Wednesday, August 10, 2011

5th entry: A gift from my beloved

On Singapore's 46th anniversary of its independence, my beloved gave me a Samsung Galaxy S2 for a present.  Its not the first time he has given me an expensive birthday cum Christmas present - he bought a Panasonic Lumix digital camera with several functions that usually only a DSLR will have, and since then we have taken countless beautiful photos with it. My beloved wanted to give me an i-Phone 4, which I was reluctant to accept initially, but when we were at the phone shop today we were drawn by the National Day telco promotion and I succumbed to the smart-phone craze that has taken the world by storm of late. Soon I will have "joined the club"! What is more important to me than being a new and proud owner of a good phone, is that this is a gift from my sweetheart, and everytime I use the phone (as well as the camera), I make new and beautiful memories of our life together as One couple in the process. Of course, in time, the gadgets will eventually be replaced as they undergo wear and tear, but my love of, and my special relationship with, my beloved sweetheart will only grow deeper and mature.

*Darling, I love you... kiss kiss hugs hugs*

4th entry - Another In-camp Training

Its my 6th in-camp training.  My first was in 2005, then 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.  Everytime I attend the training I learn something new about this camp and get to know interesting people.

In 2005, I got to know Richard, Bernard and Chun Yong.  Richard is a father of 2 beautiful daughters and we were in the same cohort of NSmen for 4 sessions. He has since joined Chun Yong and Bernard in the Military Reserve, and he wrote in to volunteer extending his service with the SAF (he must be one of the rare few to do so) but he was unsuccessful. Chun Yong is a successful and aggressive broker, a father of 2 boys; we were only in the same cohort in 2005. Bernard is an easy-going foodie who got along really well with Chun Yong, Richard and myself; both of us are the only ones who are still single and also of the same age. He joined the military reserve earlier than Richard (2008 was his last in-camp).

I also met Ken, who was an ardent adventurer and trekker. He just returned from Spain, and has quit his comfortable job at DSO to pursue a career that he was more interested in. I wished I had his courage and his resolve...

In 2009, I met Yen Seng, a lifeguard. He was serving his active NS. The following year he was called back for ICT, and he is still a lifeguard. Although he was studying he deferred his studies to set up a pre-school with his fiancee in Jakarta. His motivation inspires me and I hope he succeeds! :)

This year, I got to know a training professor who enjoys research into politics in the region.

What I enjoy most about my NSmen experience is the opportunity to meet different people and widen my social circle. Sadly, it is difficult keeping in touch with all of them beyond the 2 weeks training.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

3rd entry Googoo Gaga

Lady Gaga's songs have taken the world by storm in the last couple of years.  The music videos for Bad Romance and Poker Face were one of the most widely-viewed MTVs on youtube, and not surprisingly many funny versions of these popular songs have been spoofed as well. Somehow it seems funnier to hear humorous lyrics using Lady Gaga's songs than using the melodies of less popular songs...

Recently a National Day Parade (NDP) song was written using Lady Gaga's Bad Romance tune.  Some commented that the lyrics on the fun pack were "retarded" because it sounded really silly, and many were embarrassed when they heard it because it was used for an event associated with National Pride.  I am amazed how people could be singing it with such gusto.

The NDP organisers have decided to take the ditty off.  Perhaps this was to spare the NPD participants the agony of singing the retarded song...

Monday, May 30, 2011

2nd entry - Changing

2011 was not only a year of change for the political scene in Singapore, but it was also a year of change for me personally.

In the General Elections of 7 May 2011, I performed my duties as an elections official for the first time, and in spite of my inexperience, I thought I did reasonably well, given the feedback from the colleagues who worked with me.  Further, during that period, my mother was going through surgery to remove her gallstones. Although she only had keyhole surgery and a scope procedure, I was worried for her given that she was diagnosed with diabetes a few months ago. Thank God, all went well.

The same could not be said for the ruling party, who lost a GRC to the opposition for the first time in Singapore's history. A bold move by the maverick Worker's Party to fight for the Aljunied GRC sealed its victory, and resulted in the loss of a few key people in the ruling party, including Foreign Minister George Yeo. MM Lee Kwan Yew, SM Goh Chok Tong, DPM Wong Kan Seng, National Development Minister Mah Boh Tan and Transport Minister Raymond Lim stepped down, giving way to other up-and-coming party members. The upheavals in GE 2011 set the stage for a new era of Singapore politics.

The proliferation of the I-phone and popularity of New Media played a significant role in the outcome of GE 2011, but they were merely the means through which a new and influential generation had voiced its unhappiness with the status quo and expressed its enthusiasm in what alternative voices in parliament had to offer. Whether such alternative voices could deliver what they promised remained a question that would be answered by the time we hold the next GE. I was sure everyone's eyes would be also on the ruling party, which promised improvements would be made after much "soul-searching". The big cabinet reshuffle was a first step in this direction, and hopefully it would be a prudent one for the nation.

As for me, my hope was that changes would be for the better. But what sparked me to write this entry wasn't the political upheaval in Singapore. 

Recently, perhaps arising from its hope for winning more votes, my mayor ordered the town council to repaint my housing estate. It had been more than 7 years since I moved to Punggol, and they had only started major washing, repairs and repainting at my estate a few weeks before GE 2011. Coincidence? Whatever the underlying intention was, I was hardly impressed with the way things progressed. Had I not chosen to visit my mum in hospital and foregone my right to cast my vote, I might have voted defiantly against the ruling party. Not only did the contractors fail to wash the walls systematically or thoroughly, but also and more importantly, as a result of their painting work, I was compelled to part with my beloved cacti.

I started growing cacti since I was 14 years old.  I took 3 small offshoots of a cactus plant that was growing in my maternal grandmother's garden (nobody knew how or when she started growing them, and she could not remember either). It was the only species that survived under my hands after all these years - of course, many generations of the parent plant had lived and died, and the original 3 that I adopted were no longer alive. I tried growing other varieties of cacti but most of them didnt make it. If they all survived, I would have had a huge cacti garden and at least 30 large pots of cacti. I guess I was lucky that 7 large pots made it, until today.

The painting contractor came by last week and told my dad that my cacti had to be removed from the walls (where I had hung the cacti pots) so that they could do their job. Fair enough, but where was I to relocate them?  My neighbour found them unwelcome and put their stuff in strategic parts of the common corridor so that I could not place my cacti pots near them, and there was no available space at the common corridor to put them. My mother would never let me keep my cacti in the house.  With great reluctance, I decided to place them at the rooftop garden on the 6th floor of the multi-storeyed carpark adjacent to my apartment block. Even though they would be exposed to the weather and nuisance of children and pets, at least they had a space to grow and enjoy the sun.

I felt really sorry for my cacti. No one else in the world were ever fond of them, except for me. They were like freaks in the plant world, with an intimidating appearance and a prickly personality that people were repulsed by. My neighbour's wilful child learnt to leave it alone after he playfully grabbed one cacti stem with his bare hand, and his painful ordeal nearly drove a wedge in the cordial relations between his family and mine. Of course, nobody blamed an "innocent" child of wrongdoing, and everyone blamed it on the menacing thorns even though it was no fault of the poor cactus. I suspected that my neighbour even attempted to kill my cacti slowly to avenge their child by overwatering them (she claimed that she was helping me to keep an eye on it since I seemed to be too busy to care for it). 

The eviction of my cacti must have been a victory for my neighbour and my mother who always found them a nuisance - not because she was prejudiced against them but because she was driven only by materialism and pragmatism. My mother, who loved money and her possessions more than anything in the world (except herself), had told me on many occasions that my spending on fertiliser and soil and pots etc were extravagant and needless, and if I had given her the money instead she would have 101 better uses for it. But I was largely to blame for not being vigilant in protecting my cacti from the evil plots of my neighbour and my mother. Frankly I had neither the time nor the motivation to devote more resources into caring for them as I should; I was spending absolutely minimum time watering them and I scarcely gave them more than a glance everyday when I leave from or returned to my apartment. Rightly, I think I am not fit to be their owner.

My dad was worried that my poor cacti would get stolen from the 6th floor garden.  That was not my worst fear - in fact I would be delighted if some kind soul would adopt them and care for them as I should and would have liked to. My greatest fear was that spolit brats like my neighbour's child would kick my cacti pots or kill the poor defenseless plants in vicious attacks.  Irresponsible pet owners might also let their pets harrass the cacti with their urine or faeces, which would burn the cacti roots and injure them.  But what right did I have to voice such concerns, without appearing as a hypocrite?  After all, I was THE one who exposed them to the risks without making sure that they were adequately protected. If they died, their "blood" would be on MY hands.

I still remember how their ancestors looked like. They were 3 stoic-looking, stout cacti, hardly more than 3 inches tall. I had lovingly planted their prickly bodies into soft soil taken from the pot that nursed them. I imagined how happy they were, sitting in an acrylic pot placed at the kitchen window grille in my apartment in Bedok; basking in the sun, and growing well as they were sheltered from the wind and rain.  They multiplied, and eventually became so large and so many that I had to repot them. One pot became three, and soon became six and more. Those I gave away to friends and relatives somehow didnt do well - perhaps they needed to stick together. I had wept when I heard that the first of the original three died, and its siblings soon followed suit.  It was some consolation to me to know that many generations of their offspring had survived in spite of the odds, and in spite of me...

Ironically, the only living offspring of the original three probably never saw it coming that one day they would die at the reluctant hands of their irresponsible owner.  They might even have been looking forward to me providing them with a better home and praying for better living conditions so that their offspring could thrive - a larger pot perhaps, or fresh soil from the nursery.  Sadly, today they succumbed to their cruel fate helplessly as I brought them to the 6th floor garden.  No doubt they must have hated me, for they speared my fingers with the only weapon they have, in silent protest; or maybe its their way of telling me their disappointment and heartache at my betrayal of them. Like Lady Macbeth I washed my hands compulsively afterwards, in a futile attempt to absolve myself from my heinous crime.

In life its inevitable that our priorities change; right now, honestly, I am more anxious about how my beloved is coping with the setbacks being encountered on the Taman Negara trip, and about a big project presentation at work next week. Tomorrow when I wake up I might even forget how disgusted I was at myself for letting my cacti go to their doom. I hope my cacti will forgive their useless owner, and remember the fond memories of their good ole days when I tended them like infants and fussed over the cute little babies that sprouted energetically from their parents' stems.

O Mighty God full of Grace, please have mercy on my cacti and protect the little angels from harm.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cute Dog

Er... Hey... What the... Hmm... 

Cute Cat Enjoying Music

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

1st entry - Fragile Relationships

For some people, its not easy to find someone to fall in love with, especially if you hope that person also feels the same way about you - kind of. Like procurement, first you need to decide what you want (coming up with the basic "specifications") and ascertain your own readiness for commitment, then you need to find someone who more or less matches your requirements. Once you have zeroed in on your target (or targets), you can start your courtship - a mutual fact-finding process that is usually an enjoyable experience for most people - in fact this is the fun part. Ultimately, your objective is to know whether the person your had identified is "relationship material" i.e. someone you want to be committed towards.

The more fortunate ones (like me) eventually succeed in finding someone to love and are more or less certain that their feelings towards their beloved are genuinely reciprocated (or at least believes that the significant other also has similar honorable intentions). Begin "Phase 2" i.e. developing a relationship. If Phase 1 was difficult, the next Phase will be even more challenging.

When you are madly in love, you think that nothing else matters. Suddenly you are filled with irrational optimism that everything will work out, including the impossible. "Love conquers all". But as the dust settles and reality kicks in, you will quickly realise that you need more than love to build a sustainable relationship and maintain it. Any cause for mistrust or any unresolved dispute will undermine the fragile foundations that your relationship was established on. Differences, even the most minute, will become more painfully obvious and pronounced, whereas previously all you could see were similarities. Adjustments in your life that you once considered to be minor sacrifices may seem to be onerous and demanding. You may even begin to doubt yourself and your partner, and the word "regret" surfaces repeatedly in your mind. If you entertain even the slighest notion of giving up on the relationship, you will start on the slippery slope that will end inevitably with a breakup. Sounds familiar?

A relationship that is so difficult to grow and so valuable needs to be nurtured and guarded constantly. We need to stay vigilant of all threats, which can be both internal and external. External threats may emanate from well-intended advice from your loved ones. Internal threats may stem from insidious fleeting thoughts that you brush aside repeatedly instead of addressing them rationally. One must be discerning of what one hears from others (and not just who said it or how it is said), and be mindful not only of what is spoken to one's partner, but also what is not.

What do the tensions in Egypt and the Middle East, MM Lee's recent message about integrating Muslims with the rest of society in Singapore, and the British PM's critique against the policy of multiculturalism in the UK, have in common with romance and relationships? I think these suggest that a lack of trust, coupled with unresolved differences, can destroy a society the way they destroy relationships. People often forget how difficult it was to build relationships and fail to realise how easy it is to tear them apart. What takes years of hard work to establish can be washed away in a single disaster.

I think my new year resolution should be not to take my relationship for granted.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

14th entry - 2010 - Year of Natural Disasters

According to a website, 2010 was a record-breaking year for natural disasters, and many of which are climate-change related weather events. Five of the natural disasters recorded in 2010 were considered to be “great natural catastrophes” based on the United Nations definition: the earthquakes in Haiti (January 12th), the earthquakes in Chile (February 27th) and the earthquakes in central China (April 13th), the heat-wave in Russia (July to September) and the floods in Pakistan (also July to September).

An article on Asia One news website lists these disasters and reports on their impact on human lives around the world:

While the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti was the biggest killer, taking about 220,000 lives and burying most of the country's capital, Port-au-Prince, strong quakes also struck Chile, China and Indonesia, causing panic and loss of life. More lives were lost due to poor housing and infrastructure, densely crowded and vulnerable urban areas, government inefficiency and lack of emergency services and sanitation.

Just weeks after the Haiti earthquake, a much stronger one - 8.8 magnitude in scale - hit a large part of Chile. Fortunately, better building standards and lower concentrations of people kept the death to about 700. In New Zealand in September, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the South Island, including the second largest city of Christchurch, but there were no casualties. This was largely due to the country's advanced emergency services and strict city planning and building codes.

Intense flooding killed about 6,300 people in 59 countries up until September, according to the World Heath Organisation. The most severe, in Pakistan, lasted for months and covered about a fifth of the nation's land area under water. About 2,000 people were killed and 12 million others lost houses, property and livestock.

Viet Nam was also inundated. In October and November, the central region, from Nghe An to Khanh Hoa province, was ravaged by five separate floods. They were the worst for many years.

Almost 200 people were killed, 197 injured and another 35 were reported missing. Economic losses were estimated at VND13.5 trillion ($694 million) as crops were devastated and irrigation systems destroyed.

In April, massive eruptions from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano took no lives, but filled northern European skies with grey ash for weeks.

Air traffic was disrupted for weeks and the flights of about 7 million people affected. In November, the violent eruption of Indonesia's Mount Merapi killed 353 people and forced more than 350,000 people to flee their homes.

Then there was the record heat wave in Russia in July which led to devastating wildfires in August. An extremely cold start to winter brought blizzards across the US and Europe.

Singapore was spared natural disasters in 2010, but our nation also suffered the loss of three notable persons who have contributed significantly to Singapore: beginning with Dr Goh Keng Swee on 14 May 2010, followed by former Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Balaji Sadasivan on 27 Sep 2010, and finally, Mrs Lee Kuan Yew (Mdm Kwa Geok Choo) on 2 Oct 2010.

Hopefully 2011 will be a better year for everyone...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

13th entry - Wind and Water

I was fascinated by the profound study of geomancy - known by Chinese as wind and water ("fengshui") - since I was a child. It all started with a book that my aunt gave me when I was about 10 years old.

I got all sorts of books from her back then, as she was working in a local printing company and books that were discarded due to minor printing errors ended up as gifts of knowledge that she bestowed on me whenever I visited her. Books in English on geomancy were rare in those days, so I considered myself lucky to own one, without even having to pay for it.

In my youth, I had no idea about the significance of geomancy. The concept of living in harmony with your surroundings, harnassing the energy of nature (the flow of qi) for your benefit, was rather interesting but difficult to grasp. I was skeptical about how knowing when and where to position the furniture in your house etc would relate to improving your luck, your relationships with other people, your career and your health. To me, geomancy was unscientific, shrouded in superstition and totally old-fashioned.  At one stage, I even believed that geomancy (as with all forms of astrology, occult practices and fortune telling) flew in the face of my Christian faith.
When I was studying in the University, I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant for a professor in information systems management. One of the projects that she assigned me was to transcribe an interview (conducted in Mandarin) with the founder of Way Geomancy Pte Ltd, which will be used for writing a case study for her postgraduate business management programme. I was impressed with how this company utilised modern information technology in a traditional business, to provide unique solutions to its clients e.g. using AutoCAD to draw floor plans of clients' homes and superimposing geomancy charts with annotations on them, which makes it easier to visualise where key positions (e.g. for wealth and health) in the house were. I also had the opportunity to understand more about the basis and logic of geomancy. This encounter made me realise that geomancy may still be relevant in modern society, and it has many useful applications in our lives.

In 2003, not long after I acquired the keys to the apartment that I am presently staying, and before I engaged an interior designer and started renovations, my family and I decided approached Way Geomancy to conduct a geomancy consultation for the apartment. It was not cheap - about $3,000 - but I thought it was money worth spending on because it would give my family and I a "peace of mind" when we moved into the new apartment. Although I am not sure whether the consultation paid off, I did not regret getting another perspective on the way the interior of my apartment was designed. At least, the consultation helped me to eliminate the options that were deemed unsuitable for me and my family, and I must admit that I am quite satisfied with the decor of my apartment in that it made my family and I feel quite comfortable in our home.

Recently, the topic of geomancy became of interest to me again. Not only is my bf, H, somewhat into geomancy, but a good friend of mine, KW, was also studying it in his free time. KW gave me an amateur "life analysis" which was consistent with that provided by Way Geomancy some time ago. However, I am still considering whether I should be making some drastic changes to improve my "fortune", such as changing my Chinese name. "What's in a name, for a rose by any other name smells as sweet". Yet according to KW, the number of strokes of the ideograms that make up our Chinese names have a bearing on the fortune of our entire life!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

12th entry - Gambler's Paradise Macau

This is a sad tale of an incorrigible gambler. No, I'm not talking about me or the other gambling addicts out there. I'm referring to my *sob* sweetheart ... *sob*

Ok, I'm exaggerating a little. After all, its not as though we lost $26million like that local businessman who gambled his fortune away at Resorts World Sentosa. H is only a small time gambler in comparison. But the mechanics is the same - first, they entice you with an illusion that you are on a money-making lucky streak when you step into their casinos, by giving you a beginner's luck win. Once you are hooked, they begin the macabre fleecing of your fortune, slowly but surely gnawing away your dignity, until every last shred of humanity is sucked dry. Gamblers walk around the casinos like zombies, staring lifelessly into the slot machines, their bodies mere empty shells controlled by Greed and Blind optimism that their luck will change for the better... Its like watching a helpless fly in the web of a hungry spider, oblivious to the eminent danger that it was facing.

That was how I felt when I was exploring the casinos in Macau as H was playing blackjack. H was winning initially, but then started losing until his capital was gone.

Macau is a city of Sin. Everything was built on the Blood and Sweat of hard-earned fortunes lost to the casinos. But the casinos were only elaborate instruments providing illusory pleasure to its patrons. The real monster is Human Greed in every gambler believing that they will get lucky whenever they visit the casinos. And the real pleasure is enjoyed only by the casino owners who laugh all the way to the banks when they see their profits climbing in spite of financial crises etc.

There is a silver lining. Like a venus fly trap, Macau offers sweet nectar of beautifully and lavishly decorated hotels such as the famous Venetian, City of Dreams, Grand Lisboa and MGM Grand; unique Macanese (Portuguese-Chinese) culture in the form of preserved historical buildings (such as the Ruins of St Paul) and cuisine (e.g. Portuguese egg tarts and sweet Macanese curries); and close proximity to Hong Kong and Zhuhai (China), which has a huge shopping centre containing a vast selection of cheap imitation goods, services (hairdressing, massage and spa) and various F&B outlets. The wise tourist knows how to enjoy these aspects of Macau without getting entrapped in its snares - the gambling dens.

It was my first visit to Macau, and it may be my last. H and I stayed in a relatively comfortable hotel, the Casa Real, which is located near the ferry terminal. From the ferry terminal, one could easily visit the casinos and many tourist attractions because of the free shuttle services offered by the major hotel groups. Macau is not a family-friendly vacation spot, however. The free casino buses did not allow passengers below 18 years of age to board because they were not permitted into casinos, and the only large-scale amusement park at the Fisherman's Wharf was closed. A decent meal in a hotel would generally be expensive and meals in street-side eateries were not very tasty (not to mention that service was appalling), unless you ventured into Zhuhai, where some hotels such as Charming Hotel served delicious HK dim sum at affordable prices.

First time visitors like me would enjoy the city view from the world's 10th tallest tower, the Macau Tower, and a stroll down Senado Square (not far from the Ruins of St Paul) where there are many eateries and shops. At night, the city comes alive with bright neon lights and occasional fireworks displays. In this aspect, Macau is quite similar to Las Vegas, except that the latter does not bother with any pretenses of a cultural heritage. There are also other attractions such as the Grand Prix and Wine Museum, and Ah Ma Temple. These attractions are described in detail in Tommy Ooi's website.

11th entry - Bintan Surprise

My sweetheart gave me a wonderful surprise for my birthday! We planned to go Bintan for a short 2D1N stay in Nirwana Resort Hotel - it was supposed to be just the two of us... at least, so I thought.

Little did I know that he quietly "colluded" with my best friend, K, to strategise a surprise. K was also intending to give her partner, F, a surprise as a birthday celebration for F. It was only when F and I "met" at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal that we realised that something was amiss. F, who initially didnt see me, thought that H was there to send them off before going to work. I, on the other hand, had just bought some food at the cafeteria when I saw K and F at our table, smiling away. For a few seconds, I was in such disbelief that I froze where I was standing.

Eventually, it dawned on F and I that we didnt just meet coincidentally at the Terminal, but it was all part of an elaborate "scheme" hatched by H and K during K's birthday (which was another surprise that F planned with H and I). They figured out that it was difficult to orchestrate a weekend getaway as a surprise so they decided to keep as a secret the fact that we were going together as 2 couples. I really got to hand it to them, as F and I didnt suspect anything.

Our trip was fantastic! We enjoyed each others' company and discovered the many delightful things that the resort had to offer. Surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful landscaping, the resort was nestled deep within a large compound called Nirwana Gardens. From the huge swimming pool, we could see and directly access the white sandy beach of the private lagoon and dip into the clear, cool and shallow waters that extended far out to sea. Coral fishes and all sorts of jellyfish and crustaceans inhabited the beach and much to our delight, we could swim amongst them.

In the evening, after a day exploring the beach and sampling the local fare (e.g. gado gado and avocado milkshake with palm syrup) for lunch at the supposedly local market ("Pasar Oleh Oleh"), we had a bowling game at the recreational centre of the hotel before boarding the free shuttle bus to the Kelong Restaurant for a hearty seafood dinner. Their chili crabs and gong gong (boiled dog conch with dipping sauce) were so delicious that we finished all of them even though we were not really hungry!

Besides being a surprise because I didnt know F and K were joining us on the trip, this Bintan getaway held 2 other surprises: firstly, I never expected the Nirwana Resort Hotel to have such a beautiful tranquil and unspoilt beach; secondly, this being our first overseas trip with F and K, I was amazed that we didnt experience any of the usual problems that friends sometimes get when travelling together. After this, H and I were more confident of successfully organising trips elsewhere together with F and K in future.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

10th entry - Singapore Youth Olympic Games

After many months of preparation, the Singapore Youth Olympic Games (SYOG) has finally begun. SYOG is the 1st major sporting event to be hosted in Singapore between 14 and 26 Aug 2010, with the annual Formula 1 night race following suit one month later. Singapore is especially proud to host the SYOG because it is THE inaugural Youth Olympics, i.e. first of its kind in the world. Sadly, I think there are many areas that can and should be improved and I hope we all can learn much from the experience.

The opening ceremony could be critically described as a somewhat embarrassing ensemble of "al-cheapo" performances. Some of the lack-lustre dances with cheap-looking costumes were quite unbearable to watch e.g. the one with the "cha shao bao" or BBQ pork bun theme song. One could hardly detect any energy in the dancers and poor coordination between the foreground and background made each performance visually distracting. There were some "stunning" crowd-pleasers such as the unique "water stage" and the lighthouse lit by the olympic flame), and some of the music pieces were good. If the dance concept and choreography had capitalised more fully on the uniqueness of this "hardware", the effect of the performance would have been much better.

Some parts of the ceremony were quite humourous, but in the wrong way. During the segment when atheletes paraded on stage with their state flags, there many occasions where the flag-bearers walked in opposite direction to the volunteers holding up cards that spelt the names of the countries, instead of following behind the volunteers. Some of these "blur" atheletes were then seen running across the stage after they discover their blunder; one of the volunteers was even captured on TV sprinting across the stage to fetch the oblivious athelete to the rightful position. Another comic moment for me was when airport luggage trolleys were used to push musicians to the stage. Some of the costumes look quite ridiculous as well e.g. some dancers bearing glow-in-the-dark "lotus flowers" adorned fluorescent green clothing that made them look like radioactive frogs or aliens.

I wonder if the performers are really to blame, given that volunteers were not treated well. A volunteer took a picture of the meal he was served and posted it on his Facebook page, igniting a furore (see news article). Extracted from the article:

The meal, served in a plastic box, comprised a mound of rice, a meat fillet and six pieces of long bean.

Singapore Food Industries (SFI), a subsidiary of the Singapore Airport Terminal Services (Sats), provided the food. It had been awarded a $5.5 million catering services contract by the YOG organising committee.

When contacted, a Sats spokesman confirmed that the meal in the picture was part of a meal provided to the YOG workforce. A bottled drink and some fruit were also provided, she added.

'We have received feedback from the workforce regarding the meals served. We take their feedback very seriously and have promptly taken action to improve and ensure that the portions and variety served will provide the workforce with a balanced meal.'

In its response to the criticism, the YOG's organising committee said: 'Our workforce is key to the successful organisation of the Games and their health and physical well-being is important to us.'

Added a spokesman: 'We are aware of the feedback (on the meal) and have taken immediate action. We will work with the caterers to continually improve the meal standards.'

Many online forums that discussed this issue were apparently shut down subsequently, but many people were unhappy over how our volunteers were treated. A cursory glance through some of the forums on YOG indicate that there are many disgruntled voices over other related issues such as the astronomical amount of public funds set aside for YOG, earlier reports of volunteers becoming victims of sexual harassment by YOG overseas delegates, and the shabbiness of the Olympic facilities (including the NTU hostel that was converted into a village to house the atheletes, and some of sporting event venues that appeared run down and old).

Organising such a large-scale event is indeed a feat of epic proportions for Singapore, considering the amount of resources (not just time and money, but also manpower support) that had to be pumped in. I think it is all too easy to criticise the organisers and government for all the blunders and problems, as many fail to realise that it is actually the first time that Singapore is hosting such an event and slip-ups are bound to happen. On the other hand, members of the organising committee really do need to reflect on their mistakes, especially when the issue is about failing to have the right spirit and attitude.

Are we being too unforgiving and intolerant of others' mistakes? In a way, this could be a reflection of what the world has become. Even the Olympic Games is a harsh arena where the slightest slip can have devastating consequences and cost the country and its athelete a hard-earned medal. But is it a bad thing to be critical and demanding? How else can we make improvements, right? I think its ok to be critical and demanding of others, if we apply the same standards when reflecting on our own mistakes. Otherwise we will be practising double standards. I remember this saying: when we point one of our fingers at others, at least 3 of our other fingers are pointing at ourselves.

Check out the photos of the YOG Opening Ceremony.

Monday, August 02, 2010

9th entry - Meaningful Words

Today (1 Aug 2010), my sweetheart expressed a desire to be together with me until we are both old and grey. It may be cliche and old-fashioned, perhaps even a little too optimistic since relationships are increasingly fragile and temporal these days. However, it meant so much to me to hear it from my sweetheart because I know he meant it from the bottom of his heart. He also echoed what I had wanted to say to him but didnt have the courage to articulate, for good reason too. In all my past relationships I had thought that the person I was in love with then will be the ONE I will spend the rest of my life with. So what makes H different from the other guys?

I guess its really the way we connect. I feel totally comfortable whenever we are together, and I enjoy doing everything with him. I look forward to seeing him every weekend - in fact, everyday! He makes me laugh, comforts me whenever I feel sad or down, and is a source of encouragement. An SMS from him will brighten up my day, and hearing his voice makes me so happy. He is also unbearably cute, and unlike the hunks out there that occasionally catch my eye, I never grow tired of looking at him.

In one months' time we would have been together for a year! It sure doesnt feel like one year! The past 12 months have been the happiest time of my life, all because H have been part of it. I hope our relationship will keep on going strong and stand up to the test of time.

Darling, I look forward to growing older with you, to eventually have a chance to wash your dentures at night when your teeth fall out, and to help you take your daily medication ... To remember when each winkle on your forehead was formed and to count the number of aging spots on your body... kiss