With new year comes new resolutions and for this year, I make one with the tacit and loving influence of a close friend.

I have made many incendiary criticisms towards certain individuals, that in one way or another, either lack that sense of responsibility or certain alleged deficiencies that becomes fodder for banter and ‘bitchiness’. Of course, for most times, these individuals becomes the focus of many because of such widespread ‘infamousness’.

That said, with her goading and continuous advice for want of a better person, I think it would be a noble aspiration indeed to first limit this criticality against individuals, even if they utterly deserve it, before going on to ultimately remove it altogether. She has really been my moral compass and the magnet for moderation, especially during times where I get utterly incensed by the actions, or sometimes in action of some, or the hypocrisy and plasticity of others.

Circa 2 weeks into the new year, I have managed to resist joining circle of friends in condemning several much loved targets. And if  there is really a need too, I guess it’s best to deconstruct the issue in an academic and rational manner, even though sometimes that very issue incites the most primal of your emotions. Whether the solution is considered and accepted is recourse to their level of egoism and rationality. Ultimately, we cant always choose who we want to work with, so why not we let them be and at the same time enhance our tolerance level. Amin

I have gotten the hang off the Meet the People Sessions in Marsiling. For the past 2 months, the weekly visits is something that I have been looking forward to. I enjoy the conversations with the applicants and within this noble endeavour too, I feel blessed knowing like minded, driven and more often than not, selfless individuals who dedicate part of their time into helping others.

That said, the session for last week dating 6th February turned out to the most poignant of all. An applicant was inside the office with Mr. Hawazi and I was outside, done for the day. Her daughter was at the back of Mr. Hawazi’s room, looking down while her mum was tearing away.

I signaled to the little girl to come out. She did, albeit hesitantly. I think for that moment, I wanted to direct her attention away from whatever was going on inside. I talked to her about her school, her siblings. She was the youngest, and when I asked kena buli selalu ah ni? She smiled and said ‘a’ah, selalu’. She was shy at first, but slowly started opening up. But then Maly told me that Mr. Hawazi wanted me to come into the room. Hesitantly, I said goodbye to the little girl, her mum was coming out of the room.

In Mr. Hawazi’s office, I soon got to know about the family’s situation. It was heart wrenching and inside, I almost tired. This is the life I want to lead. For those who are able, financially, academically or etc, with sincerity, then it is your duty to help those in need; if not based on the tenets or our religion, then base it on humanity and morality.

Hey you in the mirror, why so rapacious?

Why bulldoze against that man of noble intentions?

Why dampen his spirits and play on his noble patience?

That quaint talented man, so accomodating and so tolerant…

Hey you, young man why are you so angry at the world?

At the condition of your battered princes?

At the injustice and ignorance from the masses?

Young man, emotions will only blind your judgement…

You in the mirror, why put such an expectation to some of your friends?

Must they read the same books that you do?

Belief in the same ideology that you stand by?

Or love and act the way that you do?

To each his own, all you could do is advice and listen…After which it is up to them to decide, IF they listen

You in the mirror…

With that furrowed eyebrows, that piercing stare, and that pounding heartbeat…

Calm down, take a step back, before that mirror cracks…

I will smile… and you will smile with me…

You in the mirror, you seem so familiar…

You in the mirror….

You are my reflection…

Why do we have the chronic need to present a multitude of our photos on facebook, friendster and our blogs? Sometimes monthly, sometimes weekly, and more rarely on a daily basis.

Why is there a need to detail where we go, who we drank with, or what we did to a greater public?

Also, MSN nicks never fails to amuse me. Refer to the examples below:

1) For the past 10 days I’ve had dinner with a different group of friends every time
– do one feels so inadequate so much so that there is a need to prove to the whole world the adequacy of self

2) Busy. DO not disturb
– if you do not wish to be disturbed then do not come online or just appear offline. Just a click of the button.

Why do we do all this? This exhibition of our very lives, from chronic photo uploaders to the occasional ones.

I think at the end of the day, while there is that niggling need to show how colourful our lives are, how ‘happening’ and how vibrant our circle of friends is, there may also be that want to show your appreciation to friends that you hold dear. That apart from the narcissistic tendencies of various denominations in all of us, we have that Hall of Fame that we create in our own quaint little world, for those dear to us.

That said, they say a picture paints a thousand words. You might have one of 5 couples smiling and posing together for Raya.

The Interpretation at face value: It is a group of close knitted friends who shares good chemistry with each other

 OR

The Viable alternative: A patchwork of common friends put together just for the sake of a massed couple outing. Tension could be simmering between them behind those smiles and etc etc.

So you see my friends, it has come to a point that sometimes the colourfulness of one’s life is perhaps judged by some people through the variety of one’s exploits via photos uploaded. It is a truly truly sad day then when a lifetime of greatness is measured only by that mili second that it takes to capture a photograph.

But perhaps I should upload more photos…. Just to be on the safe side

But then again….

Who cares…

On the 6th day God created man in his own image, now it is up to all of us to figure it out; right, wrong, good or evil. In each of us is the capacity to decide what drives our actions.
So what is it that makes some choose selflessness, the need to devote oneself to something greater; while others know only self interest, isolating themselves in a world of their own making.

Heroes Season 3 – Episode 13

 

At the last MPS session, I handled my first case, albeit under the guidance of one of the longer serving volunteers.

Yesterday, though I was on my own. Though I think I might seem calm and collected while conversing with the applicants; inside, I was worrying if I might make a wrong move, and give a wrong ‘remedy’ to a problem or provide a wrong referral to a wholly different issue. 

At the end of the night however, after 7 or so cases, I felt as relaxed as I could be. It was a good start. 
I do hope that whatever I learnt in MPS could be a new set of skills that I could utilise in a school scenario. Insya allah.

Yesterday, I treated 3 of my office bearers to lunch at Pizza Hut. Individuals that has stood stoically by the project even at the most trying of times.

That GESL experience was easy at times and also difficult in others. For some, you see that their want to help a particular section of community that is in need drives them to work that extra mile, or it was simply because responsibility is one of the tenets they stand by. For some though, it might seem as a hassle, and extra workload that they could do without.

I see similarities with the work that some of us did in PBMUKS and the objectives that we set for ourselves. The only difference in status is that GESL was a compulsory activity in NIE while joining PBMUKS wasnt.

Of course there were times that I felt like attacking certain individuals for trying to break the morale and the momentum of the team just because they feel that their ego was battered or that they did not get what they want. But at times too, I glowed at the enthusiasm shown by most, if not all of the team members.

Comparatively, our GESL activity was by far one of the most comprehensive and well thought out plan among the other GESL groups.

1) The sharing session with representatives from SCS
2) The preparatory team bonding activies
3) The Night Cycling Event proper
4) Post Event Reflections with the participants

All in all, I think the team did a helluva great job and I’m somewhat thankful that the people who did stepped up were the right ones. Thank god for that.

Its not over yet though, there is still the final report to settle and also the Post Event Closure and Presentation to conduct and prepare for.

As of 7th December, I have officially moved out of the much loved Warren Residence that I have been living in for the past 5 to 6 years.

That place holds much memories. The BBQs that was held with friends, be it long time buddies, the occasional birthday parties, PBM gatherings and even the much rarefied Mendaki Staff BBQ that my dad asked me to help in.

Then there was the gym/swimming sessions (oh how I wished I did more of those sessions. If only I had managed to get my lazy butt of the comfy sofa of the living room, I might not have the double chin that I have now.

Then there were those times where buddies gathered at the living room to watch the matches of EPL, big or small, and on how I cringed in agony when the Arsenals, Liverpools, Man U’s that they support pick up win after wins, while my beloved Newcastle destroy themselves to oblivion.

The Warren has been a much adored place of residence, with an insanely short distance from basic amenities, malls and transport centres.

Thus in this 100th post, I pay grand tribute to you which has accomodated me lovingly thus far. You will be missed

On the aforementioned date a group of 28 NIE trainee teachers went on a heavily subsidised trip to an intensive 4-Day Resilience and Adaptability Course at OBS Pulau Ubin. Below are the reflections that I had to pen after a group reflection every morning

Morning Reflections 1

I sit down to observe almost everyone’s attributes, negative or not. How they react to people up to how they handle situations. Once that basic knowledge is concretised you go about to handle each individual or respond to them to the best of your ability.

What I continually learn here is to enhance skills in communication inference and public relations. It is so because I am thrusted into another new group of people, this time round without 4 colleagues who had prior last minute appointments and were thus unable to make it. Therefore, this becomes another scenario to which I could test my management and communication skills.

Also, I see this as a break to just take a step back, and be led, because I think that to be a good leader, you must learn to follow too. I have ended the tiring GESL endeavour and its multitude of different and sometimes problematic individuals and also the management of another event. So this is my respite, to be led without really having to worry about how to lead.

Morning Reflections 2

We just had our 2nd Morning Circle and I think it was better than yesterday’s. We were more upfront and shared much more. 
In this session, all the more I realised and humbled myself to the ability of following instead of just leading. I looked at some of the unofficial team leaders, observed and sometimes I wonder, am I like them, or at least one of them? If I was, I didnt like what I saw. It made me more aware and more sensitive to how I behave as a leader and also on what I should not do when given a chance to lead. 

Morning Reflections 3

This was the 3rd day, the morning after a long trek too which I was made the unofficial leader of my team. Stepping up not by choice but by circumstances, I relish that opportunity. I always felt that in activities, we should try to give opportunities to everyone to lead and if they do make mistakes help and advice them so that they improve as individuals. I realised thus that I have not utilised this part of me for some time. That 2 year experience at management level had sometimes numbed my feelings of apathy and understanding. Too long have I sat at that gilded throne feeling high and mighty, bouyed by the weight of past achievements. I know I can lead, my NUS years and even the GESL endeavour are proof of that. A friend of 6 years said to me 2 months back, ‘Naturally, you would be leading one way or another, sooner or later and almost always, people will follow you, well most will.’

But what I learnt today is that no man is an island or lives in a vacuum. No matter how good you think you are, or no matter how colourful your CV is, you need support from the people around you. It is not a show of weakness if you admit your mistakes or act like you know something when in truth that particular specialisation or branch of knowledge is way beyond you. When push comes to shove though, we must still don our best armour and not show our worst.

In short, in this OBS experience, I learnt more about myself by leading, following and learning from others.

OBS Summary

That cross island kayak, that countless kilometres of trekking carrying so heavy a load did push me physically, of course more so due to the current state of my (un)fitness. But the knowledge of having been able to bond the group together and make them enjoy the experience was priceless.

And of course, for that final day where I was planted as a victim that had to be carried by the rest in the wee hours of the morning. What happened was that the instructors had told me at 4am that I would be a victim of an injury and that I should keep it to myself. I must act that I would faint as we were trekking back.

So as i slowly fell to the ground in a heap, with the big backpack still tied to me, the people around me started panicking, half trying to revive me by slapping and some pincing. Then in my head I thought, its easier for me to be half awake and at time feign faintness. And so along that caservack, some had tears in their eyes (not sure if they were really worried about me or because they were damn tired). Some held my hand and told me to squeeze theirs to show that I’m still awake. Some slapped my face whenever I lost ‘conciousness’. Ultimately, it was a really great experience that would either show the best or the worst in a person. Fortunately, I saw the best in everyone, they really pushed themselves to the limit. Those who werent doin the caservack had at time 3 backpacks with them. And they moved at quite a pace. Utterly impressive. Ultimately a truly interesting experience.

30th

I am sitting now inside the Blue Mosque among the throngs of people listening to the sermon for the Friday prayers being articulate wholly in Turkish. The time now is 1240. The sermon is actualy presented before the noon call to prayer. I sit here alone, with much relief in my being. The results for  my final semester in NUS is out and dear had helped me check it out.

Alhamdullilah, I had managed to secure my 2nd lower and at the same time achieved on of the best results ever for one semester. As such, in this beautiful mosque, I thank God for helping me realise the objective I had set, one which I had worked hard for and which I feel I thoroughly deserve. Of being able to make it to honours year despite juggling intensely the other objectives and commitments in this pedagogical experience. I stand proud to what has been achieved, not only in the academic nature, but also success in its various denominations. More importantly life skills which I could and would most probably use in realising the greater objective I have in mind. Thus, in Istanbul, on this 2nd last full day here, inside this opulent and majestic mosque, I feel fulfilled.

The real journey now will soon begin. Let it come and let what I’ve learnt and experienced thus far be an able coutenance come what may. Insya allah.

31st

2030: It’s the final night that we will have in Istanbul and to that end we were trying to take as much of Istanbul as we can. It was for the 3rd time for that Sunday alone that I prayed at the Blue Mosque. Each time, I tried to soak in the tranquility and nobility of this mosque, while at the same time performing my prayers in jemaah.

That day too, we decided to locate this eatery called Cafe Masala, which was mapped near the Blue Mosque itself. There we sipped on Turkish tea after Turkish tea, one session in the late morning, the other in the evening where we witnessed a slightly muted and disappointing dance of the whirling dervishes.

After maghrib, me and David sat down yet again at the lovingly tended gardens between the mysterious splendour of the Aya Sofya and the gilded charm of the Blue Mosque. We waited until abiut 1030 for the Isyak call to prayers and it didnt disappoint. Once again, amidst the tranquil of the night, multiple renditions of the azan pierced melodiously trough the cold night air. We sat for a bit more, before slowly proceeding back to the hostel at which we had parked our bags after checking out at 1120 this morning. We had planned to visit Mahmud, the roadside calligraphr en route to the hostel to say our last goodbye.

Arguably, among the Turkish people we’ve met and conversed with, Mahmud was the most genuine, despite his stuttering grasp of English. I joked with him tha he should give us free calligraphy since we were almost like regular customers despite our short stay in Istanbul. Mahmud smiled and said “You’re my  brother, I give you free.” I tought for a while and took the offer. David followed grudgingly after, as soon as he found someone to present th calligraphy note to. In my mind, at the end of his work, I’ll pass him 5 lira for his efforts. He did not accept however.

We then said our goodbyes, in the traditional Turkish way of a cheek to cheek ‘kiss’ on both sides. His daughter Dilara was there too, and together the 4 of us took pictures for memory sake. I told him that I would email him the photos (sadly though I could not find the card that he gave me). The 2 of us then walked back, quietly happy that this night was a fitting send off to our experience though, of course barring the 3 consecutive nights of uncomfortable sleep we had at out 8 man dormitory. (inclusive of the night late at the airport which would most probably be as uncomfortable) At least however, we wont have a Californian guy who roars his snores in the dark of the night. It was so bad that 2 of the guys in the room went out to sleep at the corridor. And the guy sleeping above him broke into laughter from time to time. Most probably in disbelief at such a ‘phenomenon’.

That said, Istanbul, this magical land was worth every minute second. And as I write this entry in the plan from Dubai to Singapore, I half look forward to reaching home, but half wonder to when I would visit this place again.

As with all writings, I did not manage to chronicle fully my experience in Istanbul, some because of the circle of time that blunts the memory or the inability to write vividly and completely enough in real time, my experience there. What appears thus is a fragmented and incomplete account of my experience. For that my sincerest apologies. Tessekur ederim… Thank you in Turkish

25th

We had returned back to Istanbul after our trips to Selcuk-Ephesus and Cappadocia, and for this final leg, the 4 of us actually managed to get a local to host our stay in Istanbul. The term is called ‘couch surfing’ if I’m not wrong. It’s a global network where individuals offer their homes at no price and get a recommendation (good/bad) at the end of that stay. So as it goes, you will be more trusted as you get more positive recommendations, ultimately enhancing your reputation as a host. It goes both ways, cos’ if the host travels a lot, that positive reputation will put him in good stead for his overseas trips as he couch surfs too.

Nways, our host for the next 4 days was Akin, a graduate from Istanbul University. Not married and living in his own apartment. Akin was a great host, and made our final stretch of days in Istanbul easier.

For this day, we visited the 19th century Ottoman Dolmahbace Palace, a ridiculously extravagant European styled creation that was in stark contrast to the more traditional and grand Topkapi Palace, for centuries, the seat of Ottoman power.

Also, we had our first brush with a stretch of road which I remeber fondly. Istiklal Caddesi was written in our guide as as a must visit place. So me and David asked Akin on whether he could bring us there. Little did we realise that, that stretch of road will be frequently visited by us time and time again. It was wonderfully lit and to add to the charm, no vehicles was allowed in except for the electrically powered tram coming through from time to time. It was virtually human traffic. What was special however was that, that walkway itself was lined with 18th to 19th century buildings which were used as ambassadorial housing for the many foreign influences in late Ottoman Turkey. The beauty of the place was really hard to describe. It was like Orchard Road, minus the skycrapers, cars and smog, but add to that beautiful aged buildings, beautiful people and fresh air. At Istiklal Caddesi too, I had a taste of Turkish sheesha called narghile. Strong stuff man, just a few sips and I was lightheaded already. Sheesha in Singapore is mild by comparison.

26th

On this day we visited a place called Eminonu (smtg lik that). Visited the Yeni Cami (new mosque) and also the Blue Mosque again. This was so mainly because while me and David reached earlier, and we managed to do our roundings at Istanbul first, the 2 ladies only joined us when we were at our 3rd day. And that was when we departed to Selcuk and Cappadocia. The ladies thus, have not really explored Istanbul yet. We also visited the Spice Bazaar and the Sinan inspired Rustem Pasha Mosque.

27th

This was the day where we spent our time at only 2 places. Both magnificent in their own right – Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque. While the former was mysterious and hauntingly opulent, the latter had this cheerful awe inducing demeanour to it. So for this day, we just hung around the Blue Mosque and the Sultanahmet area until about 10pm before going back to Akin’s place. Oh ya, Akin works, so he is able to join us only after 6pm every day. For this day we just told him that we would be back late and we would just meet him at his place.

28th

Visited the vast expanse of the Topkapi Palace and after which we went back to Akin’s place and helped the ladies packed up. They were continuing their graduation trip to Europe and were leaving by train today. So on this day, we said goodbye to Liwen and Jasmine, good companions that we had for at least half of this great trip. We accompanied them right until we reached the Metro, before saying our final farewell. By then it was almost 8pm. The Topkapi visit lasted half a day. At night end, me and David came to where we started, only the 2 of us, plus Akin, who we would be leaving tomorrow. He was expecting another group of couch surfers later tomorrow.

29th

This day we spent at the very expansive Military Museum, which was inevitable for a land that has for centuries been perenially in conflict, from within and without. A martial race, some Europeans call it. As such, at the museum itself, you see a vast array of collections from the 13th century up to modern times. Even kerises from Indonesia, for that one time where Southeast Asian Sultanates, especially the Sultanate of Acheh looked to the Ottomans as leaders of the Muslim world. The Ottomans even sent a group of artillerymen to aid one of the Sultanates (dont remember which) against Portuguese expansion.

This day too we managed to try out the much vaunted eatery HACI ABDULLAH at Istiklal Caddesi, one of the rare restaurants in Istanbulwhere alcohol is not served. It is said that the owner is a conservative Muslim, and stands stoical to the tenets of his faith. It was a much welcomed information. After that dinner, we went back to Akin’s place, packed up and said our goodbyes to our very hospitable and friendly host. The 4 of us had brought him a batik shirt from Singapore, something that we thought was unique for him. This was the last few days of our trip. Our next lodging was an 8 men dormitory. I hope the relative comfort that we had so far, be it sleeping in hostels, Akin’s living room, or in the overnight buses; will stay.

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