Sunday, February 8, 2015

Just Jacq

“Happy Hải”, “Terrific Tuấn”, “Decisive Dương”, “Magnificent Mary”, “Graceful Grace”, “Kind Khoi”, “Peaceful Presley”, “Trustworthy Tiến” and so the game goes.  We sit in a circle and introduce ourselves to newcomers in our “Fun Club” group at Mike and Jacq's house and we then come to the hosts themselves. 

“Merciful Michael”.  The first impression of Michael is that he's slow to anger and has a gentle spirit about him.  A powerful personality, still, to be sure – but quite different from his wife’s.

“Just Jacq”.  Jacq is seen as more direct, firm and out for justice! She is going to tell you like it is and her words will be fewer, but just as timely. 

Michael and Jacq compliment one another perfectly, and while this simple ice-breaker game could never come close to giving us a full picture of each of their characters, it does give us a bit of a glimpse.

And a glimpse is sometimes all people have.  They walk away knowing a lot about Michael and perhaps all they need to know about Jacq, with “Just Jacq” becoming dangerously confused with “simply Jacq”, or “only Jacq”.  So, on the occasion of her birthday, I’d like to take the opportunity to honor someone who has been a big sister to me – Jacqueline Ngin – by sharing some more of what I’ve seen in her life over the years.

The Family I met in 2004 (Mike, Grace and Jacq)

The truth is, Jacq might not mind the latter interpretation of “Just Jacq” at all, because she is such an amazing servant, happily and effectively helping and advising behind the scenes.  She is one of the most hospitable people you will ever meet.  In fact, that’s how I got to know  Mike and Jacq a bit better in the first place.  When I was travelling through Singapore to Vietnam in 2004, they allowed this “ang moh”, who was only planning to be in Vietnam (where they had already lived for a few years) for 11 months, to stay with them.  To further illustrate how important that 5-day stay at their home was – on my second day there, they introduced me to my future wife! (But that’s another story.)
With Jacq, Grace and friends Shaw and Ray in Colorado (2004)

I had met Jacq a month earlier in the U.S. during our organization’s conference in Colorado.  The first thing I remember her saying to me was: “Oh, you don’t eat seafood or vegetables?  I’m sorry, but you’re not going to make it in Vietnam!”  None of this, “Hey, it’s great that you’re leaving the States to go and work in Vietnam and I’m sure after some time there, you’ll be able to adapt and acculturate to the lifestyle there.”  Uh-uh.  Jacq just dropped the truth on me – “Change your eating habits.”  No “ifs” “ands” or “buts” about it – get it done.  You have to change.

I thought to myself, “Who is this lady?  She just met me and she thinks she can just be so up front with me?  I’ll show her.”  Well, that didn’t happen.  I eat a lot more seafood and vegetables these days.  J  She was right.

As time went on, and I ended up staying in Vietnam longer, I got to know Jacq better and become more accustomed to her method of communication.  Sometimes her words have still stung, much like words from a big sister are prone to do.  But in the same way, she has also more than often been spot on with her words.  Because let’s be honest, sometimes the truth stings – sometimes it even annoys. 

There is a song called “Brother’s Keeper” that I quite like.  One lyric that reminds me of Jacq is:  “There’s no point in pointing fingers, unless you’re pointing to the truth.”

Singapore Girl Power!  Grace, Mary and Jacq (2006)

She was super-helpful when I was pursuing that wife I mentioned earlier.  It wasn’t just Michael who was giving me counsel.  She was such a gift when I had a Chinese friend that needed her as a big sister too.  She was the one who told Michael to “go for it” when the vision of Tea Talk was forming.  What a blessing of support those words are to a husband.  And the support hasn’t stopped.  She has trained staff there in baking, and has done so well that she can with humility and yet a healthy pride say that who she has trained is now better than her. 

Indeed, she has shown her strengths and vulnerabilities here in Vietnam over the years, in both word and deed.  There has been much laughter and plenty of tears.  She has been through a lot, and has blessed many around her through her commitment to trust in the One who has brought her and the family here. 
Jacq recovering from a motorbike accident (2007)

I’ve been on the receiving end of her forgiveness more than once (and for things more serious than that time I exploded an air-tight container of sugar cubes all over her kitchen because I didn’t know how to open it properly) and enjoyed some of her awesome meals.  I’ve seen her persevere through a motorbike accident and passionately home-school her daughter on the second floor of a house off Khuất Duy Tiến.  I’ve seen her care for our own kids and, most recently, even help us in naming our new son Owen. 

“Just Jacq” has just been a model of patience, diligence, consistency, and sacrifice.  We in Vietnam are more than blessed to have not just Michael but also Jacq – they come as a powerful package, and support one another wonderfully.  As a result, they support and build up others more effectively, reflecting some of the beautiful characteristics of He who brought them to us.

Happy Birthday to my big sister – Jacqueline Ngin.  Thank you for always being someone that I can learn from and look up to.  PEACE, Presley

Not much has changed in the past 11 years:  Jacq is still a 
consistent friend and I'm still wearing the same T-shirt. :)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hilman & Noi - journey of a lifetime.

We, Hilman Ang and Norleila Yusoff, are from Singapore and came to Vietnam in 1991 to invest and setup a factory in garment manufacturing, garment finishing and Buying office. We lived in Vietnam fulltime and pretty much Vietnam has become our 2nd home. In 1994, our daughter Tiana    Ang came to our life and we raised her in Hanoi and today she has become a beautiful and responsible mature woman.

In 2012, we wind up the factory. Not an easy decision, after spending so much time, efforts and friendships with so many wonderful people in Hanoi. I spoke to my wife, that we should ride to HCMC first to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the countryside, second, to return back to the people of Vietnam what we had achieved and blessed with all these years.

My personal achievements to date 

- age 16 - climb Gunung Ledang 4000 ft
- age 18 - climb Gunung Tahan 7200 ft
- age 25 - marry my school day sweetheart Norleila (Noi) 
- age 31 - Tiana came into our life
- age 46 - quitted smoking. Used to smoke 1 1/2 pack a day
- age 49 - ran my 1st marathon - slow but make it
- age 50 - celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary by performing our Hajj at Mecca
- age 51 - ride motorcycle from Hanoi to HCMC with my friend Shahrir

In 2014, we came out with the idea of raising funds towards a Charity organisation by cycling to HCMC (1700km) while Noi taking the motorbike carrying all the supplies and who knows (hahaha, Vietnam style one leg push at my bike up the hills) I might need help. We were looking for an organisation sometime end of 2014 that need our help. That decision was made during the Singapore social night (organised by the Singapore embassy ) where i met Michael Ong introducing TeaTalk and his work. We were happy to meet up again on the next week and happy to find someone who has such an energy and commitments towards the society.

With these, we hope for your kind supports by way of donation via cash into the cash boxes situation at selected restaurants or by TTR to the bank account. After donation, please drop us an email so that we can provide up to date information as the ride began.

Once again Thank you for all the supports and God bless

Hilman Ang
Norleila Mohd  Yusoff
Tiana Ang

To follow Hilman's & Noi's bike journey, click here. 

In Vietnam - CoRE's bank account
Bank name:  BIDV 
Number account: 22010000592607
Address:Thang Long Branch

By paypal

In Singapore - Hilman's personal bank account
Bank name - Standard Chartered Bank
Bank address - 6, Battery Road
Account name in Bank - Muhammad Hilman Ang
Account number - 0101102178

In New Zealand - Hilman's personal bank account
Bank name - ANZ Bank
Bank address - Auckland
Account name in Bank - Muhammad Hilman Ang
Account number - 011839-0148451-00

In USA - be sure to indicated Vietnam - Tea Talk CoRE project

For all donations, please drop an email to all these addresses for accountability purposes:


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I am who I am because of you ...

16 425.  I like to play with numbers.  Maybe because when I was young, my parents like to play with numbers too.  "Chap Dee Gee" meaning 12 sticks in Hokkien.  Basically, you place your bet on some numbers and if you guess it correctly, you win some money.  No, I don’t bet my luck on numbers but numbers play a huge role in my life.

Grace my daughter was born at 314 am.  When I first came to work in Hanoi, my Vietnamese friend, Thang, friend of more than 23 years now, gave me his motorbike, a Honda Dream with the number plate 314.  When I was offered a scholarship to pursue a masters degree in social work in America, the area code of that area is 314.  Those of you who are familiar with this area code, you will most likely know where I did my masters. 

1414, 818, 333.   The numbers keeps going.  Well, if you visit my dad and stay with him, you will see him patiently and quietly sitting in his room writing on a book full of numbers.  At 82 years of age now, he continues to keep his journal on numbers. Maybe that is why the Bible has the book called Numbers.  Oh, yes, so what is 16 425. It the number of days I have been alive.  Thank you mum and dad for teaching me to count my days.

Mum & Dad

I am the 7th of 7th in the family.  That’s PERFECT score. I am the youngest child.  Definitely not the most spoilt.  I can promise.  Or maybe it is better to verify it with my siblings.  I believe they will agree.  Um, maybe not.  Let’s not go there. Nonetheless, I am most privileged. Mary, my 6th sister know this very well.  Mary is 3 years older than me.  So we share many things.  Unfortunately, I always got the “better” share. So Mary thought.  Mum will leave Mary at home and bring me out.  Maybe I am the youngest so mum brought me along in case my siblings bully me. NO! That is certainly not the case.  I certainly do not remember all the reasons why I get to go out with my mum and Mary did not.  However, I do remember a few incidents.  Mum will go work as a cleaner at a factory and I get to go along.  Other days, mum will work as a house cleaner, and I get to go along.  How fun!  Or maybe I selectively block out the fun outings and write here only these mundane ones? It will be interesting to hear from Mary what was it like to be left "Home alone!"  Till these days, Mary and I still share a lot.  We feel connected though thousands of miles apart. We share our hearts.  Our true heart felt feelings for each other.  Mary is honest and real.  Mary, you have such caring and loving heart. I am who I am because of you.

I am the little boy on the right. Besides me is Roger and besides him is Mary.

Roger!  Got it!  Roger! Roger is my 3rd brother. I grew up knowing my brother Roger as a very strict disciplinarian. He was not only strict on others. He was very strict on himself too.  My 1st sister Chye Hong, 1st brother Steven, 2nd brother David and 2nd sister Angie would have been out working by the time I have any vivid memories of my childhood or teenage years. Honestly, I don't remember taking the above picture. Roger, by default had to be the disciplinarian for Mary and I.  Ha ha,  I think for this, Mary had the bigger share of it.  The greatest impact Roger had on me was to introduced me to the Boys’ Brigade at Pentecost Methodist Church along Koon Seng Road.  The 23rd BB Coy will be celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year.  So did Roger. He was born 5 years and 2 days before me.  I had many of my most wonderful memories with the Boys' Brigade.  Camping in Pular Ubin, Penang Hill, hkiing up Mt. Ophia ...   Roger was not only the big brother who protected me.  He even saw to it that I work towards the highest honor a BB boy can receive, the Founder’s Badge.  Today, I love adventure and is not afraid of hard work.  Sure and Steadfast - that’s the BB slogan. Maybe that is why I choose to work in Vietnam all these 14 years to build a foundation that is SURE & STEADFAST. It’s hard work but certainly an adventure that I will never regret.  Roger, you are hardworking and disciplined - never give up like "Ah Gu" that we all know you to be affectional.  I am who I am because of you.

Oops.  4 more siblings to go.  Guess I have to stop for now.  

Friday, January 16, 2015

An Open Letter to Michael (Happy Birthday, from Duong)

Dear Mike,

I have never been a good writer, meaning it is so hard for me to express my feelings on paper (talking is better somehow J), but just doing the talking is not enough - I want it to be written down, so I can share with others about how thankful I am for the relationship that we have shared during these years. 

Time flies so fast.  It has already been almost 10 years since the first time we met - at "Vinapura" :). My first feeling about you was that you were a very tender, soft guy with a smile always on the face. You kept inviting everybody to come for food, drinks, games, chitchat and nobody needed to pay for anything. I used to  wonder,  “What's wrong with this guy?” "He has nothing to do?"  "Is he too lonely or does he just have too much free time”? But at the same time, I saw the respect that people gave to you. Later on, as we got closer, I figured out why people want to stay around you, willing to talk and share things with you.  It was because the feeling you bring to us:   “Peace”.

I had a question that I kept asking both you and Presley for many years, and yet, I wasn't really satisfied with both of your answers until 3 years ago, when I found out myself the reason that you are here - the reason for what you are trying so hard to do.  That's why I ask no more and decide to go beside, witness,  and support what you are doing and going to do.

Just yesterday, when you mentioned about the trip to Ha Long, all the memories just came flooding back to me, about what we have talked about, shared, and what I've learnt from you… I am still trying to be as good as you, trying to learn from you about how we live our life, how we treat our wife, how we treat others but to be honest, I can't react like you, hehe, different nationality...

My big brother, I just want you to know how thankful and happy I am to know you, to be your friend and brother. On behalf of Vietnamese people, I thank you for what you, your friends, and family are doing for us. Don’t worry, because we will be right there to support and encourage you. Just please never give up your dream to build Tea Talk, CoRE to where it is supposed to be.

And please kindly remember to let my story take some pages in the novel that you're going to
write, I might get famous from then. :)


Wish you and your family a happy new year, and I wish Tea Talk can stay on its own from now going forward…

Duong Trinh

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tea Talk will be featured on Singapore National TV program "Find Me a Singaporean."

Watch it live on 1st January 2015, 8 pm on U Channel.

How to donate?
Click Here
Make sure you designate to Tea Talk CoRE

In Singapore