My home, My nationality

My maternal grandfather, whom I never knew, was a first generation Malaysian. He fathered 13 children in Penang. He also ran a successful business and made good there. This was on top of being a top-notch craftsman. Many carvings that you see in Hai Kee Peranakan mansion, the setting of TV8 production “The Little Nonya” were his artwork.

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As a typical Chinese businessman, he invested in property. According to my mother, all the girls received education, mostly in Chinese schools. Grandfather had bought them properties and the intention was to let them return to China eventually. The boys were sent to English schools. Grandpa had the foresight to understand the importance of being educated in English.

Well, he died young. There was no successor to his business. The only properties he owned in Penang were his shophouse, which also doubled as the family home, and a piece of land. I still remember my first uncle grumbling about that piece of land. We continued to pay taxes on it, and although it was in a prime location, it could not be sold profitably. There was no infrastructure, no roads. Eventually we had to sell it for a song to the government. As for the properties in China, they were either confiscated or lost, thanks to the communist regime.

Why am I telling this story? Grandpa might have lived in Penang for a long time, he might have had a successful business in Malaysia and he even contributed to the Art History of the country. Ultimately, though, his heart was really for China.

Then there was my father, another first generation Malaysian. He came when he was in his late teens or early twenties. My grandfather was a school principal in China, so dad was pretty well educated. His life in Malaysia was one big struggle after another, and success eluded him. Still, even after he married my mother, and I came into the picture, every cent he earned, he sent home to China. He often reminisced and indicated how much he wanted to return. When I got married, and went home in a cheongsam – the first time I had ever worn a traditional Chinese dress, he was in tears for he was sooo happy. I had seemed to embrace Chinese Culture.

It was easy to tell what his heartfelt nationality was, no matter what his ic said.

Then there was me. I came to Singapore when I was in my early teens. I came because Singapore had given me a scholarship to study in the then University of Singapore. Singapore’s offer came a week earlier than Malaysia’s. Eventually, I got married to a Singaporean and started my own family here. In time, I felt way more Singaporean than Malaysian. My roots were here, my life was here. I felt nostalgia when I thought about Malaysia, but that was about it. My family was here, my friends were here. When I was good and ready, I changed citizenship. It was not impulsive, it was inevitable. Still, it was not easy to denounce my Malaysian citizenship. I felt somewhat like a traitor. I felt bad. To keep my Malaysian citizenship however was to keep a citizenship in name. I had spent way more time in Singapore than in Malaysia. Singapore is my home – Malaysia my birthplace.

This brings me to the question of the true “nationalities” of our paddlers.  My answer is unless you know them well, and what they think of the two countries, you cannot have an accurate answer. My grandfather and father spent years and years in Malaysia, but were essentially Chinese at heart.

Besides, does it really matter?

Think of how they were brought in. The talent scouts went, dangled the Olympic carrot – the ultimate dream of any athlete. In exchange, they had to change citizenship. In the case of the young Feng Tianwei, she had approximately one year before she had to denounce the country of her birth. In the meantime, her life was spent in training, mingling mainly with PRC or former PRC teammates and coaches. Did she even have time to integrate?

Why do we unleash our anger at these girls? They were given an opportunity that hardly any young athlete could ever refuse. It was a business transaction that ensured them financial freedom and an opportunity that their home country could not give them. If anything, I feel that it is Singapore who has made light of nationality issues.

I like to compare this with the World Cup Soccer. Footballers, in order to make an income, played for clubs in many countries. But when it is time for the competition, all returned to their countries of origin and played with their compatriots, for their respective countries. They had a common goal – achieve excellence for their nation. What is the spirit of the Olympic Games? Is it not similar to the World Cup, a game that celebrates athleticism and healthy competition amongst the nations?

But I am not here to discuss the games, sporting excellence or policies. I really want to talk about the tell-tale signs of what your heartfelt nationality is. For this I am going to use some lyrics,

Malaysian National Anthem has this:

Negara ku.

Tanah tumpah-nya darah ku.

My country. The land from which my blood flows.

Singapore National Anthem

Mari kita rakyat Singapura, sama sama menuju

Bahagia, cita cita kita yang mulia

Come citizens of Singapore, let us move in one accord towards happiness and our noble dreams.

Bahagia is actually much more than happiness. What these lyrics tell us is that there must be an agreement, a unity and an effort to walk together and achieve noble dreams.

Then there is the all-time favourite National Day Song –Home by Kit Chan. This song, for me at least, sums up why I regard Singapore my country.

The Chinese saying is – you guo cai you jia (only if there is a nation can you have a home). I believe this is equally real – you jia cai you guo ( a nation can only exist if it is home)

Happy National Day

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The Uber Brilliant 50-year Housing Loan

If you have not heard, UOB is offering 50-year housing loan. Such long term housing loan schemes are uber brilliant. Don’t believe me? Let me count the ways.

  1. Have you also heard that there is a slight change to the wedding vows? It used to be “till death us do part”. Now, to be practical, and given the higher incidences of divorce, some are considering “till 50 years or when the housing loan is paid up, us do part”. See the brilliance of the plan? It will save marriages and families from early divorces. The financial implications otherwise may be too heavy to bear. We now have the bankers on the side of longevity of marriages!
  1. The second reason this scheme is brilliant – housing has immediately become affordable! Stands to reason, doesn’t it? Somewhere in the internet, someone did a calculation:

If a borrower takes out a 50-year loan for $1 million at an interest rate of 1.7 per cent, he would have to pay about $2,475 monthly for his mortgage, compared with $3,548 if the loan ran for 30 years.

 

Since  BTO 4 room flats in mature estates cost about $500k, can you see how affordable HDB has become?? Monthly instalments could be less than $1000!

 

  1. Let’s work backwards. Assuming $2475 is 30% of a couple’s combined salary. This means their combined income is $8250. Now that calculation is for a loan of $1mill dollars. Can you see how much housing prices can grow and still be affordable??? Can you see how we can grow our HDB flats into retirement assets? Brilliant or not?
  1. Next, have we not lamented much over falling birthrates? This brilliant loan scheme will encourage families to have children. I mean, who can actually pay hefty mortgages past retirement? Guess who will need to shoulder the burden? We need to give birth to ATMs (Auto-Teller Machines, in case you are wondering).
  1. Furthermore, we are always worried about retirement homes for the elderly. Worry no more. By ensuring our children pay off the remainder of our housing loan, we have removed the option of their buying their own homes. They will have to stay with us! With just one housing loan scheme, we have removed the worry of retirement villages. Still don’t think the scheme is brilliant?

Now I know why we pay our ministers celestial salaries. They are brilliant and so forward thinking. Way back when, they already said housing is affordable. They have been proven right. They said that our only home will be an asset – and they have been proven right again. They said we pay them because they are brilliant – by which I take it they mean they will find solutions to our problems. Perhaps they had the foresight to know of this new housing scheme that will successfully kill so many birds with just its advent. They deserve their peach garden Chye Tow Kuay, while we can only drink in thin, teochew porridge.

In the book of Job, he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.” In the book of Singapore, a future Job may well declare, “Indebted I came from my mother’s womb, and indebted I will depart.”

Is this the world we want?

Integrity ah? Ne’er Mind lah – HUAT first!

 

WORKERS PARTY! You insincere lot. So you fielded a less worthy candidate! One that you did not even choose to be an NCMP? You scoundrels – you …you…you.

 

But then hor, come to think of it,PAPyou not much better leh. I feel you also cheated me wor. My MP – also not the best what. Why you ne’er give me an MP that is a minister??? Why you choose a candidate that lost in the previous election? Ya lah…. I from Potong Pasir. If you really like me so much, you should have given me a minister mah???  And last time give me last priority for upgrading? You love me, but you no show leh, so I think no count mah – right or wrong?

 

Eh… Png’s integrity in question ah??? Because of all the confusing talk about he don’t want to be NCMP hah? Serious issues with character issit?

 

But then hor, when I watch Top Shot, their selection for marksmen to be eliminated quite interesting one. There is usually an informal chit-chat amongst the members. If some one offers to be selected, it does not mean the rest will necessarily select him one. But he made his views heard. Of course, since it is a tv series- got video evidence lah. Then during the selection day, it is still up to the rest to choose who goes for elimination round. He cannot just walk up and say, “Me – I am chosen for elimination contest.”

 

In this case, Mr Png says he said he donch want to be NCMP. Some will hear and say – ok lah – your wish. I donch choose you lah. But others will say, (in this case, it seems only one person), Mr Png, you too good lah. Must choose you. So I choose you. So is it Mr Png’s fault ah? But then hor, no video clip coverage – so no proof. Plus he say he took his name out of the ballot box – but his name still there. Like the bak chor mee man – he say he took out the ter kwa already, but stll got one piece there – so he liar liar, pants on fire lor. So got integrity issue what.

 

WP – you ah – no integrity lah.

 

But then hor,PAPyou sometimes also liddat what? Last time Minister of National Development, Mah Bow Tan say enough housing for everyone lah – no problem one. Then not enough – got problem. Then new Minister build fasterer and build many many more. So last time minister tell truth or not?

 

Then last time minister of health say he only pay what? $6? $8? in cash for his heart by pass. No matter how I count also not possible. Then he explained because of medishield, medisave and medifund. He ne’er say how he can qualify for medifund leh. And how much is his premium for medishield to get such good coverage. His real cost should be all the premiums he paid for medishield or whatever health insurance, plus $6?$8? Because if he no pay the premiums, he no get the coverage mah. So is it half truth? Or he forgotten to calculate the other costs? Aiya…maybe me stupid and no no how to think lah.

 

Come to think of it, if the candidate not chosen for NCMP big deal meh? Gerald Giam chosen, so how? Ask him to resign to stand ah? Cannot right? So obviously must select the one who was not selected right? Or am I salah again??

 

More seriously, last time some people who kena ISA and are called the Marxist Conspirators – I hear hor, they are not Marxists leh. Then how come our gahmen who are so full of integrity ne’er do anything to correct this ah? You wrong, you must say sorry mah – if you men of integrity. I think hor, if you throw people in jail wrongly, you must at least ‘fess up. Then you got integrity, you are honourable. If you pretend pretend like nothing happened, I think that one more serious than whether you got put your name for selection for NCMP or not leh.

 

So I think left, I think right, I still think still quite ok to consider Png Eng Huat to be MP lah.

 

People of Hougang. Ka Ka lai – choose who you want lah. Ah Huat integrity ok lah. Ah Choo, I no go and study so you go and study lah. Choose the candidate you like lah. If you want HUAT, then choose Huat lah – no problem lah.

 

Happy voting! Huat on!

Me and My Ma Ma

Me and my Ma Ma

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Young me with the parents

 

Most children I know consider their mothers to be the centre of their tiny universe. To them, mother is the most beautiful woman in the world. I had no such thoughts about my mum.

 

Growing up, I thought my mother to be quite ugly and old. I could not feel any love for this lady, and did not feel her affection for me either. I held her in mild disdain, thinking her ways obsolete and really quite ridiculous. Seeing that she was educated – something so rare for girls in her generation, I wish she could be more happening, more hip and more fun,

 

There were reasons for the way I felt. Being an adopted child, I struggled constantly with rejection. Since mum adopted me when she was in her forties, she was much older than many parents of my friends. For a young person, I suppose it was hard to see beauty in someone old.

 

The fact that I was adopted was a poorly kept secret. Mum desperately wanted it to be a secret, but the world around her was not cooperative. One way or another, I found out the fact way before I started school, and my little world crumbled at my feet. Part of me condemned myself for not being good enough for my natural family. Yet another part of me condemned my mother. It was an offensive-defensive mechanism – an effort to make me feel better about myself. It got so bad that I often made my mother cry. It did not make me a happier person. In fact, it made me feel lousy about myself. Still, I could not stop being mean.

 

When I was in my teens, I was allowed to go to KL alone to spend my holidays with my cousins. Those trips were crucial in helping me change my mind about my mum.

 

My 6th aunt lived in KL. She was the most astute of my aunts and most willing to talk to her teenaged nieces. She was quite a rebel in her own time. I understand she ran away from home and stayed away for years. That alone was enough to earn my respect! I was a gutless rebel, and I knew I would never have done what she did.

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Parents on their Wedding Day

 

She spent a lot of time talking to me about my mum.

“Your mum was a selfless daughter and sister.”

“She was very beautiful, and many rich young men sought her hand.”

“She loved you very much.”

 

Piecing her story together, it appeared that mum was very pretty when she was young. Many young men sent their go-betweens to ask her hand. Unfortunately, just about then, my grandfather died. Most of her older sisters were married by then. So she became a teacher and helped support her mother and younger siblings. She rejected marriage, according to my aunt, because of her sense of responsibility. She wanted to help shoulder the financial woes that had befallen the family. She finally got married after all her siblings had grown. By which time, having children was a problem – hence my adoption.

 

I’d like to say that these conversations with my aunt changed me, and I was a loving and sweet daughter. Not so. I was still as prickly as the durian, and probably as foul smelling. I simply could not talk to her without getting jumpy and irritable. I still made her cry.

 

After I got married and lived inSingapore, I would invite her to come to stay with me. I looked forward to her visits, yet was filled with trepidation. Without fail, we would quarrel every time she came.

 

“Your maid stole my shoes.”

“Stole your shoes? What on earth for? First they would not fit her, and second, they are ugly!”

 

She would ask my opinion for most things and then do the opposite of what I suggested. She drove me wild.

 

Then she died. Life was not easy. There were stages in my life that were so difficult. While I would probably not have burdened her with my struggles, knowing she was there would have helped. She was not, and she would never be there again.

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I looked at her old photos and finally saw what rejection had blinded me from – her beauty. There was much gentleness in her eyes. Her face was lined with wrinkles, each wrinkle representing worries. She was a worry wart, but she mainly worried for those she loved.

 

Somehow looking at her photo reminded me how skillful she was with her hands. She knitted beautifully, and to this day, the cardigans she made for my cousin when she went toVancouverto study are still remembered with hushed tones of admiration. She was also a great handyman, and if anything was in need of repair, she would be the one fixing it.

 

Mum loved but did not know how to show it. I only knew how much she loved me when she bought me a diamond pendant with an entire month’s pay. This was particularly significant since it was her last salary.

 

She had a hard life, but I hardly heard her complain. She was no gossip and even though I tried to dig, she would not talk. Even when she fell out with her sisters, I never heard her telling anyone anything bad about any of them. She was fiercely loyal. If she had any fault, it was that she never trusted anyone outside of the family. She gave dad a hard time, never considering him truly family, but an outsider that one had to be mindful of.

 

I miss her very much. I felt I never showed her enough appreciation when she was alive. Too late to regret, but not too late to love and to show it, to those still living, mothers, children, warts and all.

 

Happy Mother’s Day, y’ all.

Categories: Uncategorized

Let’s Talk COC

No I am not being vulgar, so please don’t set the internet police on me. Just in case the COC inspectors and arresting officers are already in place, may I just protect myself by reminding you that it is YOU who came up with this term, not me. So ok let’s talk COC.

 

COC – code of conduct. So you want to implement this on the internet? OK, but what are the rules? Can you actually write objective rules for internet users to follow? Show them to us. Next show me how you are going to implement those rules. And of course how you are going to police them, and what are the consequences. How many trolls, oops, I mean staff are you going to employ, using taxpayers money of course, to check and control what goes on in the internet? Will the PA be involved?

 

Do I have cause to be afraid? Me – I am just a very simple person, who gets riled by certain events. To make myself feel better, I rant on my blog. Hardly anyone reads my blog, but do I have reason to be afraid?? After all, my only healthcare and retirement plan is my hdb flat. I cannot afford to pay any legal fees or whatever it is you intend to do to me if I do not maintain your good old COC.

 

Or is the real intention for all to go underground? That there will be no noise, that MSM will rule the earth once again?

 

While we are talking COC, can I suggest you extend it? You want us to help integrate foreigners into our land? Can I suggest you give them a COC first? I have had enough listening to them taunting local Singaporeans as not being as good as them. We had no choice over the colonial masters in the past. Why did we import new colonial masters to lord it over us? If they do not have a COC, why should we spend money to integrate them? We want these foreigners to help support our aging population? Would they, if they treat locals with derision? Won’t they simply take what they earn back home to support their own aging?  Don’t you think we need to include respect, humility and a goodly tongue in their COC?

 

 

What about giving our politicians a special COC too? After all, we the humble citizens ofSingaporeare paying them good money. We had to forego Peach Garden Chai Tow Kuay you know. For a start, part of their COC should include listen before they speak. Be empathetic rather than defensive. And mathematical logic on a piece of paper does not prove anything. Life is not about how the maths make sense. Life has got to do with other lives, about emotions about a sense of wellbeing, of being cared for.

 

Oh? My suggestions of COCs for foreigners and politicians are not feasible? Not quantifiable? I forget, I am a lesser mortal. Only your COCs can work.

Am I in Utopia or North Korea?

I mean where else can you get a heart bypass and be charged only $8 in cash when the hospital bill comes? This one came from then Health Minister, Khaw Boon Wan, no less.

Where else can you find a former prime minister explaining the concept of net happiness? Mr Brown thought it was so neat, he immortalized that concept in   mrbrown show – net happiness videoa very catchy song.

.The problem is I find it hard to apply that concept and I still feel net net unhappy

Then there were the floods. When our premier shopping street –Orchard Roadwas first hit, we were assured it was a freak event, which occurred every fifty years. Only in Utopia, or is itNorth Korea, can  fifty years pass so quickly. On one occasion, we were told that there were no floods – merely heavy rains causing “ponding” to occur. Where else can you find a distinction between “flooding” and “ponding”? I mean I do not even think “ponding” is a legitimate word!

hen the citizens lamented on overcrowding in trains, then CEO Ms Saw claimed that “people can board the trains, it is whether they choose to”. Our trains have infinite capacity! So you tell me, are we in Utopia or not

LTA raised concerns that roads are jammed during peak hours. Their solution? Get drivers to take public transport. More will have to make the choice to get into the NOT overcrowded trains! Hmm – wonder why when the trains broke down,SMRTtells us it is because of overuse and overcrowding? You choose – are we living inNorth Koreaor Utopia?

Here inSingapore, families earning less than $1.2k can buy their own house! The maths work on paper. And here inSingapore, it is possible to get $5 for every $1 of tax paid if you have a household income of $1.2k. How 2-room households get $5 for every $1 tax

Recently our COEreally jumped in price – for non-Singaporeans COE stands for Certificate of Entitlement. The holder is allowed to buy a new car. You can check  to see how it workshere

At the 4th April draw,COE for larger vehicles, 1.6l and above, stood at $83k. When the people complained, our esteemed Minister of Transport, Mr Lui Tuck Yew said that prices are going up because our economy is improving. Two weeks later, the same category of COE  rose to $91k – an increase of 9.6%. To use his rationale, it appears that our economy must have improved by that in a mere 2 weeks. Where is this possible, but in Utopia

So our GDP, our economy is getting better fasterer than we can hope for. Hence an esteemed economist, Dr Lim Chong Yah suggested we pay our low income folks more. All of a sudden, we were told by our minister, Lim Swee Say, and others, that income must be in line with productivity. Hmmm – so our economy surged, but not because of productivity? Since we use better economy, profit to justify the dizzying salaries of the people on top, it must be that some are much more productive than others, even though logic suggests that perhaps some are overpaid, while others are exploited. Ah well, in Utopia all things are possible.

I can go on and on – but I think I will just end with this last example. The recent Singapore Day in NYC cost a mere $4m. Amy Khor’s justification is quite unforgettable.

There’s a value to helping our Singaporeans remember their roots so that if they ever go back, it’s easier for them to adjust. You can’t put a price on that

Only in Utopia, or is itN Korea, can a one day event help anyone remember their roots. Not only that, by attending a one day event, an overseas Singaporean will find it easier to “adjust” – not sure adjust to what. Since from what I gathered, the participants of that event mainly went for the food, I assume the main adjustment is to food. In which case, and especially since this event is organized by a unit in the PM’s office, the PM is the one who needs to go. After all, he’s the only Singaporean I know who thinks that the normal meesiamis served with hum  (cockles)mrbrownshow presents mee siam mai hum

Singapore Day 2012 – NYC

I logged into facebook and read my son’s updates. He seldom posts on facebook – or maybe he does but he blocks his old mama from reading them. In any case, his postings read;

‘Today I know my country loves me…’

‘I should have brought my Tupperware…’

‘They wanted us to play stage games, but all we wanted to play were hunger games…’

There were the exchanges such as – “You are so easily bought?” and his reply – “I must be grateful, my country spent $4m on me leh”. Yes, it is no secret that he can be quite vocal in criticism, and hence the accusation of ‘being bought”.

The exchanges were quite amusing. At the same time I was trying to grapple with the amount spent to host this event. I was trying to compare this spending with a $3.8m pledge to boost the medical social work profession. Out of this amount, $1.8m is set aside for scholarships. Both amounts, the one spent on Singapore Day, and the one set aside to boost a very necessary profession is roughly the same. The difference is one is spent on a one-day event, the other will be disbursed over years. If you ask me, this is confirmation of elitism of the highest order – and I am sorry, medical social workers, you are not elitist enough!

Listen to what Minister Amy Khor has to say.

“Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, who was at the event, said: ‘There’s a value to helping our Singaporeans remember their roots so that if they ever go back, it’s easier for them to adjust. You can’t put a price on that.’”

5,000 gather in NY to enjoy a ‘slice of home’

Errm… a slice of home? Did they get to experience many foreigners fighting over the food that they miss so much? Did you show them packed MRT trains? Did you simulate buying HDB flats and the price war over COVs? Did you show them the current COE pricing? As it was, I understand there was a 3 hour queue for chicken rice, without the added pressure of foreigners competing for a plate as well. Oh I forget. In true blueSingaporecontext, foreigners have a different, and privileged queue, and may get extras on their plates.

So this event has a not so hidden agenda – to entice overseas Singaporeans home. $4m to try to entice, in this case 5000 people, home. According to Minister Khor to get them home is priceless – or is to get them adjusted to home is priceless?? I am afraid I do not really understand the Khor statement.

Is it really true thatSingaporewants our overseas Singaporeans home?? Then the question they should ask is why they ventured overseas in the first place. How many of them had to go overseas for further education because the local universities could not accommodate them? How many left because they were unable to secure a job? How many are concerned that their children may not be able to survive a stifling education environment where tuition is the norm, and play is a luxury?

My son is coming home. But he is not sure what his future will hold. Even though he has a university degree, his passion is music. He is interested in jazz and rock and stuff that someone belonging to the dinosaur age like me cannot really understand. DoesSingaporeunderstand? Will he have an opportunity here? Or will he be regarded as worse than blue collar by those in authority?

Dr Amy Khor – letting them eat chicken rice, giving them free laksa pastes uplifted their spirits, yes – but will not do anything to help them adjust, especially if they have been away for a good long while. Don’t get me wrong. I have lived overseas myself, and have enjoyed events organized for Singaporeans to give us a taste of home. These are usually organized by the various consulates or just by some Singaporeans making a special effort to come together. But to say that Singapore Day helps overseas Singaporeans ‘adjust’ is just too much for me to swallow.

IfSingaporeis really serious about wanting overseas Singaporeans home, the key thing to remember is charity begins at home. If local Singaporeans are treated right, if there is a sense that we have a good future in our home country then why should we want to venture to a place where laksa is non-existent, and chicken rice has to be home cooked, and dependent on pastes? If Singaporeans are given first priority at home instead of having to queue, sometimes behind, foreigners, why would Singaporeans go overseas to also queue – but usually alongside people of other nationalities?

Recently my daughter who is in a local university got into a war of words with a university mate, whom I shall just call Raj. Raj was saying he had no intention of serving his bond here – overseas students are obliged to work three years inSingaporeafter graduation.  At the same time, he was also mocking Singaporeans by saying that Singaporeans need foreigners. They are the ones who make it into the Dean’s lists and also have the best jobs. My daughter simply told him to f**8 off.

Who fed him these ideas?

This young man had no intention of working here. He took a place that could have gone to a Singaporean, enjoyed our tuition grants, and madeSingaporea stepping stone to greener pastures. In the meantime, he continues to bask in the compliments that our authorities heap on people like him, and enjoys the discomfiture of the local students. He is not the only one.

Perhaps the student who could have taken his place just enjoyed Singapore Day in NYC, having spent much of his parents’ retirement savings on his education. Is a bowl of laksa enough to convince him to come home? Will he feel a welcome here? Will he have a future?