When I was trying to persuade Jing Wen to return to church, I used all sorts of methods. I tried to bribe her with homemade banana muffins. I offered to buy her dinner if she would go to bible group with me after. I prepared a 5-course feast for the bible group and sent her an invitation as well. I told her she would burn in hell as a heathen (that’s a joke).
Each time, she promised reluctantly (except for the feast), only to change her mind at the last moment. There would always be some kind of excuse: she lost her purse and wallet; her dog got sick; she needs to take a nap because she stayed up all night, blah blah blah. By the time I had only a week left in Singapore, I was ready to give up.
And then. Something happened. Something bad.
I won’t divulge what, but Jing Wen hit a low point in her life, and one night, she sent me a text message expressing her anguish and unhappiness. At that instant, I had the conviction that her timetable had come. God had been waiting for this moment—her genuine cry for help, her realization that she needs someone.
Jing Wen attends church regularly now, including the weekly bible study. I swear, I did not force her to come. No more bribery, no more tantalizing baked goods. Instead, she comes willingly, joyfully. In fact, this is a direct quote from her: “I look forward to church every week. It’s the highlight of my week. I feel so happy there!”
Jing Wen isn’t the only one to experience this hidden blessing of suffering. My struggle with my eating disorder has brought me to my knees before the Lord, too. And the same goes for Valerie Choy, author of Soul Voyager, one of the most inspiring blogs I’ve ever read.
After being in contact via blog comments for so long, I finally got to meet this brilliant and awe-inspiring blogger. Okay, that’s not true. I’ve only started reading her blog for about half a year…but I feel like I’ve known her for far longer than that. I feel an instant pull towards her…not only as someone who has suffered the same horrible disease as me, but as a spiritual sister who shares the same faith and vision as I have.
Valerie first started her eating disorder when she went abroad to London for college. That was years ago (she is 26 now), and she went through several vicious cycles of relapses and hospitalizations, each time wanting to be better, but unable to recover the full length. Her story reminded me of mine—my ED started when I moved from Singapore to America, too. And I’ve also been caught in the limbo between recovery and relapse—hating my ED, but scared of losing it at the same time.
But praise the Lord! Instead of letting our EDs chain us down, he used it to propel us into the persons we are now. In fact, Valerie and I both agree—our temporary bondage from our eating disorders…has only set us free even more.
Valerie is still struggling, as every other human in this world does. But what is so powerful about her struggles is the way she turns them into her motivation to draw close to God, and to share her weaknesses so that anyone can receive strength and comfort from them. Is it any wonder why I admire and respect her so much?
After months of pestering Valerie, our meet-up finally happened today. Because Valerie works close to Vivocity, we decided to meet up there to have lunch together at the popular food court called Food Republic.
I was so excited to meet her, I didn’t even mind traveling an hour by MRT (Singapore’s metro system) to Vivocity.
Vivocity is the largest mall in Singapore…and that is saying a lot, because Singapore has some of the most fantastic shopping centers in the world. The name is derived from “vivacity”, and that is certainly an appropriate name for this place.
As in, anyone who steps into this mall will become vivacious for both food and shopping. The atmosphere…it just makes you want to spend big bucks and stuff yourself with all the amazing food available. A very, very dangerous place indeed! Thank God it’s an hour away from me!
It’s situated next to Sentosa, the biggest theme park in Singapore, so obviously they put a lot of work and thought into the architecture in order to make it a tourist hot spot.
Hot weather…lovely cold gushing fountain…I so wanted to jump in, but I had a date to meet!
Now, on to the Food Republic, the extensive food court at the top floor of Vivocity…It is gorgeous! I saw tons of Caucasians in there, and I could totally see the attraction for tourists.
It is a successful food court chain that is decorated and furnished to give off an “olden days Singapore” vibe, or as we call it here, kampong style. They even have several branches in Hong Kong, and one in Malaysia. Now brace yourselves, because I took tons of pictures of this place.
Red Chinese New Year lanterns…sort of eerie, or hauntingly beautiful, however way you wanna look at it.
In the olden kampong days, you’d see a lot of vendors selling birds in wooden cages, hence the wooden cage-lamp:
Fruit stalls selling coconut juice in real coconut husks, or sugar cane juice, or freshly squeezed fruit juices, and a-hem, sodas…
Wheels from rickshaws, the olden form of transportation for the social elites…:
Breakfast (usually kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs, and kopi-o) at coffee houses:
Wooden chairs with olden-style carvings:
Hand-painted signs on old cloth (or rags?). It says “Bak Kut Teh” by the way:
Street vendor carts selling dim sum:
This ain’t the best picture, but note the pin-up poster below. During those days, horny males had a penchant for busty ladies in revealing qipaos. Hm, so what else is different?
I’ve got to admit, I drooled over this stall a lot more than the rest:
If you can’t tell already, I’ve got a weakness for steamed buns. But they were ridiculously expensive, and I’ve got a limited budget.
But Valerie and I had a mission, and that was to indulge in a local favorite which both of us have not had for a long time. Valerie marched off to the Roti Prata stall…
…And I scampered off to find my Hokkien Mee stall:
Now. Let me introduce to you the wonderful Hokkien Mee. To be perfectly honest, I never ate much Hokkien Mee even when I used to live in Singapore. I mostly stuck to my favorite fried carrot cake, but I had heard that the Hokkien Mee in Food Republic was one of the best, so obviously I had to try it for myself.
They had it served piping hot to me in a banana leaf within minutes. Apparently serving these noodles on a banana leaf enhances the fragrance and flavor:
I don’t know if that’s really true, but it sure ups the coolness factor!
Hokkien Mee is definitely one of the top local favorites in Singapore. You’ll find it in every hawker center and food court. You cannot leave Singapore without trying this. I know you’re thinking, “Ah, it’s just fried noodles with prawns. What’s the big deal?” Well, let me tell you, it IS a freaking big deal.
First of all, this is not your average chow mein or pasta. It is supposed to be fried with pork lard (dunno if they still do that), and the noodles are a mix of egg and rice noodles for contrasting textures. And then, it is cooked in this rich, savory broth made from fresh and dried prawns, until the mixture thickens up into a rich, smooth gravy.
Check out the fresh-fried prawn in there! They gave me three whole prawns, unshelled. It was a bit of a pain to peel and eat them (I’m a lazy-ass), but made for a finger-licking experience! Maggie, you love your shrimpies. Would you eat this dish?
Oh, and please, please, please ask for it with chili. And in Singapore, chili usually means sambal, which is made from a variety of fried chilies and shrimp paste. It is the most. freaking. awesome condiment. Ever! Can’t even be compared with Tabasco! (Sorry, Biz)
Now, for the taste—I LOVED it. I’m not a Hokkien Mee connoisseur so I can’t criticize the wet/dry factor of the noodles, or the intensity of the prawns, or the fragrance of real lard. Sorry, all I can say is: I slurped up every last strand of these noodles, and enjoyed every slurp! YUM!!
I also got to tear of a chunk from Valerie’s roti pratas— one plain, and one with egg and onions:
I would have ordered roti prata with Valerie, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be eating better ones in Melaka during my church retreat in a couple of weeks.
Now don’t get mixed up—Roti prata is not naan. Think of it as a flakier, greasier, chewier version of naan. You can get it with all sorts of fillings: egg and onions is the typical order, but these days you can get it even with chocolate, strawberry, kaya, and cheese. I’d try the cheese, but chocolate? Gross.
Valerie and I spent about an hour and half just chatting and sharing our stories, and then Valerie had to go back to work. I can’t believe time flew so fast!
Whether you’re a Christian or not…you can’t help but respect this strong, wise, and sweet young woman. You don’t need to worry about your future, Valerie. God is leading you, step by step, in whatever you do.
Question of the day: What kind of person do you admire? Why?
For foodies…Favorite noodles—details please! Make me drool!