Malaysia's First A (H1N1) case

Friday, May 15, 2009
What ill luck......

It has finally reach our shores and I bet our neighbour down south is on high alert. Please don't quarantine me for 7 days because that will kill me faster than the flu. This is the link:

Well, I can only hope that this will be the first and very last case. I hope the guy recovers soon.

Happy Mother's Day

Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Was moved by a newspaper article today about the one year anniversary of the Sichuan Earthquake. Read about how the hopes of parents were buried together with their children on that fateful day. All it took was just one natural disaster to change so many lives. With China's one child policy, imagine the grief of these parents losing their only child, their only hope for a better future. Though angered and pointing their fingers towards corrupted government officials, nothing can bring back the innocent children to life. Coincidentally, today in the papers also, the first reported swine flu case in China came from this very province.

Putting that aside, this article prompted me to think about my mum's hopes towards me. How she slaved her way through raising her two children and how we ended up arguing about very petty things. She always said that she is worried about me and whether I am able to cope in Singapore. I remembered the intense bickering one year ago when I turned down Medicine to do Pharmacy. I guess it is every parent's dream to see their son be a doctor, to save lives, to be proud that they raised a fine young man.

This Mother's Day, I did not do anything. I did not wish her (not openly that is), I did not buy anything for her and I certainly did not treat her dinner. Deep down however, I wish to give her the best gift, accumulated from all the past Mother's Days and that is to graduate with a good degree and to buy her something decent with my first real paycheck. I want her to be a proud mum in UCC, come August 2012, to know that she raised a fine young man also. Come to think of it, I really don't want to buy her anything just yet, because I have no cash. That is true. Whatever money I spend now to buy her gifts comes from her. It is just a cycle. I don't want to use her money to buy gifts for her. I want to use my own. However, to use my own, I will have to wait another 3-4 more years. Not to mention that she is already paying for my education.

I must thank my mum, if not for her, I might not be in NUS now. She nags a lot and was a very strict mum when I was young. I remembered her sitting next to me when I was a little kid, teaching me algebra. It was only during primary school and of course I cannot understand 5 + x = 9. x to me is only an alphabet. Alphabets should not go together with numbers. Of course I got scolded and called an idiot for not understanding such an easy equation, but the fact that she took the trouble to teach me all this patiently made me who I am today.

She herself never got into university, but education is her top priority. I must thank her for the years of being thrifty, cutting back on expenses for herself and always spending for her kids. I have never seen her buying new clothes for herself. She is always wearing the same clothes since years ago. When she said she cannot retire just yet because she has to see me through university, I felt as if I am a big burden. I can never repay what she did for me, no matter how big my Mother's Day gift is.

What I can do is just to ensure her sacrifices are worthwhile. I hope that she can be a proud mum one day and retire soon. It is time she takes a rest. Too much white hair already. Makes her look even older than her real age.

Gosh...I remembered the Facebook quiz I created stating that I cried most during primary school only. I guess today is an exception. Happy Mother's Day.

Mum is in light green shirt, grandma in pink shirt and my aunt plus two little cousins and yours truly. Taken at Kuching International Airport. Cannot remember when.

Learning Chinese

Monday, May 11, 2009
Oh gosh....I remembered telling myself after XQRJ that I MUST learn Chinese, for my own benefit. My aim is to somehow squeeze 200 Chinese characters into my head within the one month I am at home. One week already passed and I only managed a mere 40 characters. How am I going to cram 200 characters!!!

I got some kindergarten books from a friend of mine. Now, I am reading Snow White and the likes. Fairy tale stories. The only problem is Snow White Chinese version. I cannot even complete page one. Giving up, I go back to my trusted book, setting a target of 10 characters a day. This book is really fun, it teaches you the strokes of most common Chinese characters, all 176 in the book. It explains the origin of these characters and provides useful description to help one remember the characters.

This is one example:

田(tian) means field while 力 (li) means strength. Combine these two characters and you will get 男 (nan) which means male and everything related to masculinity. The explanation follows that guys usually use their strength, working in the fields way back in ancient China, and that is how the character 男came about. Interesting eh? Ironically, I have never even been to a field before (rice field I mean).

Here is another one:

小 (xiao) which means small and 大(da) which means big are the components of the character 尖 (jian) which means sharp. Apparently, to the ancient Chinese, sharp objects have a large base which taper towards a small end.

Chinese seems to be an interesting language. At least it makes some sense. Before this, I have no idea about the meaning behind these characters. The biggest challenge yet is when these characters are combined to make new words or phrases. Gosh....there could be countless combinations. Will worry about that later...much later.

Hopefully, I can really finish 200 characters before I am back in NUS!

Kafka on the Shore (Haruki Murakami)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I have no idea how to begin, but this book is powerful. Just that, a really powerful book that plays with your emotions, at least for me.

The story is about a 15 year old boy running away from home, either to escape a certain prophecy or his father, I am not sure. It could also be that he wanted to find his mother and sister, both whom he did not meet since he was four. Anyway, the story begins like that, this boy, barely a teenager threw all responsibility to the wind and set off to Shikoku from Tokyo. What I really like at the beginning of the story was the carefree life the boy led after escaping school, spending his time mostly in a library. The author managed to capture the very essence of what I have been longing to do, to live in a world without responsibilities. Particularly loved the part when the boy stayed in a cabin on the mountains, being so close to nature.

This is the first time I have seen this kind of writing style, but there is a different, parallel story on the even chapters. Sure enough, the odd chapters were all about the 15 year old boy, but the even chapters focused on an old man, Nakata who could talk with cats. Apparently, some strange incident when he was young completely wiped out his memory and he cannot read or write.

I wouldn't go into the details of how the plot progressed, but suffice to say that the author cleverly merged the two stories together. The old man ended up in Shikoku too, to search for the other half of his shadow.

To be honest, even after finishing this book, I am still trying to make sense of the story. I can understand the flow, but there were just too many questions flying around my head. I bet the author tried to create a metaphysical world, one where the reader can actually read the subconscious thoughts of the characters, and also how the subconscious of the characters themselves can leave their present body to perform certain acts.

Halfway through, the plot starts to get dark and mysterious. The boy's father ended up being killed and the boy met his mother, or at least I think was his mum. Murakami certainly played with emotions when he killed off two very important characters, the mum and also Nakata. I was really surprised when he did that, because it ended the beautiful love affair between the boy and his mum (yes, they actually had an affair!!). His words were powerful, painting a vivid image of whatever scenaries, actions and thoughts the characters went through. I can really imagine the whole scene through his words (or rather, words of the translator). Many random knowledge and facts about the world were sprinkled here and there in the story, mainly conveyed through the books that young boy read at the library and the people he met along the way.

One drawback though, the story can be quite complex and you really cannot expect everything to be logical when reading it. You must have a healthy dose of imagination because Murakami puts in a lot of what we might label as nonsense....( souls, another world in the forest, realistic dreams, fish falling fron the sky, talking cats etc..)

Oh yea, how did I stumble aross this book?
Haha....Xu Su introduced it. I was trying to figure out why the heck would anyone read so many books from the same author and decided to give this one a try. Quite a good one though, was feeling emo after finishing it late at night. Not having a TV to watch generally meant I only have this as my entertainment. ( My TV hates me, breaking down when I am back for vacation) -.-


Monday, May 4, 2009
Ahh.....the 5 hours journey home took its toll on me. I must have been sitting with the wrong posture, causing me to have slight back pain. I am old already........

Was reading Murakami on the way back, all over again. Second time reading it, after abandoning it halfway when exams approached. In the first chapter of the book, a 15 year old boy was running away from home. Haha...I am running away from NUS back home, in the other direction...what a stark contrast. That contrast made me giggle a bit on the bus.

When we crossed the bridge into Johor, some lunatic actually shouted "Yes, Malaysia!!!!", startling everybody. Gosh..I guess he hasn't been back for a long time. How glad I am to cross the Second Link and seeing signs in Bahasa Melayu again. It is not that I am a big fan of the language, but it feels like home, strangely. The bus ride was a monotonous one, with me alternating between reading and sleeping. Soon, I reached the ever bustling Puduraya station, where buses from every single corner of Malaysia converge. Trying to cross the road there nearly killed me. When I reached a zebra crossing, I instinctively searched for that button to allow me to cross, but what greeted me was a bunch of tangled up wires, the button obviously has fallen prey to vandalism. So, I decided to dash across the road and a car appeared from nowhere, almost hitting me. Gosh, this is not Singapore anymore. Crap, I suddenly felt as if I am in a 3rd world country.

The sweltering heat was something I had to put up with these 2 days. A tropical nation, huh? Anyway, did practically nothing much other than reading a bit and tagging along with mum to shop. I hate shopping...-.-.Oh well, better spend more time with her especially when Mother's day is just around the corner. I will blog again if something interesting pops up.

I'm going a place where I belong...

Saturday, May 2, 2009
Yup, will be going back tomorrow, 3rd of May 2009. It had been a year. My room is all empty now, as I will no longer be staying in my current room. Even the lizards scurry past, knowing they have no where to hide anymore. Will be moving to E block next sem, E408. Somehow, all this emptiness reminds me of my first day here. Alone, lonely and not knowing a single soul. Things have changed. I know many people here now.

Here I am, sitting in front of my laptop, reflecting about the 2 semesters that I have spent in NUS. What 2 wonderful semesters it had been. When I'm home this time it will be for slightly longer than a month. While I am excited to go home, at the same time, there is this feeling of wanting to stay here. Funny, it seems that I have never left hall for more than 2 weeks in a stretch. I cut back on my vacation because of XQRJ commitments after Sem 1.

Next year, I will be staying in a double room. Another new experience, something that I look forward to. Cannot stand the feeling of coming back after lectures all tired and there is nobody to talk to. I guess I am a social animal. Will be staying with Xu Su, someone I met during our days in XQRJ. Hope to learn many things from him during my one year stay, as he is a great guy who reads a lot. It is the cultural diversity in KE Hall that I truly cherish. He is from China and I am from Malaysia. Yes, I know. It will be difficult for us to communicate but I hope things will change for the better. Staying with another person will teach me how to cooperate, to help each other and the art of compromising. Not only that, I hope we can learn more about each other - be it our two very different countries or culture. His culture is ultimately mine, but being a Malaysian since birth, I must admit I know little about the culture of my ancestors. Haha....I have no idea if he is going to read this, I doubt it. Anyway, looking forward to next sem with you, roomate!!

Take care guys. When we are all back from our vacation, it will be a busy period. There will be KEWOC activities, FLAG canvassing and not to forget building the massive FLOAT. Oh well, till then enjoy your holidays!!

Xin Qing Rong Ji (Continued)

Friday, May 1, 2009
After prelims, we had a good look at our finalists, budding song writers/ composers from all walks of life. Eligibility checks were performed and voila, we have our 12 finalists. Usually there will only be 10 but for this year, the judges decided on 12.

Here is a video by our Video Director, Hao Yang. I think it captured the essence of the competition. Enjoy.......

Before the Grand Finals, our head, Shu Ling told us about her plans on having a roadshow. It was supposed to be an avenue for us to gain valuable experience before going all out in our Grand Finals preparations. Another round of sleepless nights, endless discussions and site visits ensued. Our roadshow was held at *scape Youth Park, near Orchard Road sometime in January. I remembered this was the time when our beloved stage manager, Ken Juin and our would be production manager Chin Ee started to get very very busy. If not because of their hard work and dedication, it would be difficult to get the whole team together for the roadshow. I recalled having a Finalist Day a week before the roadshow. It was the day when we interviewed our finalists, took photos and videos of them, basically to know their needs and wants for the grand finals. Xu Su was a busy man that day, having to rush in between 3 locations to get good video footage...haha.

We had countless dry runs, trying to make sure that everything will go smoothly. I had tremendous respect for both Chin Ee and Ken Juin, judging from the way they both handle leadership duties effectively. Sien Long took care of all tech related stuff and I did stage crew work. Quite simple compared to what the stage crews of the grand finals went through.

The Roadshow Day soon arrived and for many of us, it was a chance to showcase XQRJ outside of NUS. I remembered Ken Juin coming all the way to my room to wake me up at 6am, but I was already awake..haha. That day was the first time I sat at the back of a lorry, sandwiched in between audio equipment with Mc Vin driving us all the way to our venue. The stage was set. Haha..looking back, I remembered how disappointed we were when we saw the place. It was an open air performance pavillion with a stage so dirty, you wonder if it had ever been used for a performance. Anyway, setting up the equipment went on smoothly and we had our Tech Run in the afternoon.

Kudos to Xu Su for coming up with a splendid publicity idea. The "Freezing Game" idea to publicise our event at Orchard Road attracted much attention and really you guys had lots of fun. Too bad I had to stay back for the Tech Run, or else I would run around crazy at Orchard Road. The show started somewhere in the evening and luckily we managed to get a crowd (mostly lao rens anyway). The lao rens are ex- XQRJ members who helped us a lot. Now that XQRJ is over, I am officially a lao ren too!! Not wanting to blog any further, let me just end with pictures of our roadshow. Again, our bond grew stronger as we completed another stage of the wonderful XQRJ experience.

Our XQRJ Banner with the finalists!!!

Ruiqi and Michelle with the posters.

How many people do you need to put up a banner? Answer: ???

The Freezing Game team!!!

XQRJ + Joker.....

One of our finalists going through the Tech Run.

After the Roadshow. Good work XQRJ!!

Wait for Part 3....

Xin Qing Rong Ji (心情溶剂)

The love of my life. For those who have no idea, it is actually a Chinese Song Writing Committee set up 11 years ago in King Edward VII Hall, when a group of seniors came together for their passion in song writing. From there, it grew by leaps and bounds. Now it is no longer just a small unknown event, but a national level one, with entries from Singapore and even Malaysia.

I know that I am not proficient in Chinese. Never was I able to comprehend the complexities of the Chinese Language. Still, looking back, I was never alienated or sidelined just because I might have difficulty contributing ideas during meetings. I always felt as a part of the XQRJ family. So, thank you all for your support and guidance. It really made all the difference.

I hope that you will visit this link below. It is a beautiful video that accurately summarizes our feelings towards the whole XQRJ experience. Credit goes to Chin Ee, our Production Manager for this lovely video.

Please do let me know if there are problems accessing the link. =)

So, I remembered signing up during CCA Fair, after much persuasion by an ex-XQRJ member, Ying Shuo. Why my initial reluctance? Simply because I cannot forsee myself joining a 'CHINESE' song writing committee. Things would be different then if I just shut my mind up, wouldn't it? After going through the interview, I was put into the Programmes Coordinator (PC) department. I remembered the first meeting confirmed whatever I have feared, it was conducted purely in Chinese. Oh my, we even have to come up with a motto!! A CHINESE motto, sort of like a theme. I went back completely lost, turning up for the next meeting to vote for the theme. It was then that I questioned my role in the committee. I was also afraid that the few PRCs in the committee might give me a certain strange stare if I were to admit that I am a complete idiot at Chinese. After all, Chinese language is their culture, their way of life and they might not understand how a Malaysian Chinese cannot possibly read and write the Chinese language.

Anyway, I managed to assimilate nicely with the rest of the group, depending pretty much on translations here and there. I remembered our first publicity phase when we were so worried due to the limited entries received. It was so pathetic that we cannot even possibly have a competition!! Everything seemed bleak and uncertain. We remained worried up till the day of our preliminary round. I was made Tech Head during the preliminary round. It was only during the prelims that I started to feel a strong sense of attchment towards this committee. We all had to sacrifice on our holidays and come back in December 2008, toiling day and night for this big event, when judges will come to KE 7 Hall to pick the best 10 songs for the finals. Even then, our number of entries was appaling and the busiest person at that time was none other than Kee Hong, Demo Team head. I remembered seeing his desktop full of online demos and particulars of participants. Looking back, I realised that XQRJ is a committee that demands perfection. Every single tiny detail will be scrutinized, and any mistakes pointed out. We got scolded too by our three heads, but all in the name of improvement.

It was then when I started cutting back on precious sleeping time. We had our first dry run for the prelims. It was disastrous. Things went wrong and we got scolded again. I remembered that debrief session as being an intense one, and all of us kept quiet, listening intently about our major flaws. We did not sleep that night trying to correct things. Many sleepless nights followed and tired faces were a norm. What kept me going was the determination of our Sound guy, Sien Long. This guy impressed me a lot. He managed the audio equipment like a pro, stayed up late doing sound editing and slept very little. Did not tell you this at that time, but really you pushed yourself to the max and that pulled me along together with you. I remebered how we all stayed up late, some correcting the lyrics, some going through the MC scripts and for the tech team, we were doing our sound mixing (mostly done by Sien Long anyway..haha).

Thank God that our entries ballooned nearer to our closing date. Even on the day of the prelims, we received 14 entries from Univeriti Malaya. I remembered the panic happening in the lounge when that many entries were received during the very last minute. In the end, it was a very successful prelims, albeit a tiring one. We were just beginning our journey as an XQRJian. I will blog more next time because I hope to keep this post short. Here are a few pictures:

11th XQRJ National Chinese Song Writing Committee

Finals Stage Team: Ken Juin, me, Xu Su, Chin Ee, Hao Yang, don't forget Kee Hong behind there and Sien Long is not in the pic...awww

The Marketing Team headed by Shu Ling...good job guys!

This is one of our hand painted banners!! OMG..i miss the feeling of hanging this banner at Central Library.

The design team with Sien Long on the vase....headed by Shu Hui

The Programme Coordinator team..headed by Kerry!!

Ohhh....missing XQRJ already!!!!

After Exams

Finally the exams are over. Excruciating 4 days of pure torture. Let me give an overview of the painful process: revising, worrying, falling sick and the joy of having finished exams...haha.

Of course, there was reading week where I spent most of my time in the Study Room. There is a certain aroma in that room. I guess they haven't changed the carpets since 1988?? Haha... Anyway, nothing much except the boring routine of pouring over books and notes..sickening. Somewhere in the middle of reading week, I fell sick!! Would you believe that?? Falling sick and needing to study at the same time can never be good. It was awful. Anyway, thanks to those who cared and helped me to da bao food...emotionally it felt better. Oh yea, not forgetting all the Paracetamol tablets from Kah Chun.

Day 1: My worst day as I have two papers at once. Things cannot get any worse. Started the day with LSM 1401 Biochemistry, an open book, 60 MCQ question paper. How hard can it be right?? But, noooo!!!! For a moment, I thought that I was sitting for a Biochemistry Olympiad paper!! It was freaking difficult and nothing studied can sufficiently prepare you for that agonizing 2 hours. Oh well, fine..what the is now over.

Barely 2 hours after that I had my PL 1101E Psychology paper. Crap. This was another bad paper because I did not prepare enough, especially the earlier chapters. Can only blame myself for neglecting this subject since it is not my core. I was stunned when one of the question asked about amnesia...OMGosh, I just flipped through that chapter the previous night but couldn't remember anything. Perfect example of an amnesiac. Should have included that example of myself to score some extra points.

Day 2: After a horrible Day 1, Day 2 wasn't that rosy either. Pharmacy Practice 1, a module I detest because of its memory workload, presented a different sort of challenge. This module is basically about how to deal with patients and how to prepare certain pharmaceutical products. I had been memorizing like mad the day before, committing flowcharts and definitions to memory, just to find myself facing a totally unexpected essay question. Oh god..hope I make it through this paper. =)

Day 3: Physiology, the name says it all. All about the inner workings of human body. Kind of intrigued by this module because really, our body is amazing. Haha, makes me love my body even more, and not look at them as a collection of cells. There are questions which I am unsure of and that prompted me to guess. Hopefully things will work out fine.....

Day 4: EC 1301 Economics. Thought about using my S/U option on this paper. One of my biggest mistakes is to take this module when I have absolutely little background in Economics. Again, neglecting this particular module because it is not my core is going to make me pay dearly. depressing!!

In a nutshell, I am prepared to see my CAP spiral downwards this semester. Maybe I did not work hard enough. Perhaps I was a bit laid back this semester. Whatever it is, I am ready to take the blame. Oh well, got to work harder next semester. Must push forward in the beginning of the semester, not just the days during reading week. Cannot imagine what is in store next sem. The seniors warn of impending doom with the SP1203 Communications module.

Disappointment aside, I have completed YEAR 1!!! What a great feeling to move on into my sophomore year, no longer a freshman!! NUS has been an amazing journey and I shall take my 3 months to blog about significant events of the year, notably Xing Qing Rong Ji ( National Chinese Song Writing Competition) !!! This is a committee that I gain most satisfaction from, not to mention great memories with wonderful people. =)

So, hard for next sem. Will be biting my nails till 29th May, when the exam results will be released. =S