Friday, November 27, 2009

The Best “School Day” Ever!

Today I had the best “school day” ever. It’s been a while since I’ve felt like that. =)

Do you have any idea how crazy ecstatic happy I am now?!! It’s a pity I’m at the train station in the city and I can’t scream or shout my thanks to God and express my sheer excitement and happiness or jump around like a lunatic. D: Yikes. :D

Okay, maybe I should elaborate excitement…

Today was the last day of orientation at VCASS. Orientation actually ended at 12 pm. But I and another new girl, Tatjana (Tatiana) who’s a violinist, decided to stay back and hang around with some of the other Year 10 VCASS students who are doing composition work. I had such great fun this afternoon, you know – the sort of fun that I never imagined I would find in a school. I truly thank God that I’ve found it at long last. Well I hope that I have.

During that time, we talked about music (classical music, in fact – and mind you, it was nowhere near BORING, as opposed to what most people think) and to my sheer delight, Tatjana and another guy Jovan started searching classical music videos on YouTube! I was thinking, that’s what I always do, but so far I’ve never really met anyone else at my current school who’s that much interested in classical music. Hahaha. I was so glad that they knew so many of the works and concertos. Compared to them, I was the one who seemed new to it all.

Also, one of my happiest moments was when I showed Tatjana and Jovan Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (my favourite ever concerto) on my Ipod and they loved it, too! There was this “magic moment” I found in the piece that Tatjana also found amazing. And to my surprise, when she started looking through the songs in my Ipod, she could identify with all the classical and film music I listen to! I was so glad. FINALLY, I’ve actually found a friend who appreciates this!!!

Although at Blackburn High there’s a good music program, I still never found anyone who was actually as mad about music as I am. Well, they’re mad about other genres of music, at least. But anyway, there was one friend who jokingly called me a music nerd. Haha! Sure I am. =) Even when one of the top violinists saw my Ipod, she was like, “Haha, gosh, Janielle, you listen to this kinda’ music?” Meaning, classical and awesome film music (John Williams and Hans Zimmer :D :D). Sigh, they just don’t understand and hear it!!!

But today I thank God so much that finally, oh finally, I’ve met other “music nerds” who appreciate what I love. Oh, but maybe I should take back the “music nerd” part. For all you know, we’re probably the coolest kids around, if only people can get it in the right perspective. Haha, think about it, I’m right, right?

Talking about nerds and cool kids, I should have a say about what I found out in 1 year of schooling in a real school. I found out that everyone else doesn’t care about anyone else other than themselves. No one is really making any real friends cause’ everyone is just “riding on each other’s backs”, as my dad put it. No one is being true who they really are inside, and everyone is just copying the rest of the world, thinking that they are discovering who they are. But it is really a lie of the devil. They are silencing the voice God has placed in their hearts – that voice that calls them to their destiny and reminds them of their unique identity fashioned by the Creator.

Even I have struggled to maintain the unique identity God has given me. I have tried to hang out with different people. But I’ve never really bothered to continue joining any of them. It is not even an issue about “fitting in” or being “anti-social”, as most people are wrongly labelled if they keep to themselves. No, no, no. That’s the biggest misconception. I find that those who are quiet often are the “stable” ones. They are not deterred by the culture the world sets or “the cool thing to do”. They remain quiet because if they speak, it will only fall on deaf ears or ears that do not hear or understand.

I have also found out from 1 year of schooling that I don’t have to “worry about what other people think of me”, because the fact of the matter is, no one is thinking about me. And the truth is, I only have to worry about what GOD thinks of me. Why? Simply because God is the only one that is thinking about me! =) How simple. Yet I can hardly grasp it. I still worry about what people think. But as long as I keep this in mind, I don’t think I will ever stray too far from this truth.

So anyway, today’s meet up with the music students was so fruitful for me. I hope in 1 year’s time, God would have helped me to find a good friend at VCASS. I pray God sends the right people to cross my path, and more importantly, that I myself will be a good friend to someone out there. =)

Monday, November 23, 2009

VCASS Orientation DAY 1

My first day of orientation at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School was not the most “ideal” first day, I must admit. Hahaha, considering how I bought the wrong train tickets TWICE in a day. Yeah yeah, like my mum says, I have been “too sheltered”. :P

But thank God, I actually was pretty cool the whole time. It was my first time travelling alone on public transportation in Melbourne. I had to take the bus, train and tram and it took about 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach VCASS, which is right in Melbourne city. I found it really unbelievable and cool that I’ll be going to the city everyday for school! I still can’t imagine how life would be for me then!

Another big change would be the best thing ever: we don’t have uniform!!! Thank God for that! The principal was telling us that VCASS is only 1 in 4 schools in Australia that doesn’t have uniform. =D You have no idea how glad I am. I absolutely detest wearing uniform this year. But on the other hand, no uniform can be a bad thing: I’ll have to decide what to wear every morning instead of just donning the same ol’ garb. xD But who cares, I’d rather rotate on my own clothes than wear uniform!

So today, after buying two wrong tickets, I arrived over 30 minutes late. I guess for orientation it’s meant to be like that. I’m actually glad I bought wrong tickets – it’s only through my mistakes that I truly learn! So throughout the day we had an introduction to solfege, theory and music software. It was good fun; plus, the staff and teachers were pretty quirky and friendly. =)

At the beginning, the teacher asked us to introduce ourselves. She got us to share our biggest fear of attending VCASS. :P One girl said it would be the travelling, another said she hopped on the wrong train today, I for one admitted to buying the wrong tickets… One guy said that his biggest fear would be to turn up at school wearing the same clothes as someone else! Hahaha, so hilarious – that was my “fear” too… :P Everyone laughed nervously after each response – really, we were “all in the same boat”. xD

All in all, there were only 26 of us, 7 of which were my age (Year 11 in 2010). There were 4 other girls and 2 guys my age. Hmm, pretty big group huh. Haha, I really hope and pray that I’ll get to know all of them better and that we’ll be a close bunch of friends soon.

There were quite a few violinists as always, but only 2 other new pianists! One other Year 10 girl who does jazz piano, myself, and a Year 8 girl. All of us are so excited to be going to VCASS!!! It’s just a bummer that I’m having year-end exams for the next two days. But after that, I’ll finally be free from school for 2 months and I’ll get to just relax, practice new pieces, and prepare for next year. I really thank God so much that I’ll be experiencing another big change again. Now that the audition is over, I don’t feel like there’s a “black cloud” hovering over me anymore. Hahaha.

I still find it amazing that only a year ago, I was a homeschooler. It wasn't a bad thing though. Without all those extra hours of practice, I'd not even be loving music now. But anyway, I studied at home and I never had the chance to perform and play my compositions. I never took public transportation or travelled on my own. I never had the chance to see a live orchestra, or even “common” instruments like the cello and clarinet. But since coming here, only in one year, I’ve experienced all this. And next year, I’ll be travelling to Melbourne city everyday on my own, taking every type of public transportation and doing music everyday at school! I’m just so, so exhilarated. It’s crazy. I have no idea how I even managed to go through such enormous change in such a short time, but of course, it is by God’s grace and without His guidance and peace, I’d be nowhere near this! =)

Also, I want to testify and thank God for allowing the change of the migration laws and fast-forwarding our big move. So instead of migrating in 3 years time, we had to move in 1 year. Imagine if we migrated only in 2011, I would have missed ALL OF THIS! I would have missed all the orchestra and performance opportunities at Blackburn High, learning from the awesomest piano teacher ever – Sandra Birze, furthering my violin studies, auditioning and receiving that big VCASS envelope, learning to be independent, teaching music and earning 4 times more than working at McDonalds, and meeting all the people that I’ve been meeting. Wow. Man, I just can’t imagine if God did not intervene and push us forward to Melbourne before we were actually “ready to go”.

Truly, in all this, God has and is providing for our family. My sisters are also experiencing many new things and big opportunities are open for them. It’s hard to believe we’re living such a different life now, in a way. But always, I must remember that no matter how hard I work for something, if I do not allow God to chip in, all my effort is futile. Yes, I may be successful in the world, but who knows, I may not be living my destiny in God’s will. And no matter how successful, in the end, it all goes down the drain. Like King Solomon said, “Vanity of vanities… But this is man’s all: Fear God and keep His commandments.”

Sometimes when I’ve achieved what I wanted, I forget that God had enabled me to do it. It is easy to forget, and hard to remember our “humble beginnings”. May God remind me always that in everything I do, it must be 100% me and 100% God. Then only will I do what I truly enjoy and want to do, and most importantly, what God desires for my life. How cool is that. It’s easy to say, but hard to live out, huh?

Well, that’s my struggle for next year and for however long I’ll live. For now, I just feel really happy and thankful for everything I’ve experienced. =)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Silence Has A Voice

Someone said “Silence is deafening.” Quite true. I'd also say, “Silence has a voice.”

One night, I stayed up late reading a book while everyone was asleep. Taking advantage of the peace, I decided to test out the phrase saying "silence is deafening". (I know, I’m strange.) So for 30 seconds, I stayed totally still and quiet. I stopped reading and shut the voice that read the sentences in my mind. Silence reigned… Was it deafening?

To my surprise, it was! Although I was in complete silence, my ears were still ‘hearing’. There was an unexplainable, almost – if I may say – deafening buzzing in my ears. It felt as if I was hearing crickets chirping in the forest at night. The silence was subtle, yet somewhat intrusive and disturbing. It was empty, yet full of life. Maybe it depends on how I see it – or hear it. I only continued for about 1 minute. Then it became unbearable. I broke out of it and my mind started talking again. It was an interesting discovery. Amazing how sometimes life blesses me with these almost glorious personal discoveries that open my eyes and ears to something beyond what “normal everyday life” is.

Silence can sometimes be a good thing. Everyday we are surrounded by noise. We ourselves are noisy beings. Our minds are talking all the time. Why can't we stay quiet for a second? It is truly a difficult thing to do. How can I hear the voice of silence in a noisy, busy place? How can I find peace and calm in a situation of chaos or unrest?

At this point, I am reminded of a Bible story about Jesus and his disciples facing a storm at sea. Jesus and his disciples had gotten aboard a boat. A storm began to rage as Jesus fell fast asleep in the stern. Then the winds blew and the rain poured. The boat rocked and the waves rolled. In the midst of this unexpected turmoil, the disciples were freaking out. They thought they were going to die. Yet Jesus seemed like he couldn’t care less. He was fast asleep, not knowing that the storm outside was going to sink the boat. But finally, in desperation, the disciples decided to call Jesus. Jesus awoke and then calmly commanded the wind and rain to “Be still!” And sure enough, the storm died down and it was completely calm again.

The noise and the storm in our lives threaten to destroy us. Why don’t we just call out to Jesus and find that inner peace and calm in Him? Why don’t we for once, be still for 5 minutes? Sometimes do I really detest silence and stillness that much? I realize that it only when I am quiet, that I discover God in a new way. Then I have God’s peace in my heart and I begin to hear what God has to say.

I recall the last line in a worship song called Still which goes like this:

I will be still and know that You are God.

Perhaps we need to make a point to shut out the “noise” in our lives once each day and be still for a few minutes. We do so many things throughout the day that we never get to quieten down and be at peace. Like I tried on myself, it is so hard to be silent even for 1 minute! If only I learn to be still, then I will know who God is.

I once composed a song with a chorus that goes like this:

I want to hear Your voice

And shut out the noise

Of this world

I guess that sums this up. May God help me to appreciate silence – because silence has a voice. And perhaps God can only reveal Himself to us when we are silent. And ready to listen to Him…

Saturday, November 7, 2009

November 3rd 2009

November 3rd marked our first one year in Melbourne. One year ago I wondered what would happen to us one year later! Only time will tell, I thought.

My mum has been house-hunting these few weeks because our one-year rent contract for the current house is ending. We wanted a house that is near the train station and also the high school Janna and Jirene is going to next year. But it seems that wasn’t meant to be. My parents instead found a place that is just round the corner, but it is much newer and thank God, it has TWO toilets! Hahaha… =)

So, since we didn’t manage to find a house near the train station or the school (because its an expensive area), I’ll have to walk to the bus stop every morning, take the bus to the train station, then take a 40 minute train ride to the city, and at the city, I must finally take a tram to my school! Phew. I can’t imagine how I’ll wake up in winter. Now every morning, as VCASS draws nearer, I wake up thinking, “I have no idea how I’ll do it next year.”

A year ago, I was a homeschooler. I never had to take public transport in M’sia – my parents wouldn’t allow anyway. One year later, everything has changed! I used to think, what will happen to me in the future? Will I be stuck with just this for the rest of my school life? Won’t I ever get the chance to perform and take a step higher in music? I really thought I’d be stuck back there with no better way out, no greater opportunity. But I prayed. I asked God. It was difficult though. I couldn’t imagine myself getting anywhere else other than where I already was.

And now here I am! I must remember it is all by God’s grace. Not forgetting my dad & mum and sisters: we all made it through together. My dad has been doing many things here and there. Just a few days ago, he became a butcher. Hahaha! Yes, you read it correctly. But he’s just doing it for two days a week. I didn’t think he would bear to exchange his precious time to do some no-brainer work full-time. Although it may be decent pay, but it is of course not a very fulfilling job for my dad. Haha. A few months back, Dad took a course in personal age care. It certified him to care for and assist elderly and disabled people. He told me yesterday that this kind of work is much more fulfilling.

Well, we thank God for helping us to live through this one year. Thank God for bringing us here earlier than we planned or expected. All because the migration laws changed, our migration was fast-forwarded from 3 years to 1 year! So yes, it was a mad rush last year and we did wonder why God placed us in such an unexpected situation. We didn’t even have time to sell our house or car.

But after our first year here, we now see that it is all in God’s perfect timing and plan. We can never see God’s big picture in our puny minds. But now we realize that if we came 3 years later, my sisters and I would have missed all the benefits from school life here. I would have missed Blackburn High and VCASS, and all the performance opportunities that are so vital to the development of my musical abilities. Also not to mention the learning and teaching opportunities that God has provided since coming here!

Dad was just telling me the other day of the little (or big) miracle God worked when we came. At the exact time around our move to Melbourne, the currency conversion rate dropped from 3 to about 2.5! Now it has climbed back up from 2 something to 3. It really helped us save a lot when converting to Aussie dollars.

I am so thankful to be here. This afternoon as I walked in the sun, enjoying the heat and listening to Chris Tomlin’s How Great is Our God on my iPod, I started thanking God once again for everything He has provided and for bringing us here. I thanked God for the clear blue skies, the clouds, the spring flowers, my sisters, my dad & mum, my life, my iPod (which God blessed me with through church friends for my b’day, and it will be my lifesaver next year when travelling on the train!), and I thanked God so much for the hot sun. People might gawk at me for that. But most of the Aussies love the heat too.

So what’s next?

I don’t really know what to expect. Only time will tell. But meanwhile, may God help us to live for the moment and savour the next second He gives us. May God help us to not worry about the blurry picture of the future and not forget that we are to glorify Him with what we have – what He’s blessed us with – in the present, which is now.

The Visitors