Festivities and Festivals

Singaporeans at Malaysian Merdeka Day celebrations in Nairobi, Aug 31. 2008

20 Sept 2008

Nasi Lemak in Nairobi – twice lucky!
Being such a food lover, I must say that one of the highlights for me since I last posted was the ability to makan (eat or in this case, savour) some Asian fare! August was the month for celebrating Singapore’s National Day as well as Malaysia’s Merdeka (Independence) Day. Being only a handful of Singaporeans in Kenya, we are deprived of a resident ambassador not to mention even a Counsel or Trade Office. However Malaysians have an ambassador here and one of our Malaysian friends who’s married to a Singaporean kindly invited us to join their festivities last Aug 31 at the InterContinental Hotel where I went in my ethnic Peranakan costume, the sarong kebaya!

Met the Malaysian ambassador as well as the Nuncio (the Cardinal who represents the Pope and Vatican City here) and the Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, was there as well! Talk about mingling with the biggies! Well the nuncio was a little stunned when I told him I’m a Daughter of St. Paul, saying “Well I don’t suppose you normally dress like this?” LOL! After cocktails (I stuck to red wine – for my heart and cholesterol of course!) and speeches, the real treat began with a buffet spread comprising among other dishes, Tandoori chicken, nasi lemak and some really spicy ikan bilis sambal! Shiokamandu! For many, it was way too spicy but I really tucked into it! This was the second time in two months that our S’porean gang ate nasi lemak, the previous time was at Linda’s in mid July where she even made some yummy otak wrapped authentically in banana leaves (see below). So in case any of you pity me missing out on some S’pore food, there are always a few wonderful surprises in store for me here!

Yummy yummy!! We even had black squid!

Enjoying great food and company on the terrace of Linda’s spacious bungalow (notice the banana tree in the background).

Beijing 2008

So the Olympics came and went. The opening ceremonies of Beijing 2008 first wowed the world only to later disappoint many who felt slighted or deceived when the “tricks” in the name of national interest were revealed (eg. the manipulation of the footprint fireworks which were digitally edited in.) Oh well, I’m not going to delve deeper into the ethical or cultural issues of that. However I would like to comment that watching the opening ceremonies with the different teams participating from hundreds of countries was like embarking on a trip around the whole world – people of different races, languages, culture etc - some from countries I had never even heard of! - but all coming together as one. And that included countries at war with each other –Iran, Iraq, the USA, North and South Korea.…. A momentary peace among all…It became almost a spiritual experience and a source of deeper contemplation that indeed we are all part of the one body designed for unity and harmony by the one God. (Actually I was waiting for the S’pore team to appear which of course had to be near the end! Otherwise I doubt I would have stayed up to watch the whole thing. Being away from home brought out the nostalgia in me!)

Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to follow the games at all, nor the recent US Open – long gone are the days when I would be glued to the telly to watch one of my favourite sports played among champs especially at Wimbledon. I guess as I grow older, and time appears to grow scarcer somehow, even my recreation has to be prioritized!

Fan Fiction
One recreational activity I spent a weekend over was to package a gift for one of my heroes. A bunch of Suzanne Vega fans including me started a game/gift for her on the Undertow, the message board on her website. We contributed sentences based on the titles of her songs to make up a story. Although there are nuances and references to some lyrics of her songs, and even if you’re not familiar with her songs (you really don’t know what you’re missing!), you can enjoy the result of our efforts in two versions here. (To watch in full screen just click the rectangular icon on the right.)
A Quilted Narrative for Suzanne Vega

Uploaded on authorSTREAM by undertow

A Convent Masseuse
At the risk of shocking or scandalizing some of you who may have fixed or narrow ideas of the lifestyles of nuns (I think reading this blog itself will wash away some preconceived notions of what nuns do and don’t do!), I recently had my second full body massage here with a local masseuse who does house calls or in our case, convent calls! She combines reflexology with massage and was in fact recommended by a Jesuit priest friend who even had a massage couch (including a head cradle) built for us! Never imagined I could bask in this small “luxury” here but just as in many things in life, you never know what life has in store for you, especially here in Kenya! Of course the cost of a massage here is relatively cheap at KsH500 (US$7 or S$10) per session – a bargain some of you may say! – and for some of the elderly sisters suffering from arthritis, it’s more of a therapy. For me it’s mainly to ease the tension on my shoulders and back. I think I’d like to have a session on a monthly basis. :-)

New CD
Another thing I never dreamed was to cut a CD professionally but here we are in the year of St Paul and I was encouraged to come up with a CD of songs based on the letters of St Paul. So I wrote two songs, another sister, Roselyn, wrote three, then Steve, a young Kenyan man wrote several and now we’ve started recording at the recording studio of the Salesian priests who were founded by Saint Don Bosco – a much better equipped studio than ours – with a brilliant young sound engineer and musician, Timothy Muriithi, who’s also helping me in the arrangement of the songs and doing wonders with them! It’s been a really cool experience and I’m enjoying this “audio” / music part of our apostolate as much if not more than the video production part which at times can be a bit tedious (especially with my recent experience of re-editing and revising the DVD on the Stations of the Cross to adjust to the different opinions of the community of Sisters! I can perfectly empathize now with film directors having to tweak their films to fit studio bosses! Incidentally the DVD is now available and has been well received. I describe it as a social justice Stations of the Cross!) On the CD we are producing, I sing solo for my songs (to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I had a good enough recording voice for "public listening" but it turned out ok!) – one being a rather meditative ballad which is actually a prayer of St Paul based on Ephesians 3:14-21 while the other one, His Grace is Sufficient (based on 1 Cor 12:7) is closer to rock (well, let’s say soft rock!). I play both the acoustic and electric guitars (the latter was encouraged by Timothy!) So I guess I’m ROCKING ON!!! (I hope to upload some sound clips of the tracks in my next post so stay tuned!) We plan to finish recording next week (last week of Sept) and have the album out by mid-Oct. so please pray for this project.

With my treasured Martin which was autographed by Suzanne Vega earlier this year – hopefully some of her brilliance will rub off on me!

“Producers” at work, listening to Sr Roselyn

With Sr Roselyn, fsp, and John who did back up vocals for us, (far right was the electric guitar I played!)

Catholic Media Festival

In the midst of the production of the CD, last Sept 12-14 was probably my busiest weekend thus far in Nairobi. It was the inaugural Catholic Media Festival, organized by the major Catholic media houses including us, Paulines Publications.

The theme of the festival was Media, the Third Parent. Being part of the organizing team, we were involved in the planning and preparations weeks earlier. Held over three days on the grounds of Our Lady of Consolata Parish, each media house displayed exhibits while hosting various activities including games, contests, media sessions and a concert to cap it all. (I was amused with the innovative, natural broom that the cleaners of the church used just before the festival began – check it out below!)

Friday (the first day) was catered to primary school kids. Here are a couple of video clips of them.

Saturday’s program was for secondary school youth, and Sunday for parents and family in the morning and a concert for the youth in the afternoon.

I was directly involved in the activities over the weekend. On Saturday I conducted sessions and workshops on Media Awareness and Literacy to teenagers where they learned how to deconstruct pop songs and advertisements while on Sunday I went “live” on Radio Waumini to introduce an interview with Judy Akinyi, author of our bestseller, Deadly Money Maker.

Later that morning, I was also part of a panel discussion on the theme of the festival. This was recorded also for Radio Waumini, the Catholic radio station here in Kenya.

Although this was our very first Media Festival, everyone involved was generally pleased with the outcome and thought it was a great success especially in reaching out to the youth and providing them with some food for thought on the media and how to be more discerning, critical and intelligent “interactors” with the media.

The passage from St. Paul I’d like to end with is not really a personal favourite but is from today’s first reading at mass and I think quite appropriate in the light of several significant deaths recently, most especially that of my friend, Carolina Koh who succumbed last month to leukemia at just 41. Carol had such a bubbly personality and a tremendous faith. I’m certain she’s now having a whale of a time participating in the heavenly banquet.

Brothers and sisters:

If Christ is preached as raised from the dead,how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead,then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.….

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,we are the most pitiable people of all. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Someone may say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?” You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to bebut a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind. So also is the resurrection of the dead.It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.…..

Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.

(1 Cor 15:12-49)

May this passage be a source of comfort to all those who mourn and remind us not to be worried about the future or our own deaths. Rather, it’s how we live today that matters most, and how we love…. As St Catherine said, “all the way to heaven is heaven!”

I leave you with a gorgeous sight of the beautiful Jacaranda tree in full bloom which is quite a common sight at this time of the year in Kenya. Just as the seed of this tree was sown and faced death to break itself open to new life, and now transformed to such a thing of beauty, I wish that of each of you too – that the darkness of your lives will be transformed and may you bloom and grow into a wondrous person of beauty too. (This tree is among a few in our convent grounds, and this snap was taken through the window which is netted - to prevent insects from entering - hence the burlap effect!)

And do say hi to our resident tortoise whose diet consists of papaya and mango peels. He has a partner which was in hiding in the bushes.

I will be making my annual retreat next month and will be away from the convent for the initial ten days or so of Oct. Please remember me in your prayers for a grace filled “vacation’ with the Lord!

Until next time, have a wonderful fall (or spring for those down under!) or last quarter of the year for those in S’pore and who aren’t in temperate lands!


PS: Some of you have been wanting to post comments, so I’ve enabled it here.


  1. Wendy - what a flavorful life you are leading, from food to media ministry in a beautiful country! Thanks for sharing; makes me feel part of your experience. Blessings!

  2. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever!" these were my thoughts when I beheld Sr. Wendy Ooi in her exquisite Sarong and Kebaya in the midst of the group of Singaporeans and Malaysians celebrating both their national days together last month in Kenya. The beautiful blending of colours in intricate embroidery and the batik print of this traditional attire worn by Peranaka women in Singapore and Malaysia certainly reflects the rich cultural heritage a true blue Peranakan woman as Sr. Wendy has so been blessed with.

    I thought the little black dish next to the Nasi Lemak sambal in the picture was Buah Keluak!" Sotong Hitam" (black squids) is also a favourite dish of my peranakan palet!

  3. Hey Wendy,

    It's really enjoyable reading your blog. You are really living colourful and varied life, while basking in His love and providence.

    Many blessings
    Ai hoon

  4. Yo Sr. Wendy!!

    Nice narrative for Suzanne Vega!
    Blog more often if you can ya! Always look forward to your postings!

    Don't forget to read my blog too! HaHa!!

    The evil twin

  5. Sr. Wendy ah nia!

    so pretty yet elegant in your Sarong Kerbaya...WOW!!!! Enjoying yourself right... Have a spirit-filled retreat!

  6. Hey Wendy,you look cool in the nonya outfit.interesting blog you got there.

  7. Dear Peranakan Sr Wendy,

    Belated posting here. Nice sarong kebaya outfit… Looks good on you!!!

    If I were Suzanne Vega, I’ll be so super touched by the sincerity of what my fans have done. Fans… who created fiction story with her own songs titles and lyrics with beautiful layout.

    One KTV session with us makes you a professional singer… remember??? ;p

    Lastly, I thank God for your gifts and talents as a zealous builder for God’s kingdom!!!

    Cheers N Blessing… Take Care alwaz.
    S'pore - Jo Tan

  8. I like the interesting name of your blog. It is good to hear that you are keeping well and admire that you get to do all this good deeds in Kenya. I am also surprise that you choose to be a nun and your blog enlighten me on how you became a nun. I am glad that you still get to eat Singapore food and make many more new friends.

    Serene Ho

    Serene Ho