Jonathan B. Chan is an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge reading English. Born to a Malaysian father and Korean mother in the United States, Jonathan was raised in Singapore and sees his cultural tapestry manifest in his writing. He has recently been moved by the writing of Marilynne Robinson, Joan Didion, and Shusaku Endo.  His mind is preoccupied with questions of theology, love, and human expression.


take a walk


today after meeting a friend I

ambled through orchard road,

absentminded without a destination;

paused for an out-of-tune singer and

exasperated accompanying beatboxer;

wandered through lucky plaza curious

about the bastion of pinoy secrets; past the

rows of emerald hill bars inhabited by

expats and disgruntled white collars;

sipped a mojito in the masquerade of a

sanfran cable car; wove through shuttered

shops and dimmed stores; cast curious

glances upon fellow wednesday night

streetwalkers; peered into bank buildings

like art installations and furniture stores like

colonial houses; ventured to art galleries

that only allowed for window scrutiny;

thought about nothing in particular. the

adage that singapore has no soul is

reflected by the shiny artifice of its

shopping district: a grandiose veneer that

masks a system of transactions and

conditions. this is not the place to find

poetry recitals or aspiring bands or

bartending conversationalists or morose

comedians; this is not a place to expect

meaningful and heady exchanges (with

exception to dinner’s dialogue); the city

projects the image of what is expected of

luxury and commerce- a moving image

sustained without substance.



i need to know



to conversations that

meander through

chinatown festivals,

graphite stains

that mask

bashfulness, no,

to billowing ambition

wafting through

twice-boiled aromas and

bitter chocolate, no, to

trailing wordlessly

in hongdae thrift

stores, no, to unwitting

glances during mimed

raps, no, to untouched

garageband euphoria

between languid

afternoon smiles, no,

to the first time i

mustered what i

had and asked

if we could

sing together




road trips


billy joel on a mountainside path

singing of heartbreak and drink

amidst flanks of dust and rock

and well-dressed nepalese that make

ramshackle buildings and traffic disorder

(there are neither addresses

nor traffic lights but a cacaphony of car horns)

even more baffling. the momentary

discomfort of 10 hour journeys in

this claustrophobic

provides glimpses
of destitution and poverty and

masses of people and acres

of farmland that whisk past our windows.

we sip their chai, eat their momos,

chow mein, dhaal bhat;

our tourist’s novelty is their daily diet.

I wince at the

juxtaposition of dulcet

california tones and the

monotony of nepali workmen.






open fields team with crumbling

rocks and crags; a farmer walks

by with a line of livestock-

our urban eyes jolt at the sight of

goats and cows and chickens

and those who tend to the

hopes of harvest. the local

pastor diagnoses them with

chronic laziness-

“they work for 4 months a year

and spend the rest doing little else”

would a taste of

salvation arouse them from


we offer our services-

a volleyball,

a football, a

guitar, they snap our photos like

zoo animals. they accept us

into their homes, perhaps

endeared by a foreign face rather

than a savior’s sacrifice. the

prayer circles assure us we have

scattered the seeds; we wait

for them to flourish.