600km Walking Pilgrimage through Spain

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on September 2 2008

From the moment I discovered an ancient pilgrimage path in Spain in June last year, the attraction of walking hundreds of kilometres towards an assured destination grew on me daily. My eagerness to go on a month-long journey on foot across the steep slopes, lush valleys and forests of the Pyrenees, and through countless small towns and villages, was part of a subconscious quest to find depth and meaning in my life. At the age of 33, I was approaching – prematurely, perhaps – what seemed to be a mid-life crisis.

Straits Times Life! Article,Denise Chng Lisan,Camino de Santiago,Camino Frances

Letter from Quebec: Preserving Heritage

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on November 8 2008

'TRAVEL is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living,' wrote Miriam Beard. Life in Quebec is now my teacher, pointing out my knowledge gaps and honing my ideas of living - be it language, culture, life-skills, or the environment.

Denise Chng Lisan

Baby Courier from South Sulawesi to Sydney

Posted by Denise CHNG Lisan On Wednesday, April 23, 2008
My last weeks in Singapore spelt trouble when I barely had time to pack, let alone say my goodbyes to my friends. I worked till April 11th, and my flight out of Singapore was only a couple days after that. I had to pack to leave all my things in either storage or ship them away, because my room and apartment would be rented out after I left. On top of that, I had to complete my last module in my Masters program, to finish a case study paper during the week I was leaving. My brain was split into numerous compartments, and was tested to its limits for multi-tasking.

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After leaving Singapore, my first port of call was Makassar. Makassar is the provincial capital of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and the largest city on Sulawesi Island. From 1971 to 1999, the city was formally named Ujung Pandang, named after a precolonial fort in the city. The city is Sulawesi’s primary local and international port, as well as a major fishing center. Makassar impressed me with its simple down-to-earth living. The best foods are not found in fancy restaurants, but hidden in small back street lanes in little stalls. Its sunset is beautiful, framing the port activities and simple sidewalks.

Makassar probably sounds like some exotic location, but I was there on a mission with Richard. Our mission was to fetch Baby Dylan and accompany him to Sydney, Australia, so that he could reunite with his mum, my sister.

Baby Dylan is 18 months, and is just beginning to find words to express his desires. His favourite words are “tak-da” (don’t have) and “da-da” (bye bye). After 8 days of bonding with him, I’ve finally learnt to tell the difference. His grandparents who have been taking care of him, helped me to get used to his words and habits.

By the end of my stay in Makassar, we’ve managed to get him comfortable with his strange auntie and uncle. Our mission, along with Dylan’s grandparents, was to make him happy and comfortable with us, to get on the 12-hour journey from Makassar to Bali, and then to Sydney on April 23rd.

I think we had practically shipped the whole of Makassar to Sydney, because by the time we completed our packing, I counted 18 pieces of suitcases and boxes – from baby table and chairs, to toys and food. I needed a checklist to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind. Richard carried Dylan, while I carried about 6 pieces of hand-luggage – from laptop to milk bottles and diapers. Let’s just say Richard has better charm with kids, and I have strong muscles. =)

It was my surrogate experience of being a mother. I learnt to make milk – while Baby Dylan is screaming. I learnt to change his diapers after he pee-pee, and clean his butt after his poo-poo. I had to carry my bag of tricks, from cellphones to harmonica, to distract Dylan when he cries. Thank goodness the trip went as smooth as it had with Baby Dylan.

The only strange encounter was that there was a teenage girl who started screaming on top of her lungs in the middle of the flight and it took three persons to hold her down. I remember her eyes and face were contorted with evil as she struggled and screamed. As a doctor, Dylan’s granddad stood up and went over to her to offer his help. It turned out that the girl was possessed by spirits, Dylan’s granddad later explained. Being a devout Christian, he prayed over her and she was immediately calmed down and slept. Later on, I was still shivering in my seat over the shrill of her scream and the strange experience.

When we arrived at Sydney airport, we needed three trolleys. I had to seek airport assistance to clear the customs for our mountain of goods. Babies are handy when you want to cut queues!

Our mission was completed when Mum, Dad and Baby Dylan are reunited. A few hours after we arrived in Sydney in the early morning, we crashed and slept till the sun went down.

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    Ave Maria - Lourdes, France

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