Went on several trips since my last post last December. Had a wonderful trip in Jogja, where I spent a quiet moment of reflection in Borobudur and welcomed the new year in the city’s lowkey street party, explored India and attended a good friend’s wedding in Delhi, went to Bali for work, and more.
Will post some photos and travel reflections here. Stay tuned!
The SEA Games opening last Saturday is an excellent spectacle, a visually stunning display of the colours that make up Malaysia – and who we are as a nation.
The event had a wet start – spectators were drenched as they lined up to get in. There were also no clear signboards indicating where the queues were formed or where the lines began, so it was quite confusing. All we knew was, the gate we were supposed to get it, which did not really help, as the queue extended more than 500 m from the main stadium.
Pretty chaotic. People were getting frustrated. The organiser could’ve managed the crowd better.
The pedestrian plaza that stretches between the Bukit Jalil LRT station with the main stadium was a party ground. Plenty of food trucks filled the space, selling yummy stuff from mango juices to buttermilk chicken. I wish I could try all of them, but the queues were really long, so I didn’t really bother. The foodtrucks will be there until the end of the Games, so you should probably check them out.
Anyway, once I got in and took my seat, I was in awe. The team behind the refurbishment of the two-decade-old stadium clearly did a good job. The stadium looked fantastic, with brand new seats and brilliant purple roof lighting. Very elegant and classy. We have a world-class national stadium, indeed.
The rest of the evening happened smoothly – Aznil came out with a campy rendition of a Sudirman’s song, complete with some colourful rickshaws (very fabulous).
Dayang Nurfaizah performed the Games’ theme song – she delivered a rousing vocal performance, but the song sounds like it belongs to AJL, not a regional games. I’m a fan of her ensemble, though – the crystal headgear is definitely a highlight. Very glamorous.
MonoloQue Ft Lan & MaliQue delivered a strong performance of another song for the Games, Tunjuk Belang, which is a much better tune for the purpose.
The rest of the evening was filled with cultural performances – a spectacular show that displayed our nation’s diversity and long history of tolerance. It was aptly opened by the orang asli (recognising their status as pioneer of this land), the Malay, Chinese and Indian segments would only follow after. There were also caravels traversing the ocean – a homage of the Malay’s renowned seafaring capability way before the Portuguese discovered the Nusantara.
The different ethnics in East Malaysia were also amply represented in the show. There was even a scene of bajau laut horsemen traversing the water, a reminder of the forgotten history of the bajau people.
Good job to Saw Teong Hin for the very visually stunning show that encapsulated the very essence of Malaysia’s diverse culture and traditions.
18-year-old diver Dhabitah Sabri had the honour of lighting the Games’ torch. The ceremony ended with a 3-minute firework show – that we, at the stadium, couldn’t see as clearly as the people outside the venue lol.
I posted below a compilation of some photos that I took throughout the opening ceremony. There’s also a timelapse video that I took during the event here.
Every human connection, be it a fleeting bond or a lifelong commitment, starts from a Hello.
Have you ever wondered how many people have you met in your entire life so far? It’s impossible to keep track – a few thousand, perhaps?
There are more than seven billion people living on this Planet. Each with different character, quirks, values and habits. No two persons are the same – because each and every one of us is given free will to decide how we want to live our lives.
Everyone is given some leeway to chart their own destinies. Everyone is exposed to different preconditions and environments – these moulded them into who they are today.
What are the building blocks of a human mind?
A human mind is a complex territory, it is nothing but a fascinating hodgepodge of different things, an amalgamation of a person’s personal experiences, stacked on a domain constructed upon a person’s view of the world.
So powerful our mind is, that our interactions with the society, the way we treat others, and our daily actions and reactions, are all mere manifestation of the state of our mind.
Actions and reactions. How we treat others, is affected by what we have experienced as a human being.
Therefore, how a person treats you, tells a lot about what he has experienced in his life.
Every time we have a human encounter with a person who has been through a lot, we get to see his view of the world and of course the complex concoction that created who he is a person today, just by dissecting the way he treats us.
By having an emphatic pair of eyes, we can embark on a journey to his past, and draw lessons from what he had been through. Suddenly, his tragedies become relatable. His triumphs become something that we glorify – and feel somewhat envious about. His insecurities suddenly makes us feel less mystified by his over-sensitive nature – we become understanding and more discerning.
We eventually learn to treat a person, not based on what our experience tells us, but with a solid understanding of what the other party is like.
We become kinder.
Everyone has their life stories to tell.
What we need to do is, for every encounter, listen to what the other party has to say.
Dissect their reactions. Study their actions. That way, we’ll find out that with every encounter, good or bad, and with each Hello, we get to take a peek into yet another human’s soul.
No Hello is in vain. No relationship is completely futile. No friendship is worthless. The least that these human connections do is, they allow us to look beneath a person’s skin, right into his soul. Their experiences become ours. The travails that moulded them, that turned them into an angel, or morphed them into a devil, become important lessons to us too.
And when the time Goodbye is said, we know, deep in our hearts, that we have become a much richer person.
Wishing you all a very joyous Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration.
Let the period of festivities herald a new chapter of closer ties between us and our families, friends, and of course, loved ones too.
What’s amazing about Hari Raya in our local context is the ability of the festive season to bring the Malays of different ideological standpoints, spectrum of conservative-liberal stance, and to a certain extent, faith structures, to come together to celebrate the beauty of our culture, customs, fashion and food.
While Hari Raya has an undeniably Islamic origin, the modern day interpretation of the festivity varies, from cultural to religious.
Me too. Sometimes I feel that I want to have everything in my life sorted and in order. Just the way I like it.
I want to have a fulfilling job that pays well, while maintaining a healthy amount of friendship with people who appreciate me as much as I appreciate them.
I want parents who understand me, a partner that deeply values me, a home that is fault-free, a car that does not act up on me.
I want to look good and still eat to my heart’s content. I want to not have breakouts.
I want to go on big trips to exotic locations without having to worry about emails from my clients. I want to be able to pay the bills on time every month without having to worry about how much aircon I have been using. I want to go shopping without having to be afraid about the consequences it will have on my finances.
I want Life to be perfect. I want things to fall into place, to run smoothly. I want perfection, because, perfection allows me to be content.
But that’s not what Life is.
We as human beings have a degree of control over how things are going to turn out to be in the world.
We are given a degree of freedom to chart our own course.
But at the end of the day, it’s not us who decide how fate should treat us.
And this is when God’s wisdom is at full play.
The compassionate God does not give us every single thing that we want.
No one in this world gets everything. There must be one thing that we want so bad, but do not have.
No one lives a perfect life. A billionaire may die alone. A high-flying career man way not have the time to do what he truly enjoys doing – painting. A woman may receive boundless love and affection from someone who appears to be perfect, except that he also happens to be debt-ridden. A successful couple may have everything sorted, except for the very fact that one of them is barren.
You see, for every blessing that we receive, there is something that we yearn for, but do not have.
I used to blame fate for playing game with us – how could we be made happy and content with all the good things that have happened to us, only to feel sad one day because the thing that we really want in this life is just not ours.
Why must our lives, no matter how hard we work and how meticulous we have been, are still imperfect? Why must there be imperfection?
Then it occurred to me that imperfection is important – by not having everything, we discover the feeling of yearning for something. We know what it feels like to lack something. We know how crushing it feels like to need something without getting it no matter how hard we try.
This, eventually, leads to empathy. Because we have been through that situation, we understand the feelings of people who want or need something, but do not have them.
We become kinder to them. We treat people, including strangers, with kindness because we know that there is one thing that bonds us, and them.
That we’re all struggling, and that the personal journeys we all take are all marred with difficulties.
Since we’re currently in the season of scholarship application, let’s talk about scholarships – especially since some SPM leavers must have already received call-backs from their prospective sponsors by now.
The views that I will share on this article are rooted from my observation as a former scholarship recipient – I graduated 5 years ago though, so my views may not be very current.
First thing first, ask yourself:
What do you want to do?
As cliche as this may sound, it’s really important that you know what you want to do. What are you passionate in? What sector do you want to venture into?
With the dwindling number of scholarships year by year, the old adage “beggars can’t be choosers” is becoming even more relevant to many.
For example, an SPM leaver, lured by the possibility of spending a few years overseas, may forgo his dream of becoming an architect and do engineering instead.
“Asalkan dapat biasiswa pergi UK, kan?”
While the seemingly pragmatic decision often makes practical sense, it also tends to end badly.
Tolerating that one subject that you dislike, let’s say Physics, and still score that A+ in SPM, is one thing. It’s just one subject, out of nine. You can still do lots of past year papers, commit yourself to some serious rote learning, and try your best to get the result that you desire – with a high chance of success.
But tolerating 4 years of learning Engineering, which goes deep into the subject matter, often with staggering level of complexity (especially in top universities), is a completely different thing.
When I was in Melbourne some of my unimates had to drop out because they simply couldn’t take it anymore. They found it untenable eventually, committing so much energy and intellectual capacity learning subjects that they simply had no passion in.
These were top students in SPM, mind you. It’s not that they weren’t intelligent. They just hated the course the scholarship that they received made them do.
Fast forward to this year, some main sponsors like MARA and JPA offer scholarships in a very limited number of fields. Engineering is one of them. Architecture isn’t. Arts isn’t.
Many SPM leavers who love Architecture will end up receiving a very tempting offer to further their studies in a course they are not very passionate in overseas.
If you’re one of them, think twice before you accept the offer.
What are your favourite subjects?
When I received my SPM result 10 years ago, I was quite clueless of what I actually wanted to do with my life. I had a very limited exposure to the career world. My dad, along with most of my uncles and aunts work in the oil and gas sector, and seeing what they do everyday greatly influenced my perspectives at that time. I thought a career in oil and gas was what I wanted (and needed).
Long story short, not knowing what I wanted was a big mistake on my part.
If you’re in the position to choose today, don’t be as clueless as I was 10 years ago. Know what you want, if not clearly, at least have a rough idea of what you would like to do for the next 10-20 years of your life at least,
Here are some guides, compiled based on my observation and that of people around me in various industries. The fields of study are lumped in based on the subject that you love the most in high school.
Additional Mathematics: Actuarial Science (if you’re really good in Maths, this is a really difficult course), Economics, Finance, Accounting
Physics: Engineering, Geology (if you’re into Geography too)
English/BM: Mass Comms, Literature, Creative Writing, TESL, Law
History: Political Science, Law
Biology: Medicine, Pharmacy, Biomedical Sciences
Chemistry: Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry (if you love Biology too)
This is another important question. A lot of SPM leavers look forward to furthering their studies overseas that they tend to overlook that some scholarships come with a package – a long bond.
When I accepted the PETRONAS sponsorship, I effectively agreed that I would be bonded for 10 years.
I was 17 – I didn’t really think of the implications. But after graduation, it dawned on me that the length of my scholarship bond was …quite long (duh).
So, be careful when you sign. There are pros and cons of a scholarship bond.
Bonded scholars normally get called for job interviews in the organisation that sponsors them, even before graduation. To those who seek job security in reputable organisations and GLCs, a bond means less headaches and stress.
Job seeking, especially for fresh graduates, can be a fairly daunting process.
Personally, I feel that imposing bond means a fair proposition for the sponsors. They already spent a lot of money to provide you with the degree and plenty of exposure, of course they would want you to come back to contribute back to them. These are corporate-driven entities after all, not strictly charitable bodies.
A scholarship bond may also prove a disadvantage for those who wish to:
Continue their masters – while a lot of companies allow their staff to take unpaid leave to do masters, normally you have to serve them for a few years first before this is possible
Migrate overseas – you may only think of this after 10 years, so you can forget about staying back after your graduation
Have freedom in choosing career field – a lot of graduates decide to work a job that does not strictly follow their field of studies in university (eg Engineering graduate working in a corporate consulting firm like McKinsey). This is not possible for bonded scholars after their graduation. They have to wait for…10 years before they can switch firms or fields
Be adventurous and do whatever hell they want – this is not possible. You have to follow the career path that the organisation has to offer you, and stay there
Different people have different goals and priorities in life, so whatever yours are, please put them into consideration before accepting a scholarship that has strings attached.
Bonds are not necessarily bad, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Choose wisely.
How about studying locally?
If no overseas scholarship covers the course that you want to do, or if there is a mismatch, you may still enrol in local Pre-University foundation centres. Universiti Malaya has a reputable foundation programme, upon the completion of which you may further your studies in a THES Top 200 university locally – not shabby at all.
After graduating from a local university, you may still further your studies overseas for masters. I personally know of friends and acquaintances who are currently doing their masters overseas, and they did their degrees locally. Many of them are there on sponsorships.
The door will always be open for you, if you really want to study overseas. If not now, later. You don’t have to rush. What’s important is to know what you want, and to do what you want. Locally or overseas.
Overseas education is definitely not overrated – it provides people who are privileged enough to go abroad with a good exposure and plenty of opportunities to broaden their perspectives. It builds character.
But it’s also not everything. It’s not something that one must have to succeed.
Follow your interest, trust you instincts, grow upon your passions. You will thank yourself in the future.
p.s. This post is written by a guy who did Geology in uni. He currently does PR (Content Development & Digital Strategy) for a living – and is quite happy where he is. Life works in mysterious ways.
It is where millions of Hellos are exchanged, plenty of Goodbyes are said, and countless promises are made.
Train stations are where palpable emotions are experienced. It represents farewells as much as it greets you Welcome.
It’s also the pulsing heart of the city it serves – always practical as much as it is evocative.
I took my first train ride when I was 18 – I grew up in Sarawak, and there is (still) no train servicing the state. I first came to KL as a child with my family for a holiday, but then again, we always cabbed around town.
My first train ride felt like a rite of passage; I was a young adult, and I remember how exciting it was for me to be on the LRT, zipping across the city over the buzzing streets of KL. It felt surreal, and I was sold, instantly – the fascination remains to this day.
Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of taking train trips in different place, from the pleasant journey from Warsaw to Krakow on the new high-speed railway to the slow ride on the chugging train connecting Melbourne with Sydney (well, partially, anyway, since I had to finish the trip on the bus), intercity train ride is still something that I look forward to.
As much as the ride fascinates me, so do the stations. Train stations are great places to observe people and learn more about the cities you’re in. It’s where you go to if you want to feel the real pulse of the city.
Also, some of these stations are absolutely gorgeous too!
Took these pictures during my travels, and I thought I’d share them here. Enjoy!
You walk into the cinema with your friends for a nice Friday night movie session.
Then you bump into a person that you know; sitting alone in the middle row, with a large tub of popcorn and a tall diet coke.
What would be your first reaction?
“Pity him, why is he all alone on a Friday night like this?”
“Where are his friends? Does he not have one?”
“Did he just break up with his girlfriend?”
“Is he depressed?”
These are the common reactions that people would make when they see someone they know spending time alone.
We live in the world where having company is a reflection of a person making it in the social world. The more friends a person has, the higher the position the person has on the social hierarchy.
We love making friends, and sometimes, we go out in groups most (if not all) the time not because we need to, but just because we are scared of being seen alone.
We don’t want to be that loser who fine dines alone.
Being alone, or being viewed as a lonely person, is still a taboo in our society that so values company.
There’s always a sense of shame associated with people who prefer spending their time alone.
We tend to think that when a person is alone, it must be because he has no choice but to be alone.
That he is undesirable. That he needs help.
And of course, that he needs our pity – which often comes in a way that also borders on schadenfreude, unfortunately.
Let’s go back to the person that you bumped into the cinema, devouring his popcorn and watching that chick-flick alone.
Why is he alone? Was he forced to do so by circumstances? If he indeed chose to be alone, why would he?
It’s simple, really.
We need solitude as much as we need company. And some of us, including the introverted ones, need the former more than the latter.
And that’s perfectly fine.
Imagine this situation – you go to work in a job that involves a lot of human interactions. You talk and write to people to get things done. Then you open your phone to take a 5-minute break and the first thing you’ll come across is your friend’s selfie – that friend that you just texted 10 minutes prior.
Then you go to the cubicle, and you meet a co-worker at the urinal. You exchanged some lines, probably about the group task that is due tomorrow, then you return to your cubicle and continue with work.
Then at home after dinner, with most of us millennials having to share their apartments with flatmates nowadays; chances are you will not get the whole couch to yourself either.
This is the reality of our generation today. Everywhere we go, even when looking at our iPhone screen, we see people, we interact with people, and we deal with people.
With all these happening day in and day out, don’t you think that we are often in desperate need for space?
I think we do.
And it kills us inside if we don’t.
Have you ever thought of your partner or friends annoying you so often, with the little things that they do? Have you ever blamed yourself for getting annoyed or moody so easily over the little things that people do?
If you have, you probably need some me-time. You need some space.
I love my space too. Frankly, going out to dinner alone sometimes, spending a week or two doing solo trips, and even taking a 2-hour drive alone to Melaka have really helped me put things into perspectives.
It’s when I am alone that I most appreciate the company that I have. Walking alone in a busy street of a foreign city reminds me of how good it feels like to have my close friends walking with me.
In many ways, spending some time alone, and getting ample space to be with myself, helps me enhance and preserve my relationship with a lot of people.
That’s why I really believe that solitude matters.
People who are out alone sometimes are not losers; nor are they miserable. They just know what they want – some space, and they are not ashamed to provide themselves with exactly what they need.
Nights make us miss days.
Days make us miss nights.
The glaring sun makes us miss the calming full moon.
The soft hue of moonlight makes us miss the joyful frenzy of a sunny day.
Persian rugs, with its explosion of vivid colours make us miss the monochromatic Swedish mat.
The grey IKEA chair makes us miss the ornate Turkish divan from grandma’s home.
What is life but a series of darkness alternating with vivid, bright spectrums of light?
And darkness is not always bad, nor is light.
I personally think that the first five minutes after waking up is the most important part of my day.
Sometimes I wake up groggy after a long night, sometimes fresh and well-rested after a nice, deep sleep.
Sometimes I feel like a wreck.
But through it all, beneath the veneer of temporal feeling of grogginess or lapses of energetic feeling coming from having enough rest, one thing remains.
When I’m in a content phase, I have so much optimism over how my day will go.
When I’m content, I find a strong sense of purpose. I look forward to starting the day, no matter how sleep-deprived I am.
I might feel like a wreck, but I know things will get better. So I look forward to starting my day still.
That is why whenever I’m unsure of the state of life I am in at a particular moment, I’ll try go back to think of what I felt when I first started my day.
Because there were times when I felt disillusioned every morning.
There were times when I had to drag myself out of bed; to a job that I had to learn to tolerate. To face an inconsiderate boss that didn’t believe in me and my potential.
No matter how well-rested I was at that time, no matter how plush the bed I slept on; I woke up dreading to start the day.
I did not feel damn good in the morning, no matter how great the previous day was for me.
In retrospect, I think I was quite miserable.
So next time when you feel like you’re unsure if you’re doing the right thing with your life; try to think of how you started your day.
Did you dread it? Did you have to drag yourself out of home?
If you did, and it persisted, know that the time is probably right for a change. Get rid of the toxic elements that make your life miserable. Leave what dragged you down behind. Even if that means having slightly less money in the bank or less friends to call out for coffee with.