Sunday, February 1, 2015

Lukey's Guide to Kusu Island

I've been wanting to go to Kusu island for the longest time, ever since reading about it online. It is one of the few islands off Singapore that you can explore without having to bring out your passport, and it is not as mainstream as Sentosa or even Ubin. The pictures online portrayed it to be an exotic and beautiful place as well, with mentions of tortoises and temples on an uninhabited island. The pictures themselves reminded me of places like Taiwan or China rather than Singapore.

Which makes it more the attractive, since I'm a sucker for cultural places like that.


picture from sentosa, like the pretty right, the place


However, directions on how to get to the island was vague at best, or outdated. so I never found the courage to attempt to venture unto the island, plus it was not easy to find someone who was as spontaneous as I am to island hop. Which was why the island remained mostly as a unfulfilled wish, sitting on my to-do list for the longest time ever.

But luckily for me, having a girlfriend does has its perks, and Dawn agreed to accompany me on a short trip to the island. So after doing whatever research that we could (like how to go there), we set out on a fine Saturday morning (Jan, 2015) on a trip to one of Singapore's Southern Islands.

Getting to Kusu Island was relatively easy. With the new Marina South Pier MRT station, all you need to do is to take the red line all the way to the end, head to Marina South Pier, and get yourself a ticket costing 18 SGD each at the Island Cruise Counter.




Their ferry services cater to both St. John's Island and Kusu Island, so if you plan your timing correctly, you'll be able to visit two islands on the same day. However, since the both of us got the timing for the departure wrong (turns out the ferry schedule varies daily), we decided to just settle for Kusu Island for the day. The ferry that we boarded looked very much like the ones we took to Batam, and their travel in a loop from the pier to St. John's and only then to Kusu.

It took us around 30 minutes to reach St. John's island, and along the way we were treated to numerous scenic sights that you could only get when you're on the sea. It was quite an eye opening experience to be looking at Singapore from a different angle.






We also managed to catch a glimpse of St. John's island while on the boat, which surprisingly turned out to be much larger than what I expected. Both of us agreed that the island warrants a second trip back in the future, as it seemed like there were numerous things to explore on the island.




The trip from St. John's to Kusu took another 10 to 15 minutes, and when we arrived at Kusu, well let's just say I was quite taken aback by the size of the entire island as compared to St. John's.




Of course, it was not fair for me to have any expectations at all, but judging from the pictures and description online, I pictured the island to be much bigger than what I saw. As in you can pretty much see the whole island with a simple sweep of the eye, and it looked more like a small park than an island where thousands of devotees would flock to as what the website claimed.

Still the island looked quite beautiful and tranquil, from how it sit amidst the blue waters around it, with the trees swaying gently in the wind.




The place itself was not too bad. Surrounded by sea with brick layered paths laid throughout the island, accompanied by park benches and tables, and small wooden huts, the island reminded me of East Coast Park. The general serene and nature feeling, with the sight of sea around you. Minus the crowds, of course. It was quite a relaxing place, to just walk around, chill and have a breath of fresh air. A good place to have a picnic with your friends or family, as well as a retreat gathering, with the numerous facilities around.










One could also swim there too, if you're feeling up to it, as there were two blocked out lagoons on both sides if the island. I managed to catch an outdoor shower facility as well, and there were a few other visitors who were busy dipping themselves in the water.




Of course, the main attraction of the island itself would be the shrines and temple that is located on the island, the main one being the Da Bo Gong Temple that sits right in the middle of a half-dried up lake. It's the red and white temple that you would come across the most often when you Google for Kusu Island.






The temple itself is relatively small though, if you want to compare with other touristy temple attractions that are around. There is only an average sized shrine inside and a wishing well in the middle of the lake, with different carvings of snake and tortoises around.








Other than that, there is also a mysterious shrine located on the top of a small hill near the end of the island, in which you need to climb a few flight of stairs to reach. Painted in bright yellow and surrounded by greenery, it looked like a place straight out of a martial arts movie. It's called the Kramat shrine, according to the information board, devoted to three individuals, one of them being Syed Abdul Rahman. You can pray up there too if you want.










To conclude, I think Kusu Island is quite a fun place to be if you're looking for a place with a mix of sea, park, culture and away from the city, without having to leave Singapore. It's not really big with a lot to offer, but the sights and atmosphere alone is quite relaxing for you to just sit and soak in your surroundings. It's a far throw away from civilization, and you can tell your friends that you have literally been overseas for a trip. 

There's no food stalls on the island though, so be sure to pack some of your own food to the place. Still, it's quite a cool place to have a short getaway to, if you're the type of person who enjoys nature and the sea. Best of all, the crowd is minimal at most, and you don't have to spend a lot just to visit the island. Highly recommended.

My next trip? St John's island! Or Ubin. 


Thursday, January 29, 2015

At the End of Everything #31

Previous Chapter

*****

For the next few weeks, I tried my best to keep in touch with Sharry. Everything seemed fine at first. Despite our time differences, we still managed to chat regularly, telling each other about our day and updating each other about our lives. Her WhatsApp message was the first thing that greeted me each morning, and the last thing that I see at night. We Skyped one another during the weekends, I would sometimes stay up into the early hours of the morning just to see her face, hear her voice. She would sometimes stay up late for me as well. We made a promise that we would try our best to keep in touch, to at least stay as friends.

But like the physical distance between us, eventually the distance between us slowly grew too. Our WhatsApp exchanges became less frequent, slower. Our Skype sessions became shorter, sometimes we even made up excuses just not to Skype. She had meetings with clients, I was not feeling very well. We both knew that they were just excuses, but we were fine with that.

It all felt too familiar, the process of growing apart. Like what happened to Jenny. The time difference and physical distance made it all the easier. We were busy in our own lives, she with her constant business engagements and me with my work, and it became too much of an effort to keep in touch. Or rather we became lazy. The entire thing soon became a routine, a habit, rather than something we both enjoyed. We slipped into the mundaneness of messaging, dropping boring messages such as asking how was the weather or just saying hi, without really conversing anymore. It was just for the sake of messaging.

And one day, I decided to stop. Just like that. It felt all too pointless already, trying to grasp onto something that was no longer there. I did not send out a reply to her message when I woke up, and left it with just two blue ticks in my phone. She never bothered to message back either, or ask why I did not reply. It just sort of died off like that. Unceremoniously abrupt. Weird, even. No parting message, no tears, nothing. Just a message from her with two blue ticks in my phone. And I guess that was the unofficial end to our sort of relationship.

I felt sad, of course. Downhearted. That it had to end like this. Even though a part of my heart had already expected this ending, it did not stop me from hoping that things might be different. That this time, it might just work out. Still, the pain was no longer unbearable as it used to be. I no longer feel the grief that I used to. Perhaps I had grown numb to it.

After a while, I noticed that the entire experience seemed to fit into a certain pattern. With Phoebe, Jenny and now Sharry, they were all the same. Things would often start out great. We would talk to each other, find out great things about each other, go out on dates. Everything would seem to be going on a straight path, but then the relationship will never progress beyond that. Something somewhere would go wrong, the relationship ends in an awkward manner and we would end up being strangers again.

For the first few times, I could not help but to feel as if everything was a waste. How the relationships just died off like that. We had spent so much time and energy with each other, just to let it all just revert back to nothing. Back to square one. It all seemed too pointless and troublesome. I started to question rationale behind it all. Everything seemed like a futile ritual, from the start to the end of everything. A meaningless loop. We kept doing the same thing over and over again, only to end up nowhere further than where we started.

“Welcome to our world,” Lucas teased me when I told him my thoughts. “Where finding a life partner seems to be more like a game than a magical journey You have to fulfill a certain kind of steps, meet certain kind of experiences, like earning how much per month, in order to land yourself a “soulmate”.” He used his fingers to make an air quote when he mentioned the word soulmate. After several rounds of disappointment, I could not agree with him more.

I found myself looking at Elaine’s profile again, as much as I told myself not to. It seemed that every time something bad happens in my online dating life, I would always go back to memories of her. At this point in time, I was no longer sure if I missed her, or the feelings that I had when we were together. I wondered if I could ever break out of this cycle of constantly stalking my ex whenever I felt lonely. What was I really looking for actually?

She was still with her new boyfriend, happily, constantly sharing pictures and updates of her new life. Me on the other hand, was looking through her profile, not knowing what to find. A pang of jealously, perhaps, and a little heartache to go with it. Not forgetting a whole ton of regret. I wanted her back. I wanted reverse time. To go back to the happy times.

“You have to start loving yourself dude, and be confident in your own skin. You trying to hold on to the memories of her, just to make yourself feel less bad is wrong, man. It seems like you can’t be happy on your, and constantly need someone to be your comfort pillow. You need to learn to be comfortable on your own, and not to depend on others to validate yourself.” Lucas’s face had this annoyed look to it. I guess he was tired from all the complaints that I was pouring unto him.

“Aww, don’t show me the face, please? I will treat you to this round,” I said, trying to cheer him up.

But Lucas does have a point, which was why I kept asking for his advice. I was someone who is terribly afraid of loneliness. I could never eat outside on my own, and I would rather go hungry than to suffer the awkwardness of sitting alone in a crowded eating place. To me, time spent alone was like a sign of weakness. It means you are unloved.

Which was why I have Lucas around. He was the person that I could call whenever I have to spend time alone. I wondered if what Lucas said was true, that the reason why I am afraid to be alone stemmed from my lack of self-esteem. That I am too insecure.

“This whole ‘I am so afraid to be alone’ thing is making you look desperate, you know. You need to say to yourself that you will feel okay and you can live meaningfully without having to derive your meaning and happiness from anyone. That you need to do first,” was Lucas’s parting advice. It was something that I need to put to the test, I thought.

The next day after work, instead of sending out a ton of messages asking if anyone wanted dinner, I took the train straight home without touching my phone. It felt uncomfortable, not being able to check my phone and to message anyone during the whole train ride back home. My hands itched for something. When I alighted, I walked directly to the food court next to the MRT station and stood outside of it, prepared to do something that I had never dared before.

It was crowded as usual, the after work peak hour made it even worse. People were bustling in and out, and many were standing while waiting for a seat. I felt uncomfortable watching the whole scene, more so when I pictured myself going into that place. The thought of trying to get a seat and then ordering food all by myself made my body tense up. Normally I would either just order a takeaway and leave, or wait until my housemates are back so we could eat together.

I was afraid of a lot of things. Like what would people think of me eating alone. Such a pitiful and lonely soul, they might think. He must have no friends. Look at him, unloved, unwanted. He cannot even find anyone to share a meal with. It seemed so stupid, with me worrying over such non-existent stuff. But it bothered me a great deal though.

“What are you so afraid of anyway? Does it matter what others think of you?” Lucas’s words echoed in my ears. What was I seeking for anyway?  I thought a great deal about it. Perhaps it was not others who were judging me so harshly, but rather myself. It was me who is unsure of myself, with this morbid fear of ending up alone. And somehow that manifested into a fear of eating alone. How one’s thoughts can influence a person, I thought.

It was time I started to be able to love with myself, I thought. Not to depend on others. And this would be my starting ground. I took a deep breath, and pushed open the doors into the food court. It felt oddly liberating, and good. I smiled.

*****

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Monday, January 26, 2015

At the End of Everything #30

Previous Chapter

*****

It was sharp noon when we finally walked out from the hotel. I helped her to pack, her belongings for the past few weeks here, into two oversized suitcases. We dropped them off at the concierge, before heading out. As we exited into the sun, Sharry wrapped her arms around mine, and leaning her head against my shoulder. It felt good, even though my heart knew that it was only temporary. 

“So where shall we go today then?” she asked. 

It was not easy to think of a good place when your mind is preoccupied with different thoughts, but I was able to suggest the Gardens by the Bay from the back of my head. It was just right next to the hotel, and it was one of the places that we have not been there yet. 

“There is one restaurant that I’ve always wanted to go, located on top of one of those big trees,” I told her, as we crossed the bridge that connected the hotel to the gardens. My finger pointed at one of the few tree like structures that stood in the middle of the gardens, towering above everything else.

Sharry squinted at the direction that I was pointing at, before turning back to me, a bright smile flashed across her face. “That looks interesting. You know, I always enjoyed park walks.”

We walked along the path towards the center of the gardens, making up small talk as we go. Mostly about how life was going to be after today, after she leaves. The sun decided to be kind to us by hiding mostly behind the clouds, letting us walk pleasantly without needing a shade even though it was in the middle of the day.

“You know, I just want to relax today, to just let everything go slowly.” We were in the elevator ascending to the restaurant, when Sharry turned towards me. She surprised me with a hug, before turning her head upwards to look at me. I must have looked nervous and stressed for her to say that, and she was right. My mind was filled with questions, doubts and worries about the future, and there was this nagging feeling in my heart that I could not quite explain. Another part of me wanted the day to go smoothly, afraid that her last day here would not be as enjoyable. 

In the end, I gave a long, tired sigh. Sharry was right. I was trying too hard again, worrying myself too much over the inevitable, trying to grasp on what little time I had. To the point that I was no longer enjoying the present. “I’m sorry,” I said to her, as we locked on to each other's gaze. Alone in the escalator, in each other arms, what more could I ask for?

There was a Chinese saying that mentioned about not worrying whether something lasts forever, but rather having experience it for at least once before.

I leaned towards her, and let our lips touch. She pulled me closer to her, and for that moment in time, I willed my mind to forget about everything that had bugged me. I had one of the best meals in my life, sitting on a restaurant overlooking the Singapore river and the gardens, in the company of an extremely attractive girl. Sharry ordered a glass of wine as a celebration to our time together, which I felt had a bittersweet feeling to it. 

After lunch, we continued our walk around the gardens, our fingers intertwined with each other’s. Just like any normal couple. Throughout the walk, none of us said a word. We just walked in silence, hand in hand. It not feel awkward at all, somehow the silence seemed more comfortable than the need to talk. We walked past different species of plants, past different groups of people and past the two glass domes that were signature to the garden. 

We soon found ourselves at the edge of the garden, separated from the Singapore river by a row of metal railing. Sharry leaned against the railing, her hands resting on it. She looked into the distance, her face deep in thought. The breeze from the river blew against her hair, as they danced in the wind. 

I hugged her from behind, letting my arms circle her waist. She said nothing when I did that, and continued to stare off to the distance. I brought my head close to hers, as my eyes looked beyond the river as well. Trees and flowers stood on the other side of the river, as ripples of water lapped gently on the side that we were standing on.

“So… what happens after today?” I found myself suddenly asking, the muddle of my thoughts finally coalescing into one question. 

Sharry tilted her head towards me, then back to the river. A couple of minutes passed as we stood there in silence. Only the sound of other visitors, and the river occasionally filled the air.  “The thing is Jaren, I don’t really know.” There was a hint of sadness in her voice, which pressed down on my heart as well. “If given the choice, I would want you to follow me Jaren, or I would want to stay here with you.” She rubbed my hands. I hugged her more tightly.

“But we all know life is no romantic drama, where we could just throw away our previous life and live happily with each other. Life does not work like that in reality. I still a have family to feed, and a dream to chase, Jaren. I have really no idea what is in store for the future, and I am too afraid to think of it right now. What happened in these three weeks was nothing but a short dream. A sweet, short dream.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.

I wiped the tears off her cheeks, and pulled her close to me. “It’s okay, I understand. As much as I don’t want to, I understand.” My chest felt heavy too, as I struggled to keep my emotions in. 

We sat on a nearby chair, and stared emptily at the scenery that laid before us. I put my arms around her shoulder, and just let time pass. When I turned to look back at her, she was already asleep on my shoulders. I cannot help but to give a sad smile, the only reaction that I could manage with the torrent of emotions inside of me. Eventually, a single tear did escape my eye. I closed my eyes too, letting my thoughts drift. 

I thought about my previous relationships, about this that was about too. I felt tired in a way, of having to go through the same thing over and over again. But still, it was not something that I was willing to give a way. Somehow, each of the relationships, even though they did not work out in the end, changed me in a way. It gave me an opportunity to grow. And I was thankful for each of them. Sad, but thankful.

We went for a slight meal near the evening, eating at one of the many restaurants located in the Gardens. We did not talk much for the remainder of the day as well, unsure of what to say. It felt as if we knew what each other was thinking, and was too afraid to say anything, in case we said something to worsen the situation. I kept looking at my watch, slowly counting down to eight. After the meal, we went back to the hotel to pack her stuff, before finally heading to the airport.

The trip in the cab was no different. We sat there in silence, as the cab’s radio played in the background. We held each other’s hands though, while lost in our own individual thoughts. 

We walked around a bit more in the airport, talking to each other about our future. I asked her about her plans once she gets back in London, and she mentioned that it will be work again all over for her. Meetings, deadlines, overtimes and travel.

“Will you be coming back to Singapore then?” I asked. A corner of my heart still held out a glimmer of hope. Perhaps we could work out some arrangement, I thought to myself, a last bid to perhaps secure this relationship.

She looked at me sadly, and put a hand on my shoulder. “Jaren, I think I need to be honest with you”. I need to be honest with you. My heart sank a little when I heard that sentence. Nothing good ever comes out when someone says that they need to be honest with you.

“The past few days have been great, Jaren. To be honest, out of all the guys that I’ve met with during my travel,  you were one of the best.” She continued to say something after that, about how her work makes it difficult for her to focus on a relationship and that career is her priority now, but already I was not listening. Of course I was not the first guy that she had been with. How stupid could I have been to have overlooked that simple fact? She travels a lot, and she must have been doing this for a while now. I was not the first, and I would definitely not be the last.

The realization hit me like painful blow. 

“Even if you want to come to London,” she said, “ You might not be able to find me.” I turned my gaze back to her, finally accepting the futility of my desire. This relationship was not meant to be long term for the start. That was the painful truth. I had no choice but to accept it. 

As we stood at the departure gate, we exchanged a final hug, in which she proceeded to plant a kiss on my cheek. “Thank you again.” 

“Thank you, too,” I told her, part of my heart still bruised. 

I watched her push her bags past the gate, and before turning back one final time to look at me. “Keep in touch!” she yelled from behind the gate, and I shouted back that I will. I saw her disappear into the crowd, and thought about her final sentence. Damned right I will keep in touch. 

As I stood there amidst the people who bustled in and out, I couldn’t help but to relive the past three weeks of memory. The random message that started everything, to the numerous outings that we had, and culminating with yesterday night’s experience. Now that she has left, all that is left to remind me of the experience was the memory, and a WhatsApp chat history in my phone. A short and sweet dream, just like what she said. 

“At least you had the time of your life,” Lucas tried to console me, when I met up with him later that night. I told him about everything and how although I told myself that everything was going to be temporary right from the start, I am still so much affected by her farewell. 

“The reason why you’re so upset now is exactly because you have experienced happiness before. You only know sadness only if you have known happiness. Be grateful that you’ve at least experienced the process before,” he said.

“Can’t I at least have a mourning period?” I shot back.

I did not know why, but I cried when I reached home. The feelings that was left boxed up inside all came pouring out, like a dam breaking. It was definitely not a breakup, but the pain sure felt like one. 

*****

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Twenty Random Thoughts #250115: Energy to Success, and Complaints

Source: 9GAG


1. I am tempted to make this post series Ten Random Thoughts instead, since I always have difficulty finding twenty things to say and I am a lazy guy. But when I thought about the lack of consistency and my need for things to be well organized, I thought "Nah"

2. At the End of Everything will be posted tomorrow, as I did not have enough time to spell check + proof read today. Again, my laziness has gotten the better than me

3. Laziness. It's worrying though, how lazy I seem to be. It's not that I never thought about changing this before. Heck, I compare myself with others who are more driven and more successful than me all the time, and think what makes them different from me? 

4. One thing that I noticed about hardworking people, those who are driven and more successful, is that they never seem to get tired. They can work and work without stop at a particular endeavor, until they get the results that they want. It almost seems like they have an infinite pool of energy, being able to stay focused and just do for a long time. 

5. Me, on the other hand, gets tired easily at almost anything. Ask me to focus on a task for too long and I will eventually begin to get bored, sleepy and unable to focus. Ask me to start on a task and I would fret, thinking of the amount of energy that I need to expend to accomplish it. It almost seems that I have a really high activation energy for almost anything, well except for the things that I like doing, like sleeping, for instance

6. Which makes me wonder. Do successful people differ from the average ones simply because they're born with a higher pool of energy? Or do we all start with the same amount of energy, only that those who are successful managed to train themselves to have a bigger pool of energy? Or could it be simply because those who are successful simply like hard work, and those hard work energize them instead of sapping their energy away? Is it a fundamental difference between individuals, or is it something that could be honed?

7. I don't know. But I guess I am about to. The new work that I am starting, there is no such thing as being able to slack. Hard work is expected, because the boss himself is an over achiever. Meaning that he puts in a crazy amount of work himself, which gives others no excuse not to.

8. Come to think of it, I have met numerous people who are successful before over the course of my life. And when you look at those who are achieving a lot of things versus those who just lazes around and ends up being mediocre, there is really a stark difference in terms of their drive and personality

9. People who are successful tend to want to do as many things as possible, while the average ones want to avoid doing as many things as possible. The former is always expending energy, while the latter wants to conserve energy. And of course, in our society, the more you're able to do, the more you'll be able to achieve. I can't help but wonder though, if our tendency to expend/conserve energy an innate trait or is it something that we pick up as we grow up?

10. One thing is certain though, there is a need now for me to expend rather than conserve already, and I have to try my best to see if I can cross the divide and make it to the other side. It was shared to me that it takes discipline and a willingness to focus, so I guess I really have to give it a try. To be focused and disciplined. No more excuses

11. Also I need to buy new clothes for work too. Seems like my current one is not fit for the new environment, and I guess I could probably go to H.E. Mango collection online to check out some of the clothes they have their. 

12. Speaking of clothes, why is smart casual so hard to define? I mean some are okay with jeans and some are not, and everything is just so confusing. I guess being in the middle is always confusing

13. A lot of people have been complaining about the recent announcement of the proposed fair hike for public transport (again) and I must say, despite all the reasons given, I don't find them convincing enough. I mean the fares now are already painful enough, and they still want to increase citing reasons such as our wages increase?

14. It almost seem as if the operators don't want the normal citizens to have a little extra cash in pocket. The reasoning that they are using is weak and confusing, and luckily I am glad I was not the only one who find it hard to understand their point of view. I mean the whole point of public transport is to make it affordable, and if you keep pushing the fares up, what you want the normal citizens to do? Resort to walking? Because after all owning a private vehicle is already hard enough here

15. Honestly, if running public transport is so difficult, I would suggest showing us proof of it. That your profit is not enough to cover your cost. Don't hide behind some jargon and expect people to buy it. Because people now are much smarter

16. And even if it's true that the costs is indeed higher than the profits, the government should step in. Because so many people are depending on the public transport everyday, and there's no alternatives available. A fare hike without a good reason is just going to make people hate you more, and that is not good. Not good in election at all

17. But of course I'm not a citizen, so I have no rights to complain. Guess I just have to suck it up and buy a concession pass. Which I hope don't increase in price as well

18. There was another thing that I wanted to write about Singapore, but I forgot about it so I guess there's no more need to write about it

19. And despite everything, Singapore is still much better off than my original country, Malaysia, I guess I got that going for me. I mean seriously. In Malaysia you have religious fanatics running around while the Prime Minster is constantly going on trips for god knows what reasons. Plus they are definitely shadier in all levels of the government

20. And as per tradition, point 20 is about me sleeping. So goodnight. May the blue of Monday engulf you tomorrow



Saturday, January 24, 2015

Twenty Random Thoughts #240115: Where's all my readers?

1. So I was sitting the midst of a training one day, for my current workplace, when a thought struck me. The trainer was brought in from outside to train the teachers in using a new tool in the center, and she repeated several times on how the tools we bought would help us and change things for the better. Which was good, because after all research has pretty backed the tool, just that to use something good, we have to buy it. With a lot of money

2. It's sad though, when you think of it. The developer of the tool originally wanted to create something that would help children in her class learn better, and when the results started showing, in swoop a person who wanted to commercialize the whole thing. Long story short, the tool that she developed for free became copyrighted by an opportunistic businessman, where people now have to pay in order to learn something that they used to be able to get for free.

3. Knowledge is a commodity, there is no doubt about it. Rather than something that is freely available to all who seeks it, one needs to pay in order to learn. You need to pay to gain knowledge. Be it for courses, tuition, books, schools and even teachers, only with money you will be able to get the best knowledge that is available. Good schools, good teachers and even university placing.  Not to mention journals or publications. Having money will help you to gain knowledge easier, opens up more avenues for you. You have better access.

4. Which is sad, because knowledge is supposed to be freely available to all who wants it. A society with a more knowledgeable population would definitely advance further, because you have a lot more smart people thinking on the problems. That's the only way to advance civilization as a whole. To raise the average knowledge level of each citizen.

5. Sadly, that may not be the case. Sure, you may have those who fight for free knowledge, for free education, but on the other hand you have those who are fighting hard to make access to knowledge more difficult. To make it a privilege. Which is why good schools charge so much, why good teachers only teach at good schools and why tools that can help you need to be bought. Not only do these people seek to exploit the importance of knowledge for themselves, they also seek to defend the class system.

6. It's a scary thing, you know, when you think about it. The rich are able to send their children to learn more, experience more, to good schools and good universities, while the poor have to make do with whatever they can. This itself has created an unequal ground at the start. The rich kid will have better access to learning, while the poor will be hindered by a lot of other factors. And it the end, what we will end up with is a vicious cycle, where the rich become richer with the knowledge they gained, while the poor poorer. The gap will only widen between the classes

7. It cannot be helped though, given how the most high paying jobs require a high amount of knowledge. From how I see it, there is only surface meritocracy, where the truth is that it's more of the elites securing their own interests and advancing their own goals. Rather than society progressing as a whole, the access to knowledge is made unequal so that some people down there will remain down there.

8. Of course, it's all my speculation, but I cannot help but feel that this is happening. At least in Singapore. But enough of such a heavy topic.

9. I'm active back in Ingress again. Like super active. I know people in SG have issue about revealing our in game identity (the animosity is that serious here), but I don't really care. I mean it's just a game. Why can't we just shake hands and be friends? And if things get too sour I can always just uninstall the game and play something else. Simple as that

10. Anyway, I digress. What I wanted to say was that I am super active now, with the new missions feature that is in the game. So much so that I walked a total of 2.5 hours non stop the other day. Like just walked. From one MRT station to another, exploring all the different portals along the way




11. But I finally reached level 11, so I guess I got that going for me

12. I started Maple Story again. This time playing with Dawn. Always wanted to know how it would be like to play an MMORPG with your significant other. Guess now I finally know




13. Sadly I must say that Maple is just a shell of what it formally used to be though. In our server at least, the only humans who were playing were the both of us. Just two. With no one else at all during our entire play. We did not see any other human players, at all. Kinda felt like a ghost town, tbh

14. With that being said, however, it's sad to see Asiasoft not really doing anything about it. Instead of making the game much more accessible, signing up itself is a night mare. You have to create one main account to be able to create another Maple Story account and if you mix any of them it's good luck to you. Not to mention the ridiculous security measires, such as an alphanumeric minimum 6 letter second password. Seriously? No one plays your game and you still want to make them so difficult to log in

15. Still it was fun being in Maple again, though it was nothing like the past. What was I expecting, anyway?

16. Sadly, like Maple, my blog is dead. Somehow the readers took a plummet recently. Wonder what did I do wrong? Or where did everyone go?

17. Oh, did I mention that I changed jobs? Officially tendered a resignation for the first time in my life today, and I must say, it was really not easy. Especially when you don't really know what to say. Not an easy decision

18. My new job is an editor. Which is quite awesome. And yet scary at the same time. Because I have a bad habit to not proof read

19. Like now, when I am extremely sleepy

20. So I'll go sleep. Nights

Thursday, January 22, 2015

At the End of Everything #29

Previous Chapter

*****

“Oh?” The news hit me like a painful blow to my stomach. It was not a sudden news, as I remembered her saying that she would need to head home soon, but it never occurred to me that it would end so soon. It was partly my fault too. I never bothered to ask, as I was afraid of the answer. I wanted my time with her to last forever and I thought I could. In the end I only ended up deluding myself. After all, time is cruel. It waits for no one, stops for no one. And it travels especially fast when you are enjoying life.

I continued to stroke her hair, unable to take my eyes off her. Those captivating eyes. Her beautiful face. The curves on her body. I searched for something to say, as my mind tried to digest what she said. That in less than 12 hours time I would need to bid her farewell. I did not know to to respond.

What I do know was that Sharry was right, it was such a shame that this was to be our last day together. After everything that we have done, I almost thought she was here to stay. It was a rude wake up call, this one. Sharry avoided my gaze, her attention focused somewhere behind me. I could sense that she was feeling uncomfortable, perhaps from having to tell me about the bad news. 

We laid there in awkward silence, each lost in our own thoughts, each unsure of what to say. I found a strange feeling of sadness rising in my chest, thinking of how my life would go back to the same miserable days prior to knowing her. I felt stupid to not have foreseen this coming. To be caught off guard by this revelation.

“So what time you will be flying off?” I asked her, while trying to hold back my emotions. But already my voice sounded different, its tone betraying how I felt inside. Miserable and defeated.

“Eight tonight.” Her voice was soft, apologetic. Still she did not make eye contact with me. Her eyes were focused downwards now, towards the bed. At least I was not the only one feeling bad in the room.

I thought about the different ways the day would play out. Either I could sulk and be sore for the whole day, ending off our relationship on a sour note, like a selfish self-entitled prick. No different from throwing a tantrum. Or I could be the better man and try to make the best of the remainder of the day, and conclude everything with a good memory. I decided it was time for me to grow up.

I sat up straight on the bed, and forced out the brightest smile that I could manage. Today was not the day my selfish ego wwould be allowed to do whatever it wanted. I put on my most enthusiastic voice, and took her hands. “Well it seems that we don’t have a lot of time to lose then! Time to wash up!”

She laughed as I pulled her up. Her smile returned, as well as the sparkle in her eyes. At least there was no more awkward silence. A tiny bit in my heart felt happy to see her happy too, no matter how rotten I felt as a whole. I wrapped my arms around her waist as we walked awkwardly to the bathroom. Every part of my brain struggled to remember that particular moment in time, together with every single detail in it. The scent of her hair. The softness of her skin. How the inside of me tingled with passion as my senses were filled with her. If only we were a couple then. If only. 

We washed up together under the shower, the first time that I have ever done anything like that. She helped to dry me up, while I did the same to her. We giggled like any couple would during the entire process. It almost felt like a scene plucked out from a Hollywood romantic movie.

“You’re such a sweet guy, you know? Girls would be lucky to have you as a boyfriend,” she said as she was rubbing my hair dry. Her eyes locked on to mine, as I felt a connection reach out to me. I wanted to be your boyfriend, my heart screamed back. I wanted to just ask her to stay and be together forever with me. But in the end, I could only muster a weak smile. 

“If only…” she continued, but her voice trailed off. There was no need to ask her to know what she wanted to say. She sighed, before putting down the towel and turning towards the sink. My hand reached out for her, and pulled her close to me. My heart screamed again, wanting to let her know that I want to stay forever with her too.

I hugged her tightly. “We will make today count alright, before your flight. I want to treasure every single second that I have left with you.” But I was too afraid to 

She nodded weakly, and moved closer to me. I kissed her on the forehead, wanting to assure her, to let her know that I had feelings for her. I needed to make this day count. I had to. It was the least that I could do.

*****

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Monday, January 19, 2015

[Movie Review] The Wedding Ringer



I must be honest. One of the main reasons why I decided to watch this movie was because Penny is in it. Penny, as in the Penny from the Big Bang Theory. That, and the story sounds interesting enough. A guy with no friends, was getting married to an insanely hot girl, and somehow needs to find groomsmen, 8 of them, to fill in the role. So in steps the 'best man money can buy', a best man for hire played by Kevin Hart.




For a movie that I have heard absolutely nothing of, aside from watching the trailer once, I find it to be surprisingly entertaining. I think the story is simple and down to earth, without trying to accomplish too many things, and allowed me to follow the entire development of the story effortlessly. It explores the themes of life that we all could relate to, the definition of friendship, love and also marriage. 

Of course, the movie does not really portray an absolute answer, but it does raise several questions for us to ponder about. Like what is the purpose behind all the showy stuff that are associated with the marriage ritual, as well as how friendships have been redefined today. It certainly made me think about what I'm looking for in marriage too, and grateful for the what I am blessed with currently. 




Aside from that the movie also has numerous laughs along the way, ranging from downright awkward silly ones to plot twists that you never expect along the way. Me and Dawn were laughing through most of the movie with the antics pulled by Kevin Hart and Josh Gad, along with their crudely assembled groomsmen. I half expected toilet humour though, but thankfully though the jokes themselves were not of the intelligent kind, it was still not as bad as the toilet humour kind. More focused on mishaps and pain, in a way.

It was quite entertaining to watch a socially awkward guy try to negotiate a wedding with a street smart actor, and I must say Kevin Hart's ability to constantly switch acting styles throughout the movie was enough to keep me glued on to the screen. 




Of course there were touching moments as well to give the movie a nice finishing touch, like how the two characters found friendship in each other, as well as found their sort of meaning to love. It has a nice flow from start to finish, the whole movie, and by the time it was finished I didn't really quite want it to end.

Still, the movie is not without its flaws though. I am abit disappointed with how Kaley Cuoco's character was portrayed, like really much in a 2D bimbo manner and the existence of several scenes that aims to showcase the budding friendship between the groomsmen, but really feels awkward and out of place.




Still I think the movie is worth watching in cinema, despite the paltry ratings given to it by Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB. I have no idea why. I think it's a suitable movie to watch be it with your guy buddies or your other half, as it reflects some aspects that we need to face in our everyday life. I would give the movie a 7/10 for its entertainment value and themes, as well as the performance put forward by Kevin Hart. It was great really.

Down to earth, simple but yet entertaining. Worth a watch


[GD: Fallout New Vegas #2] Benny, where art thou?

I accidentally ventured into Camp Forlorn Hope today, some sort of military base for the NCR. Not exactly what I was looking forward to though, because it would only mean getting dragged deeper into this ongoing conflict between NCR and Ceasar's Legion. I had hoped to remain neutral as long as I could, avoiding any contact between these two warring factions and just going about my own way. After all, the idea of people hating me does not sit well with me. But I guess when there's a war going around you, it is really hard to not to pick a side.




Eventually I made the decision to just explore deeper into the camp, just to get a feeling of how the entire NCR is like. I must say though, for a big outfit that is generally in charge over a large swath of the desert, the camp is in a pretty bad shape. Or like the name suggests, hopeless. Quite ironic, to be honest.

Everywhere I walked, soldiers were complaining about the sorry state that the camp was in, despite the looming threat of the approaching Legion. In fact they were just next door to the camp, constantly sending raiding parties to test the camp's strengths. With all I have heard about the Legion, I decided to see what I could do to help. I began asking around, helping with some chores here and there. So far I've helped the doctor with his disappearing supplies problem, as well as the missing shipment with the quartermaster.




They must be really desperate to be counting on a random civilian for help, don't you think? If I had been a Legion spy the whole camp would have gone to waste by now. No wonder they were having so many difficulties with the Legion. But then again the Legion themselves were not smart enough to utilize spies for sabotage.

Anyways, I got bored of helping soon after, because some Reyes lady want me to deliver radio codes to all of their outposts in the desert. A crazy task, mind you, since it involves me running across a whole stretch of god forsaken land. So I decided to go back to my quest to uncover my killer's name, the nameless dude in checkered shirt. I headed north as my information suggests, to Boulder City.





What I expected to be a great showdown turned out to be a paltry negotiation attempt, as I found out that my killer was again one step ahead of me. He betrayed the guards that he hired, the Khans, in the hands of the NCR troops and left for Vegas with the platinum chip with him. Of course, the Khans were more than happy to tell me his name, Benny, and where was he headed. 

As a token of appreciation, I decided to let them go, convincing the NCR to not go after them. I feel sad for them, you know, getting betrayed and left to die like that. A post apocalyptic world need not to be cruel, you know. And they don't seem that bad too, despite them being a gang. They were definitely less barbaric than the Legion after all. Plus I could use some extra allies. And they did let off the name of my killer though. Benny.




Still, with Boulder City turning out to be another dead end, I guess I don't have a choice but to head up to the New Vegas strip myself and confront this so called Benny. Wonder what will I encounter on my way there. And why I am so caught up over revenge.

It's a long journey over there though, so I decided to stop along the way, hoping to rest. Turns out my luck wasn't that bad after all, as I bumped into this Brotherhood of Steel scribe who wanted to accompany me along.




Booyah. Talk about a score. She seems talkative enough, and much less moody than the previous Boone that followed me. I guess I have to wait til tomorrow to begin tracking down Benny.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

[GD: Fallout New Vegas #1] Who Shot My Head?!

It has been one week since I last received that fateful job. To deliver an almost normal looking package, which turned out to be the exact opposite. And in that one week, a lot has happened. I've been shot in the head, survived that, and found my memory shaken up pretty good. I still remember my name though, but other details such as my life before this and how I have been seem murky at best. Like I'm a new person.

Yet strangely enough, something is pushing me me to go after the person who tried to take my life, despite how much I tell myself that there is absolutely no reason to. I would only land myself in deeper trouble that I had already bargained for if I do that. I'm only a god-damned courier for crying out loud, not some hero.


caught in a post apocalyptic wasteland that i did not ask for


Still the voice inside my head was something that I could not ignore, so from the small town of Goodsprings I have journeyed to other settlements such as Primm and Nipton, and now I find myself in another town called Novac. The shot to my head must have done something peculiar to my abilities as well too. I no longer feel like the small time courier that I had been previously, but somehow I have become something like a peacekeeper in every town that I stepped in. 

In Goodpsrings I helped them rid the threat of escaped convicts, while in Primm I evicted the same said convicts and even found the town a sheriff. And just recently I helped eliminate the threat of ghouls for the people of Novac, at the same time sending those ghouls into a spiritual journey that they asked for. Not to mention helping to correct the power supply problem for the rest of the area in the Helios Solar Power plant. Tasks that seem next to impossible as compared to my previous courier job, and yet somehow I am accomplishing them all. Something that I had no way of doing back then.


and i became a rocket scientist overnight too


I've got my own room now in Novac, a place where I could bunker down and rest from all the colourful drama happening around me. Still, the Mojave wasteland is an unforgiving place, especially so with all the fighting going around. The shot to my head seemed to have steer my life in a different direction, as I find myself getting more than involved in all the events that are happening around me. Perhaps it was my destiny all along to be better than a courier, and that shot seemed to have started the path.

I am going to get some rest now, before continuing my journey to hunt down person who changed my life. I have a feeling that this is going to be something bigger than I had imagined.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

At the End of Everything #28

I slowly stirred awake the next day, awakened by a bright light trying to get into my eyes. In the midst of our passionate moment yesterday, the both of us forgot to close the curtains to the room. Now the bright morning sunlight shone into the room, heralding a brand new Saturday morning. The room felt cool, with a hint of perfume hanging in the air.

I slowly took in my surroundings, and realized that what happened yesterday was not a dream. Pressed gently against me, underneath the thick bed cover, was Sharry. She was still soundly asleep, breathing blissfully with her arms wrapped around me. I gently stroked her hair, as I admired her beautiful face up close. I have never been so close to her before, and was savouring the moment any way I can. 

A strange feeling of sadness began to slowly crept up on me as I sat there, my fingers slowly brushed against her hair. I knew that this what we have now was only for a short period of time, because after all, she was here for a business trip. Eventually she has to return to London. And it was something that I did not look forward to. 

I laid back down on the bed, and pulled Sharry closer to me. She let out a soft murmur as her head rubbed against my chest. I soaked in the moment, while thoughts about our relationship played in my mind. If anything were to happen between us, it would definitely be a long distance relationship. It was a fantasy that I indulged in.

Realistically speaking though, I was far from the candidate that she would want to spend the rest of her life with. She was a high flier, travelling the globe as part of her work, while I was only a teacher who got his idea rejected just yesterday. It was hard to imagine the two of us starting a life together. But still it was was something that I wanted. My hands were rubbing her shoulder now, enjoying the smooth sensation of her skin.

“Hmm…” Sharry turned her head towards. Her eyes began to open slowly, and then blinked several times at me. “Hey, there,” she said softly, her drowsy face lit up by her smile. She raised her hands towards me, as her fingers played with ears. I smiled back. If someone were to ever ask about how it feels to have an angel in your arms, this was as close as an experience as any. I felt my blood rushing inside of me again.

“Yesterday was crazy…” she began to say, but left her sentence hanging. She pulled her arms back, and turned to face the ceiling. Perhaps she was trying to find the right words for it. 

“I enjoyed it a lot,” I offered to finish her sentence, hoping that she would feel the same way as well. I shifted towards her, and slid my right hand underneath her head. “You know, I was thinking that we could do this more often.” 

She looked at me, and smiled again. But it was unlike the cheerful smile that she usually gave. Her blue eyes gleamed under the sunlight, turned downwards. “Oh, Jaren,” she said as she ran a finger across my chest. Her tone of voice betrayed her next sentence. “It’s such shame that today will be my last day in Singapore.”

******

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