Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lessons Learned

38th Annual General Meeting of PKPMI-CB. Me on the podium

It has been a year since the post 'Experience is the Best Teacher'. Time flies so fast, a year has passed, and yesterday was the end of my term as Chairperson of the Malaysian Student Association. So, was 'experience the best teacher' for the past one year? Yes, sirree! Here are the top 10 lessons I've learned through experience:
  1. A small act is actually larger than the biggest dreams, so it's okay to dream big, but start small. Like, asking?
  2. Doing something, even small things is better than sitting down worrying. Worrying is like a rocking chair, you know. It gives you something to do but gets you nowhere
  3. Not everyone thinks like you. Even if you think it's the most obvious thing, another person would think it isn't. The beauty of diversity. So, as what Stephen Covey always say: seek first to understand, then to be understood
  4. Nothing is easier than talking, but nothing is harder than walking the talk. So, always under promise but over deliver
  5. Leadership ain't a popularity contest. You don't make the popular decision for people to like you, you make the right decision. You'll have your critics, of course, but so what? They won't show up at your deathbed anyway
  6. Get fit to lead, it's so depressing when you're sick but have so much things to do
  7. Take a break once in awhile
  8. Success don't last forever, but experience do. So don't become obsessed with past glory, but use the experiences to tackle new challenges with the spirit of a beginner
  9. The past, however glorious or miserable it is, is still the past. Today is a new beginning. That's why its called the 'present'
  10. Life is too short to be miserable!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Korean Language Barrier

My lens was focused on the old Korean man. He was talking to my father, I thought of taking a candid. But suddenly, he turned to me and asked

"What are you doing?"

"Uh...I'm sorry?"

"What are you doing?" The man asked again with a serious face. I heard him the first time but I just wanted to be sure.

"Taking your picture?" The man gave me a puzzled face. In my mind, I thought ‘is it illegal to take pictures without permission here? Wait, I’m not in North Korea am I? This is the democratic South!’

"He's doing medicine" my dad said

“Ah, like father like son, good, good!” he laughed

So that was what he meant. Having just eaten the most bizarre food ever, now I just heard the weirdest way to ask what I’m studying. But that's Korea. Their English can be quite confusing. Like earlier we went to a bread shop and I asked the shopkeeper: "What's this filled with?" The girl looked at me, took out her cell phone in a rush, and started typing. ‘Okay, I’m asking a question here and this is the best time to message her mom?’. I didn't really mind, but as I turned away, she called

"Mister, mister"

“Yes?”

“Pain-eppol-jem”

“What?” I asked. She looked at her cell phone, and said the weird word again: “Pain-eppol-jem”

That was when I realized, she was actually looking through the dictionary in her cell phone. It was ‘pineapple jam’. She was talking about the bread filling. So, as I said before, that’s Korea.

The old man was a doctor, a friend of my dad. He invited us for a lunch at a Korean cuisine restaurant in downtown Seoul. So we had all these weird foods with weird names served in front of us: Kimchi, Kimbap, Kongbap, Bibimbap. The only food wasn’t there was ‘Bapbi’, (thank you).

At the restaurant. The old man at the back was the one I was talking about. See his serious facial expression as he looked at the camera?

My sisters were all excited since the foods were similar to the ones in their favorite Korean series: Boys over Flowers. For me, the only familiar food was ‘Chap-chai’ because it’s all over Indonesia: Cap cai ayam, cap cai daging, cap cai cumi, you name it! So we ate all of it, took more pictures (now I know that it is legal), and went back to our hotel.

The next morning, we went skiing. At the counter where we got our skiing gears, was a young woman. My sisters thought she looked a lot 'Chiang Jinn' from Jewel in The Palace series. I saw some of the episodes on NTV 7 and I had to agree. Anyway, we asked whether there will be a transport for carrying all these gears to the skiing spot. I thought she understood, but suddenly she took a snowboard on her shoulders, and began walking towards the exit. Did what we just asked translate into ‘hey you should go skiing now’ in Korean? But then, before reaching the door, she turned and walked back to where she had started. She was looking at us the whole time she was walking. Not looking towards where she’s going, like a crab, can you imagine that? Then, she said:

"Ok?"

‘What ok?’ I thought

“I think she meant we should return the snowboard after using” my sister suggested

“No, I think she meant the snowboard's not heavy, we can carry it by ourselves” I said

Then she did the motion again, to the door, and back again.

“I think she‘s actually a crab cursed into a human. Like in Little Mermaid, just this time Ursula sent Sebastian the Lobster”

After awhile, she pointed out the window, towards a signboard which reads: Starhill Ski Resort: 100m.

We understood. She was trying to say that the skiing spot is near, we don’t need a transport for all the gears, and we can just walk there. Oh, Koreans, I had a great time in your country, especially playing charade with you guys =D

At Gyeongbokgung Palace. Probably the place where they shot 'Jewel in the Palace'

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Time's Always Time On My Mind

A Street in Paris

“Good evening, Monsieur, going out late tonight?”


As I left the keys to the Hötelier, I checked my watch and realized it was nearly midnight.I smiled and replied,

“Yep, meeting a friend just down the street”

“Okay then, it’s nearly midnight, be careful Monsieur”

"Merci" I said, and walked out the door. It was a cold & dark winter night. I remembered these streets of Paris were lively during the day, but that night it seemed eerily silent. To be honest, I felt anxious walking down the street most foreign to me this late all by myself. But the knowledge that a friend would be waiting just down the street kept me going. It was a coincidence that this old friend of mine was in Paris that night. Though he studies in France, his University was hours away from the city. That night, him having landed from a London trip, we had the chance to meet.

Just a few minutes after I arrived at Guy Möquet Metro Station, my friend appeared with his wife. They had been married for almost a year, and it had almost been 5 years since the last time I saw him, the day we graduated from MRSM Jasin. I remembered that day we were confident we’d see each other again. In fact, I was confident I’d meet most of my friends again. But I guess once we go separate ways, it’s hard for us to get around to it. However, life is determined by chains of events, and sometimes paths cross at the most unexpected times. Who would’ve thought we'd meet that night, in a foreign land, at the most unexpected time.

“Hallamak ai, dah besar ko ye? (Wow, you sure have grown up)!” I said, and greeted his wife

“Ko pon same! (You too!)” was his reply

That was my favorite quote when meeting a friend I haven’t met for a long time. To think back, so many things have changed for the last 5 years. We’ve grown up physically, but inside, we've changed a lot more. We took the Metro to an Indian Restaurant at La Chapelle, and as what most people would talk about when meeting a long lost friend, we talk about our lives, about the friends we used to know, and how they’re doing lately.

Along the journey of life, I’ve met many people. If not for social networking sites, I wouldn’t have known how they're doing these days. Time flies so fast it scares me. Hours do turn to days, days do turn to weeks, and weeks to years.
We get older each and every day. Some of my friends are getting married, some are already married with children, some had just started working, some, like me, are still struggling with our studies. Some are at the top, some are pulled down. But at 23, there’s still a lot more to go through. Maybe someday we’ll get big jobs, make big money, appear on the headlines. At that time, would we look back at our past and attribute it to what we do in our younger days?

I believe each day is a whole life in miniature. The things we do, the books we read, the food we eat all determines what we will be in the future. Sleep a lot today and you might be sleepwalking all through your future life. Read a lot and do things that matter today and you might be a more successful person in the future than you can ever imagine. Most successful people in life are not merely gifted, they take little steps each and every day towards their dream. Each second of their young life matters. As the days turn to into weeks, the weeks into years, before they knew it, thanks to those daily little steps, they're living their dream.

We talked for quite a long while. When we ran out of things to talk about, I realized it was already late night. I had to go, the Metro would stop operating soon, I also had a train to catch the next
morning to London. So as we parted, we bid: “See you again in a few years”. I gave it a thought, a few years from now, what would my life be like?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Cat That Was Human

Once there was a cat so convinced he's human. We called him Bambang. There were 8 of us in the house, and each of us has our own story of how we met Bambang for the first time. Mine was when I sat alone, minding my own business, when he came out of nowhere and sat on my lap. I was alone. He figured that I need company. That was when I met him for the first time. I took my guitar, played him a song by Cat Stevens just because the name of that singer fits, and welcomed him into my room

Bambang officially became the 9th member of the house
after Azhar Hussein gave him a bath, (although he hated it), Hadi Fadhil gave him Friskies (he prefers it to be served in the dustbin), and after Ismayudin Ismail hated him for voiding in front of his room. Before long, we noticed that Bambang has some typical human behavior: he watches TV on the couch, sleeps on our beds, eats chicken steak from Clemmons, drinks Sprite and tried to joke around with us. I remembered once I woke in the middle of the night and heard the TV was still on. So I went down to turn it off, but Bambang was there on the couch, the remote beside him, staring into the TV screen attentively at David Letterman. His face was serious as always, which was why we never got his jokes.

Another day, I went into the toilet and saw him there, drinking from the toilet bowl. Bambang liked to lick our fingers, and drinking from the toilet bowl seems inappropriately human, so I taught him to drink from the pipe water instead. I told him sometimes people drink from the pipe water too, so he agreed to change his habits. When he knew that humans either go to work or school, Bambang decided to become a house guard. When we all went for lectures, he would sit in front of the door, protecting the house from thieves until we return. I think he liked his job very much, and did it well too. So we'd pay him with more Friskies. Each day, Bambang grew fatter and fatter, which offered him a second job: working as a pillow. Bambang didn't mind even when the heavy weighted Faizul Ramli used him as a pillow.

But now Bambang is gone. Nobody knows where he went to. Nooraishah Saadon told me that it is a common thing for a male cat to disappear for awhile to fight with other male cats, expanding their territory. But I think Bambang is smarter than that. I believe his humanlike instincts brought him to places humans go: studying overseas, joining the army, or simply having a family


Bambang