Friday, 22 June 2012
Leaving Asia

I can't believe that I will be able to say this so soon but... Tomorrow I will be leaving Asia for the first time in my life!

What for, you ask? Well, I've mentioned a few times that I am a volunteer for Global Voices, and they have a biennial summit. The last one, I just missed out on as I was a new writer, but this time around, I managed to clock enough contribution to be sponsored a trip to Nairobi, Kenya!

Nairobi baby! 

It's not all fun and games, I do have preparation for the summit to do, and will have to attend the programs during the summit, meaning that I won't have a lot of time for sightseeing. But I am arriving a few days earlier to give myself some time to at least get some travelling done. I mean, it's not everyday that you get a sponsored trip!

I will be leaving tomorrow night, and returning 10 days later. Then it's off to another conference in Sydney, so I will be very busy over the next 3 weeks. I expect to still be able to blog / update my social media while in Kenya as I don't think the summit will be too exhausting, but I definitely won't be having Internet access while in Sydney, so this blog will be quite deserted until mid-July.

In the meantime, here's a standup comedy I think everyone should watch.

Hope you enjoyed it, and catch ya soon!
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Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Are You Good or Evil?

It's an age-old question- are we inherently good or evil? Is there such a thing as inherent good or evil in people? What causes us to be display good / evil characteristics?

That's something that I studied about in one of my classes last year (Psychology), and it fascinated me.

Last night, I watched a documentary on TV about psychopaths. The background: This researcher decided to look for a common theme among psychopaths and why they kill so mercilessly. And he DID land on something- he did find characteristics (physical & genetic) that all psychopaths have. So it was really interesting that they found out why psychopaths have no emotions whatsoever. 

Then the documentary took an interesting turn- the researcher was informed by his mother that one of his cousins' family line had 16 murders. Intrigued, he tested all his family members and aloha! Of all people, he displayed the characteristics of a psychopath- but of course, he's not a killer.

The researcher. At one point during the documentary when he was explaining how he found out he has those characteristics he gave a VERY creepy smile. 

So he had to look for more answers- what causes psychopathy to manifest?

Here's the first part of the documentary, I highly recommend checking it out!

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Sunday, 17 June 2012
The Grampians Region, Victoria

So after the snorkelling trip, we continued on our journey on the Great Ocean Road heading towards Warrnambool. Now here's where I realised that the schedule was screwed up- we should've done the snorkelling in the morning, or the previous day, as it meant that we could only arrive at Warrnambool in the middle of the night (check map below), which meant that we had to camp out in our car. Again.

On the bright side, we were better prepared. I even took the time to change into my trackbottoms (instead of jeans) and brought out my sleeping gear so that I could stay warm over the night. I must say,  even though I had to sleep in the car, I had a good sleep- I was warm thanks to a shirt, dry towel (as a blanket), and a jumper. The shirt particularly worked wonders; when the sun rose I used it as a shield to block out the light to give myself a few extra hours' sleep.

Anyway, after cleaning myself up yet again in a public toilet, I rewarded myself with a nice hot breakfast, got ready, then started the not-so-long journey to the Grampians (map below).

I must say, this is the kind of thing that I like to do- exploring. I went to the Grampians National Park, and managed to see so much beautiful scenery!

1) Boroka Lookout

The picture says it all!

2) MacKenzie Falls 

The waterfall provided quite a nice scenery, although I must say it's not much different to waterfalls back home, except that the area surrounding it is much cleaner and well preserved and maintained, and not in the middle of a rainforest.

3) Reed Lookout 

Getting to this one was the longest of all the attractions we went to- it took a good hour and a half through a mountainous region just to get there- but the view was well worth it. I had lunch there- raisin toast with Pringles (you have no idea how yummy this is!) while enjoying the view (and the cold) of the Grampians.

Rocks. Don't even remember taking this, but it's a pretty nice picture, no? 

Pretty good, eh?

Cowering in fear. Yes I'm afraid of heights. 

And that sums up my Easter! If you like this I might consider writing more, being a travel blogger can be fun sometimes!
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Thursday, 14 June 2012
Another Change

Yes, yes, I have changed my blog template yet again.

I did it for several reasons, the main one being that I wasn't entirely satisfied with the previous one but just didn't have the time to search for one that I like and make edits to it. If you have done this before you would know that searching for blog templates can be a very time consuming and exhausting process. And editing is even worse- I was never schooled in HTML coding, everything I know about coding in HTML is self-taught, based on trial and error (yes I know I like making myself sound smart for being able to teach myself something). Editing this layout alone took me quite some time- I had to figure out where the code for the elements I want deleted were in. But in the end, I did it. On my own!

View from Geelong pier during my Easter trip

When I found the final small element that was bugging me in the code and deleted it, there was a huge sense of accomplishment in the air.

And this experience made me think back of the last few times I felt this way...

1) Living in Shanghai for 6 weeks

Now this is something that I am really proud of- I lived alone (okay, okay, there was one acquaintance who took very good care of me) in Shanghai, for SIX weeks (it felt like months), no less; so it's definitely something that I look back on proudly. I mean, not only did I have to brave the cold, but those who know me personally will know that I am not very good horrible at Mandarin (but dare I say it, it's improved now?)- can you imagine how accomplished and proud of myself I felt when I stepped into the car to head to the airport to leave Shanghai?

2) Landing an internship in a dream company

At the start of my time here this year in Melbourne, I completed an internship in a PR company that I've had my sights on since back in the college days. I remember when I first heard about this company and checked out their website, I told myself "that's where I want to work". That was 2009. Fast forward 3 years later, and I've completed an internship at their Melbourne office!

What accomplishments of yours made you feel particularly good about yourself?

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Monday, 11 June 2012
Friday, 8 June 2012
I Will Always Remember Nanjing...

... As the place I got food poisoning.

Before that: During my trip / internship in Shanghai, as I mentioned I would only get weekends off. Sometimes just Sundays. But I did get one long weekend, and that was the New Year's weekend. Not sure about other countries except Malaysia but in China (at least for the 2012 New Year's) it was work as usual on Saturday (New Year's Eve), then we got January 1-3 off (Sunday-Tuesday).

Nanjing city!

So what happened was I was brought on a 3 days, 2 nights excursion to Nanjing, China. I was extremely excited about the trip because it would be my first excursion out of Shanghai, and also because it would be my first time going out of Shanghai, and even better, I would be going there via the high speed train (not just any high speed train, the FASTEST train!). I was so happy that I picked Nanjing out of all the destinations because the Shanghai-Nanjing route uses the fastest train! A 300-kilometre distance was reached in just an hour and twenty minutes.

Now I'm not sure if you are aware of this part of Nanjing's history, but one of the most important recent historical event to happen in Nanjing was the Nanjing Massacre. If this sounds familiar to you it might be because Christian Bale recently starred in a Chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou (I know, weird that he would star in a foreign movie) about this event (which I was fortunate enough to watch about a week before I went there). And in case you didn't know, there is also a memorial museum in Nanjing to commemorate this. The film was actually highly tragic, but I would recommend it to most people, no matter how bleak it turned out to be.

So one of the stops we went to was this- the Nanjing Massacre Museum. I took several pictures outside, but didn't take any when I was inside, reading in detail about this gory tale of how the Japanese army ravaged Nanjing and its residents. While I don't remember most facts now, I do remember being quite traumatised by it. It was just so unbelievable, what happened to them. And we thought we had it bad during the Japanese Occupation. An estimated 300,000 people died in Nanjing, tortured by the Japanese. The torture methods... I shall not get into them.

I definitely felt very uneducated then- there was so much about Chinese history that I was not aware of (okay, maybe it's not that surprising). Or maybe it's my companions- friend of Mom's and his potential nephew-in-law. They both knew heaps about Chinese culture and history, and I knew... zilch.

This was taken in the museum compound, but not in the Memorial Hall.

So the trip to the museum was well deserved and eye-opening. What I learned from it: Nanjing has a very dark spot in its history. It was left defenceless, and was brutalised by the Japanese forces until the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing that forced the Japanese to surrender. It was horrible, it was cruel. But it happened nonetheless.

That's enough about the museum. Now about Nanjing itself. Nanjing reminds me a lot of KL- It's developed, but not crowded. Or at least, not as crowded as Shanghai. In Shanghai you have 23/24 million people put into an area just a tad bit smaller than Negeri Sembilan (based on what I found in Wikipedia). For once, I did not feel suffocated. People were not as rushed as Shanghaians, so it gave me a little bit of a breather.

And so I completely immersed myself in Nanjing. I was fascinated by the culture and history of the city. We also visited a historic market where there was a famous brothel (that only existed in ancient times). I personally knew nothing about it, and left knowing nothing about it either- I found that the information in the museum / former brothel was more suited to those already familiar with it- with someone like me who does not know anything you would be left even more confused.

Where the brothel was

But I did manage to try a few things out, like the famed stinky tofu and some rice alcohol (reminds me of the Sarawakians' tuak)... and that's where I learned that you should never eat more than a few mouthfuls of anything fermented, for when I woke up the next morning I had the worst stomach ache ever. And worse- We were supposed to go to some Presidential Palace that day, which I was looking forward to. Oh and it was -6 degrees, the coldest I have ever experienced. And of course my sickness made the weather feel like -20.

Several embarrassing / shameful / funny (depending on how you look at it) events followed. I vomited in a Carrefour branch. I vomited in the Presidential toilet (made it to the toilet bowl just in time!). I had to jump ahead of an elderly man waiting for a taxi so that I could rush back to the hotel before another vomiting bout began. I vomited again into a plant while stuck in a deadlock outside the Nanjing Train Station, to the shaking heads of people nearby.

A fortress- Zhong Hua Gate 

I was crushed that I fell sick, because a) I couldn't visit much, b) it was really cold and I was wearing seven layers of clothing and c) I had to go to work upon my return so I need as much rest as I can get (this was already my second time falling sick- I was down with fever about two weeks ago). I was weak because I had not had anything to eat (and for about 2 days after that I was a fruitarian).

But it wasn't too bad. I enjoyed Nanjing. It was a very nice city- I thought it would be slightly underdeveloped but it was just HUGE and really developed. There were huge, tall skyscrapers, wide, busy streets, and even public transport!

Sun Yat Sen Memorial

I managed to visit a few other places, like a Sun Yat Sen memorial high in the mountains. I actually can't recall where else I've been unless I look at the pictures (because they're arranged chronologically) but I do remember that it was 3 jam-packed days.

When we arrived home I just crashed. Did not go out for dinner, and just slept till the next morning. Good thing I felt a lot better so I could go to work. And as I said, I was a fruitarian for awhile, before slowly regaining my appetite.

Tomb of a Ming Dynasty emperor

So remember, next time you order stinky tofu, just have a bite and give the rest away- even if you're wasting money!

P.S. Funfact- did you know that in China, to be a manager of a temple you would need to have a Bachelor's degree in religious studies and an MBA?
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Friday, 1 June 2012
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Are you familiar with the saying that goes something like 'find something you love, and find a way to earn money off it'? That basically means once you've found your calling or passion in life, then you should find a way to earn your living based on that?

So say, if you like travelling and writing, become a travel writer / blogger and make money from that?

Some people do think of this as the best way to lead their lives, but I for one never understood it. I never saw how anyone could make something they enjoy doing their job. To me, when something becomes your job you are immediately tied down.

Take travel writing for example. I enjoy travelling. Writing is a refreshing hobby for me. But I would not want to make travel writing a career. To me, that's just overkill, it takes the joy out of both passions. To me, the best way to enjoy your passion is to keep it as a hobby. You like writing, sure, do it when you want to, rather than having to wake up every day and force yourself to write a certain number of words.

And I say this because I have been thinking my interests, wondering what my passions are and sometimes I do wonder if I should be more persistent and disciplined with my writing. I actually am in the process of writing a story, but it's only in the early phases, and it has been that way since the end of last year. It's just that I keep changing the plot- sometimes I find it too similar to other stories I've read, sometimes I find it doesn't align with other aspects of what I've already written. As they say, writing is an art that needs to be honed, and writers attend classes, always writing and editing.

To me, that's too hard to do continuously for a long period of time- writing has to be something that I do because I want to, not because I have to. And by have to it means 'when I have the time', or when I'm feeling down and want to express myself.

So I really cannot imagine having to slave away writing and writing non-stop to produce a piece of work. It's too draining, and I think I would definitely lose interest in what I enjoy doing.

Does this happen to anyone else?
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