Capturing our love for art, adventure and learning
10 years ago, Vincent and Debra were on their honeymoon. Vincent was also on a quest to show Debra the home of his heart, mind and soul. He decided that visiting a sleepy Welsh town called Dolgellau was a great idea. He didn't even know how to pronounce the name correctly. It was a rather peculiar plan for a honeymoon considering it was in the middle of a cold dark and windy winter. There was nothing to do and only a really expensive Chinese take-out was open by 4pm. If you consider all these factors and Debra's deep disdain of the wind, Dolgellau is a poor choice.
To make up for that, Vincent took Debra on a drive down a path with many sheep and....field gates that she had to open by exiting the comforts of the car's warm heated seats. I bet she wasn't too impressed. As the windy path got really narrow and steep, Vincent fiddled with the manual gears of his rented Citroen wishing it was an automatic. At this point it could have really just ended with them not finding anything worth looking at and grumbling their way back to the hotel. It could have been one of those wasted trips that they would put behind them...
What they chanced upon at the end of the path was Cregennan Lakes. It was magical. In an instance, both Vincent and Debra fell deeply in love with the land. Apart from the wind and drizzle that cut short that magical moment, work was filling up their emails and it was time to head back to their daily grind on the equator. Ready at the gate for their 13.5 hour flight back, they were surprised that British Airways had upgraded them to business class. The bigger surprise was they were now three instead of two.
The years that follow were hectic. Debra and Vincent pushed themselves far beyond what most people would consider sane. They built a family and a business but a deep subconscious yearning for that place they can feel at home remained. Vincent would always tell Debra, "I miss home". But that didn't make sense. He had a loving home. When Vincent's dad suddenly went home to be with the Lord, nothing made sense anymore. What is home?
They embarked on a grand tour that would help them learn more about themselves, their children and what they were going to do with their lives...
7 months of travel later, they published a book, and this was one of the pages. They continued to dream of the land they would call home.
"It's been 10 years, just give up already..."
"Know when it is time to give up!"
These voices got louder and louder and it became immensely difficult to dream again.
But here is Vincent, Debra, Matthias and Gwyneth in Dolgellau. It took 10 years but here they are.
Eateries, shops and the town felt alive. 4 of them felt alive! Especially with the delicious cheese cakes and full English that filled their tummies.
Just like the previous time, Vincent wrangled a little Citroen up the really steep hills and tiny country roads. And as the lakes came into view, he played the Welsh hymn that has been playing all week at home. As Calon Lân played on the car stereo, there was silence in the car...
I don't ask for a luxurious life,
the world's gold or its fine pearls,
I ask for a happy heart,
an honest heart, a pure heart.
A pure heart full of goodness
Is fairer than the pretty lily,
None but a pure heart can sing,
Sing in the day and sing in the night.
If I wished for worldly wealth,
It would swiftly go to seed;
The riches of a virtuous, pure heart
Will bear eternal profit.
Evening and morning, my wish
Rising to heaven on the wing of song
For God, for the sake of my Saviour,
To give me a pure heart.
As Vincent parked the car in the exact spot he parked 10 years ago, nobody moved. The stillness and silence in the car was in fact a guise to the fact that Debra and Vincent were both reduced to tears looking out of the window. The stillness did not reflect the immeasurable deluge of emotions. Both of them were suddenly and unexpectedly hit with the feeling of homecoming at that moment. Without saying a word to each other, they both felt the same incredible emotions. It took a really long time, but it finally felt right and complete.
Having explored the place for themselves, the kids surprised their parents by asking them to take them there every day.
"It takes a long time to drive here you know..."
"You can look for a house and we can stay here!"
They have all found their happy place. May this be their happily ever after...
An extraordinary afternoon later, they travelled down to the estuary that Vincent chanced upon while exploring the area via Google street view. The place looked strangely familiar.
They drank in remembrance of their beloved dad and grandad.
This is our story of homecoming.
Our first British Summer is finally here. We've been out and about making the best of the dry weather and long days. Britain is GORGEOUS in summer! We hope you'll enjoy the 60 plus photos that'll come up in this bumper post. More than that I'd like to share a little of why we are surrendering. We are putting up the white flag.
Finally after 6 months, we have touched the sea again. We surrendered to the lure of the sea and being able to dress in shorts/t-shirt again. I think more than that is the fact we are back at a place we visited 10 years ago and were disappointed because it was closed. This is a recurring theme that I'll talk about in detail later.
Brighton beach is my kind of beach. Instead of the regular sand, there are pebbles instead. No messy cleanups. Just strolling down the beach and enjoying the sea breeze brought smiles to all our faces. The pier is also an amazing place if you enjoy bumper cars and old school roller-coasters. The British seaside charm is a very unique experience that you can only fully experience in summer. It comes alive in summer and hibernates in winter.
A short drive away down the Marine Parade was a series of white cliffs. The famed cliffs that inspired the song "The White Cliffs of Dover". Although this isn't dover, it still evoked a moment of deep reflection. This was one of the last things we saw before Debra and I left the UK on our honeymoon 10 years ago. It was so stunning we were speechless.
With the dry weather going strong, we planned another trip a few days after returning from the South Coast. With our snack bag and lunch packs done up, we booked tickets to a museum in London and punched in the address on google maps. 1 hour into the drive, we hit the first of several traffic jams on the motorway. A quick time check made us realise that we can't take the kids to the play area and museum anymore. "Plan B then!" I thought to myself. We parked the car and realised that the cable-car station we planned to go to wasn't where we thought it was. It was a 20 minute walk away and we decided against picking a fight with the blazing hot sun. We surrendered. We quickly consulted google maps again and decided to take the river bus down the thames towards the most central areas of London. We were ALL thrilled with the speed and power of the boat as well as the awesome views. It was a special perspective to see the city from the Thames itself.
You may be thinking...the UK can't be hotter than the tropics? Thing is, a lot of British homes and public transport aren't built to deal with the heat. At 27 celcius it can feel like you are suffocating. Fans and air-conditioners DO NOT come standard in houses, buses and Underground trains. It can be a pretty miserable experience if you are in a packed train on the London Underground without air-conditioning. House windows usually come with very small openings. It is mostly a small narrow opening at the top. So we've been flying the white flag lately hoping for the colder days to come back. Life can be SO ironic isn't it?
On this trip, we have also surrendered our money at the Leicester Square Lego store. The selection at the store is massive. If you love Lego, you'll be amazed at the Aston Martin, London bus and Harry Potter themed life sized displays. We decided to get the kids very early birthday presents. Debra got a custom Lego figure that is seriously her alter-ego. Maybe when the kids are grown up, I'll be hanging out with a wife with neon pink hair at the beach. (Scroll down for example...)
After a long day of amazing sights and shopping, we needed a good dinner. I knew Din Tai Fung would satisfy all of us. It has been 6 long months since we last had a Chinese restaurant meal. We surrendered to the "wok hey", chili oil and baos. I think that the experience is a bittersweet one because my late-father loved Din Tai Fung. It was his last birthday meal and last restaurant meal. The meal stirred up memories and we all also wished my mom was in the UK enjoying it with us. It tasted extra good after a long day of braving the jams, crowds and the heat. We did however have to surrender £75 (SGD 126.93, USD 94.60).
The ride back to our car on the Elizabeth Line was a lot quieter and air-conditioned. We were greeted by a mesmerising sunset.
I think this is the biggest and most significant part of our surrender. Earlier, I spoke about the recurring theme of surrendering. At some point, one will realise how brutal life can be. There are moments that will completely wreck havoc in our lives. Just like a traffic jam or sudden closure, it can upset our plans. 10 years ago when Debra and I felt the disappointment of not being able to see Brighton Pier and South Stack Light house, I don't think we realised 10 very hard years were before us.
Whether you call it God's plans, fate or just life, it takes a certain level of surrender to keep going. We need to realise that quite often, not everything can be planned or controlled. We dreamt and we planned in search of a homeland we would find wholesome for a family but the search was long and fruitless. The pandemic and my dad's passing rocked us real hard. The only way we could stay sane was when we surrendered and took one day at a time.
Being back in North Wales at the South Stack Lighthouse was a very special moment.
We would never imagine that we will be here 10 years later with two children. It is extra special because after our trip here 10 years ago, we found out we were pregnant with Matthias. The beauty of Wales made such a huge impact that 3 years after that, I decided name my daughter Gwyneth which is the anglicised spelling of Gwynedd. Gwynedd is the Welsh county where Snowdonia is. That's also where our love affair with mountains began. How our lives are panning out now is beyond our wildest imagination. I believe in surrendering now. This surrender can bring a lot of peace. Putting away the pride and having faith that one day, things will work for our good keeps us going.
The sea bashes the rocks and the winds assault the cliffs but seabird colonies continue to thrive. The rain lashes out but the flowers still bloom. The resilience in nature and its staggering beauty of remind us that out of the immense pressures something good will emerge! If you're facing a difficult time, don't give up.
We ended our time in Wales around Great Orme in Llandudno. Gwyn enjoyed the views so much that she asked Debra and I if we could buy a house there so she can enjoy the views every day. Perhaps darling...perhaps.
We'll see you guys round the corner for the next adventure!
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