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Oon Yeoh’s Heart of the Matter

January 22nd, 2005 - Saturday

I had to drag myself out of bed this morning. This is nothing unusual since that is the routine I go through almost everyday. But I slept pretty late last night and the night before. Last night was because we went out with William and Cynthia, and had loads of fun catching up. The previous night I found out that Jinny whom I had been exchanging emails with is the niece of an old friend of mine. Jinny and I chatted in ICQ until 2:30am. But that is the story for another entry. I had to drag myself out of bed this morning because of what Oon Yeoh wrote in his second email to me.

Hey, make sure you get a copy of theSun on Saturday. I’m mentioning you in my Heart of the Matter column in theSun Weekend.

Will keep you in suspense what it’s all about so there’s a pleasant surprise when you read the article on Saturday!

Plebeians like me do not get mentioned in the press very often, certainly not by the editor of the online version of a newspaper. Even before I brushed my teeth and catheterised, I logged in to check the online version of theSun since Wuan was still not back from 7-11 with a copy of the newspaper.

Oon’s blogged called Transitions was one of the first blogs I read. I caught the blogging bug from there even before I understood what blogging was all about. What interested me most was the dynamic and interactive nature of blogs and the emotions it could invoke. I remember there was much furore over something that Oon wrote. I do not remember exactly what the issue is about now but I realised the reach, power and possibilities that a blog could bestow.

Thank you Oon Yeoh for initiating me into this wonderful journey into blogosphere. It has given me so much. I have made many new friends and got discovered by many old friends. Blogging has also shaped my thoughts and changed my outlook in life. I am a much better person today because I discovered a lot about myself through my writings. Thank you. Click here to read what Oon Yeoh wrote in his column.

Touching chronicles of a ‘special’ blogger
Oon Yeoh

MERRIAM WEBSTER famously declared “blog” the word of the year for 2004.

Every year, the dictionary publisher lists the most looked-up words and last year, “blog” was the one that people have asked to be defined most.

Blogs first emerged in the US around 1999. It didn’t really catch on here until two years ago, but even then hardly anyone outside the cyber-elite knew about them.

It was only last year that common folk started noticing blogs.

A lot of credit for that has to go to Jeff Ooi, whose often controversial blog has irked a lot people and won him a cult following as well.

There are now countless local blogs touching on everything from drug culture to politics, to food, to relationships.

Most of them involve deep navel gazing, which suggests that the majority of local bloggers are writing for themselves.

It’s also why none of these bloggers have achieved the fame or notoriety of Jeff Ooi, who clearly writes for an audience of fans, strangers and detractors alike.

One inspiring blog that I came across purely by chance is Digital Awakening (http://www.petertan.com/blog) by Peter Tan.

It too is not a conventional blog, with lots of hyperlinks. Rather, it’s very much an online diary.

Now, I don’t usually care much for those. I have enough problems in my life, I don’t need to read about others.

But Peter is not someone with ordinary problems like you and me. When he was 18, he suffered a spinal cord injury during a diving accident and became paralysed from the chest down.

Peter’s blog chronicles his life, thoughts and opinions on various things.

In reading his writings, I couldn’t help but admire his courage and his optimism.

None of us who do not have his disabilities can come close to imagining how life must be for him.

But reading his blog will give us some sense, and hopefully help cultivate more compassion in ourselves.

I felt moved to write to Peter and got a reply: “Actually, I am quite used to my disabilities after so many years. It is just that I like to grouch and complain a little every now and then to get some of the stress of daily living off my chest. This blog is a good way for me to do that.”

Sometimes, you can feel the bitterness he feels about those who let him down.

Here’s something he wrote about friendship: “In times of crises, we see who is genuine and who is false. Blood relations do not figure in this equation. Brothers and sisters could just stand aside and watch indiffe- rently while friends and neighbours provide helping hands that aid unconditionally.”

Other times, he has a good laugh at how ignorant people can be of spinal cord injuries. Here’s an encounter in an elevator:

Stranger: Are the cosmetic counters at Level 1?
Me: Yes.
Stranger: Are you going to the basement?
Me: Yes.
Stranger: What happened to you?
Me: Spinal cord injury.
Stranger: You can’t walk?
Me: No.
Stranger: Are you sure you can’t walk?
Me: Do you think I will be using this if I can walk?

But Peter’s website is more than a journal of his thoughts.

“Of course it also serves a few other purposes, namely to show the uninformed public that disabled people are not totally helpless and we can still do many things. We do not need sympathy but opportunities to live our lives as close to normal as possible.”

I didn’t interview Peter for this article. Instead, I delved deeper into his blog, to learn more about him through his writings.

I’ve learnt, for instance, that Peter is a web designer. Here’s one of his commercial web design projects: http://www.mlghospitality.com. A non-commercial project is his website on spinal cord injury (http://sci.petertan.com).

Peter is a photographer — and a very good one at that. His entries are full of beautiful photographs. I don’t know if he takes on commercial work for his photography, but he should.

Peter believes in harnessing the power of the Internet to connect with people and when he recently moved from Penang to Kuala Lumpur, he successfully organised a bloggers’ meet through his blog. He is now trying to create an online Catholic network.

In his writings, Peter constantly refers to a person named Wuan. I wasn’t sure if this was a family member or his girlfriend or wife. But he referred to her as his cyberbuddy. I guess they must have met online.

Whomever this Wuan is, she is obviously someone who now takes very good care of him, and someone whom Peter loves dearly. He’s even built a website for her called Poems for Wuan (http://wuan.petertan.com).

Perhaps what was most surprising to me was that Peter and I already had a sort of connection long before I wrote him.

“Your blog was one of the first I read, when you were writing for Malaysiakini,” Peter wrote in his e-mail. If I remember correctly, it was called Transitions, and Jeff’s blog was also linked in Malaysiakini around that time … You can say that you had inspired me to start blogging.”

As a blogger and a columnist I get a lot of comments from readers. Some slam my views while others support them. None was as meaningful to me as the comments Peter made.

Let me leave you with an entry he made about his recent move to KL, which captures both his fears and hopes.

“Wuan had been trying to get me to come for a long time. Somehow, I always had something to do. I am glad I made this trip finally. Being away from the comforts of home has posed some challenges. It has also opened my eyes to the kind-heartedness of strangers. Their sincere smiling faces while assisting me along the way from Penang to KL tells that there is hope yet, especially after the indescribably sad catastrophe in the region. The monotony here is just a little price to pay for regaining some clarity of mind and to be reminded of the beauty of humanity.”

Oon Yeoh is editor of Sun2Surf.com

Updated: 10:13PM Fri, 21 Jan 2005



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20 Responses to “Oon Yeoh’s Heart of the Matter”

  1. Jinny says:

    Hehe, sorry to have kept you uo so late that night, but we certainly had a lot to chat about! It was great chatting with you – can’t wait to someday finally meet you and by the way, to answer a question you posed in your previous entry, yes, KL-ians do drive very very far just for a drink or two =)

  2. Leo Goh says:

    [quote]I do not remember exactly what the issue is about now but I realised the reach, power and possibilities that a blog could bestow.[/quote]

    that’s the power of the pen,or in the case of the blogger the power of the mind descending onto the keyboard.

    Oh…hey there Jinny.

  3. lucia says:

    hey peter, congrats on being mentioned in the sun by oon yeoh. what a good write-up he has on you.

    oon yeoh’s blog ‘transition’ was aslo one of the first blog i read and enjoy before i begin my own blog. i will always log on to jeff ooi and oon yeoh’s blogs first when i get online. i remember he and jeff ooi used to be at the opposing end where bush and the iraq war were concerned. and i remember oon yeoh blog a lot on tech stuffs too.

    like oon yeoh, i’m also very much inspired by your writings on your blog… and not forget of course the private emails we exchange. thanks!

  4. Peter says:

    Jinny,
    We sure did have a lot to share about life. I am amazed that someone as young as you can have such a matured perspective of life. I am sure I will learn even more from you when we do meet. We did it again last nite – going out of the way just for a coffee fix. *shakes head*

    Leo,
    Very correct. With the blog, we have touched people we would never expect otherwise. Just like we would never have met if you and I do not have a blog. This is really wonderful.

    Lucia,
    Those two blogs in Malaysiakini were also the two that I read before anything else. Although I do not always agree with what they wrote, it opened up my mind to things I never knew and issues I would otherwise not be bothered with. It is always refreshing to read about things from opposing perspectives to make us realise that ours are not the only world that exists.

  5. lilian says:

    Hi Peter!
    You are everything Oon Yeoh wrote and even more.
    P/S – Father Stephen’s farewell is next Saturday 29.1.05, 6pm mass. Have a great weekend!

  6. Jinny says:

    Peter: So do you :) And so now, you’ve found out how KL-ians get their “quick-fixes” – not so quick after all!

  7. Leo Goh says:

    i saw the article …good stuff

  8. dave says:

    that’s really nice :) you should be proud of yourself pete (and i know you are).

  9. Marita Paige says:

    That’s a really nice article about you. I tried to get the Sun yesterday, but it’s not a very widely read paper in Sarawak. The shop I went to didn’t have it.

    I’m glad you took up blogging, Peter. For all that you pooh pooh it, you are an inspiration to many.

  10. Peter says:

    Lilian,
    Sure boh what Oon Yeoh wrote about me? I will be back 27/1. Will try to make it for Monsignor Liew’s farewell Mass.

    Jinny,
    Do you do that too when you are in KL? Travel all the way from PJ to KL just for a caffeine fix?

    Leo,
    Thanks.

    Dave, :)

    Marita,
    I hope I did do some good although I blog purely for my own pleasure first and foremost.

  11. Jinny says:

    Not all the way to KL, but from Subang to Bandar Utama which is far enough =)

  12. rc says:

    the delusion of grandeur, yet again…

  13. heh says:

    dear deluded, i hope you didnt look up the word in the dictionary, because it’s not used in the correct context. try harder next time.

  14. Chet says:

    Hey, Peter – glad there was an online version you could share with us. Otherwise, it’d be very difficult for most of us, especially the East Malaysians, to see the printed copy.

    The Sun is mainly a free paper available in selected outlets in the KL/Klang Valley (not sure about the rest of the Peninsula), but is also available at a small cost for delivery to home addresses.

    Which is why Marita was not able to get it in the shops in Kuching. Not your fault, Marita!

  15. chasyss says:

    good to see how blogs bring people together. you do have a special blog. :)

  16. Peter says:

    Jinny,
    still *shakes head* :)

    RC,
    Whoever you are, I would appreciate you using your own email and homepage address when leaving comments here, however nonsensical those comments may be.

    Heh, :)

    Chet,
    The Sun is widely available in Penang too.

    Chasyss,
    Thank you. This blog certainly has made me many new friends, you included.

  17. lilian says:

    Peter, do come earlier ‘cos I heard the Bishop will be there and the place may be packed. But we now have good reason to travel to St Anne, to celebrate mass with Father Stephen. God bless and have a safe, smooth and speedy trip back to Penang ya!

  18. Chet says:

    >> The Sun is widely available in Penang too.

    In fact, wherever there are McDonald’s and 7-Eleven outlets.

  19. Peter says:

    Lilian,
    I will try to make it, that also dependent on whether Peter is working on that day or not.

    Chet,
    Right.

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