When I was asked to share my thoughts on 2014, I thought it would be easy – but it turned out to be the hardest blog post I’ve written as I witnessed many new seasons in 2014. While I use seasons figuratively, it was also literally true due to my student exchange to Brazil in the first half of the year.
A New Perspective on Poverty
My choice to go to Brazil was partially due to a family friend working there as a missionary. I was keen to learn about the social issues. Walking with him and his wife through the inner streets of Sao Paulo, was truly an eye-opening experience, where I realised that external factors often play a greater role than personal action in how people end up trapped in poverty. This was reaffirmed upon my return to Singapore. I took a module which looked into the issues facing low-income Single Parent-headed Households here, and realised how important external circumstances were in shaping their current circumstance. It was truly a humbling experience to interview some single parents and learn about the struggles in providing for their family in spite of their best efforts. I will finish my last semester of studies in the middle of this year. My hope in 2015 is to find a job in the public sector in Singapore and to eventually influence policies that affect the social landscape in Singapore. In the meantime, I will look for opportunities to help the less fortunate in our society in any way I can.
A New Definition of Hospitality
Not being particularly fond of change, it was with some trepidation that I embarked on the exchange to Brazil. Thankfully, the people I encountered in Brazil made the experience a truly exceptional one. The small community of Singaporeans living in Sao Paulo provided amazing support and company over the course of my time there. My first dinner was spent with them, and the first trip out of Sao Paulo was also taken with them. These little tastes of Singapore made my time away from home much more bearable.
The group of exchange students consisted of remarkable individuals from all over the world. One of these students really came to my rescue when I got locked out of my apartment when my parents came to visit me. He and his flatmate immediately opened their apartment to the three of us and did everything to ensure we were comfortable. We thanked them profusely and apologised in equal measure. My friend could not understand why we made such a big deal out of the situation because for him it seemed like the perfectly natural thing to do.
Finally, I was left amazed by the number of Brazilians who would just come up to me and strike up a conversation. That I never really got my Portuguese up to scratch did not stop them from wanting to find out where I come from and what my country is like. All these experiences really put me to shame. Valuing my own personal space, I cannot imagine myself being so enthusiastic about someone else staying in my house. Further, language barrier is for me the best excuse to get out of conversations. The months in Brazil really redefined for me what it means to be a good host, and I hope to take advantage of any chances to extend hospitality to the people I encounter.
A Renewed Appreciation of Family
I definitely felt the distance while I was away in Brazil, but I also continued to feel their support. My family, immediate and extended, encouraged me to go on the exchange, and then made sure I had everything I needed for my time away. While I was there, I knew they were always just a skype call away. Despite the crazy time difference, they managed to create the time to check in on me.
There was a scare while I was in Brazil when my grandmother suffered a heart attack. By God’s grace, she survived it. It was a reminder though of the fragility of life, and the need to make the most of every moment that we have with those we love.
2015 looks to be a year of great transition for my family. For one, I will finish my education and hopefully transit to working life. My family also had the joy of celebrating the engagement of my elder’s sister last year, and look forward to her wedding this year. However, it will be followed by the heartache of her moving over to Newcastle, where her fiancé is based. As I mentioned earlier, I am not particularly fond of change, and hence am a little apprehensive of what the coming year will bring. What the past year has emphasised for me though is that ‘In Every Season, there is Family’!
Abraham is an undergraduate who dreamed of playing professional football when he was 5 (and actually still does). While his love for football occupies a large part of his heart, the remaining portion is shared between his passion for photographing the wonders of God’s creation and love for his family.