Archive for June, 2009

A day at the beach not only makes us happy, but can also make us healthy.

Everyone loves a day at the beach: the blue and the coolness of the water, the sea breeze and the relaxation of it all. Now, research is able to spell out its benefits:


  • The sounds of the ocean waves crashing against the shore lull us into a kind of hypnotic stage that not only soothes us, but also lowers blood pressure and stress. The sounds of the waves are one of the most calming sounds in all of nature.
  • The sea air feels different and it is. Sea air is full of negative ions which increase our ability to absorb oxygen. Negative ions are naturally found in places like the beach, waterfall, the forests and mountains, places that make us feel invigorated with the fresh air. They also help to create higher alertness, prevent allergies and combat depression.
  • Many of our lasting memories from childhood and onwards are the discoveries and the happy times associated with the beach. I like this quote from American writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh: “The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”
  • And don’t worry if you can’t away to the beach any time soon. It is said that just gazing at a photo of a tropical scene can release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can boost a person’s mood.
Huntington Beach is about 30 minutes away from my place. It's a pretty, cosy beach and the surfers are always there.

Huntington Beach is about 30 minutes away from my place. It's a pretty, cosy beach and the surfers are always there.

This is the view from  the chalet at Bintan island, Indonesia.

This is the view from the chalet at Bintan island, Indonesia.

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clipvoteI have always been amazed how women all over the world make a strong commitment to vote.

I continue to be fascinated by the fact that across generations, even in countries where women are perceived to have a low profile in public life, women make the effort to make their way to the polling stations, and often stand for hours to make their voices heard.

My thoughts on this issue were awakened when I thought of my grandmother and grandaunt. Like many women from their generation,they were not highly educated and their lives revolved mainly around domestic concerns.

But when elections came around in Singapore, they were tremendously eager to participate.

On election day, you could feel the excitement in the household early in the morning. I remember watching my grandmother prepare for the event in the same manner as though she was going to a wedding. She would carefully select a kebaya (traditional Malay blouse) and a sarong from her cupboard. And before she left the house, she would don a matching selendang (scarf), and a dab of her favorite cologne. I imagine her friends did the same. At any rate, they were always the first to arrive at the polling station, well groomed and fresh.

Many years forward, I watched clips of Iraqis voting in 2005. I am against the war in Iraq, but I was still amazed at the womenfolk’s dedication in going out to vote, in what was said to be the country’s first democratic election in 50 years. And this week, the world saw the same enthusiasm from the women in Iran.

I believe the reason for this dedication is that for some women, voting is the biggest, or in same instances, the only chance for them to impact public life, or to have a say in it.

In general, women take part in the bluster and  intrigue of politics in much smaller numbers than men.  But women are experts at running daily lives, including navigating the nooks and corners of life  that are not glamorous but necessary for normal functioning. Perhaps intuitively, they know that whatever decisions made by the elected government will have repercussions that seep deep down into these nooks and corners.  And they will have the main responsibility to deal with them, away from the public eye.

And so, to all women voters in the world, past, present and future, and especially to those who have to walk longer or harder to get to the polling stations, we salute you.

Iranian women voting in the city of Qom. (Pic from TPM, Newscom/AFP)

Iranian women voting in the city of Qom. (Pic from TPM, Newscom/AFP)

Maasai women voting in western Kenya in 2008. (Pic from BBC News)

Maasai women voting in western Kenya in 2008. (Pic from BBC News)

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sunThe month of June, in many parts of the world, spells vacations and flowers. It  marks the beginning of the months when flowers are blooming bright and strong, courtesy of the summer sun.

Flowers are one of nature’s finest gifts to us. They not only enliven the home, but can also improve our emotional health. Behavioral research shows that the presence of flowers in one’s surroundings triggers happy emotions in both men and women.

Flowers have a long-term positive effect on a person’s mood, and being in the presence of flowers promote increased contact with family and friends.

Talking about flowers, I have observed that it is not so common nowadays to find people with floral names. Some time back, we could come across or meet people named Rose, Lily, Daisy or Dahlia. I guess today, these names sound old-fashioned, and maybe uncool to some.

It’s the same in my Malay culture, although I think the floral names went out of style earlier than the Anglo-Saxon ones.  Names like Melati or Melur (jasmine)and Cempaka (frangipani, also know as plumeria)  are now associated with ancient times or what we call zaman purba. And for some people, these names often recall fictional characters in Malay movies and novels set in the old days. If you are a fan of old Malay movies, perhaps these names remind you, as they do for me, of actress Latifah Omar who was so good in her roles as the kampung (village) beauty.

The best things about flowers is that they are a universal language of beauty. And so, I’m sharing photos of flowers from both sides of the Pacific. The daisy  and godetia are from my garden in California, and the other two were taken at a beach resort in Bintan Island, Indonesia.

Daisy yellow

I love these daisies for the cheery color, and the flowers bloom continuously.


The spider lily could be found in many gardens in my old neighborhood in Singapore. But with development, they were not easily seen. I first heard the name of the flower when I was a kid. It fired up my imagination as I began to wonder and imagine that the spider had a hand in creating or weaving the flower. Thus, when I saw the lily in Bintan, it was charmingly nostalgic.


Flowers and water: an unbeatable combination for tranquility.


I discovered the godetia flowers this year. It is actually a wildflower, and the pink hue adds a sparkle to the garden.

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