner of your own mind and thoughts.

I do not mean to say this is easy to change, it often takes a great effort to do, and might take someone years to figure out.

Take control of your thoughts and start taking action. Once you realise the power you have to change, it will be amazing how you could ever have thought you never had control. By taking action and making a direct difference you will increase the number of ‘positive’ thoughts you have about whatever it is and your thoughts will change. If you mumble and moan, you will increase the bad feeling because that is all that is on your mind. Which would you rather choose?

Freedom is quite apparent in the life of Jesus.

For example, in the time when Jesus was around there was quite a stigma, as there is still today about talking to prostitutes, and in that day even to women in an open way, especially when you don’t know them. When Jesus spoke with the woman by the well, imagine how strange it must have been for the others who saw it. But yet he did it because his focus was God and not the ‘status’ of the other person. Jesus also had dinners with other ‘unclean’ people, like tax collectors.

What kept the disiples from speaking to certain people, did not stop Jesus.

So when Jesus says, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I’ve sometimes wondered how much we will know. Those shackles that keep you tied, which might even just be in your own head, are undone through the love of God. The blinkers are removed and you will finally know, the truth.

So the answer: follow Jesus. He will set you free.

God bless, until next time.

PS. Remember, God has given us a manual for life, the Bible. If it does not answer your questions, perhaps you are asking the wrong ones.

News update

Well, it’s been great to have the week off work. Tomorrow I have to go in to work to do a demo class for the new kids who are coming to our school.

In my week off I have been waking up early and spending time with Ava. It’s quite nice to have free time at different times of the day. I have been spending a fair amount of time at the computer, so my breaks are at different times to what I am used to.

The Monday just past (2004/07/26) I went to go check out another school. It’s the one that two of the other teachers who are leaving our school are going to.

It’s not too different from the school I am at now, but it is a different system and looks quite organised.

Things go on as usual. Ava is starting to try and sell some things on eBay here in Taiwan. It’s quite exciting and I hope we can make it go well. I am going to be setting up a webpage for her too.

The overcoming depression website is still getting a little bit of work. Now that this site is done (www.peterandava.com) I can go back to polishing off the depression one and making sure everything is working OK and looks fine, and that the forums are set out in a nice way. The forums are it for the meantime. Maybe some article submission would be cool, but it will wait.

Following Ava’s interest in eBay I have downloaded some ebooks to try and see what there is to see. I might actually try to sell some of the books on eBay too, but I will need them translated first.

That’s all for now.

More about blaming

Blame.

The more I think about blaming others, the more I see what a devastating effect it has on the lives of so many, and then the less I want to think about it.

So where does it come from, what causes us to become blamers, looking to other people to be the cause or source of our misfortune. Firstly I’d like to outline some things where we do blame others, these are just some thoughts, just as they come up. In fact some of these are probably because I myself have done or continue to do them.

“My job sucks, things will be better when I get a promotion or change jobs.”
“That person makes my life so difficult, I can’t do anything because of them.”
“If only (something) hadn’t/had happened then (something) would be better.”

One thing we must remember however, before I go on, is that we must NEVER try to play down someone elses pain or hurt, even if it appears to be their own fault. God is the judge, the standards by which we judge others will be the standards by which we are judged. Care and understanding is always necessary, because these things often cause very deep pain.

So, firstly lets look at the person who hoping a new job will help them. The realities are that a new job could very well be better for the person, a promotion too could do the same thing. One thing we have to note is the business world. Often the reason for wanting the move or change is something that has not been fulfilled by our work. Maybe the co-workers are a pain in the butt, maybe the boss is not nice.

But have you tried to change the situation?

Many times wonderful things begin to happen when one person decides they are going to put asside their personal needs and wants and try to help others, and see the other persons side. Have you actively stopped talking about fellow employees and the boss behind their back. Become their advocates and look for the best in them, very often simply finding the positive things in someone else is a good start. Or at the very least, just stop gossiping. I have found that very often the complaints about someone else are actually a very true reflection of your own shortcomings. Action, and talking to the other person about issues that are on your mind is infinitely more useful than talking about them. It takes character and strength to do this quite often, but it’s well worth it.

I appears I have pretty much covered the annoying other person comment.

It’s sad to say but blaming appears to become the way people do things from childhood. The school “system” and don’t forget that’s what it is, schools did not look like they do today a few hundred years ago. Our current education system has children stuck in chairs from a ridiculously young age learning things that were useful to explorers two hundred years ago, but not very relevent today, quite often. This system does not allow children to develop the skills they need to get on with others. It is a very basic thing to pass the blame onto others, I have seen my own classes of children do this. Children need to develop the character to accept their mistakes, parents need to discontinue disproportionate punishment for childrens mistakes, and make them take responsibility in a sensible manner. This way we can help them to grow up to be mature adults who can work well with others.

So in conclusion I think we all need to consider where we put the blame. If we can do something, then do it. If you’re in the situation already, think about what you can do. Don’t blame the system, find a way to work with it, become a leader. Christ was the greatest leader, and what did he do? He served.

Jesus was terrified when he was on his way to be crucified, but he brought his fears before God with prayer and all the time was a servant.

I pray that each of us can become more like this, and realise what wonderful plans God has in store for out lives. Stop worrying about all of your own problems and become a servant.

Until next time, God bless.