Turkish Delight

Greetings from Istanbul, the largest city straddling two continents! (According to Google, there are a few other cities which lie on both Europe and Asia). It’s been a hectic and busy week, so now I’m taking a breather to give an update on how things are going so far.

First off, a brief introduction wouldn’t be too out of place here. The time difference between Singapore and Istanbul is 6 hours, so the jet lag that we experienced wasn’t too bad on the first day. Istanbul is the cultural, historical and economical hub of the country and is home to more than 14 million people. That sounds like a lot to me, considering that I come from a country with its 5.5 million citizens overflowing at its seams. It is also the capital, as well as the largest city in Turkey. Nahhh I’m kidding… the capital is actually Ankara. Got you there didn’t I? 😉

Before the trip, I had a some pre-flight jitters, but after the plane took off, I felt a sense of growing excitement. This was not just because of the fact that I was venturing into the unknown (new culture and experiences) but also because it was the furthest from Singapore that I have ever traveled to. The arrival into the city was slightly underwhelming and tempered because we had to make an unexpected detour, walk pretty far to take the metro, squeeze on the train for 15 stops (give or take), and haul our luggage up a narrow flight spiraling stairs and down again to our actual hostel. But it was all good because our room turned out to be pretty decent and cozy, with a great hostel location for exploring.

During the 2 days so far, we have visited Hagia Sophia (for some reason Yifeng loves the place and wants to keep entering Sophia), Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar and other parts of the city by foot. The cold is really awesome to me because I love blowing smoke breaths but quite awful sometimes because of the wind chill that brings the shivers. Although the forecast might say that it’s 7 degrees Celsius, it certainly feels much worse, more like 0. It’s no joke man… but Istanbul really is a beautiful place with amazing cultural diversity and architectural brilliance. The people are beautiful too, the ladies here have good figures and beautiful faces. Sometimes I find their eyes to be most attractive and mesmerizing but I have to remain dignified and not be a perv. So, I have to pry my eyes away from those amazing eyes by exercising self-control and look at something else, like the ass of another beautiful girl instead.

“You from Korea?”

I notice that 3 Chinese guys walking on the streets generate quite a lot of attention, but I wouldn’t say that it’s unwelcome. For some reason, we get mistaken as Koreans more often than not on the streets of Istanbul. Perhaps due to the legacy of the Psy craze? Or maybe there really are a lot of Koreans who go to Turkey. But hey, there’s a fair share of “Konichiwa” and “你好!” thrown in too… quite amusing really. The people here are mostly friendly and helpful; those we’ve met have been pleasant to talk to. It is extremely easy to strike up a conversation with most people, provided that they can understand English since we only know how to say “Thank You” in Turkish. Which is, by the way, translated as “teşekkür ederim”. You can get away with saying “to sugar a drink” really fast to the locals and they would probably think that its an exotic accent. We learnt this by talking to a roadside owner of a seemingly quaint hotel. He even offered me a cup of tea upon my request, which I did out of jest.

Yea, there were some other nice people… one joker even called himself “Tan” and warned us from falling prey to scams. He said he didn’t like Turkey, because he preferred chicken… -_-” Anyway, I kind of get the feeling that the merchants nearer to the city center/popular attractions tend to put on a facade more to tout business compared to the less touristy places, which seem to provide a more genuine and sincere customer service. After Istanbul, we shall be going to Goreme to tour Cappadocia before heading to Antalya, then Fethiye, then Pamukkale then Ephesus, then Izmir (where Damien will join us), then Cannakale, with Istanbul rounding off the clockwise journey around western Turkey.

P.S. Joshua is going out of control with his selfies. I had no idea he was this narcissistic. Maybe I’ll write a 10,000 word essay on his narcissism next week. Till then, ciao.

OGIM

Oh Gosh It’s Monday! 😦

The alarm rang and I couldn’t get out of bed to go to school for work at the geotech lab; my body simply defied my brain’s orders to wake up. (The weather was simply too wonderful to waste being awake; it was sinful to do anything else other than to indulge in slumber.) In my semi-conscious state, I self-prescribed an additional ‘x’ hours sleep to cure my severe bout of Monday Blues. Gratifyingly, I plopped my head back on the pillow and drifted off into dreamland. Just what the doctor ordered.

Perks of having flexible working hours haha. But on a serious note, I feel that my vacation job is becoming a chore, so thankfully this is going to be my last week. It’s been a gruelling 5 weeks which I have arduously sieved marine clay, painstakingly modelled clay samples with different polymers, and tediously carried out numerous unconfined compressive tests on them. Not to mention a bit of soil augering and sieve testing for different types of soils as well. (Edit: The allowance turned out to be decent, so I can’t really complain haha).

Work wasn’t too bad when Yingjie, a year 1 civil engineering girl, was around to help. More than anything, it was the monotony and boredom that was stifling, but she helped to alleviate all that with her bubbly and lively (at times wacky) personality. Too bad she was only volunteering for a short while; it really feels much better when you are working with someone else instead of doing everything alone. Overall, I feel that I have not learnt as much as I had initially hoped, and although some aspects of construction I find fascinating, I feel that civil engineering is not really my cup of tea.

However, let us(me) look on the bright side! I have registered it as an Independent Work Programme, so hopefully I can get 2 MCs after I submit a 5-page report to my dear mentor Jay-Z (haven’t quite worked out the details of the report yet though :/). Having met a number of different personalities (FYP/PhD students, technicians, research staff etc.) within the lab, I have come to appreciate this opportunity to interact with them and learn from them during my short stint here. For example, my supervisor, Eng, has taught me that a good engineer always exposes himself/herself to other fields of engineering, because in this modern day and age engineering is becoming somewhat an inter-disciplinary field. It would be myopic to simply focus solely on one’s own specialization in engineering and ignore the other fields because you never know they will come in handy one day.

Moreover, I have developed an understanding of how my FYP experience would roughly be like and I shall be mentally prepared for the ups and downs that every Year 4 student would face – all the frustrations, hair-tearing and eventual relief when things fall in place. This experience has also improved my organisational skills as well as my ability to improvise and find solutions spontaneously and look for the most efficient way to accomplish something. Furthermore, all that manual labour has definitely strengthened my core muscles and helped to improve my overall fitness! (I just did hill sprints yesterday without feeling the effects today). Anyway, I am proud of myself for not simply slacking my holidays away, it would have been so much easier to do nothing.

This afternoon, I talked to a PhD student who is awaiting graduation while both of us were sieving marine clay. She shared with me her experiences dealing with the FYP students whom she had mentored and also the professors whom she had worked under. It is always interesting to hear the stories of someone who is several years your senior, who has been there done that, to hear his/her take on work life and career. I also finally learnt that the marine clay I had been sieving did not come from the coastal regions or the sea like I thought, but from MRT tunnel excavation works. I was genuinely surprised, because I always found many seashells of dead organisms, which meant that they must be really, really old remains.

She told me her personal experiences of how female engineers are often undermined in a male-dominated environment, how she switched to a higher paying job by pretending to be confident and experienced, and also the biased working culture in a Korean construction company (we all know this brand for its smartphones and electronics). The gender inequality issue was perhaps a major driving factor for her to quit work and pursue her PhD, so that she can earn respect and recognition in a better job. This story sounded familiar, then I remembered this was similar to my supervisor’s case – he felt that the older generation tend to distrust younger folk like him and getting a PhD would add weight to his words. I believe many graduates out there face the same thing; after working for some time, they realize that a PhD degree will add so much more to their career prospects. According to her, the ironic thing is, it is probably easier to get a PhD than a Masters degree because of supply and demand – less people want to do PhD.

Anyway, there are still things to do, stuff to settle before I leave Singapore in 2 weeks time. I’m glad that I have met up with most of my closer friends thus far, I feel really lucky to be still in contact with some of them. I can’t wait to fly, but yet I want more time in Singapore. Oh the irony…

On a random side note, I was just watching Naruto when Uchiha Madara said this:

“In this world, wherever there is light, there are always shadows. As long as there is a concept of victors, the vanquished will also exist. The selfish desire for peace gives rise to war, and hatred is born in order to protect love. These are all nexuses, causal relationships that cannot be separated. Normally, that is.”

Sometimes, I think it is nice how some animes and mangas can come up with deep stuff that make us feel philosophical all of a sudden haha.

Consistency is Key

Imperfection is beautiful, but yet undesired. It does provide room for positiveness to thrive and eventually blossom, and with a bit of luck, potentially change a person/object into something of a serendipitous and wondrous nature. We, as humans, constantly seek perfection within ourselves and our surroundings, subconsciously as times, but always looking to correct the flaws and smoothen the edges of stuff we deem less than perfect. We try improve the world in a whole myriad of ways that exceed the confines of human imagination. Just like how soot can transform into diamonds, we all strive to improve ourselves in the bid to someday become that shiny jewel we all dream to be.

Let’s say you want to improve yourself right now at this very moment – be it physically, mentally or spiritually – what quality or characteristic (that comes to mind) would you like to add to your existing repertoire?

Naturally, different people would have varying answers, depending on the stage of life they are at, or the mood they are in when the question was popped. Ask a depressed man who has just been retrenched, and he might spew out a whole list that would make anyone feel demoralized because he is down in the trenches. Ask a happy man who has just won the lottery, and he might struggle to come up with anything at all because he is in temporary bliss. If you were to ask me for traits that I would like to possess or do better in, those that pop up in my 30-second self-evaluation would probably be:

1. Confidence

I tend to view myself as quietly confident at times, but fragile as fuck the next. A seemingly innocuous comment, action or event might have a considerable impact on my confidence level and make me feel inadequate or insecure. Of course, as I grew older and wiser, this happens to a much lesser extent, but it would be awesome to have a special kind of confidence that does not ever waver, regardless of what others think. But of course, it is difficult to draw the line between confidence and arrogance, and one must be aware of one’s limits and capabilities, albeit the saying “the sky’s the limit”.

2. Charisma

Admittedly, I was, or still am a some extent, a socially awkward person who is adapting to social norms by learning the ropes of how to interact with people as I gradually mature into adulthood. Talking to people drains me of energy at times but that is by no small measure due to my introverted personality. Not much of a conversationalist to start with, I look at friends and people who demonstrate enthralling stage presence or captivate audiences using their impressive oratory skills with a tinge of envy, wishing I could do the same with similar zest and verve.

3. Decisiveness

Fickle-mindedness is not necessarily a flaw; evaluating every option before making a choice is a wise thing to do. However, there is a fine line between being meticulous and indecisive, and I try not to fall into the category of the latter. Sometimes amidst uncertainty and ambiguity, one has to take a leap of faith and hope for the best. As they say, time waits for no man and one has to seize the window of opportunity that comes along, instead of over-thinking things all the time, every single time. I feel that I have not taken the opportunities present in front of me well, and this is perhaps something which I have to work on.

Sure, there are more traits which I would like to improve on, but those are more trivial and perhaps not things that come to mind right now. As I write this, personal reflection has brought about a sudden dawn, an enlightening if you will, an illumination upon the one quality which I feel is often overlooked but is oh, so very important – consistency. Throughout my life so far, I have never been much of a fan of consistency, or rather, I have seldom reflected consistency in my actions (until maybe recently :p)

Being capable of brilliance at one moment and stupidity the next, this has also been reflected in my academic results and other aspects of life as well. It is utterly impractical to be really awesome for a brief instance but go back to being awful again; it is no different from being mediocre right from the start. Based on personal observation and experience, consistency can be applied to almost everything we do for us to see results. It is from these results that we derive satisfaction, which serves as a form of positive reinforcement for us to want to continue these positive habits, in what I would like to term as a “positive cycle”.

Procrastination, on the other hand, is the arch-nemesis to consistency, because it is the evil voice inside our heads telling us that “today is not a good day”, “there is always time tomorrow”, “you have something else more important to do”. Many of us are guilty of succumbing to procrastination, and it is one of the barriers which stop us from growing and realizing our potential. It is so difficult to kick-start a positive cycle because of inertia, but so easy to fall into the vicious cycle of procrastination because it requires you to do literally nothing – you simply slide into it.

From secondary school up till the start of my 3rd semester in university, I have always lacked consistency in schoolwork and always walked into examinations with an incomplete knowledge of the syllabus. I was an avid supporter of procrastination and it affected my health and self-esteem as well because I was overweight and unfit. This affected my confidence because I always saw myself as less adept and worthy as compared to my peers. However, I soon realized that one need not work hard, but rather work smart. How? Make sure that I revise my work on a consistent basis instead of delaying everything to the end. Make sure to do some pull-ups before going home, no matter how tired I am. No matter how small the action, it all adds up. I believe that one would gain more from taking the stairs every day of a month than running a single marathon for the whole month.

“Procrastination is like masturbation, in the beginning it feels good, but in the end, you’re just f***ing yourself!” – No idea who said this but it is true

Admittedly, I am starting to procrastinate on my fitness goals – my physical condition is no where near my initial aims for the past month. I haven’t been exercising regularly and it has been a case of 3 steps forward and 2 steps back when it comes to gymming/working out. I need to stop finding excuses and just do it. Like really just get up go out and do it.

P.S. This post is 1 day overdue, and I feel bad. Because I promised myself to write a new blog post weekly. Since I started my first post on a Monday, I shall keep to that promise and write one every Monday from now on. Cheers to consistency!

Chronicles of Koh

At long last, my 10-year hiatus from blogging has to an end, and here I am. A new blog, a blank page, a fresh outlet for me to collate my thoughts and experiences in my path to self discovery and learning. Hopefully, I shall kick-start a consistent habit of reflecting weekly, while reigniting my passion for writing and rediscovering my essay writing skills, if you will, which have definitely fallen off the pace after years of stagnation (2 years in army and 2+ years of engineering studies certainly didn’t help). This blog shall be my sanctuary amidst my sometimes chaotic thoughts; it would also serve as a spiritual anchor as well as a mirror to my current mental state. I will also be journal logging my exciting experiences in Turkey and Israel with my buddies from engineering. I think we’re gonna have a blast and enjoy ourselves during these 6 months that we’ll be away. Yeap, I better not get homesick. I’ve got a feeling I will miss the food here though. *Cross fingers and pray for good food in Haifa*

~The Chronicles of Koh – a platform to rejuvenate my creative juices and for random words to flow from my rambling brain.

P.s. Oh I almost forgot. Sayonara my awesome gym buddy, I’ll miss ya loads. Don’t forget to think of me when you squat yo hahaha