Adulting

Whuuttt… 13 months since my last post. Atrocious. I told myself that I should write more in this blog but inertia and laziness has won the battle.

I should definitely write more to stimulate my increasingly stagnant mind, probably made so by the quotidian and unimaginative nature of working life as an adult. The thing about writing at work – sure, drafting emails does engage the mind – but the style of writing required is vastly different compared to personal writing, such as now. It almost feels as if the conduits of creativity within my brain have dried and shriveled; as if the previously firing neurons within the gray matter have sizzled out. Perhaps some literary penmanship could jolt some the life back. (New year resolution anyone?)

Writing at work requires concise and succinct writing, none of the superfluous shit you see here. The key is to use efficient and simple English without any hint of ambiguity, based on logical flow. And you have to put it in a way which your boss likes. Not the easiest job as I do not possess a major in mind-reading. However, expressing myself freely in writing, I have realize, seems to have an unshackling effect, almost like activating an “ON” button my mind. I can’t speak for everyone but as an introvert, penning down my thoughts makes me feel alive as opposed to verbalizing them, which drains my energy if they require my musings. On with today’s muse…

Adulting:

1) To do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.

2) Being a responsible adult. Used by immature 20-somethings who are proud of themselves for paying a bill.

Source: Urban Dictionary

A term invented and oft used by millennials that “reduces” the inexorable event of growing up to an optional hobby, it tends to receive criticism from the older generation, who enjoy lambasting the younger generation for having it too easy. But then again, wouldn’t they wish their children a better life than themselves? Hmm… then again, I can see their point of view as youths nowadays are definitely not as self-sufficient as compared to earlier generations. However, history has shown time and again that every generation will compare themselves favorably to the next and point out the latter’s shortcomings, even though they were the ones responsible for shaping the next generation. I have no doubt that I will have similar sentiments of my kids next time (if I have kids, that is).

I think I have “adulted” quite a fair bit in 2017. It has been 2.5 years since I’ve graduated and started work; I’ve lost some of my youth (and quite a bit of hair) worrying over work and my mom’s health; I’m paying bills/renovation/expenses for my family; I’ve fretted over insurance coverage for my family; I’ve pondered over money for personal investments; I’ve a better idea of what I look for in a partner; I’ve adopted a silly kid (my dog); and I’m soon to experiencing my first ever job change. In short, if I’m a DOTA hero, I have probably reached Level 6 and learnt my Ultimate. Yes, I think quite a lot has happened in the past year. For better or worse, the verdict is still out, but adulting isn’t as awesome (or fun) as I envisaged it to be as a student.

At times I do miss the student lifestyle of relatively carefree days when the only concerns we had were tests, exams, and looking good to impress our eye-candies. In hindsight, I can’t help but wonder why we treated them as life or death situations in the past when in reality they were just minor stress events. In the grand scheme of things, insignificant and ephemeral  in the long run. “Adult” life certainly throws us more curve-balls, pressure situations, do-or-die scenarios which demand and justify our worrying. As with human nature, it is usually the things we can’t have that we crave for. We can’t rewind and relive our younger days, as the sands of time slip through the cracks of our fingers, leaving us only with the yearning of memories gone by. Adulthood is only going to get tougher.

So look forth I say, with optimism. Optimism is a unique human ability and concept, borne out of our developed prefrontal cortex (the part of our brain that makes us “human”, so to speak). It describes forward thinking and imagination through a positive-biased outlook, believing that the future will be better than the present, regardless of whether it is true or not. Hence, it is only natural that humans are optimistic when we are young. Boundaries are non-existent for work, romance, self-fulfillment and achievements. Physical and mental decline? Setbacks and limitations? Oh please, the skies’ the limit.

The years pass by with the blink of an eye and the countdown begins, not just for life itself, but also for the different phases in life. Career. Marriage. Family. Retirement. Savings. Alas, for some reason, optimism seems to be in shorter supply as we grow older, it seems. Whether self-inflicted, delivered by someone or something, or forced into it by social construct, we all get caught between a rock and a hard place (many times) growing up.  What is also true is that as we age, we all become that little bit more jaded, that little bit less optimistic. I feel it. The torrential bombardment (both figuratively and literally) of negativity reflected in news and media certain do us no favor in reversing this trend, and only serves to reinforce our grim dispositions.

“The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it he knows too little.”—Mark Twain

It also appears that the more I learn of this world, the more cynical I become of it. Maybe what they say about ignorance being bliss is true. Indeed, how do we maintain our sense of wonder and humor as we age? That is a mystery, which I want to solve, and I hope to solve. If anyone has the answer, do let me know 🙂

ALRIGHT time to sleep.

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Unconditional Love

Weary from my exertions in the gym, I shuffled my feet across the bus stop to plop myself unabashedly onto a vacant bench. Pumping iron is, and always will be a welcome distraction for me. From the doldrums of working life, and from the frustrations which life may present me. My mind drifted off in anticipation of what was lying on the dinner table later when I got home, prompted by my tummy which was rumbling in indignation.

“Tap… Tip… Tap…”

My eyes refocused as I watched a couple in their 30s alight from a bus. They were holding walking sticks and prodded them ahead cautiously as they tried to get a bearing on their surroundings. Their eyes were squinted close and the lady clung close to the man, as if she was afraid of losing him. The man led the way, angling his path ever so slightly whenever his stick hit a curb or a column. The couple slowly but steadily circumvented the obstacles before them, footsteps always in sync and in step. They were blind, I realized. Both of them.

The man had a rather serene expression on his face, one of quiet confidence which seemed to instill confidence in me too as I looked at him. The lady also had an equally tranquil look, but this time she held a faint smile on her lips as she walked with her partner. It was almost as if she had total faith in his stewardship as long as she was beside him. It then occurred to me that I had assumed, or rather, realized that they were a couple based on their expressions.

A wave of profound respect washed over me as the scene registered inside my head. “That’s really amazing,” I thought. “But also kind of sad,” whispered a thought at the back of my head momentarily. I quickly chided myself silently, for this couple did not need my sympathy. No, don’t be condescending dude. The truth of the matter is that either one of them is probably stronger than I will ever be, mentally and psychologically, I told myself. I cannot begin to fathom what it is like to live my life in total darkness, now that I have experienced the gift of sight.

I decided not to stare too long at the couple for it seemed rude if I did. I glanced around and noticed that some people were casting concerned looks at the couple. Although part of me wanted to ask if they needed help, I knew that any worries were unfounded for they were more than capable of taking care of themselves. As long as they held each other close.

Perhaps this is unconditional love, I thought to myself as I closed my eyes. Untainted by the superficiality of this world, untouched by any materialistic wants and needs, undefiled by any negative preconceptions which a seeing person may possess. Living in a world of pitch darkness is much like a defiant disregard of judgement, for what prejudice can there be when you cannot see flaws?

What kind of heartfelt stories might they share with one another? What sweet nothings might they whisper to each other? Or perhaps their relationship is one which transcends beyond speech, almost like a telepathic link that develops after two individuals spend too much time together. Or maybe a knowing touch of the hand is all that it takes to replace verbal communication. What if being unseeing actually uncovers the essence of a true relationship between two individuals – one defined by undistracted listening and genuine touch?

Perhaps this couple would know the answer to that question, of what it really means to have a soulmate. One who literally follows you into the dark and stands by you through thick and thin… albeit out of necessity.

I opened my eyes and turned around. They were already almost out of my sight. I smiled in my heart. As long as they don’t let go.

A Little Boy

Once upon a time, there was a boy, a young and unseasoned little boy who lived on an island in the middle of the big, vast ocean. The island was beautiful and comfortable – it had everything the boy needed as he was growing up.  It had ample fish in the ponds, succulent fruits on the trees, firewood to keep himself warm… it would seem foolish to leave such a paradise, he thought. Days became weeks, weeks became months… and the boy started to become restless. He felt that his routine and unchallenged lifestyle had lost its luster long before he realized it. Life became a bore and growing up became a chore.

Now and then, he would look far into the distance, but all he could see was the majestic sun in all its blazing glory cresting the sky, and the enormous expanse of azure blue water with gentle waves rippling through it. As the sun rose and set in the horizon, the boy quietly wished that he could soar into the skies and see the world beyond his eyes.  All he had known in his life was everything on his little island. He wondered, is there something out there to be discovered? Surely, my world can’t be just this tiny island forever, he said to himself. Determined and longing to leave, the boy started building a raft the best he could, as fast as he could, so that he could sail away from the island he called home for so long.

The boy did not know what to expect, but he knew one thing: what he was about to do would change his life, and possibly change him as a person. He knew that life might take a turn for the worse at wherever he may end up, but he was certainly willing to take a leap of faith and sail off without any regrets. Pushing his makeshift but sturdy raft out to sea, he turned back and cast a final look at the shoreline. I’ll be back, the boy said, but he was doubting himself ever so slightly. With those last words, he turned back around, facing the open sea with steely and confident eyes. He let the sail loose, letting it catch on to the easterly wind, the wind which would take him to wherever fate may take him.

On that first night, the boy was awestruck by the beauty and wonder of nature. He saw how bright the stars in the sky were at night when there wasn’t any fire burning to drown out their light. He saw many different species of fishes swimming in the clear waters, many beautiful, colorful corals littering the depths, funny looking creatures he had never knew existed… it was all so wondrous and amazing. The boy knew he was counting his lucky stars on this maiden voyage; the seas were calm, the wind was strong, the fish were plenty… it seemed like the gods were happy with his choice. But alas, he thought, how many days has it been, since I last saw and felt solid ground… days, weeks, no…. months?

The boy had no idea. All he felt was the feeling of liberty and freedom, the unbridled joy felt by the unshackled and the unworried. He was comfortable riding the waves and doing absolutely nothing, enjoying the carefree life as it was. This is the life! He smiled and looked up into the sky with serene eyes and a peaceful heart.

But one day, while he was hungry and fishing for food, he heard faint and soft, but agitated clicking noises. Curious and puzzled, he turned and saw beside the rudder, an injured dolphin with a gashed, lacerated left fin and bite marks on its left flank. It looked at him with such innocent, ingenuous eyes, but deep inside he could sense its distress and pain; it was clearly suffering and in deep pain. Cautiously, he reached out a hand and stroked the dolphin. It seemed to understand him, and immediately calmed down, but the fin was limp and useless. The boy could see that the dolphin was in dire straits if it could not swim properly and catch food for itself.

So the boy decided that he could not bear to see the dolphin alone in agony and that he would stop sailing and stay with the dolphin until it could swim again. He knew that the dolphin needed to eat to recover, and it wasn’t going to do that by itself. Everyday, the boy woke up early and caught as many fish as he could. It wasn’t easy; fish tend to stay away from the raft because the dolphin was near. But the boy was patient – he had time on his side and he was certainly not going to let the dolphin suffer from hunger. He would talk to the dolphin, soothing it with calming words and stroke its injured fin with tender love and affection. The dolphin would reply with cheerful clicking sounds and nuzzle his hands with its snout playfully, which made the boy very, very happy. He had forgotten how it felt to have a friend.

One morning, the boy woke up in a startled shock as he felt the cold sting of sea spray on his face. Was a storm on its way? He jumped to his feet, looked up at the sky and expected the worst. But it was clear and sunny. Then the boy looked down at his feet, where a pile of fish lay on the deck flopping, fresh from the sea. A head popped up from the ocean surface, and he saw more fish in his companion’s snout. The dolphin, as if in joyous delight, splashed water with exuberance at the boy with its fins. Stunned by the sight, the lips on the boy’s face slowly turned upwards into a smile, and tears of joy welled up in his eyes. The dolphin was reciprocating his care and expressing its gratitude by catching fish for him! Touched by the gesture, all the boy could think of was to hug the dolphin. Without a second thought, he jumped into the sea and wrapped his arms around his new-found friend.

As he looked into the intelligent, lively eyes of the dolphin, he saw a hint of mischief in those beautiful, glimmering pupils. Grabbing hold of the dorsal fin on the dolphin’s back, he braced himself as the muscular frame beneath him propelled forward with a mighty kick of her powerful tail. He was going on an adventure! Without warning, he felt himself lurching forward and downward. Instinctively, the boy took a deep breath. He was now underwater, riding on a back of a dolphin, and he could not believe what was happening. He felt pressure in his ears as they dived deeper and deeper until he thought they would pop. Then suddenly, just as unexpected as the plunge was, he felt the dolphin flex its body and accelerate upwards. The boy felt his heart skip a beat as he knew what was coming.

The water rushed past him as his vision blurred; he tightened his grip as he felt the driving force pushing him backwards. The light grew brighter and brighter… until his face broke through the water surface and felt the cool sea breeze on his cheeks. Am I dreaming? He thought. Then he looked down at the water below him. No, I’m flying, he laughed. He let go of his grip on the dolphin and spread them out by his side, imagining himself to be an eagle, soaring through the skies. For a moment he forgot that he was human. He felt weightlessness, as if he was a feather floating in the wind. Exhilarating. But, gravity, oh cruel gravity reminded him of his mortality, and brought him back down to reality. He entered the water with a painful smack.

The boy woke up on the raft, rubbing his neck painfully and touching his chest gingerly. How did I get back here? He wondered. A series of clicks interrupted his thoughts, and he saw his friend bobbing in the water a few feet away from him, looking at him with earnest eyes. Smiling, he threw a fish at her, which she immediately caught with her beak. Thank you, the boy said. The dolphin seemed to smile at him, but he couldn’t be sure, for he had no idea if dolphins could smile anyway. She started swimming away, but stopped and looked back at him. She did it for a few times, and the boy soon realized that his friend wanted him to follow her. The boy frantically released the sail and guided the raft towards that direction.

After a few hours, the boy saw a strip of mass, long and large on the surface of the water, up ahead in the distance. He squinted his eyes and struggled to see what it was. He saw the faint but identifiable glitter… of sand. A coastline! Emotions broiled within him – elation, nervousness, excitement….and sadness. The boy had found what he was looking for, but he could not help but feel a tinge of sorrow. He looked at his friend, and immediately felt a wave of melancholy sweep over him. He knew that he had to leave her behind to continue his journey. He knew that he couldn’t possible live out in the sea forever with her, as much as he wanted to. They belonged in two worlds. Life must go on.

Gritting his teeth and holding back the tears welling in his eyes, he slipped into the water and swam towards his friend. He wrapped his arms around the dolphin’s neck and realized that he did not want to let go. The dolphin seemed to understand the boy and kept still in the boy’s embrace. Finally, as the sky was getting dark, the boy gave a final kiss goodbye to her and made his way onto the beach. As he turned around and looked back at the horizon which was tinted red, and he saw a silhouette leap out of the water and arc over the setting sun. He raised his hand and bid farewell.

“Good night, for we’ll meet again.” He whispered… the wind carried his words away, as they drifted into oblivion.

Your voice was the soundtrack of my summer

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato

This quote resonates so deeply within me whenever I read it. The feeling I get really transcends words, and is perhaps beyond my range of vocabulary because I haven’t a slightest clue as to how I should phrase this upwelling emotion into actual words. I would imagine that without music, life would be bleak, mundane and lose its color/vibrancy. From the sound of the cosmos (yes there is actually sound out in space) to the chirping of the crickets, almost all the different entities and elements in our universe create sound. We hear and differentiate sounds using delicate bones in our ears, picking up particular frequencies which our brain processes. It’s really amazing if you think about it; I truly believe the gift of hearing is absolutely beautiful. I sometimes wonder, hypothetically speaking, if I go deaf (or blind for that matter), whether life would lose its meaning for me. One can hope that in the future there will be hearing aids that can bypass the ears and send signals straight to the brain. That would undoubtedly be a godsend to all the deaf people who live in a world of utter and desolate silence.

Music, if you break it down into simple terms, is made up of various different notes. Take 3 notes and you get a chord. Pick 4 chords and you create a progression. Vary the progressions and you get a tune in your head. Put in lyrics into the verses/chorus/bridge and you get a song. It all sounds so simple but yet it is never easy writing a song. You need inspiration and the patience to tweak your song to fit your mood and convey your emotions in the right way. But the most special thing is, it belongs to you; it is unique, because it came from you. That’s the beauty of music. It is there for the taking, anyone can create their own music. Best of all, it can be enjoyed by everyone who’s willing to listen. If you want to strike a chord with someone – pun intended –  I think using music is a good way to begin. Get up, grab an instrument, write a song, because music is a gift for yourself and others; it is not to be missed.

I tried to read between the lines
I tried to look in your eyes
I want a simple explanation
For what I’m feeling inside

-Thunder by BLG

24th in Petra

Life really brings you to unexpected places at the most unexpected times. Just spent my 24th birthday last week in one of the 7 wonders of the modern world – Petra – trekking in the hot, blazing sun with 5 of my friends in the desolate, desert country that is Jordan. If you told me a year ago that I’d be spending my 24th traveling in Jordan, I would have scoffed at the ‘crazy’ thought. Well I certainly did not plan for this; it just so happened that a chain of events caused it to happen. If I did not make a last minute decision to go for exchange; if I did not receive Technion as my exchange university; if my birthday did not fall on the 10-day Pesach (Passover) break, if I had my own plans instead of tagging along… I wouldn’t have ended up there. Petra is worth a visit, it isn’t called one of the 7 wonders for nothing, but I feel that the entrance fee is a tad expensive. We got the 55 dinar 2-day pass to make sure that we didn’t miss anything out, but by the second day we were tired of walking. In case you’re wondering, 1 dinar is about 1 euro. If you go on a one day trip straight from Israel, it’s 90 dinars… talk about daylight robbery. But I didn’t like the fact that it has become so touristy and commercialized. I mean, are people really that lazy to walk that they have to take horse, donkey or camel rides up and down the attractions? It pains my heart slightly to exploit animals for such frivolous purposes of men. I can understand if the elderly or young kids require assistance up the hills but otherwise we have no reason to ride those animals. We’re given a pair of legs for a reason. It’s not pleasant to have dung all over the paths and steps too.


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Wadi Rum was a really refreshing experience for me, I really love the feeling of the wind whipping across my face when I ride the open-top truck across the soft sand trails and dunes. Not to mention the sand and dust in yours eyes and ears while the UV radiation eats away at your exposed skin 😛 Thankfully I went prepared with shades and cap with neck protection so it was pretty alright. I was eagerly anticipating a clear starry night with an unobscured view of the constellations at night but regrettably it wasn’t as cloudless as I had wished for it to be so we didn’t get an excellent view of the stars. Dinner was awesome and I ate 3 plates each for both nights after going a couple of days without a proper meal when we were in Eilat previously. Love how they cook the meat, potatoes and onions by burying them in the sand along with tinder/coal so the end product is pretty awesome. The Bedouins strike me as really humble and pleasant folk during my stay of the campsite. Our jeep tour guide cooked lunch for us in the desert and I was surprised to learn that he was only 20-21 years of age. Talk about maturity… One of the highlights for me was sand surfing from atop of a dune of considerable incline. It was definitely an experience not to be missed. The climb up was really exhausting though; it was like 3 steps forwards 2 steps back trying to climb up the soft sand carrying the heavy board. I’m glad I didn’t give up and completed the descent from the very top.

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The trip was tainted by an infuriating experience with cab drivers in Amman towards the end, which I don’t really want to elaborate too much. In short, there are a lot of unscrupulous cab drivers who are out to scam tourists.  Let’s bring the focus back to Haifa instead… 2 days ago, I got reminded of how hot summer days here are going to be. Having checked the weather forecast, I breathed a sigh of relief when it showed that the searing heat was an anomaly in the week to come. For now at least, I must treasure the splendid weather and enjoy the gym and swim sessions that I have been picking up on a regular basis. Because it is usually cloudless here, the land receives almost maximum radiation from the sun and it’s really bad for the skin, so I should get sunblock as summer arrives. In Haifa, which in closer to the north, it isn’t so bad because there is elevation and lush greenery so the temperature doesn’t sky rocket like the south, where the arid desert and low-lying areas are. I shudder to think how summer would be in the Dead Sea, which is 400+m below sea level. The dry weather here can be a double-edged sword for people accustomed to the tropical areas though. The lack of humidity negates the need for more than a shower a day because the sweat leaves the skin instantly leaving you feeling clean and dry but the skin may need some moisturizer from time to time to prevent excessive peeling or cracking. I’m used to it now though so I’m fine.

Now, some personal reflection and + points:

1) I like the fact that I can easily watch champions league and premier league matches at night without having to stay up late or wake up in the middle of the night. Internet speed here is decent so streaming is usually smooth.

2) A couple of my courses have working professionals from the industry as lecturers teaching us so they have relevant expertise in their respective fields which is really good. I think we should have more of this in NUS engineering too, instead of full-time professors.

3) Really fortunate to have access to the gym and swimming pool at a convenient distance from my dorm. Classes are also 5 minutes away from dorms so I don’t have to wake up too early to prepare.

4) Students here are not afraid to speak their mind in class and at times there is a gray area between class participation and rowdiness. It would be nice to strike a balance somewhere in between the class culture here and back home, where hardly anyone speaks up during class.

5) Lucky to be able to borrow a guitar, though only after a month here have I gotten one. Better late than never, because it has rekindled my joy and desire to sing and play music, making me realize that music really can heal your soul.

6) Count my lucky stars to have met the lovely people here who have made my life more colorful and fun, because really without them things around here would be less interesting. (Rawan, Aya, Malak, Bob, Wen Hui, Haggai, just to name a few, as well as random travelers along the way who have helped one way or the other) And for that, I am undoubtedly grateful…

Hmmm…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LyCC6jjcx8

This is a really interesting video talking about how time passes faster as you age. I really recommend watching Michael on his Vsauce channel in your free time because he talks about random but really interesting stuff. I learn new things every time I watch his videos which, by the way, are pretty creative, quirky and captivating. If you’re into discovery, science and technology, or simply an avid seeker of knowledge, go check out the Vsauce channels (there’s Vsauce 1,2 and 3 I think).

It’s now only week 4 in Technion (I heard that it’s week 10 back in NUS already). Surprisingly, it feels like ages since I was back home; last semester felt so very long ago, like a distant, vague memory drifting and dissipating in the abysses of my mind. Hmmm… which is weird because only 3 months have passed by, but it felt more like 6 months to me. I have traveled quite a bit in this period, so like what the video mentioned, I guess my time conundrum can be attributed to the “novelty factor” of being in new places and meeting new people, which hasn’t really worn off just yet. People have asked me if I miss home; and my response is simply a slight shrug with a nonchalant “not really”. I haven’t gotten homesick for now, but I’ve had cravings of Singapore food when think about cooking ideas. Upon hearing that recently there was a mini-drought, a haze and a mosquito outbreak back home, I can count my lucky stars that I’m away from all that at the moment. Sure, there are times when the weather here fluctuates like the stock markets, but I still prefer the weather here over the overbearing, stifling tropical humidity that I grew up in.

I’m enjoying my time here so far, having settled down comfortably in my dorm with Damien and Joshua. I really like spending time with them, because they are people whom you can joke around and say anything bullshit without being judged. Sometimes I feel that our personalities are similar, yet worlds apart at other times. It’s really good that we do a lot of things together, and spending quality bro time living under the same roof really reveals our strengths and exposes our flaws, most especially my own. Though I am usually an easy going person, I have come to understand that for harmonious relationships to blossom, one cannot keep doing things based on one’s personal gain; that at some point compromises have to be made. Personally, I find that it is often for the better to be open to new ideas and learn from others so as to improve yourself, rather than be a stubborn mule who sticks to old habits. I used to be a closet perfectionist who would chide myself for my failings in anything and everything, but nowadays I am more understanding of my own limitations and work around it rather than play the blame game with myself.

Israel is a really fascinating country for all its pros and cons, and I’ve really grown to appreciate its diversity and cultural differences. The societal dynamics is extremely complex and takes a while to comprehend fully; I’m sure even the locals here do not fully understand the country which they are living in as well. The social fabric here is so complicated that I find it amazing that it can still be stitched together (to a certain extent of course). Within the Jews and the Arab communities, they are further cleaved into so many entities, which is mind-blowing to say the least. In some sense it reminds me of multicultural Singapore, but I understand that relations are much more delicately perched due to regional tensions and existing conflicts. Though I cannot proclaim that the people live in peaceful times, because safety can never be compromised over here, I applaud the Israelis for making light of the bleak situations they fight themselves in. Israel has become the Israel that I see and live in today, after all the crazy events that have happened over the years, because of sheer willpower and determination of its people. I have also come to appreciate the past as I learn about the timeline and history of the land.

What I like about the people here is that most of them seem like the direct, no-nonsense and down-to-earth type. They are not shy about speaking out and making their feelings known, which is really, really the exact opposite of Singapore, where most people keep quiet and act blur but all of s sudden become keyboard warriors behind a computer screen. Of course, some of the Israelis may come across as being brash or abrasive in the way they speak and act, but really I think most of the locals are genuine and sincere people. I have a really positive impression maybe because of our buddies make such nice friends <3… I feel blessed and lucky to have met the friends we’ve made so far. In hindsight, it’s a good thing that I emailed to request for a buddy at the last minute because my name was left out in the email list.

I am thinking of working on maybe a short novel or something, but no concrete ideas just yet. Maybe something related to the people I’ve met here would be nice, like a life story perhaps? Then again, I may be too lazy to bring that idea to fruition haha…

Recap of My Turkey Experience

Looking back at the past month, it had definitely been a wonderful time for me to experience life in different countries and be exposed to other cultures. As a novice traveler, I have along the way picked up important tips on how to do things efficiently on the road. The small little details all add up and save you the trouble in future occasions – it’s always better to be prepared for the unexpected than face the worst. Soaking in the sights and sounds of a totally foreign country gives me a sense of accomplishment as well; to explore new places and venture into unknown territories provides satisfaction for the adventurer at heart.

I missed the cheap prices in Turkey initially when I stepped into Israel and saw how expensive the food is over here. But gradually the 3 of us have slowly learnt the ropes of cooking and discovering the cheapest places to do our groceries. Things are going well so far other than our course registration which still leaves Damien and I in doubt over whether we can do 5 courses this semester. I really like the fact that the swimming pool is pretty awesome and its free for students, plus the fact that the gym membership is a pretty good deal. So yea, I am going to work on my fitness goals and prove to myself that I can do it.

As stated in my previous post, I would like to state some observations that I’ve made about Turkey in general:

1) The drivers are pretty skilled (in Israel too, so I suspect the Middle East in general) on the roads of Turkey. Like back in Singapore, most drivers would take probably a minute to park the car nicely, but here, it takes like 10 seconds for the average guy. I’ve only seen manual cars in Turkey, and add to the fact that there are so many crazy steep, inclined and uneven roads, it’s bound to be a challenge for the average Joe unfamiliar with the terrain.

2) There was one time a driver saw us walking along the road and offered a ride to town. It was such a relief because I had blisters on my feet and he really saved me from the agony. So I kind of have a good impression of the people there, despite the language barrier, many of them are nice and friendly people (except for those who want your money :P)

3) There is trash everywhere along the roads and it made me appreciate Singapore’s cleanliness and how true it is about our reputation as a clean and green city.

4) There are ass washers in almost every toilet bowl and its pretty awesome actually. But I find it weird and amusing, not really sure why it is so common here though. Not that I’m complaining of course.

5) Buses just pick up and drop passengers when and where they want along the route sometimes it seems. There is no obvious sign as to what is a bus stop and what isn’t along some of the bus routes. I guess this reflects the flexible system they have in Turkey as compared to back in Singapore. Things are always negotiable and there is obviously less bureaucracy; you always get a feeling that bargains can always be made here.

6) Because it is winter, there is a pungent smell of coal burning for the central heating system within most buildings. Not only does the smoke irritate the nose, I believe it contributes to the air pollution tremendously. Well, not that there’s much of a choice I guess, it’s either you choose the cheap and effective way of heating or you freeze to death.

7) Almost everyone smokes. No kidding. Or maybe cause it’s cold??

8) The patches of farmland are tremendously huge; the amount of land they have here is incredible. Hmmm, but China probably dwarfs Turkey haha…

9) There’s so many ruins it’s really not much of a novelty anymore. There’s so much rich culture and heritage here that you can literally walk along the road and find a piece of history from the Ottoman empire or something.

I actually have a lot more pictures of Turkey to upload but I am just so, so lazy to go through them all. Slow and steady I guess… 🙂

selcuk (27)The Professional Daydreamer

Officially a Technion Student (2)

We had our orientation yesterday evening and after that we went to a nearby pub to have drinks. As with most engineering schools, the population is often male dominated, and such is the case here. On the bright side, because of the fact that I’m under the Technion International School means that I meet people from all around the world and its really interesting to be exposed to people of various backgrounds. It’s nice to talk to complete strangers and find a common topic to chat on. I feel that I have really gotten out of my comfort zone in the past month when it comes to talking to people and now I have the confidence to strike up a conversation with just about anybody. People aside, the campus has a nice gym and swimming pool but we have yet to check them out yet. The minimarts on campus aren’t very cheap either, and we have hardly stocked up on food for cooking. But we shall be making our first dinner tonight I guess, so good luck to us with that haha…

We had a smooth transition into the Technion dorms because of Miki, Mira and Lilac – our couch surfing hosts in Kiryat Motzkin who became our family away from home by welcoming us in so many different ways. They taught us about the Jewish culture, discussed with us the various topics regarding Israel and Singapore, let me do laundry at their home, prepared delicious meals for us, gave us beds and shelter, drove us around Haifa for sightseeing, gave us advice on settling into our dorms, ferried our luggage along with us and made sure we had the right necessities on our first night there… the list goes on and I can’t thank them enough really. Why would anyone do so much for strangers you may ask? Sometimes I wonder too but let’s put the cynicism aside and recognize that there are angels out there who are the bright shining stars that guide us along the way in the sea of darkness.

Our previous host has this awesome crib which I suspect is to impress girls and party all night with. The host certainly fit that profile of a partying casanova with polaroids of girls hung up on his wall. Yea, he was pretty open about bringing girls to his place too, which just reflects the extreme views in this country, from the super liberal to the ultra-orthodox. It was a really nice apartment and all but to be honest I felt rather awkward and out of place at times. Not surprisingly, his roommate owns a bar and he seemed like a more pleasant chap who was genuinely interested in talking to us. Oh yes, on this occasion we were couchsurfing in Tel Aviv, which is a really nice city to live in bar the expensive cost of living.

I really love the bicycle system whereby you rent a bike for like 17 shekels a day, and as long as you return the bikes to one of the numerous bike stations within 30 minutes, there would be no surcharge. After 10 minutes, you can rinse and repeat for the whole day, which was good for us. That was basically our primary mode of transportation other than walking and it really saved us time and money because the public transport was rather expensive. The beaches here are so beautiful with lots of surfer dudes and chicks around; the parks are full of fitness freaks and fun loving people with dogs; the nightlife is pretty awesome and crazy but I didn’t experience it. I’m not really the partying sort anyway.

Edit: just cooked our first dinner and it was pretty fun! Alright, I’ll talk more about Turkey next time round and try to post more pictures on Facebook later tonight. ❤

Officially a Technion student

At long last, I have settled down in Canada Dorms in Technion and today (Sunday) is the first day of school. The only worry right now is that I may not have enough modules to map because of course restrictions and overlapping of timetable etc. I hope to have some good news from our coordinator Ms. Orna soon, otherwise it would really be a 6 month leave of absence LOL.

What an interesting month it has been… and I haven’t had much alone time to really blog in the past week. I left Turkey on the 25th with somewhat of a heavy heart and came into Israel with a sense of intrigue about the things that I would be experiencing here. So far, I am really happy to know that the Israelis are so, so nice and helpful people who are easy to talk to as most of them know English. As far as fitting in goes, I think it won’t be much of a problem really. But the cost of living is not what I had expected. For example, the cheapest meal we could find in Tel-Aviv was about 25 shekels (close to 10 SGD) and it opened my eyes to the high costs of food in Europe. I needed some adjusting because you could have a simple meal in Turkey for 5 lira (close to 3 SGD).

My university is located atop a hilly ridge so there are slopes everywhere; the greenery is beautiful and the atmosphere seems really peaceful. (To be continued)….

Going back to the corner, where I first saw you

Day 17. Here we’re back in Istanbul, back to the place where it all started. After tracing out a nice little clockwise circle around the western part of Turkey with our footprints. Our journey here is winding down nicely with an additional member to the troupe (Damien), who joined us in our Izmir stopover where we watch the Wolf of Wall Street. 3 hours of unbridled rawness, full of sex, booze, nudity and morally objectionable behavior. Nonetheless, one of the most entertaining movies I’ve watched in recent years. Thankfully it was in English with Turkish subtitles and not the other way round. Izmir was all about lepaking and chilling out with booze, boats, bridge and bitches. A big fat nope to the last one – definitely not the ones in the shady bar next to our hotel. The breakfast here was great, hands down the best we’ve come across so far. Cheese, eggs, milk, cereal, olives, dates, tomatoes, juice, coffee, tea, jam and of course, bread. We also kept feeding the seagulls and Joshua was an unfortunate victim of one’s defecation.

We took a night bus to Canakkale and arrived at the utterly deserted Otogar (that’s what they call the bus terminals here) at 4am in the morning, tired, cold and stranded, or so we thought initially. Thankfully, we discovered fellow human beings nearby who directed us to the other end of the terminal, where a pimped up neon blue minivan pulled up (a bangbus, as Damien calls it) which shuttled us to the ferry terminal safe and sound. We totally KO-ed on the ferry and later at the hotel, but had a good rest before our tour of Gallipoli later on. It was during lunch when I realized I’m missing the variety food back in Singapore. Here in Turkey, most of the food basically revolves around the same old ingredients but calling them different names. We then had a history lesson into the Gallipoli campaign of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, which was nice and all but boring after a while.

Anyways, so here I am in the Taksim side of Istanbul, where we shall be staying for a couple of days before crossing the river back to the previous hostel for a couple of nights, before flying to Tel Aviv and Haifa in Israel where a couple of couch-surfers have agreed to host us. Awesome! I’m really, really used to this travelling and hostel hopping thing now, it’s become the norm for us already. Packing and unpacking is no longer a chore but a routine for us. I can just leave the navigation and planning to sharp Yi Feng and reliable Joshua, while I simply handle the common fund and calculate finances. Before I forget, let me briefly recap the time I had in Fethiye, Pamukkale and Selcuk.

Fethiye/Oludeniz is supposed to be a really nice place, but unfortunately the gods did not favor us and gave us rain and more rain. To be fair, we had been very fortunate with how the weather panned out during the previous days and it was inevitable that we encountered rain since it is winter. But to rain on the day when we wanted to paraglide was cruel. Coincidentally, it was also valentine’s day and we spent the day waiting for the sky to clear. It was clear that the rain wasn’t going to stop so we decided to go back to the hostel and call it a day. But the company suddenly called and brought us back to commence paragliding. It was here where we met 2 other Korean dudes whom we had the fate to meet again in 2 other cities later on. However, after going all the way up the mountain on a van with all the equipment ready, the instructors decided to call it off because of unfavorable wind conditions. At this point I was disappointed and exasperated by the weather. Just as we were about to head downhill, an old man appeared (weather guru?) and changed the mind of the driver and crew and we did a u-turn back up! The paragliding experience was amazing, it’s like one moment you are running into the sunset and the next you’re in the air flying without wings (cue R. Kelly and Westlife). I almost crashed into a tree during takeoff (no kidding) and ended up puking from the crazy spins but it was absolutely awesome.

Our next city, Pamukkale, was awesome. We visited calcite formations with hot springs and the ancient ruins of Hierapolis. Quite an awesome experience to walk barefooted across the white pools which harbored the running spring water from the top of the mountain. Best 20 lira spent ever. It was here in this town where we made friends with a number of nice people too! Chatting with fellow travelers can be fascinating when you learn more about their background, experiences and future plans etc. We fed more birds with bread – geese and ducks this time. They were so, so fat from all the food fed to them by the locals and tourists. Next city was Selcuk where we visited more ruins (at this point the novelty factor was wearing thin) and found a really nice cafe for our meals. We then took a train ride to Izmir, which was a really pleasant and smooth ride. SO much better than the trains back in Singapore. I love the buses and coaches here too… they seem to glide across the roads to ensure that you have a comfortable sleep. Not the smaller ones of course, you get what you pay for.

It’s 2.15 am here and this is probably the latest I’ve stayed up so far. I’ll post another entry really soon since I’m gonna turn in for the night now. The night life in this part of Istanbul is really happening, I can still hear it outside. Goodnight to me and good morning to all you folks in Singapore!

selcuk (13)

Gonna camp in my sleeping bag, I’m not gonna move…