1957-2015

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows”
― George Orwell, 1984

16 months ago, I decided to come home.

Transitioning into my late 20s, my hope and vision for my nation is optimistic. I knew that was my gift. And I was destined to thrive and make my country a better place for everyone. I joined our country’s premier think tank upon my arrival a week after my return. An elite institution that crafted once our country’s Vision 2020. The nation’s crème de la crème. I was adamant and eager to see my country unleashing its full potential.

I wanted to examine how a pluralist society in Malaysia transitioned itself from the status of primarily a commodity-based economy to a successful case of development to many developing countries. What were the strategies adopted and what were the nation’s priorities? How decisions are principally made and in whose interest?

I didn’t know what to expect. I was about to unravel a Pandora box and was all ready to go behind the headlines and defy statistics. My meddling mind was and still is seeking for clarity. The floating clouds of nuances are gaining gravity.

I knew it was not going to be easy to untie the knots. All these questions beg for an array of perspectives and interpretation in viewing both the historical and contemporary transition in Malaysia. Naturally, my interest of my nation’s socio-economic and environmental development and context deepens.

Yet 16 months later, my expectations and hope for the nation are now tethering on the brink of despair.

After 58 years of independence, my resource abundant country was left in the lurch of rampant corruption, pervasive crony capitalism and patronage politics in the pursuit of development. The abuse of law and order is an everyday norm. Political dissenters are threatened and sent to jail. In the face of our country’s pivotal and rapidly transitioning phase, I have witnessed my country has fallen into political bigotry.

Finally, the inevitable question at this juncture is while navigating its position in the global arena and forging national identity to achieve common good, what are the prospects for future development?

I wanted to come home, to a place I was born, a place that I could meaningfully, tirelessly and purposely serve and most importantly, a place worth fighting for.

16 months later, I’m still clinging on to his hope.

…. things I’ve learned from my Homecoming

They say “7” is a magic number.

Let me shed the light, there are seven colours of the rainbow, Seven Wonders of the World, seven sea and continents, seven days of the week, seven deadly sins, even Snow White has seven dwarfs, and don’t ask me why. Though chances that “7” is world’s favourite and lucky number can be highly contested in the sea of more than 1.3 billion Chinese population and more. Well, in the defence of ‘8” of course.

Oh by the way, why 13 is the unlucky number again?

Long story short, this post is a dedication to the 7 things I’ve learned from my 7th month of homecoming back in Bolehland.

1. Thinking

Hang on, let me justify. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking before I came back. In fact, it is something that EVERYONE has to do subconsciously every nano second of every mili day. But the truth is, I never thought that HARD and LONG before.

Working in a think tank both in offensive and defensive modes is like entering a battlefield with war tank. You need to constantly reload your ammunition before firing out. At times, you get shot, at times your enemies go down. Sometimes, firearm is malfunctioned or you misfire. Precision is the key.

“Pen is mightier than sword” is not a new paradigm shift.

However, in order to think critically and put things into perspectives, an enabling environment is crucial. This translates into freedom of speech and most importantly freedom to think.

If opening one’s thinking cap is a REAL effort here, we have a significant imperfect competitive market “cough sedition-cough-law”. In order words, we are entering in the era of thinklobalization without ammunition in our think tank.

2. Driving

Yes. I’m 26 years old and I just passed my driving test last summer. In April this year, I started to drive in the heart of KL for the first time, and to work. I was literally driving like a chicken without head. But hell, I’m glad I’m still kicking today. Hallelujah. Don’t ask me how. To be fair, I kissed a static car costing me a whooping RM 350.

3. Drawing

I see art as one of the most important form or tool of expression In Malaysia. Science to action is so yesterday. Art to action it reaches beyond the artefacts of religion, race and stereotypes. Art creates a vacuum for both vibrant and passive particles. Art generates an abstract and virtual ecosystem where one can seek asylum in the midst of 7 deadliest madness.

4. Balancing

Right and left ideologies, will one reach an equilibrium state? Relative to what state? This is the mantra of slack lining. One has to keep moving and look forward in order to reach its destination.

5. Cycling

Cycling is impossible they say? Tell them that even impossible spells I M possible. No climate and humidity nonsense. Just pick a bike and helmet. Your friends say you’re crazy. Ride and be at awe. Can’t afford RM 2.30 per litre of RON 95? A solution for you. Beef it up.

6. Listening

This is my blind spot. I’ve accepted an ALS Ice booklet challenge. The only rule of this I C Expert (Ice) Advanced Listening Skill (ALS) challenge is to bring a booklet and yes you name it, LISTEN. Experts from all walks of ice, I mean life dump information in my head. Literally giving me chills down my spine. I shudder when it ends. Dampened. The more I know the less I know.

7. Speaking

Malaysians can’t speak at least 2 languages? Shame on you. Malay and English. Owned by everyone. To be honest, I’ve missed my Malay. I love the sound and simplicity of it unlike the sehr strukturierte Sprache wie Deutsch. Malaysia tanah airku. Selamat kembali. Inilah tanah tumpah darahku.!

Happy Globe

69. BUDDHA: Less is more

Source: http://zenpencils.com/comic/69-buddha-less-is-more/

Knowledge = Power (1)
Knowledge = (2)
Power = (3)

Let me open my case by presenting you some basic arithmetic derivation. Sir Francis Bacon famous aphorism “knowledge is power” produces equation (1) whereby Albert Einstein’s quote on “More the knowledge lesser the Ego, lesser the knowledge, more the Ego” equates (2). So, substituting algebraic equation (1) in equation (2) yields equation (3), fairly simple mathematics. “More the power lesser the Ego, lesser the power, more the Ego”, how true does this statement holds?

The world map above clearly shows the heavy distribution of scientific research, or publication of results, in richer territories which is concentrated on the global north. This locational bias is such that roughly three times more scientific papers per person living there are published in Western Europe, North America, and Japan, than in any other region. I’m deeply triggered by this map and somehow feel rather ashamed and overwhelmed by a deep sense of humiliation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m trying to spark off a race on which country hoards the most scientific papers winner earns a prize for that. NO, but I’m resentful on such indicators which is terribly shattering the confidence of the people from the developing countries to develop further. I argue that even education in the form of research and development is not serving as a stepping stone for local empowerment in most developing countries. More often than not, people’s well-being, be it poverty, the livelihood, even the level of civilization is measured by scientists trained and educated from the Western society. They impose biased judgments and values based purely on their understanding and interpretation of the researched society.

It’s not enough to have science which enriches knowledge but what more important is to understand the science and the arguments. Arguments are sets of sentences, statements and propositions. We can all agree that they are all made out of language. So, if we understand language better, we can understand humans and arguments better. Even Helen Keller who wasn’t able to see and hear gained her ability to use language and was able to communicate and transfer her ideas to people.

The illustration of this language diversity of the world can be seen from this chart complied by the Economist:

Economist reports that linguistic rivalry and relative poverty deter the emergence of a single language as occur in Nigeria and India, therefore scoring a high diversity index. Secondly, geography factor contributes to high language diversity. Countries consist of scattered islands like Indonesia and the Philippines shelter small languages. Two main factors combine leave Congo and Papua New Guinea the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. Therefore, is it a fair verdict that the lesser the power, the more Ego people possess to obstruct any form of intrusion? Or the more the power, the MORE Ego people tend to have to dominate the inferiors and vulnerable?

Language can be seen as one of the greatest barrier in the scientific communication and publishing field. Poor translation and misinterpretation as well as weak institutional guidelines and policy hinder the development both in soft and hard sciences. Many developing countries hence are isolated from the mainstream international science community. For instance, in China only a tiny fraction of 6,5964 scientific journals are abstracted in English and indexed in Scientific Citation Index Expanded (SCIE). On top of that, only 3 percent which is 495 of more than 15,000 scientific periodicals among the ‘BRIC’ countries is listed on the Scientific Citation Index Expanded (SCIE). The proliferation of the “hidden” science sources in native languages raises question about quality as they are not up to the standard of a global comparative study. The scientific society claims that lack of high quality standard assessment prevents the presentation and publication quality data. Yet, in order to overcome red tape and gain recognition from a renowned and accepted academia society is a hurdle for many developing countries’ scientists. As a result, due to lack of funds, resources and network, many undiscovered scientific outputs and potential seeds of breakthrough are swept under the rug. The excuse of governments and scientific society often lies at the core of complexity and transparency of the matter. When this access of academia outputs from the global south remains invisible to the scientific society the global level, it can only hinder growth and makes all global science poorer. Solely depending on the more influential northern society will only impede the knowledge dissemination as they can easily take this matter for granted.

In most general cases, it is reasonable to conclude that through acquired knowledge, power is gained or earned, either by means of invention, affluence, discovery, invention or innovation. When the developing nations are denied the least access to this knowledge transfer and communication, we’re destined to be marginalized and exploited in many ways. This simple anomaly projects not only the entire system of how we view the world but also the co-existence of white supremacy which continue to linger today. There’s a substantial effort made to revive and renew Area Studies by rendering globalization not in a US-perspective, but in perspectives coming from different regions of the world, “Global in reach, local in perspective”. This modification of Area Studies tends to promotes global agenda but national/local perspective. As Globalization is connecting our world closer, we are also viewing and defining our world through an americentrism-tinted glass.

Imagine

Imagine there’s no nature
It’s easy if you try
No trees around us
Above us only smog

Imagine all the people cutting trees for money
Imagine there’s no LGBT
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to shame or fight for
And no discriminated immigrants and labor too
Imagine all the people living life without dignity

You, you may say I’m an advocate,
but I’m not the only one
I hope someday we’ll be awaken
And the world will be as one

Imagine apartheid I wonder if you can
Black in prison and white in mansion
Non existence of brotherhood
Imagine only xenophobia

You, you may say I’m an advocate,
but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll initiate
And the world will live as one

Inspired by John Lennon’s Imagine

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; None but ourselves can free our minds. – Bob Marley, Redemption Song

I heard you asking what are the above mentioned themes have in common.
How reverberation of salvation of flora and fauna from ever-growing human violation and over exploitation or the propagation of equality of lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and their liberation from all forms of discrimination can shape a better world that we live in? How can the rights of the 240 millions migrants around the world be protected when they are in a state of powerlessness? What about the forgotten victims of Apartheid who were compelled to endure discrimination and enslavement due to racial superiority and whose voices always are belittled?

Global social advocacy, global civil society or transnational advocacy network, whatever roles there may be, however they may be named or categorized, and these global movements have an important role in placing international pressure to the undermined society as mention above.

Take a look at Uganda, a country with almost 35 million people is preparing to endorse an anti-homosexuality bill that proposes tough jail sentences for consensual same-sex behavior. East African nations do not recognize LBGT communities where they are considered as social outcast in the society. The new bill proposes a harsher penalty as homosexuality behavior will be punished with life imprisonment. This oppression of freedom to human dignity, equality and justice to all is clearly demonstrated when prominent gay rights activist David Kato was beaten to death in the country in 2011. This bill nullifies international treaties and protocols such as withdrawal from UDHR. Reaction and outrage from the international advocacy arena responded through civil society movement such as Amnesty International and International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) as well as campaigns launched by Avaaz.org and Allout.org to collect signatories for their petition ‘Stop Uganda’s Kill The Gays Bill’ and ‘Hours to stop Uganda’s gay death penalty’ respectively. While more nations in the West are gaining momentum on legalizing full-marriage of homosexual, opposition to gay rights and homophobia remains ferocious. Change of attitude and trend in Muslim and Africa world stays onerous.

Zooming into South Africa, apartheid (apartness) is a legalized system of oppression and separation based on race. One start to question the Apartheid system which haunted South Africa for almost half a century beginning from 1949 to 1994 even as they intentionally abstained from signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which South Africa did in 1948, what critical role did the Transnational Advocacy Network play to abolish and repress this system? The detailed apartheid legislations were so carefully crafted to support the white supremacy and discriminate the majority of black inhabitants. Even with international oppositions to apartheid in South Africa, the whites were able to enjoy their dominance which was lingering over an astonishing half a century. How emerging global civil society can learn from the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM)?

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) were instruments used by AAM to intensify and spread the anti-apartheid campaign. Although AAM’s successes in forcing South Africa to quit its Commonwealth membership in 1961 and its expulsion in Olympic participation in 1970, other boycott and economic sanctions did not receive as much acceptance and support as intended from the west. AAM effortlessly spearheaded more radial cooperation with United Nations in 1966 to formulate an international campaign with range of measures to isolate the regime, imposing effective sanctions and promoting public opinion. The AAM was advocating using tactics like information disseminations, community empowerment, media and communication which were complemented by the existing infrastructure. BDS tend to influence government policies if organized by grassroots levels.

From legal to political issues to environment, woman empowerment, child abuse, human rights, social welfare, economic development and many more, people long to make these people’s voices heard in various areas. The idea of global advocacy to create a “better world” through a set of predefined morality and social justice is definitely possible if everyone in the world embraces the similar idea of change.
Whether all these advocacies in various vulnerable matters can be effective or condemned in an international scale largely depends on the dimension of involvement and approach of the global civil society network.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. – Mother Teresa
The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but those who watch without doing anything – Albert Einstein

Flying without wings

Funnily being away from home for almost 4.5 years now along with my perpetual nomadic lifestyle has raised my sensitivity in my identity crisis’s issues. Over and over I’ve yet to explain to my fellow travel companions and acquaintances of what being a Malaysian and a Malay means. Being said, I was in Beijing for 7 months and that didn’t make things easier. I’ve had to explain of what being a Malaysian and a Chinese means.

“Nah li lai?” (Where do you come from?) asked the Chinese cab driver.

“Mah lai si ya” (Malaysia).

“!#$@$&%??? NAH LI?…” (Where?)

“Thai guo ni zhi dau?” (Do you know Thailand?)

“Ohhhhh… Shi shi.. Wo yi wei ni shi Yue Nan ren. (Yes yes I thought you are a Vietnamese)

“So, what language do you speak?” the taxi driver puzzled.

These people from the Middle Kingdom don’t seem to acknowledge Malaysians, well just like Indians or any other Africans.

And the process repeats like a broken record wherever I go.

I’d try to brush away any questions regarding my origin. I’d affirm my identity as a Malaysian avoiding any further complexity. I speak Malay and English. Many times, I’d try to avoid racial issue as much as I could. Sometimes, as much as I hate to admit it, I dislike being associated with any Chinese genealogy. I can’t help to feel disconnected to my own generic specie.

For seven months, I struggle to discover the beauty of my environment, the people, the system, and culture through an open mind and spirit but instead of capturing the best I’ve noticed the flaws and faults. The more I tried the more anxious I was trying to get out of the bubble. My mind was fighting but my body and soul are rejecting the environment.

My lungs were crying help after 7 months of toxic inhaling fumes, my body was surrendering to catch the goodness of the sun and my eyes are tearing for a glimpse of greenery.

Here am I feeling the presence of a human being again, not a human race.

I was feeling it all once again when I was soaking the sun the Perhentian Island, when I was swimming with giant turtles and coral reefs. The goodness of fresh food, beautiful and friendly people which were all used to be part of my entity seems to reemerge again.

Imagine this; I have the honor to call our fellow waitress and waiters “Hey Boss, Beauty, or Handsome instead of Hey Servant!

Wow, back to civilization!

This seems to be more prominent now that I’m in an organic farm of New Zealand’s South Island. The landscape, scenery, people and greenness seems to be surreal. The natural energies that present, the happy and loving community that reverberates around us are not only nourishing and reinvigorating our body, mind and soul but serves as a reminder of simplicity of alternative lifestyle can deliver such fulfillment…

New Zealand is truly something!

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Mr Mario

As the boyfriend was sharing with me on how human being’s talent and destiny can sometimes be so easily determined by our folks during our last breakfast’s conversation left me kind of bewildered. Well, he left for India and have had led me with no choice but to think of some futile INTERESTING stuffs to keep me occupied in our lonely little apartment.

Correctly speaking, say in a medieval context, we humans can be destined to be as philosophical as a poet or to be designed to have an inventor’s complex mind to solve quantum mechanics.
So can a think tank who’ve had just issued a 1000-page report on climate change perform a 1.9 m Michael Jordan’s slam dunk?

He got me into thinking if we human beings can be classified as a generalist rather than specialist! Well, someone who can put together Moonlight Sonata and put up a bloody lawnmower at the backyard at the same time.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. — Robert A. Heinlein

I’ve been telling people all my life that I’m a ‘Jack of all trades but master of none’ and today I feel as though I’ve came to a point of enlightenment knowing that there’s something called INTEGRATED HUMAN. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not even close to constructing a lawnmower or playing the Fur Elise, just the philosophy or concept of it got me all hyped up though I have to emphasis that it’s the implementation and not the definition that counts.

So an ‘integrated human’ is an individual strives towards development which encompasses physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. They recognize their body as a part of their person (not the sum). They are consciously trying to maintain the level of health necessary to have a positive impact upon the world.

I’d like to share with you these guiding principles which I find pretty amusing:

Physical

Physical Fitness
Flexibility
Agility
Nutrition
Healthy body, healthy mind
Hand-eye coordination

Mental

Thirst for Knowledge
Critical thinking
Researching skills
Willpower to do physical and mental work to get things done
Awareness
Philosophy of Liberty and Abundance, not Greed and Theft
Knowledge or intuition of how the world works
Follow the golden rule, treat others as you would wish to be treated
Forethought, good judgment
Open minded
Able to work independently
Able to cooperate with others
Focus, concentration, mental discipline and positive inner dialogue

Emotional

Emotions are controlled, they do not control
Empathy and Compassion
Respect for one’s self and others
Independent
Cooperative
Mindset of sustained sufficiency, rather than consumption of resources
Able to honestly change mind based on facts, not hung up on ego attached to something
Self assured, not dependent on what others think
Resilient “survivor” personality, able to thrive in challenging conditions
Accepts other people as they are, no one can force another to change, individuals can only change themselves
Looks past the superficial surface of things to try to see the core, the true nature
Can take direction
Can give direction

Spiritual (different than but compatible with religious)

Intuition, informed by knowledge
Meditation, yoga or reflection

Source: Opensourceecology

I have definitely a lot to learn and improve in order to achieve the state of ‘integrated human’ but hey, I’ll strive to be a better me, girlfriend, daughter and a better citizen! And I still don’t have to know how to fix a car, boyfriend. 🙂

Now, C’est ça l’amour!

Flower Power

Just as we’re approaching the year of Dragon in a couple of days and being blessed a good 24 years old of life, I’ll never stop believing that there’s hope in this world. Undoubtedly 2012 will be the year of change as suggested, and Rio +20 as a key milestone of Sustainable Development, since 1992 Earth Summit will map out our achievements and challenges yet to come.

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Given the enormity of the problems that are faced, I never failed to question, if

Is it possible to fundamentally change the economic/industrial/military system?
Is it fair to curb the Western style ‘development’ in other parts of the world, especially Africa and Asia?
Is it possible to have sustainable energy for all?

Can we move from a society based on the pursuit of power, profit and consumption to a society that has the well-being of society and the environment at its core?
Can this be done at a global level?

These are difficult questions to answer, but in my opinion, yes there is hope.

All the ideas, techniques, technologies and cultural models we need to transform the world and steward the environment for the better exist already. They have developed throughout history and can be seen through several currents.

I find it’s utterly important for me personally not to feel overwhelmed by the extent of the problems, but to examine existing, easy to implement and inspiring approaches that we can use to both improve the environment and the lives we lead, looking at the holistic approach of minimalism and permaculture in particular as a mechanism in creating change.

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Sustainable living is more than just a nice life for those that attempt it. It also offers a vision of a better world, and a daily, practical protest against the cultural, corporate and state structures that lay waste to the world.

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It doesn’t really matter where we start. Follow our curiosity and passion, make it part of our life with practical action and steady learning. Celebrate our achievements and turn others on to the possibilities.

Each positive action links us to a new global family that has the interests of the Earth and all its beautiful inhabitants at its heart. We’re not alone. Millions of people across the world are working to make things better. When you go to bed after
a good day of rabble-rousing and Earth repair, others are just waking up, ready to put in another day’s effort.

Inspired by The Trapese Collective

Inconvenient Truth

The most profound thing that I’ve discovered and learned in 2011 is trying to define “truth”.
For this discovery, I’ll have to thank my collection of experiences for the past few months. It’s never a question of Black or White to begin with. Let’s put it in a very bleak clarity, that truth has NEVER seemed so far away.

Before I proceed further, I find it essential to stress that there’s a difference between trusting and accepting THE “truth”. Trust to me is a fundamental faith that involves a reliability that we have for a certain source or person. Trust can be harnessed with time.

Truth for example reveals the reality of something. It brings precision and transparency, the yardstick we use to identify our moral correctness or righteous consistency.

Being an engineering student requires us to work with pure hard facts. You can’t defy F = ma or E = mc2. We grew up with utter scientific proven hypotheses and figures which have been used and generated over the past centuries. From these theories, innovations are made and new technologies are discovered. My curiosity on science and technology has then been substantiated when I know I want to be part of a solution – ideas being transformed into reality.

Of course in practical, it sounds too good to be true. There are always limitations and constraints and it is our job to link scientific discoveries and their subsequent applications to human needs.

Engineering ethics aside, my curiosity on social behaviors and code of conduct has intensified over the last years. I try not to impose myself to seek for the cause of social unjust whereas I’d prefer to look for answers. I’d like to think that as much as we’re bumping up against “harsh reality” such as wars, economic crises, inflation, depression, suicide bombing, famine, HIV, climate change, peak oil, natural catastrophes and things will only look bleaker as we head into the future, there’s a tinge of hope that I can hold on to.

But there’s no instant solution without knowing the roots of the problems. I’ve figured that it’s more important for us as a society to first question ‘WHY’ are all these happening around us.

And then I start to question myself how important are all these projected truths to me?

I’m filled with doubts and finding it difficult to accept certain ideology, habits and practices.

Something reminded me again that it’s doubt that drives a man onwards. All these barriers that are dividing society bring so much agony and tension amongst people.

We are disrespecting the planet, squeezing and exploiting till the very last drop of natural resources it could offer. An egocentric society which focuses on affluence and power, security and possessions just to keep the flow of economy sounds senseless to me.

Our economic indicator portrays obsessive figures on our development and progression, but people forget about the true value of our Earth’s assets, which we can get for free.

The national pride, competition, history, and stereotype wipe out human beings’ common goal which is the pursuit of happiness and love.

I’d like to bear in mind that no matter how heart breaking and bitter the situation and system is, I’ll consciously remain optimistic and cling to the hope for a holistic, sustainable and renewable world. That’s my hope for 2012. Change. Less equals to more. < = >

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PS: This blog post is triggered by the death of Kim Jong Il. Cheers to our fellow comrades!

Words without borders

It was on the 13th August I stepped my foot on Beijing’s soil as a first timer. I know my merely 2.5-month’s observation and stay in Beijing will not justify my whatsoever opinion I have for this city. As superficial as it might sound, as an ‘outsider’, my instinct urges me spit it out before my intangible time here vanishes.

Oh boy, my very first impression for city was: this place seems to have undergone an extreme makeover. It is nothing new to mention that the economic development that has taken place here is simply jaw dropping and deservingly admirable – modern high rise buildings, shopping malls, and more skyscrapers mushrooming like hotcakes. Almost all families own electric bicycles, motorcycles or even cars; walking seems to have become a lost art. People are inseparable from their latest electronic and mobile devices.

Children and teenagers are losing their competency of mingling with people as a result of the implemented “one child” policy. Growing up in an environment where absolutely no one knows who their neighbors are and people are busy minding their own business shuts them off from the social institutions completely. Kids’ best friends are television, brand new toys and I-pads. Going outdoor seems alien to them.

It would terrify parents today if their kids start playing mud and throwing stones, as kids these days are destined to get themselves ready for good scores in the upcoming test or an interview for a kindergarten’s enrollment. While internet and technological devices are booming, there’s also no need for local or public libraries. As kids and adults in other big cities are privileged to borrow books on a wide range of subjects, local bookstores are equipped with textbooks, college entrance exam preparation guides, or various electronic handheld devices called ‘study machines’.

And as the kids’ main purpose of life is studying, the adults now have more free time on their hands. Most seem to fill this time eating and drinking. Food is unhealthy and rather expensive, yet restaurants are always crowded. Karaoke clubs, pubs or “Mahjong” is in the next agenda and often till the following morning.

Though some people confide that they find such dinner parties unwholesome and meaningless, but they go anyway, as they do not want to stick out or become a social outcast.
Adults no longer can identify what are the activities available to spend quality time with their kids apart from shopping malls, since their kids are the happiest when are showered with brand new toys and gadgets.

I found a great difference in the use of spare time between the place I grew up, Hamburg and Beijing. People might think that life would be more monotonous in the west, where people live further apart from each other.

Activities in the evenings, where people mow their lawns, wash their cars, jogging, go fishing, baking, gardening, play sports, read books, or develop various personal hobbies such as in music or art. Things that I take for granted, such as hiking in the wild, visiting local museums or libraries or going to the park, are rare excursions in Beijing apart from the local tourists or senior citizens. Even the China’s literary culture such as calligraphy and ink painting are losing its ground amongst the youngsters.
The cultural landscape here, especially in emerging economic areas, is a wasteland that cannot be concealed even by the glare of red-hot economic development.

I couldn’t escape the feeling that its newfound economic prosperity seems to be defeating the purpose of improving standards of living.

Can this constant fear that people have of not securing enough wealth and possessions which is the sole driving force to this economic development and prosperity in material life be called progress?

If people’s hard-earned money is spent on wasteful eating, artificially engineered food, unhealthy drinking and ear deafening Karaoke clubs, can this development actually be called progress?

If a society can allow a 2-year child bleeding in road after being run over by two different vehicles and then ignored by 18 passersby and later found dead, can this development be called progress?

If human beings are denied from the very basic of nature’s essential, namely clean fresh air and water, can this development be called progress?

We are what we do and eat.

Twenty years from now, what will we be doing?

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Energy

I swear in no time I can beat Josiah Ng on velodrome and have thigh as thick and strong like his. This is all thanks to my daily cycle to work and getting around here! NO rule to abide. Just GO and make sure be FAST!
Well I do have a choice. It’s either I choke myself on a 30-40 minutes packed in like sardine bus ride smelling men’s and women’s armpit, bad breath plus FART for bonus OR choke myself on a potentious deadly bicycle ride inhaling a mouthful of toxic fumes. It’s obvious I’ve chosen the latter. Sounds exaggerating? NO!

You can give me the lousiest bicycle; I will still choose the latter.

Dear Beijing,

The capital of the most populous nation in the world – CHINA which consist of 20% of the world population; 1,3 billion of almost 7 billion people! You made me perplexed. Damn you Chinese. Left, right, front, back, north, south, east, west people are flooding everywhere. Tiananmen, the biggest square in the whole wide world is filled with Chinese. The “Wai Laos” are sunk deep deep into the sea of Chinese people!

Your development pace is too fast for me to grasp, your pollution intoxicate me, your consumerism soars like an eagle but your ethic which is sinking down the drain is utterly disgusting. Your intensity left me bewildered, lost in translation.

As a traveler, our ability to adapt and adopt to the local environment is one of the most essential element that keep us going and longing for more. The constant challenges, culture shock, peculiar food, faces, custom, colors and energy level that flow in every city differs so greatly and THIS is exactly the attraction and the whole point of travelling.  Seeking for something NEW. Therefore, in any case the objectivity of our perception needs to be reminded and refreshed in order to enjoy and infuse into their locality.

And discovering Beijing has been one of the most delicate I’ve ever experience. Unlike populous country like India which I dearly heart, Beijing has a very different historical background and philosophy which I find it interesting but difficult to digest.

It’s like me telling you Mahatma Gandhi versus Mao Zedong.

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This whole era transition is happening too quickly that there’s no one could ever define and sum it up in a few words. The core of this underlying dogma is infinite. As I went through the history books of China, browsing through paragraphs to photographs, I felt chills down my spine.

I’ve spoken to people about my confusion and sought for a better explanation from both Chinese and outsider. What left me in standing in awe has to be the siding of different parties and their ideas of  their personal iconic heroes!

Well it’s none other than Mao Zedong versus Deng Xiaoping in this case.

We’re not even bringing the history back to the fall of Ming Dynasty. The corrupted institutions where people were blinded with greed and power have never changed ever since, and here I question myself today what is our human common ground?

We are all running after security, comfort, power, and fame you name me? Well, probably politics are never meant to be understood, it’s just a dirty monopoly game where the goal of is to monopolize and marginalize!

I’ve came to an edge when my neutrality has reached to a point of nauseate just by having a slight thought of it.

At the moment, I will just sit, enjoy and watch the time passes while listening to Bare Necessities and anticipating the arrival of my empress and emperor.

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Let me present you my Beijing, Mom and Dad.
Love,
Daughter

Aleph

I left Hamburg on the 19th of July, so many things took place. I’ve been travelling around and I’m sitting now in my office in Beijing sipping a cuppa Chinese tea and munching Chinese flat bread 7 in the morning listening to Times like These from Jack Johnson. Pure bliss or what?

Exactly 2 months passed by, I went to a desert and a zoo, fed monkeys and a horse, saw a volcano, pandas, lemurs, tasted horse cheese and milk, scorpion and drank airag, traveled with all means and sort of transportations including a tricycle (shit, it was hard to ride) a horse and a camel, slept under a blanket of stars, met and still meeting people from all over the world, all these seem so surreal when I’m airing them in past tense.

Honestly, till today I can’t seem to find the right words to describe my summer break. It’s so bizarre and full with surprises. Things I’d never expect to happen, well came about. From Indonesia to China, then to Mongolia, and back to China again, the faces, the smell, the taste and touch of every country is so damn mind boggling.

Indonesia stole my heart in a very subtle way, the people; they are so warm and genuine. The Balinese, fellow travelers, arak, our little bungalows, paddy fields, the scenery, the right and crazy moments, the music and laughter. Lovely gifts!

I heart Mongolia. The anticipation to be in the Trans-Mongolia train has paid off and I can proudly declare, if I die today, I’m a happy person! The GER, Russian van, the Gobi, the sunset, the vast clear skies, the shooting stars, I can throw out words endlessly just to describe the beauty of this emptiness, nothingness, quietness, remoteness and simplicity but we’d not fathom until we experience it ourselves. It’s our existence and living at that presence counts.

I stumbled upon a beautiful excerpt this morning, called the motto of Alchemy from none other than Paulo Coelho: Solve et coagula “Concentrate and dissolve”. It says.

Perseverance is not the same thing as insistence.

There are times when battles go on longer than necessary, draining everybody of strength and enthusiasm.
A prolonged war finally destroys the victors too.
We must know when to insist, and when to withdraw our forces from the battlefield.
Solve (dissolve) means: time to rest
Coagula (concentrate) means: time to act

The two worst strategic mistakes are: acting prematurely and letting an opportunity slip!

So, are you an alchemist, love?

Homecoming

This thing has been bothering me for quite some time.

One of my many missions to accomplish in this trip back is to learn how to open up with my family. This might sound crazy but I’ve never actually shared with my family before, what I want to do and want in life. From my past experiences, my family hasn’t been really happy with my impulsive behavior and “little surprises” I’ve thrown to them. Each time I announced my ‘little project’ to them, it’s like a whole bloody deadly bomb that I’ve just placed in front of them.

The delivery of my every “masterpiece” failed every darn time in the past. To keep me sane, this has got to stop. I totally understand that Asian family has certain values that need to be respected and condoned. I can’t be doing whatever I want to do without having a tiny bit of support and understanding from my very own family. To be politically correct, I need a bloody approval from my family desperately.

So, my task is to present them my master plan. 😛

I know I’m not the most diplomatic person to begin with. I’m emotional and start losing my head when I can’t fork over my thoughts and when people start doubting me. I’m a bloody stubborn species. Once decision is made, I’ll stick to it. Try to change me, you can almost forget about it.

Sounds like an ungrateful monster? Sorry mom, dad, sisters and brother, I’m just the black sheep of the family.

Again, I understand that it’s hard for them to digest my decisions and actions which might seem bizarre to them.

But why to them in fact to everyone, one cannot make ANY difference in SMALL scale.

Why must it be the ‘I believe in making changes in BIG scale. Only THAT can change the WORLD. Only when you are someone prominent, rich and famous, you will have all the attention of the world that worships you as an idol.

I’m not even talking about changing the world now, people.

I’m just trying to play my tiny weenie role, on the things that I’m compassionate about. I just want to share with you the pieces of information I have which led me to these decisions.

I’m not even trying to change the way you think or want to be a smarty pants to preach to you about the whole energy, ecology, equality and economy system. I just want to share with you the consciousness that I have in order for you to see for once the perspective through my eyes.

Why is it always that if you can’t change the system why don’t you just be an obedient little girl and follow the crowd thing?

Why do you need to doubt me by asking, so what have you done so far?

Why do you choose to ignore because you feel that making small differences doesn’t matter at the end?

Why is it always a NO WAY OUT situation? So are you telling me that I’m doing is in vain baby, the world is going to end soon anyway, people are killing each other, oil is running out, trees are dying, global is warming and yada yada…?

SO, does it mean that now that if I’ve failed to convince my family, I can forget about making ANY differences at all OUT there?

Man in the mirror people!

Start from yourself.

To the children of the world, and those not as yet born.

I will try my best to speak up for you!

Cheers!

Sail away

I’m sitting here in my room that I’ve lived for almost 3 years, now empty as it was before. I have this tinge of melancholic feeling that I couldn’t really figure out yet how to describe. As I ran through my belongings, packed, unpacked, unpacked and packed again, I realized how much I’ve grown and changed as a person. The person I used to be, the things which seemed to be so important to me back then have awakened no interest to me anymore.

It’s hard to depart with certain things. They bring us back to the memory lane and the reminiscence is limitless. It’s like a catalyst. It triggers you, it says to you aloud shouting, “Hey you! You remember me? Remember you used to………? I’ve missed you!”

I’m left with none other than these three choices, to donate, to discard, and to dock after mulling them over for almost three days. Believe me, it was the longest 3 days, ever.

Donating is pretty easy, books, clothes, food basically anything which can bring benefit other people fall into this category. Let it go, let these things do its duty, let them be useful to other people I thought to myself. Why hold on to things which you know you’re not using it but keep wondering to yourself what if IN CASE you might somehow or rather, potentially need it ONE DAY?

Screw that ONE DAY; I want that you be useful to other people TODAY.

So these things were happily channeled to Oxfam and an Orphanage for charity.

Discarding is disheartening. It’s unbelievable how much of courage it took me to shake things off my hands. Again, if I don’t I’d never have enough space to fill in the imminent undertakings.

Docking takes strength. You need energy to restore and care to conserve them.

This is Life. Every day we are making these three choices.

Looking back, I’ve got to admit that I am glad of every decision I’ve made so far. I care that today I must live my life with all that I can give for the passion and people I love most.

I was taking a breezy night walk along my favorite area of the city with a friend earlier. We passed by my favorite bars, restaurants and coffee shops. I can’t help but have this huge sense of gratefulness and tears swelled my eyes. I love this city. I will miss this place and the people.

Thank you Hamburg!

PS: Happy Birthday Madiba! I dedicate this to you. 46664 will always be remembered!

It doesn’t matter I’m poked thrice today! Thank you Blood Bank Hamburg for the compensation, at least my pain wasn’t in vain.

A song entitled Hamburg, my City. Some sneak peek of this lovely city. 😀

Leftism

Picture this, a society driven by moral rather than material incentives?

I need more Havana Club Rum and smoke some cigar!

Screw Capitalism!

So China, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, and North Korea?

Ohhhhh dreams come true!

Opssss, internet ban?

Mr President

Dear President Mao,

I hope to meet you soon, please grant my wish so that I can get the feel of  “Maoism” and the “Heroism” of the Tank Man of Tiananmen.

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Thank You!

PS : Dedicated to Timothy, inspired by him.

Photos taken during my last visitation in Hangzhou.

Tak & Skål

We find love by loving, and not by talking about it.

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Fast Facts about Denmark and Sweden:

The Top Five Happiest Countries in the World, meet the Vikings, Blondes, Scandinavians…

1. Denmark

2. Norway

3. Sweden

4. Finland

5. Netherland

Danish : Micheal Learns to Rock and Aqua

Swedish: ABBA, Robyn, Shout out Louds, Lykke Li, and The Cardigans

Danish : LEGO, The little Mermaid, Ugly Duckling, Carlsberg,

Swedish : Volvo, H&M, (Sony) Ericsson, Köttbullar (Swedish Meat Balls), IKEA, Butter Cookies, Falcon, Julian Assange

Girls Like You

Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

I love walking in the rain.

Be wet.

Be free.

Be there.

Be with nature’s laughter and tears of joy.

I love doing yoga and meditation. I love chanting OHHHHHMMMMMM towards the end of every lesson.

I love sailing and learning to sail. I love learning to tie all sorts of knots. I love not knowing where the wind comes and simply drift me away.

I love letting in as much atmosphere as I can.

I love being me and with me.

I am.

Be me.

Be kind.

Be brave.

Be love.

Be cosmic.

I am.

Anything we write after I am is simply a concept.

I decide what I am.

I define me.

I am thankful.

I am alive.

I am happy.

I am a vegan.

I am a minimalist.

I am.

I’m enjoying unveiling THIS mystery. I’m enjoying the fact that NOBODY, absolutely NOBODY can write the future.

No control issue here. Purely swimming along and waiting for THIS treasure to emerge.

Screw security and certainity. Screw goals and plans.

Minimalism

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Minimalistic Feather from hinomori

 

Since the last five years, the idea of minimalism has slowly creeped into me unconsciously.
I’ve never intended to worship or assign myself into certain cults, categories or whatsoever. I strongly believe and digest the fact that it’s completely OK to be different!
Some say I’m a hippie because I listen to Bob Marley, smoke weed, support Greenpeace and preach about veganism.
Some say I’m a dreamer and shallow because I’m too engrossed in my perfect little world.
And to be honest, I still do not know what is the definition of a hippie.

Whatever it is, I’m proud to declare my official journey of becoming a minimalist today.

Live simply so others may simply live. -Dalai Lama

After Jonathan’s departure from life, I started seeing things in a bigger picture in many ways. I’m learning and training myself to let go of everything I fear of losing.

I packed my bags with little money and left for India for two months and experienced more than anything I’ve learnt in my two years of University. There’s life out there, without possessions, greed, scepticism but purely trust, sincerity and openness.

Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is – Yoda.

I’m happier now than I ever was owning all of those things people told me would ‘make me happy’. The idea that my society has been hammering and drilling in me since young has proven utterly false over and over again.

Minimalism is all about having enough. It’s about having only what you need, no more, and especially no less.
It’s about finding happiness in what we have already, instead of chasing something that is always out of reach.

It’s true, in a big way, that minimalists have less. We have fewer clothes, shoes and accessories. We have smaller houses. We may have no possessions but we definitely have more of what life is made of. – Jessica, minimal student

Ask ourselves again, it is worth standing up, going against the flow and start making a change?

But does that mean we live unhappier lives?

Is it always worse to have less?

Footprints

Being raised up in a fairly conservative upbringing, I was thought to do things “safe” or rather “conventional”. You know, follow and obey! The autocracy of “Do as I said!” or “Because I said so!” howls! C’mon, the dog eats dog world thingy. I loathe it!

Probably it is the reason which has shaped me the person I am today. Of course, what I mean here is by not compelling to it.

Lately, I was triggered by confessions posted by a few friends regarding the whole situation back home. The unending social segregation, the denial of meritocracy, the unfulfilled promises misled by unscrupulous politicians, all in the name of fighting for our rights and justice in our place we could call HOME, where we belong.

And today I question myself, is there any ray of hope that our country would ever emerge from all these pettiness and progress as a nation to enjoy the fruition collectively?

These political propagandas used by various parties, groups and individuals to infuse ideas and beliefs based on our culture, status, religion, and social indifference are merely a provocation, for us as a new generation to fight for a better future, for those who are denied, outcast, marginalized and discriminated so that each and every one can live in a safe and healthy environment.

The battle between who is right or wrong, who has more power, status and money creates only hatred and dissatisfaction.

If we continued to constantly live in a discontent state, there’s no drive in us to serve because everything is unjust.

We believe that we are ill-traeated and envy our neighbours because he has more and better material possesions than us.

The idea consumerism = living to buy has caused more harm than we could ever imagine. We live in a so-called “happy” world as advertised on televisions and magazines. The energy used for production and manufacture, the depletion of natural resources, the environmental destruction and pollution, the violation of human rights, the exploitation of the poor and weak, the climate change are all generated by our over-consumption. Obviously, all these are not shown in advertisements.

What about start thinking how we can make a difference?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Have you ever wondered, when each time you flush your toilet, 7 liters of fresh water is flushed away? And we are talking about almost 50 % of the developing world, 2.5 billion people has little access to safe water and proper sanitation?

Have you ever wondered, each time you leave your room with the lights on, approximately 3 billion which half the world’s population have no access to clean cooking energy and 1.6 billion are without electricity provision?

Have you ever wondered, when each time you complain about doing your dishes almost 1 billion people in the world have no food on their plate?

Are we all too carried away in this rat race?

Now where’s your LV?

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Ohhh, I mean where’s your LOVE?