In brief...

I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
My interests vary from conservation to education to heritage to Nature (biodiversity & wildlife) to outdoor activities to life in general.
They occupy most of my waking moment.
Do read my blogs, follow me on Twitter (@jocelynesze) and friend me on Facebook (subject to my discretion). Visit my Nature blog, Nature Rambles, at

UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit if you're interested in more recent writing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reminders about life #1

Don't Quit

by: Unknown Author

When things go wrong as they sometimes will, 
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill, 
When funds are low and the debts are high, 
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh. 
When care is pressing you down a bit. 
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit. 
Life is queer with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns. 
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out: 
Don't give up though the pace seems slow -
You may succeed with another blow. 
Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt. 
And you never can tell how close you are. 
It may be near when it seems so far: 
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

I think I shall post a Reminder About Life weekly. Cos we all need reminders. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I Hope You Dance - Lee Ann Womack

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance 
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin' might mean takin' chances, but they're worth takin'
Lovin' might be a mistake, but it's worth makin'
Don't let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin' out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance 
I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance 
I hope you dance
(Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder, where those years have gone?)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance 
I hope you dance
(Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder, where those years have gone?)

Personally, I don't dance. But this is one of those songs that you never tire of hearing. Always a reminder of how we should be living life. Speaks to everyone, not just dancers.

I hope you live life to the fullest, with no regrets.
i can feel the stress. it's appearing all over my face :/

going to uk next week for my uni interview, praying really hard that it will go well! and hopefully there'll be more good news sometime this week..
studying/prepping for interview is not easy.

and i finally processed the film from Nepal trip! got the negatives now. turns out my older bro has a film scanner (Canoscan 8800F) that he conveniently (for me) left behind in Sg that i can use! only i need to figure how to use it first. it's not cooperating with me.

then i'll be able to get digital photos :D

finally went to my (paternal) grandma's house for lunch today, after more than a month. she lives in Hougang, in a wooden house on stilts (okay they're not as skinny as stilts. more like short pillars?), has a working well, and all sorts of other cool things that one can rarely find in Singapore anymore. i really think her house ought to be converted into a museum and opened up for visitors.
but meanwhile, what i really want to do, is to jot down her stories and memories and essentially write down a piece of my family history. been wanting to do that since As ended, i think, but procrastination got the better of me (as always), and i told myself i would do it after the Nepal trip. which is now.

i want to record down stories from the past, family traditions and the house. i think it's all part of our heritage, and i feel the need to share it, especially when most youths like me dont know such things. and i guess this is my gap year project.

it's all rather sketchy, still swimming in bits in my head at the moment. more procrastination perhaps, but i dont think i can progress much on this end with uni interviews still hanging over my head.

just a quick preview of what i'm probably gonna delve deeper into
something my grandma adds into her fried rice. it's a pretty long process. but not sure how long this "secret family ingredient" dates back to. at least 4 generations now, but well, for more info i'll definitely need to ask my grandma/granduncle. i wonder what other traditions there are that i know not of.

and some photos of what my grandma house looks like will be up once i process my last roll of film and figure how to scan it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

the period for interviews is here! again.

i still have a lot of work to do in perfecting my interview skills. especially when it involves talking about myself. it's so hard to talk about your positive points!

though i already went through one round of interviews earlier in the year, i dont think i have "mastered" interviews.


it's especially unnerving when a lot hinges upon the interview. those interviews for psb/what not we had in sec sch? nothing compared to university/scholarship interviews.

freaking out.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Volunteerism in Singapore

i was in the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre at Central on Thursday. as i sat there listening to the discussion, it made me think about volunteerism in singapore.

am i the only one who finds it strange that people need to go to a Centre to find causes to volunteer with? perhaps it's just something that never occurred to me, that you could go somewhere, like an all-in-one buffet, and volunteer at a whole host of activities. the end objective is to help these people find a cause that they will commit to, and leave the Centre. kind of like a holding area.

maybe these people just havent found their passion in life, or they dont know where are the places they can go to volunteer. but i think it makes it too easy to volunteer. everything is served up on a silver platter and all you need to do is put your name down.

having to go out there, search for a cause you believe in, and then volunteer with them, i think that's more preferable. at least it shows some sort of commitment and dedication, that you bothered to go find and put your name down. perhaps a kind of filter, a natural barrier.

nonetheless, it's good that people want to volunteer.

shift in mindset
i dont remember who i was talking to, but i recall having a conversation about how singaporeans have changed. in the 1990s (or perhaps before that), everything seemed to be about the 5Cs. Cash, Condo, Credit, Car and Club. maybe that has something to do with population demographics and the profile of the working class back then. and how their experiences shaped their expectations of life. a rather materialistic society.

 yet now, while economic, housing and transport issues still feature, there is also a greater awareness about nature and the environment, volunteerism and charity. perhaps the more humane side of singaporeans are developing. after all, it's only after you have secured your next meal that you start thinking about what to do with your free time.

and all this is great (: i guess that's how the Chek Jawa issue really stunned the government and Singaporeans as well.

digging through messy archives
was clearing Siva's office desk on Thursday after the NVPC visit, and we un-earthed a lot of archaeological finds. it made me realise that all that we see now, was the product of many many years of hardwork. there was research done on biodiversity in singapore manyyy years ago. i dont know if there were more research done in the past than at present, but you know, most people dont even think you can work in this field in singapore! then again, most people dont know what biodiversity we have in singapore, nor our natural history.

but i think it's only in recent years that outreach and education picked up. maybe from the time Chek Jawa was discovered and subsequently rescued. and the scientists/naturalists/conservationists realised that hey, singaporeans actually care about our biodiversity and want to know more. and then when data supporting this was presented to the government, reclamation of Chek Jawa was deferred, surprising all, cos i guess no one really expected that the govt would put aside development for something like Chek Jawa. apparently at that time, the climate was really different, and people were afraid to speak up against the govt.

in any case, looking at historical artefacts really put things into perspective. makes you feel so little and insignificant. and i realise the importance of dating my books! so that when i grow old and look through my books, i'll be able to recollect and reminisce.

Friday, November 18, 2011

the familiar feeling of having too many things to do and not enough time!!

wish we could live without sleep, but unfortunately my body requires min. 6 hours of sleep every night to be fully functional, and i've been depriving it lately.

i need to be way more efficient.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

photo snapshots of the trek!

2 bag packs to check-in, 1 bag pack for essentials on flight and 1 camera bag (on the other side). after passing through the customs, started feeling queer and promptly got a fever on the flight to Bangkok.

trying on plastic boots and cramp-ons at Kathmandu!

our airplane to Lukla

the entire width is probably the span of my arms.

fell asleep before take-off. halfway through the flight i woke up, feeling queasy.

touch down at Lukla, and apparently all those guys are porters waiting for jobs! 

and we started our trek (after i puked a bit)!

lunch: dal baht, which i do not fancy at all.

lunch point, where i first diarrhea-ed

after a night of diarrhea-ing in the town of Chumoa, and another day's trek, we arrived at Namche Bazar! the biggest town in the Khumbu region (Himalayan area)

on the hike up to the hospital. which was closed. i was drugged with pills for diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pains.

Big Joce and Small Joce! inspiration during the trip. 

some mountain in the distance, not too sure of ID... :P

at the last town before Island Peak, Chuk Khung

trek en-route to base camp. the trek to base camp was fairly alright, but the trek back to Chuk Khung was insanely long and tiring. Though admittedly i was having a headache (a sign of AMS)

our tents at high camp! barren landscape, with no toilet. i pooped a few metres downhill from our tents in the snow at night.

after we came back down all the way to Chumoa. 

the world's most dangerous airport runway. vis was not too bad, can see the end of the runway.

on friday (when we were supposed to be back in Singapore), the vis was terrible.

everyone gathered to watch the first plane leave Lukla in 6 days (or something like that) on Sat evening!

at the helipad, where everyone was either waiting for the chopper out, or porters waiting for jobs to come in.

at the military airbase, we met our Aussie friends again! First was at Deboche, second at Lukla, then here. And in Kathmandu, we met the guy on the right yet again! I meant to take a photo with them in Lukla, but we left in such a hurry i didnt have time to go around looking for them. but God must have heard me, cos there they were lepaking on the grass when we landed at the airbase!
they were super hardcore, slept in tents almost all the way and did Mera peak and Island peak.

weather here in Lama Dala (not sure of spelling) was in such stark contrast with Lukla. bright sun and heat! i stripped to just my t-shirt and laid everything else out to dry.

the Singaporean couple we met while in Lukla. they did Everest Base Camp trek, and previously went on many other rather hard-core treks.

last night in Kathmandu, we went to this restaurant called Rum Doodle, where many teams go to after their expeditions. we were given this footprint which we could decorate and put up anywhere in the restuarant; ours was on the ceiling right at the entrance!

sights of Nepal will be up next.. probably after i finally get round to developing my film...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

this trip has been epic on many levels. but it has also been an important one, to me. in terms of group dynamics, i think it turned out surprisingly (or not) well, given how we're all rather different, and the age gap.. but then again, being climbers, i guess we're all also about the same. part of a small percentage of nutters from singapore who would attempt to do such a thing as climb a mountain 6189m high.

anyway, the entire story of my trip would be too long to post here, and i'm not about to write a book (unlike the many mountaineers who pen their adventure/triumph/sorrow as i saw in bookstores). mostly just a reflection of my trip.

so i was asked, on our "last day" of trek, what my 3 main takeaways were. maybe i am used to facilitation, after all those years of formal schooling with "experiential learning", cos i was already thinking about that. in fact, i was already thinking about what to blog.

1) self-discovery. cliche maybe, but when you really climb a mountain (not metaphorically), it exposes who you really are. and i guess i was stronger than i thought i was. in the first place, i already think my comfort zone is pretty big, compared to most others (boys and girls) my age. yet there were many times during the trek when i felt like giving up. close to breaking down, even. in the end though, i still pushed on, and surprised myself with how far i went. (and no, i didnt summit. came within 2 hours of the summit but was too tired)

2) the environment. there are times when you can overcome the physical exhaustion to think about other loftier contemplations that doesnt revolve around your next step.
how the environment is being degraded by such activities, erosion and weathering.
how development in nepal has reached what to me is a rather curious stage, where there are no roads or motorised vehicles and people go to different towns on foot/horseback/yaks, yet people are not in desperate poverty (unlike what i see in many other places).
and most of all, how Nature still triumphs over man. we may flatten our hills and level our valleys, fill sand in our seas and dig up sediments from our land. yet in certain places, no matter what you do, Nature still holds the trump card. and we are at its mercy. mountaineers fully appreciate this. no one tries to "conquer" a mountain; that is too presumptuous of us.

3) faith in God. through the most grueling times, that's when faith is what gets you up more than physical strength. without Him, i most definitely would not have gone as far as i did. prayer and hymns got me up. all i can do is to praise the Lord for giving me strength and determination.

but perhaps the conversations we had on the mountain are the most weighty and valuable. i realise that i need to exercise more clarity and brevity in my thoughts, conversations and writings. and we talked just about everything. mountaineering to relationships to diet and excretion to consumer psyche to education to interviews. and probably more. with little else that we do each day apart from eat, walk, shit and sleep, conversations filled the gap.

all in all, i guess i got more out of this trip than i bargained for. in a good way. and i'm glad i have the fortune to be able to take such a trip at my age, with such company.

on to the more factual aspects of the trip, here are some "highlights"
1) being ill. having a fever, loss of appetite, terrible diarrhea (having to walk 10m to the squat toilet in the cold to 'lao sai' 3 times in the night is no joke), queasiness and vomiting while on a mountaineering trip is not the best thing to start with. honestly, i dont recall having been so ill before in my life, and it was not pleasant nor comfortable having to deal with it 2000-3000m high up. but thanks to the conscientious care and nursing accorded by better-conditioned friends, i recovered well enough to continue with the trek and climb.

2) the summit push. when i left singapore on 18 oct, i had the idea that this would be the main highlight of the trip. guess God had other plans.
when you're on your way up, especially in the dead of the night with just a headlamp to light the way, you really question what the hell you're doing there. pure mind over body. after we reached cramp-on point, and when we were nearing the ice wall, we saw a dead body being dragged down by the Sherpas/porters. he succumbed to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) after coming down from the summit from what i heard. his body was left there for a day or two because of poor weather conditions, before they brought it down to base camp for it to be ferried to Kathmandu (presumably) by helicopter.
mountaineering is actually a very selfish sport. there is nothing in it except for the individual. especially when the risks are high -- climbing at the Death Zone (7600m and above).

3) flight delay in lukla and the subsequent evacuation. the hope that the clouds will clear in spite of how everything indicates otherwise. followed by the frantic formulation of contingency plans. and then the wait. when the plane which got stranded in Lukla before the clouds came in finally took off on Saturday evening, everyone in town gathered around the airport and cheered :D and on Sun morning, right after breakfast, we packed our bags, ran 1.5 hours down the mountain to the helipad (an open field), and took a chopper to a military airbase about 20 minutes away. followed by a plane back to Kathmandu :D

other trivialities from the trip
taking a dump at 5250m

taking a dump when it was snowing at about 5400m

appreciating a toilet bowl and toilet paper. and solid walls. among many other creature comforts.

meeting other people along the path, and talking to them. a few people whom we kept meeting and had some kind of rapport include an Aussie trio who did Mera peak and then Island peak, while staying in tents. met them once while still pretty high up on the mountain, another time when we were back in Lukla, again at the airbase and yet again in Kathmandu.

how everyone there seems united by a purpose, with a common thread linking all of us. not that you feel bonded to them, but just that strangers talk to each other in a way that you dont see on a usual holiday. i mean, no one, while on holiday at the beaches in Gold Coast, for example, would go up to another bunch of people there and make small talk. or maybe there are such people.

definitely, there are many other parts of the trip i've left out. there's just too much to cover, and if i write out everything, this would become an extremely boring, day-by-day account of 23 days in Nepal.

i have realised that there needs to be a fundamental change in the way i live though. but that is a topic for a blogpost another day. i'm too tired to say anymore now.

photos will be up another day. cant wait to develop my film and see how my photos turned out. Olympus was not so tough after all, and gave up on me during summit push.

The team (from left): Alvin, (Big) Joce, Kim, Chew, Me, Joe and Siyuan
Photo credit: Kim and her G11

Thanks guys for the trip of my life (so far) :D

changed my blog template, first time in at least 4 years. i think my old one had more personality. shall see how, maybe i'll switch back after a while.

changed template cos this can receive comments. still havent figured how to incorporate that element into my old template.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

oh dear, meant to post this on Wed night but it turns out it wasn't published. not too late now i guess. (timestamp reflects the date first drafted. post was published 13 Nov 1am+)

i'm back from the mountains in nepal!!!

this trip is so epic on so many levels, i'll need a lot of time to process and publish my thoughts. to make it coherent and clear.

but briefly, it's been a great trip, a great experience. appreciate singapore a lot more.

conversations and company were also irreplaceable.

i learnt a lot from this trip about almost everything one could learn in life.

on a more frivolous note, whoever said we'll lose weight on the mountains clearly generalised.