Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Vietnam OEP 2006 Part VII: If

[Quote of the post] "Every job is a portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence."
[Song of the post] If - Bread
[Site of the post]

Today was our last OEP day. And today I finally managed to get Stripes and Pink on Kev's bed without him knowing. Lol! He woke up with Stripes in his face. Hee hee!

Okay, so after that we went to the Gia Dinh Special School for Intellectually Disabled Children. It was 3.9 and 3.17 the IB classes. Someone said it was ironic, sending the GEPs to this school instead of the handicapped children orphanage, but I think it's because we're smart enough to understand how to treat this kids. They were actually quite nice; they performed some traditional Vietnamese dance, and we performed our last-minute dance thing. And it was so fun! One of the smaller children actually came up on stage and tried dancing along with us! He was so cute! I don't know why 3.17 didn't do anything.

But Isaac was a genius. I think ie's because he lives with his younger siblings; that's how he does it. He put a sweet in each hand - the sweets we were meant to give out that we bought the day before - yeah, and he played the guessing game with some of the children. He was giving away the sweets, but in the most ingenius way I ever could imagine.

Oh, and I participated in the sack-race telematch thing which was quite fun also. I was trying hard not to win; but I won anyway. Oh well. But the kids there really loved music. They were singing and dancing so very enthusiastically; more than some people with normal working brains. It was just so... ah, words fail me.

After that, we headed to the Historical Museum, which held ancient Vietnamese artifacts from the 600s. I think they were rushing for time, because we only went halfway, up to about the 1000s, when we went to see the Water Puppet Show. It was really nice, but a bit ramshackle, with paint peeling off the puppets and some body parts literally hanging by a thread. But it was really nice, and quite well performed. They were in sync most of the time, and it was darn funny how they tried to catch fish by headbutting the water. XD

We had a bit of free time before lunch, so they let us roam Diamond Shopping Centre. It wasn't as big as Taka or J8 or Plaza Singapura, but it had an arcade on the top floor, and that's where everybody went. But I stuck with KW and Boey and got a box of Merci chocolates for Long, as a thank-you and farewell present. Oh, and we bought these shaker-fries thingy that you could pour cheese powder in and it tasted real good!

Then we went to the Le Quy Don School, and performed again, although this time it was a bit less polished. Ah well. Then they sang a couple of songs for us and played some sports with them: badminton and basketball. We got owned in both. A bunch of people, I won't say who, heard that there were some girls going around asking us for our email address, and went looking for them. Sigh.

But Mr Quek sang If during our visit. The first verse anyway. And, remember? I heard it on the radio on the way to the airport. It was so... coincidental and funny! And sir's voice is seriously very good. He managed to sing the whole verse, even though he said he had trouble remembering lyrics.

Anyway, here's the lyrics for If. The link at the top of this post brings you to a page with lyrics and a MIDI, so you can listen. I just love this song.

If - Bread
If a picture paints a thousand words
Then why can't I paint you
The words will never show
The you I've come to know
If a face could launch a thousand ships
Then where am I to go
There's no one home but you
You're all that's left me too
And when my love for life is running dry
You come and pour yourself on me

If a man could be two places at one time
I'd be with you
Tomorrow and today, beside you all the way
If the world should stop revolving
Spinning slowly down to die
I'd spend the end with you
And when the world was through
Then one by one the stars would all go out
Then you and I would simply fly away

Nice song, right?

Anyway, after that we took a picture (which reminds me - must get pics from all my classmates) with some of the students from the school, then headed back to the hotel for the final farewell dinner.

There's something about that dinner that stuck with me. Maybe it's the fact that KW went in his sleep clothes. Maybe it's because the queue for food was miles long and people actually lined up for dessert first. Maybe it's because there were five people who had birthdays over the week. Maybe it's because it was the last supper, and the OEP would be over the next day.

Well, the food was good (I can only say it was worth the time it took lining up for it) and after the plates cleared, there was some last minute reflections and stuff where Mr. Lim randomly picked people to say stuff about the trip. Mostly politically-correct answers, so. Oh yeah, I was wearing my new orange cap; it was so cool. ^^

That night I tried finishing my Chinese worksheets; but then I changed my mind. I thought it would be better to spend the time with my friends instead. ^^

And end the last night!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Vietnam OEP 2006 Part III: Strawberries and Stripes

[Quote of the post] "When you are labouring for others let it be with the same zeal as if it were for yourself."
[Song of the post] I Love Rocky Road - Weird Al Yankovich

14 January 2006
In the morning we visited the Vien Sinh Hoc Biological Research Institute. I couldn't really understand what the guides were saying in their thick accents, but the exhibits just had a lot of models of endangered animals in Vietnam. I didn't bring my camera, but I got some of my friends to take pics of me in various poses with the animals. They were quite funny, but oh wells.

And that's where I bought Stripes! He's a cute plush tiger which only cost 60,000 VND which is about SGD $6. Whee! He's like my new pet. Darrell bought one too, but his was only 30,000 VND and was half the size. Ha! KW named him and gave him a ribbon, but that was later on, after...

The trek up LangBiang mountain was such the funnest thing. It's one of those activities which you will remember for years and years to come. First there was a 4X4 van to bring us halfway there, then we had to trek up the smaller hill and down again before climbing up the bigger one. I was helping Boey both up and down the steeper slopes. He's not a very good climber; I think he slipped twice on the way down. I did too. It was lucky that we were helping each other, or we would have both slid downhill all the way.

And here's something I wrote in my reflections. When we were climbing up and down the hill, I noticed that when Boey was helping me up, he didn't have to pull very hard. It was like, just the knowledge that someone's there to help you if you fall is enough to keep you from falling.

We overshot our schedule by about 2 hours. We were supposed to have lunch at 1230; it was 1430 when we arrived at the foot of the hill, and we were the last group. And we got cold lunch and they ran out of drinks and I had to try soda water. What a reward for the people who stayed behind to help, huh?

After that it was a rush throught the Strawberry farm and the Valley of Love. At the farm I couldn't like see the strawberries when I looked across the field on the account of my colour blindness and stuff. But when I went to pick them, it was actually because there weren't many red strawberries; most of them were unripe and white.

And the Valley of Love was rushed too. We were only there for 15 mins to take some pictures and that was it. It was a wonder we were able to do our descriptive writings at all. And I got attacked by the bronze eagle. Ask Shaun for a picture.

After dinner that night was our only night-event, where we went to Dream Hill and attended a Gong & Cheing Special Performance. It was performed by one of the Vietnamese ethnic minorty groups, and they danced and sang around a bonfire. And I participated too! It was fun, dancing with the people there. And the Jarrel Seah nonchalant walk! That was super funny! XD

End day 3!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Vietnam OEP 2006 Part II: Whose Line?

[Quote of the post] "There are some times silence is golden. Other times it is just plain yellow."
[Song of the post] Irish Drinking Song - Whose Line is it Anyway?

13 January 2006
Ooh, Friday the 13th. I didn't notice until KW pointed it out in our hotel room. Oh well. Nothing very unlucky happened that day. I think.

Anyway, that morning I changed some of my money to Vietnamese Dong. And I should have listened to Isaac about the Dong coming up. Acutally, I did listen to him, but when I went in the early morning the rate was the same as the day before, so I thought it wasn't going to change. Unfortunately, it went up after breakfast. Gaah.

After breakfast we left for DaLat. It's this city in the mountainous regions of Vietnam, about 7 hours journey in total. We stopped for lunch halfway at the restaraunt owned by the Tea Factory. Will get to that later.

Anyways, so the day was quite uneventful, because of the long journeys, but on the bus a bunch of us got together and started playing Whose Line is it Anyway games. It was so fun! And we somehow got Mr Ng to play as well. And he has this laugh which is so infectious that it's quite impossible to keep a straight face when he laughs. It was just great. And I think we infurated the driver because Vietnamese traffic is very dangerous and he couldn't concentrate. So we had to stop after awhile.

At about 1600 we reached the tea factory. It's not so much of a factory, more of a plantation. It's 90 hectares big with a 12 hectare lake and about 1 hectare of buildings. The factory block didn't even look very... factory-like. It was quite empty; the machines were few and not very numerous. But it takes about 36 hours for the tea to go through the entire process.

Oh, and the hotel was quite quaint. It was quite small, only four floors, and it had this old ornate lift with those manual-open doors. And they didn't even have air-conditioning; not like they needed it: there was just a small vent to allow air circulation with the outside and KW and I were freezing the whole night.

And a word about Vietnamese food. In a typical 7 course meal, there would be about 3 plates of vetables, 2 of seafood, and the rice only comes after the 4th or 5th dish. Quite unique.

And after dinner that night Mr Quek made us practise the dance we were going to perform later on in the trip. It was like, so fun and everyone else was being so unenthusiastic. And we actually had a crowd watching us! Well, three's a crowd, isn't it?

Well, I had KW for a roommate for the rest of the trip. He's probably like the most interesting roommate, what with mirror writing, rushing to answer the phone and door, and overall being a great guy... what more can I say? Oh, yeah, I can say some more stuff: there was a mini Eiffel Tower right outside out bedroom window.

And end day 2!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Vietnam OEP 2006 Part I: Flight Plan

[Quote of the post] "Many receive advice; only the wise profit from it."
[Song of the post] I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane - John Denver

OEP Vietnam 2006 is over. Already. One week. Eight days. All gone in a flash. It didn't seem long enough. Now I'm blogging about it. There'll be about eight posts, so don't espect to see all of them in one day. There may be some parts I blacked out; that's because it's censored or not everyone is meant to see it.

Yay, so let's start, shall we?

12th January 2006
We arrived at the airport at around 1245, 2 hours before our scheduled flight. Nothing much to say here, except that my dad talked to Juzzie a lot. Oh, yeah, and the radio in the car played "If", a wonderful song by Bread. This is relatively important; it will, coincidentally, appear again later.

Well, on the plane I was sitting with Kyle on my left and and asile and Xi Min on my right. Incidentally, Kyle brought the entire Ender saga to Vietnam and was reading it at every available moment. So anyways, it was basically 1 1/2 hours of Pokemon Leaf Green for the entire flight. The pasta was kinda nice, but airplane food just cannot compare.

We reached Ho Chi Minh City Airport at about 1745. Then we left for the Amara hotel. It's a 4-star place with nice furnishings, good food but the rooms are just too cold. When I was rooming with KW there in a later part of the trip, we turned the thermostat to twenty-eight, put it on "Low", wore three layers and even turned it off. And it still was cold.

Anyways, after that we went on a riverboat for dinner. During dinner there was live entertainment, and there were performers and singers singing a mixture of English oldies, Chinese songs and Vietnamese pop. Then, when our steamboat arrived (see Vietnamese food, below), the lady started singing Jambalaya. It's this old country song from the '60s, '70s. So I started singing it (they were mostly oldies that most people 'cides Juzzie don't know). Thing is, I was sitting at the end of the table closest to the performers; the tables were long and running parallel to the deck of the ship. So the lady came up to me and put the mike at my mouth. She helped me through the chorus a bit, since I didn't know it that well. Then when the song ended she came over to our table and chatted a bit, and helped us with our steamboat (not eat it, helped us put the food in, regulate the time and stuff like that). And she was very nice; when I said thank you to her in Vietnamese, she smiled and said, "You speak Vietnamese!" and laughed.

Well, after that I had no peace. I was wearing my white cap almost 24/7, and so I stuck out from the crowd. Add that to the singing, and that sealed it. Later that night, when Mr Lim, overall in cahrge of the whole OEP, came by to check on our rooms to see if we were sleeping, his parting words were, "Nice singing just now." o_O

Anyway, after the food we went for a short cruise up and down the Mekong River. Oh, everything in Vietnam is Vina. Taxis are called Vinataxis, ships are Vinaships, yoghurt is called Vinamilk, and there's a travel agency called VinaSun Travels.

At night is usually debrief, meaning that we discuss the day's events and about the worksheets we're supposed to complete, so I usually won't log them except if there's something really interesting. And we're supposed to write reflections every night. I'm not posting them here either. My first reflections started out, "This isn't reflections. This is blogging without the Internet." And I think they're too angsty to write here. But there'll be some topics I'll be discussing.

And that's it for Day 1!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Edna's Game

[Quote of the post]
"We may be young, but we're not powerless. We play by their rules long enough and it becomes our game." -Valentine, Ender's Game
"Humanity does not ask us to be happy. It merely asks us to be brilliant on its behalf. Survival first, then happiness as we can manage it." - Mazer Rackham to Ender, Ender's Game
[Song of the post] 2001 - A Space Odyssey

"Individual human beings are all tools, that the others use to help us all survive."
"That's a lie."
"No. It's just a half truth. You can worry about the other half after we win this war."
Colonel Graff and Ender - Ender's Game

Democracy is flawed. What use is freedom of speech if you can't use it? I've just had a ________ day of UYO, and I'm not allowed to say anything about it because if I do I'll have the Sedation Law and the principal and the officers chasing me to the ends of the earth.

Ender's Game, by far, is the most excellent book I've read in a long, long, long time. I can actually tell I'm experiencing the exact same things. Orson Scott Card has insight into the mind of a child, going through the same things I, and I daresay 'we' are living today. ('We' as in students in Singapore in my school)

Ender's Game is basically about a six-year-old boy genius who is forced to join the International Federation to save the world from the third bugger invasion. From that age, he is put through rigourous training, tests of character and skill, and many mind games to test if he is the one who will lead the I.F. command fleets.

Doesn't the education system sound very similar? Training you up for your future job, while robbing your childhood as you go along? Ender's is a very extreme case; how about ours? We have 7 hours of school, plus CCAs, homework time... what time have we left to ourselves, to pursue our dreams, to continue our hobbies? In refining us to gentlemen, global citizens or future leaders of tomorrow, have they overlooked the fact that we are children? That we are human beings and have our limits? And out own lives. What is to become of them?

The answer is survival. One of the most fundamental aspects of nature. They train us, educate us, so that we may take over from them, to succeed the throne when they have moved on. For the future. Nobody looks at the present. Nobody cares about what's going on now. All that matters is that the future is going to be a better place. Sacrificing one for the needs of many. For the greater good.

Another thing. Army training. I understand that being harsh and strict is the only way for disipline, and with disipline you have order, and when you have order you have a killer army, blah blah blah. But the thing about superior officers insulting you. Mocking you when you're in pumping position. It make you hate them more, makes you want to jump up and knock him to the ground. But you can't. Conscience holds you down. Fear holds you back. You just bear it. You can't do anything.

In WWII, the Soviets trained dogs to look for food underneath a tank. Then they would strap a mine to the dog's back and send them into a tank battle. The idea was that the dogs would run under the enemy tanks and blow them up. Grusome, isn't it? Except that the Soviets had been training the dogs with Soviet tanks, so, naturally, the dogs ran under the Soviet tanks.

There's so much more I want to write, but time restricts me, and censorship holds me back. And when you're thinking of all kinds of stuff to blog about when you're coming home at 6:30pm from your UYO, you kinda lose most of it during dinner and the time before you blog. So I leave you with this quote from Ender's Game:

"I am your enemy, the first one you've ever had who was smarter than you. There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do. No one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy shows you where you are weak. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong. And the rules of the game are what you can do to him and what you can stop him from doing to you. I am your enemy from now on. From now on, I am your teacher."- Mazer Rackham to Ender ("Ender's Game" pgs. 262-263, 1994 Special Edition)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

First Day of School

[Quote of the post] "School is like a drug. A nasty, non-cocaine-like one albeit, but a drug nevertheless..." -Manga Freak
[Song of the post] Diamond Dust Drops - Hop Step Jump

What is it with science-fiction writers and their superb writing? Dang, I'm only halfway through Ender's Game and already I can't put it down. The plot, the description, the characterization... all amazing. It's better than any fantasy story I've ever read. Any sci-fi I've read so far surpasses all expectations. It's like, they're at the exceptional section of the writing social circle. o_O And the foreword was wonderfully written as well; it's so amazing, and I actually understand and agree with everything the author says. And Jarrel can memorize the first chapter! Unbelieveable. I seriously recommend Ender's Game to anyone and everyone in need of a good book.

Ah well. First day of school. Not too bad. Got some quite nice teachers this year. Let's just say I'm so glad I chose Geography instead of Bio. Ms. Sim seems like a nice, friendly teacher.

And of course, first day of school, Doctor Ong has to make an hour-long speech about how good the school is and etc. Gaah, they didn't even turn on the air-con; I almost fell asleep.

Yay, and no homework. Yet. That allows me to read Ender's Game, and do some drawing and colouring. ^-^

K, that's it. Have a nice year, everybody.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Boxing Night Part II - A Year in Review

[Quote of the post] Should all acquaintence be forgot and never brought to mind?
[Song of the post] Auld Lang Syne - Traditional

*tuning* on Perfect 10 radio...

*tuning* the BBC, and here are today's top stor...

...and "CATG" from the Neuclotides.

E.D.N.A. Radio. The best of the worst hits.

Coming up next is a long ramble by our own resident angster who's been with us for a year, please give a big welcome to Uncle Edna...!


Another year ending, another one beginning. I felt 2005 was special because, if you typed it out on a calculator, it was vertically symmetrical. But that's not the only reason.

2005 was the year of Sec 2, the year of Naphtali. It was this year that TNN started, way back in February. It now boasts over 40,000 words, over 40 chapters, and an audience of... about a dozen students - an amazing accomplishment.

It was in 2005 that adolescence kicked in, when I started thinking deeper into things I never even dreamt of before. I tried to understand the people around me. Even though I found hope to be the greatest sadness, I still hoped. I still tried. I even tried to understand myself, though it has been a confusing process.

In 2005, I've lived through a whole year's worth of human emotion. Friendship. Hatred. Comfort. Pain. Failure. Triumph. Joy. Laughter. Tears. Sadness. Angst. Frustration. Reunion. Separation. I've lived through it, I've seen the fifty odd people around me live through it, and the rest of the 6 billion people populating this planet. We've gone through one heck of a year. The happiness we shared. The tears we cried. The pain we endured. The bonds we made. The friends we cherished. The events we novelized. The impact we made on this earth.

Sometimes, it seems as though that life isn't worth living. That you can do nothing to change the course of history. That you're incapable of making an impression on the world in your lifetime. I don't blame you. Over the course of the year we've had tsunamis. We've had terrorist attacks. We've had pandemics. Life and death all mixed up in a great whirl of evolution. But when you look at it from a different angle, you see the greatness in all of this too. Each event brings out the bad in some people, but in some, the good.

Take this from a broader perspective. No, even broader. During the final moments of 2005, scientists added an extra "leap second" to compensate for earth's rotation, and to keep the time accurate. Why go through all this trouble? Why do we celebrate New Year's Day year after leap year?

It's because of time. Time just keeps going. Time never stops. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, the seconds go ticking by, turning into minutes, turning into hours. They just keep going. And whether you're fulfilling your dreams or stuck in a toilet, they don't wait for you. They don't care if you can't keep up. Lots of people say they've no time to do what they want to do. That's a lie. Each and every person on this planet is given exactly 24 hours a day to make use of as they see fit. You have as much time as anybody else. Nobody's at an advantage or a disadvantage. 24 hours. What are you going to do with yours?

Next year's another new year. Another 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds. Do you know what's gonna happen? No. None of us do. We can only predict; we can only foresee. They might not come true. Here's another problem with me that I forgot to add in the previous post: When you hope for the future, there can be two possibilities, what I like to call "Fiction" and "Reality". I've an example, but it'll probably get me expelled, so here's another one. You're at home, and your parents are lecturing you for something they think you've done. You want to try and explain things to them. Fiction tells you that they'll listen, understand, maybe pat you on the back and apologise, and everything will be cleared up. Reality tells you that you'll try, not be heard, get sent to your room so you can curl up on the bed in tears. Fiction and reality.



...come back, and in twenty seconds, the year 2006 is about to start. I hope everyone has their new year resolutions ready... and don't forget about the leap second... here it comes! 4! 3! 2! 1! 0! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

*Auld Lang Syne*

*Radio switches off*

The Music Quiz

[Quote of the post] HAPPY NEW YEAR!
[Song of the post] 20 of them... try and guess!

Hey everyone! Happy New Year! I'll br posting a proper one later tonight, but for now you'll just have to life with this quiz thing stolen from Demel stolen from JY stolen from Charlotte and that's as far as I can trace it.

Step 1: Get your music thinger ready, put it on random, and play.
Step 2: Post the first line from the first 20 songs that play.
Step 3: Let everyone guess what song the lines come from
Step 4: Cross out the songs when someone guesses correctly, or let people know who got it.

1) I am a question to the world, not an answer to the earth, or a moment that's held in your arms... [Bit obvious]

2) Oh no, not he, how you can accuse him is a mystery... save him, take me... Benjamin is straighter than the tall palm tree... [This one's more obscure...]

3) I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay... [o_O Super easy...]

4) Let us be together, striving to achieve, no matter what, no matter when, working hand in hand... [Darn easy lah...]

5) Pharoh he was a powerful man, with the ancient worl in the pal of his hand... [Obscure...]

6) Wish I was back in Texas, the ocean's no place for a squirrel... [This is a very weird song]

7) Now I'm the king of the swingers, oh, the jungle VIP... [Two versions]

8) Birds flying high, you know how I feel... [Zhang, probably...]

9) There's antimony, arsenic, aluminium, selenium
And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium [o_O]

10) Boom boom boom boom boom boom
Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom [HAHAHA! XD]

11) I can see what's happening, and they don't have a clue... [Easy]

12) The road is long, with many a winding turn... [Slightly hard, if you love pop]

13) Feel I'm going back to Massachusetts, something's telling me I must go home... [Slightly easy]

14) I almost got drunk in school at fourteen, where I almost made out with the homecoming queen... [o_O EASY]

15) It's good to see the sun
And feel this place
This place I never thought would feel like home... [Kinda easy... I think... if you watch credits...]

16) Oh Lord it's hard to be humble, but I'm doing the best that I can... [Funny song, not on my list, but on the Net]

17) You don't need a plane to fly... plastic wings may make you cry... [o_O Lol, another easy but obscure song]

18) I open my eyes, try to see but I'm blind... [Grah... my bro's, but in the library...]

19) Bless my soul, Herc was on a roll, person of the week in every Greek opinion poll [A giveaway]

20) I used to think maybe you love me, now baby I'm sure... [O_O ARGH SO EASY...]

That's it! About one-third of my music is instrumentals, and a lot came up, so... hope you have fun!