Thursday, December 28, 2006

Second Half of 2006

2006 had been a fruitful year for me. And an exciting one too! At the end of June, I went to Indonesia with a team to conduct the Super-Teen Holiday Camp. That was the first time I been to Java and it was a humbling experience for me. The rich-poor gap is really huge. Sometimes, I wonder how the poor actually survive in those conditions.

Firstly, I would like to point out that Indonesia is unfairly portrayed by the media. The media do no justice to Indonesia by portraying them in a bad light, at least most of the time. I think Jakarta is a wonderful city, besides its killer traffic. It is really a nice place and has lots of potential for growth.

All my preconceived idea of Indonesia vanished the moment I was there. We did manage to do some shopping at the factory outlets in Bundung before our first camp there. This is THE place to shop! Food in Indonesia is generally spicy. And almost all their meals are served with "keropok" (prawn crackers). My favorite food in Indonesia is their noodles! The way that their noodles tasted is so much different. The texture, the softness, and the quality of the noodles is unbelievably good. SSSlurp.....SSulrp.... My salivary glands are producing more saliva as I write this.

Even though I wasn't feeling that well throughout the 2 camps, I totally enjoyed the camps. It was a blast! The Indonesian teens are really a fun bunch to be with. They are so adorable! People there are also very friendly. Their zest and hunger to learn really put a lot of Singapore kids to shame. I had so much fond memories in these 2 weeks. Bert, Gabe, Ken and I had so much fun. I will always remember the look on Bert's face when he sat on a glass coffee-table and BROKE IT! That was certainly a sight to behold. Apparently, he must have thought that he had my weight. He almost broke his backside, too.

In December, we had another camp in Indonesia and this time round I enjoyed myself a lot more. For the hundreds in attendance, and for the millions at home who wants to join Super-Teen, we were all ready to RRRUMBLE!!! Cool stuff there. And for the Indonesian Super-Teens who are reading this, you probably can't see me as well! Great camp!

During this trip, our hosts also brought us to the National Monument in Jakarta. (See Picture Left)
The National Monument or "Monas" is one of the monuments built during the Sukarno era of fierce nationalism. It stands for the people's determination to achieve freedom and the crowning of their efforts in the Proclamation of Independence in August 1945. The 137-metre tall marble obelisk is topped with a flame coated with 35 kg of gold. The base houses a historical museum and a hall for meditations. The monument is open to the public and upon request the lift can carry visitors to the top, which offers a bird's eye view on the city and the sea. Of course, we went there on Christmas Day and the museum was closed. Still, we managed to take some good pictures of the Monas.

Another highlight of this trip is that we got to stay one night at the Ritz Carlton in Jakarta. Courtesy of Ernest and our hosts. Really appreciate the gesture. At 21 years old, that was the first time I stayed in a Ritz Carlton Hotel. So it was quite a big deal for me. One of the Ritz Carton experience is that all their bathrooms have a full-length glass panel beside the bath tub. (see picture right) So you can be bathing and looking out to the city at the same time. Not sure if other people could see you though! The room is huge and spacious and each room has its own walk-in closet. How cool is that?

We spent the next day shopping in Jakarta's largest mall with some of my platoon members. The place is nice. It is comparable to the Takashimaya in Singapore. Great people to hang out with.

Overall, a memorable trip. Looking forward to the next trip to Indonesia to touch the lives of the teens there. And I know that Life Will Never, EEE....EE...EVER Be The Same AGAIN!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sydney, May 2006

Hi Guys, just came back from a freaking cold 3 weeks adventure in Sydney.The season was changing from Autumn to Winter and the coldest day I experienced there was 10 degrees C. The place is amazing. The first night when I arrived in Sydney, it was 9pm. I decided to stay over in the airport for a night before checking in to the Randwick Lodge. About 20 over people from around the world shared the airport chairs to sleep. Everybody was comfortable and asleep until one guy started to SNORE! I can't believe it!

My mentor, Dr Ernest Wong, arrived the next day at 3pm. By then, I have already explored the city center by myself. To me, the CBD is just like another Singapore. The pace of life there is as fast and as stressful.

Ernest and I took a cruise along the Sydney Harbour during one of the mornings. This was the first tim
e I saw the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. It was totally spectacular! The Bridge and the Opera House are so majestic! The are truly the great icons of Sydney. On the cruise, we met a nice gentlemen from Holland and started to make friends with him. He has an interesting name--Yoz. Great Guy!

We also went for a 1-hour tour inside the Opera House. And the Opera House was actually a building built onto another building. The largest concert hall is huge and grand. Didn't have the time to catch a show there though. Maybe next time. Touring the Opera House is a must-do if you ever go to Sydney.

By the way, the cost of living in Sydney is really high. One simple meal ca
n easily cost up to AUD$8. However, there is one place that Ernest and I like to frequent for our dinner. It is called Charcoal Chicken along Belmore Rd, near Randwick Lodge. They serve simply the best chicken. Somehow, their chicken meat is so tender and tasty even after it is cooled. Simply delicious! Yummy!

We also went to the Sydney Fish Market, where you can get all kinds of seafood. The price is reasonable and the seafood is guaranteed fresh. Chinatown in the CBD is also a nice haven for good food. Everybody speaks Cantonese there. By coincidence, we met a past Super-Teen Graduate while traveling around. Polyman is from Indonesia and he happened to study there. He then brought us to a famous restaurant called, Pancakes by the Rocks. The place is near the harbour bridge and has a nice ambiance. The food is good too. Especially the ribs.

On one mourning, we decided that to go whale watching. It costs AUD$85. And in the brochure, it states that there is a full money back guarantee if we don't get the see the whales. Naturally, I was really excited as I have never seen a whale in close proximity before. Guess what? That trip was a disaster, at least for me. Not only I had to endure my seasickness, I got to see only the tail of the whale! And it was probably 2 times I saw it and then the whales just disappeared under the water. Man, it was a real disappointment. I vomited more than once on the boat too! Of course, no money back as I actually got to see the whale, part of it at least.

All in all, I enjoyed the trip. It was really special for me because I traveled with my mentor. There were so many fun and crazy things we did. If you ask me about Sydney itself, I would say that I prefer Melbourne. That's just my preference.

Of course for me, after this trip, Life was Never EEE...EE...EVER The Same AGAIN!