" " Words and Images: 6 MONTHS IN ASIA



Friday, 13 November 2009

The past few weeks have been incredibly busy, exciting and, at times, stressful. We came over to Asia to be part of the Church of Joy in Singapore; but things haven't worked out that way.
Our involvement there always depended on whether or not I would find work that would entitle me to a visa. So, for the past few months I daily scoured advertisements for jobs on-line. I must have applied for hundreds of jobs by now, some suitable and some not so suitable, the pre-requisite for applying being that if there was the slightest chance of me getting an interview, however slight, apply. I had two interviews!
My job searching was further complicated by the fact that South Africans are only given a months visa at a time and there is apparently a standard operating procedure in place making it extremely difficult for Africans to remain in Singapore; because of previous abuses by unsavory characters. Therefore, our on-line applications for extensions were summarily rejected.
The ameliorating thing in all of this has been the willingness of Christians here to help each other out. After the first month, needing to leave Singapore and re-enter to obtain another months visa(or not!), provision was made for us to stay at a house in the care of Thomas, the pastor in Johor Bahru, just across the border in Malaysia. We spent three good weeks there, including attending a Leaders Training Time, and then returned to Singapore.
As that month drew to a close, we realized that we would have to return to South Africa because the prospect of finding work in a short space of time was bleak and Singapore is an extremely expensive place to stay. It was a strange place to be in because we had really felt to be there. A phone call from Thomas however, changed things for us.
He offered me the chance to teach part time at his school, the use of the condo and Rooster(the red van). We took the opportunity and moved across the border to JB, still intent on finding work in Singapore. Teaching was a new experience for me; so it was a steep learning curve; but besides the initial disciplining of the kids I've quite enjoyed it.
This was always a temporary measure though to buy us time to look for work. Which as I mentioned before, I didn't find. The only positive thing work-wise in Singapore was selling an article about the extinction of bees to Asia Geographic. Time was running out though.
Then last month, Cindy crossed borders to visit friends in Singapore. On her return, something happened that got our warning bells sounding. The emigration officer grilled her, asking her all sorts of questions about why we were here and what we were doing etc. In the end he stamped her passport with a month visa. Worrying for us because we had always been given three months. We knew then that we had to make a decision about our next step.
We did a lot of praying and worrying. At the same time, Thomas came to chat to me about taking over his old web design and hosting company. This gave us options but it meant that we would have to give up on being in Singapore for the next season and apply for a working visa in Malaysia. Our other option was to return to South Africa but in the end we felt that God had opened a door for us here that we needed to step through.
We are now in the process of applying for a working visa and we are hoping to hear good news soon so that we can get that up and running. And what do I know about web designing? Almost nothing, but Thomas has offered to teach me what I need to know. I will take over his existing client base of 25 customers, so that will be a great head start.
Besides teaching, I've been writing a book to inspire parents and students to make a difference in the world. We were hoping to have it done by tomorrow night, so that it could be handed out at the schools end of year concert, which shares the same theme. Over and above the teaching I did daily plus having to complete a few prior commitments, I had just on a month to complete the project.
I had to sift through and collect inspirational stories about people making a real difference in the world, sift through pages of information, come up with titles, write a few paragraphs about each story, extract quotes and caption the images, which I had to find and edit. That was the easy part!
What proved more difficult was designing the book and arranging the layout. This is something that I've never done before; so I had to first of all find a freeware Desk Top Publishing(DTP) program that I could use. I then had to learn how to use it before having to battle through designing the book and choosing spacing, fonts, colours etc etc. I basically ended up working from morning to midnight, Monday to Sunday for weeks on end. Cindy has an excellent eye, so she helped me a lot in getting it right.
Although the book was just about finished by Monday, with some tweaking here and there needed, in the end it was just too much for me to get done in such a short space of time. The plan now is to have it done for early next year.
This too was a sharp learning curve, but a learning experience I really enjoyed. And I'm excited to hold a copy of the finished product in my hand real soon. It will look something like this:

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