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UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit if you're interested in more recent writing.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hope in the Church and in God

While in church yesterday, I think I figured why I feel so much more pessimistic in Malaysia than in Singapore. Maybe, it's cos the whole month I was there, I didn't go to church (there isn't a Catholic church in Gerik).

I don't think I'm all that pious and devout, but I do attend my Sunday masses unless I really can't. And perhaps the effect is subtle, that I don't realise it.

Not sure if I'm making sense; it's late and I'm sleepy. But in church, when I listen to the Word of God and to the sermon the priest is giving and the psalms we sing, I feel more joyous and hopeful and calm and relieved. Cos I cast my worries and stresses on God, and I know He will take care of me. Going to church is usually rather uplifting for me.

One thing I couldn't figure though. God sent His son Jesus to save us. He doesn't want us damned to eternal hell. He doesn't want us to sin. Jesus is here to save the world.

I'm sure He wouldn't want us to trash this planet we're on. Cos then humanity will be doomed. Or does it not matter, cos what's more important is eternal life? Or it doesn't matter, cos God will save us anyhow, so we shouldn't be worried about it?

Either ways, I find what I'm doing to be what I think God wants me to do.

The Summons Hymn

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare? Should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me..

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Where is the Hope?

Ahh another jaded, cynical, pessimistic post. I seem constantly surrounded by pessimism here in Malaysia. Not good. Thankfully I'll be back in Singapore by Saturday. Where things are rather sheltered that we don't see much of the problems in life, where most people just live in their own little bubble, where there still seems to be some Hope left. (ironic maybe)

Just had a thoroughly depressing dinner conversation with the people I'm with here (Reuben from Rimba, Steven from Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME) and Cheng from the wildlife department of Malaysia, Perhilitan, but bunking in the field house).

Started off with elephant management, cos the government wants to put up more electric fences around Orang Asli villages to keep the elephants out, even though that method has not been successful anywhere else in Malaysia.

So I'm like, why doesn't the government look at other viable methods? Like if I were tasked to do something about elephants coming into villages, would not the first order of the day be to Google similar problems and see what people in other countries are doing, and if it's feasible and applicable here as well?

Then we went into how the government is filled with inept people, people who don't want to do more than they need to. Though technically in Singapore, government scholarships are given out to the best of the cohort. And many of my friends who I think are very very intelligent and able are recipients of those scholarships. But whether the system breaks you and turns you into another yes-man before you can propose and effect the changes to make things better, is another matter altogether. Perhaps I'm wary of that happening to me, plus I would feel like I'm limiting my future, hence my rejection of such a bonded scholarship. Then there is the matter of brain drain, where the top brains leave the country (perhaps because of what I mentioned earlier about the system), and then you're just left with a country that doesn't progress (and I don't mean just economically). Hence we have those national songs like Where I Belong and Home; but I doubt those make much of a difference.

Anyway, subsequently I talked about how yes, probably we need to lose almost everything before the little we have remaining becomes really precious and we try our best to save it. (Because in Malaysia, no one really seems to care.) Like the latest in Singapore, the Saving of Pasir Ris Woodlands. Then in reverse chronological order, the Wild Boars at Upper Thompson, Bukit Brown, Lower Peirce Reservoir, Chek Jawa (from what I know anyway). We've lost almost all our forests and forest animals, so whatever little we have left becomes so precious to us, that even citizens are rallying.

True, perhaps like what Reuben said, the majority of Singaporeans don't care, or don't want to do more than just talk about it, cos of bread and butter issues. But I think I still see hope. We've reached that stage of development where more money may not make us happier, though we do need to reach a certain level still, for housing and food and transport and family. And true, Singaporeans may be rather insulated from world events, but we do travel a lot, especially now with schools sending hoards of kids overseas for service learning and exchange programmes (though whether or not they are truly effective and serve their purpose or just a PR exercise... is another matter altogether). Reuben mentioned about the number of Singapore companies that donate money to wildlife/conservation causes, and it's pretty dismal. One apparently, just SIA, which donated money to Sumatran rainforests. It seems that Singapore is pretty selfish on the whole, we don't seem to give much money to help conservation efforts overseas, despite our relative affluence (especially in this region). Especially since we're ripping off ecosystem services from them! But I digress.

One example, when I was booking my flight to The Philippines on Cebu Air, they gave me the option of paying a little more to offset my carbon.
Which I thought was a great thing! Of course, we can be skeptical and go, who knows whether the money really goes there. But at least they're doing something I guess. We need to have more faith in humanity.

And that's probably the biggest problem right now. Faith in humanity. Steven brought up a recent news, where a lady in Penang died because 5 passers-by didn't stop to help. Well it seems that bureaucracy is why those people probably didn't stop. If you stopped to help, and then the police came by, they would take down your statement and all sorts of other nonsense. So I guess for convenience, people just don't bother. Or if someone needed help with their car, would you stop to help? Or would you think, that guy might be trying to mug me, better not stop. Same with hitching a ride. When I tell people, oh yeah I hitch rides to get out of somewhere ulu (happened near Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Marina Barrage, the ulu part of Sentosa...), they go, not dangerous ah?

Where's our faith in humanity? 

I think the one solution to all problems would be if everyone did not seek to take advantage of others, if we all lived by the Ten Commandments or whatever creed or rule your religion prescribes, or if you are an atheist, have moral values (I'm sure they're more or less universal) and a clear conscience.
(I meant to say, kill off all people who are evil. But then, what's evil? Is there anyone who is truly evil? Are we not sometimes, forced by circumstance? Even thieves and murderers care for their loved ones. Usually anyway. And killing humans is a no-no anyway.)

It seems as though we cannot solve any of the world's problems. Never could. Born into an imperfect world, and we leave the world with all of its problems still intact. Or with even more problems.

But if I keep thinking that way, then I'll be forever depressed and will probably become someone I don't ever want to be. Because probably, ultimately, all that matters is what You do with Your Life. Personal actions can have great consequences, as so many great people have said.

And because all I wish for in my life, is Success:
To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

I just need to surround myself with more happy and hopeful stories and not be bogged down by the grim realities of life. :)

Only Hope - Switchfoot

There's a song that's inside of my soul
It's the one that I've tried to write
over and over again
I'm awake and in the infinite cold
But You sing to me over and over and
over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands
And pray to be only Yours
I pray to be only Yours
I know now You're my only hope

Sing to me of the song of the stars
Of Your galaxy dancing and laughing
and laughing again
When it feels like my dreams are so far
Sing to me of the plans that You have
for me over again

I give You my apathy
I'm giving You all of me
I want Your symphony
Singing in all that I am
At the top of my lungs I'm giving it back

Saturday, July 07, 2012

choices and paths ahead.

Over the past year or so, I've heard one too many people tell me to be a politician. I never liked politics, and especially politicking. The interest in political issues (education, environment, social stuff) came about mainly during GE 2011 I think. Besides, policies are one of the avenues that impact many people. (Do I make sense?) But anyways, I've also heard suggestions to be a researcher. Or educator.

What do I want to be though?

From notes written in S1 (yeah I'm the kind of person who hoards stuff), I wanted to be a geologist/volcanologist or something like that, I can't remember offhand. I recall in S4 wanting to travel the world, to be a globe trotter (I know that's totally wishful thinking). I think in JC I was entertaining thoughts of being a narrator in nature documentaries (David Attenborough ftw! But also wishful thinking)

But I think one thing was kinda constant: I want to change the world, and leave it a better place (the title of my blog, that I started in 2006).

Anyway, I think at the moment, I can't say with 100% conviction whether I support PAP or otherwise. I know I always grouse about Singapore and stuff, but deep down, I believe I still love my country. *cues A Nation's March, the marching in song for NDP 2012* (It's a little too cheesy for my liking, but gotta give credit to the people who tried I guess)

Why I think Singapore is great
Clean air!! Unlike other (up-and-rising) countries like China.

Smoking bans! Nothing against smokers, but I don't really like breathing in second-hand smoke.

Food! Durians, mangoes, mangosteens, nasi lemak, wanton mee, duck rice, cheng tng, tau suan (and I don't rmb what else I like to eat, cos I'm the kind that eats to live though I like my Singapore food)

Pervasive wifi and online presence!! You appreciate it only when you're overseas in a place with little connectivity for a period of time.

Weather! Yeah, the torrential rains aren't that awesome, especially when you're not prepared. But still, my body is accustomed to ~28°C temperature...

Limited corruption in the system. Yeah I know we've had a recent spates of high-level corruption cases exposed, but by and large, I think we can trust the system. Just not those over-paid people I guess. At least you know you're in trouble if a police stops you on the road, and not that they're just after your money (as in Malaysia)

What I think Singapore can improve on
The education system I wouldn't say to abolish the current system (cos I guess ultimately we still need standardised testing? Still undecided on that), but make it less competitive, less $$ incentive (like the character award. I think they should let the kids work with NGOs for a stint or sth as a reward.) There should be more emphasis on real life work, on things that are more directly applicable to real life, and not always so focused on math/science geniuses, cos honestly, how many people in a cohort go on to study math or science for further studies? Probably more job attachments, more stints with various orgs would be better for all. And definitely a better curriculum, to include more about our heritage, both natural and cultural. Outdoor and environmental education should be COMPULSORY, so we won't have nature deficit disorder!

Lifestyle: the rat race and paper chase Well this is inevitably linked to our education system, and in fact, our entire societal culture. The 'Kiasu-ism' (scared to lose) of Singaporeans. Do we need to constantly stay so busy and competitive? I know the government keeps saying we can't afford to slack, else other countries will take over, then the economy will go into recession, people (talent) will move overseas etc etc. But I think this competitiveness is not sustainable. Can't we get to a stage like other countries where they've carved out a niche and their people have got a good work-life balance? Or is the entire world in a constant rat race :/  Don't work so hard, take time to relax. Unless you really love your job and the lines between work and leisure are blurred. Otherwise don't work too hard, and dont pretend to work hard.

The constant change of land/seascape I think this is obvious enough. Our city has changed drastically in less than half a century. Our land has expanded about 133km² since the 1960s (Land area used to be about 581.5km² in 1960s, and is now 714km² in 2011). Places disappear, full of memories and heritage. Bidadari at year-end, Bukit Brown soon. But perhaps, you care not for Nature and cultural heritage. Still, other places too, places which we frequent, or maybe used to frequent. Check this out. Is Singapore lacking a soul? I think at the moment, perhaps not. But in the future, when all we have is concrete buildings (albeit with green roofs) and concrete/metal trees, can we still say the same? We need a place where we feel we belong, not a place meant to attract tourists and foreign talent (though I think the major reason why Singapore is so adamant on being clean and green and a City in a Garden is to attract foreign investors more than to keep Singaporeans at home).

Our concern (or lack there of) for the environment We've got a clean and green environment and all that stuff, yeah we know that from the endless brainwashing in social studies. But we need more wild spaces, we need to conserve it. Why must we always ruin wonderful natural areas (whether terrestrial or marine) all the time? To house the growing population and stuff yeah, but is it possible, can they even entertain the thought that perhaps, there are other ways to grow (or other meanings to the word Grow) that don't involve a constantly expanding population?
And we need to be more motivated, more serious about the environment. And I don't mean more dengue ads. We've got plenty of political will for that, just perhaps not as much for others. Why not impose a plastic bag levy, have a greater emphasis on recycling waste and reducing consumption, and come down harder water and energy conservation? These are brown issues, and are important and linked to green issues. Though that said, I think the government places a higher emphasis on brown issues than green issues. I'd say that NEA (deals largely with brown issues) has a higher media presence than NParks (deals largely with green issues).
In my opinion, with regard to brown issues, it is possible to take a harder stance, with campaigns, laws, incentives, enforcement etc. But for green issues: education education education! Of course, we still need laws and enforcement, but to really change, exposure is needed for awareness, education for acceptance, then hopefully it'll be the ingrained mindset.

The political system I don't think I can really provide constructive criticisms here. But well, to start with, perhaps get better people! Better =/= people who score As. I think we need people who want to create positive change, people motivated by the love for our country and people who want to improve the situation. Instead of just maintaining a constant and refusing to rock the boat. Stop dangling money as an incentive. The best people shouldnt be motivated by money. And saying that the high pay is the reason why our ministers are not corrupt is just absurd. No wonder they think that giving money for good character is a good idea. Surely corruption or incorruptibility is a moral issue, something that's ingrained in you that you will stick by firmly? Well for principled people at least. If the only reason why our ministers (or our system) is not corrupted is because they're paid well, then I'm not too sure if they're really the best people for the job.
Perhaps also, dont always come down hard, like in the past. We've moved on, our society's maturing, and people are not so afraid of speaking out anymore.
Another thing, the immense red tape in order to get things done. I know, it's worse in many other countries, but let's not compare ourselves with the worst. I think too often, we penalise ourselves for the sake of the errant few. Don't know how to make things better though, how do you weed these kinda people out before they even show themselves?

Greater civic engagement The lack of a platform where concerned citizens can air sensible views regarding issues of national important. I don't think Reach really counts, maybe cos I haven't explored it properly, but it seems like they just post news articles and people comment on it, most of which are not productive comments. Then again, many people, me included, have a general aversion to any governmental initiative. I think what we need is an independent body. But well, I don't suppose that is actually possible; who doesn't have an agenda?
That said, credit must be given for the effort they've put in so far, I think we all can't deny that they are increasingly seeking "public opinion" before doing major stuff. Whether or not they actually take that into consideration, or it's just some 'wayang' is another matter I guess. At least it looks better.

Singapore used to be good and we need to keep it up. We're still by and large a pretty nice place to stay, I should think.
Kusu island's reefs, with the city centre in the background. Read more about it here.

Monday, July 02, 2012

on ageing and age.

We're growing old all the time, and we can't deny it.

I'm 20 now. But having taken a gap year, and having spent the past 1.5 years working, I've made quite a number of friends who are older than me, some much older; a change from schooling environment, where everyone is your age, or just a little older/younger.

And it makes me wonder, what will it be like 5, 10 years from now? I have friends in their 20s, now's the time for weddings. And then others in their 30s, time for baby showers.

No reason to see why things would be any different for me and my friends (of the same age). I suppose 5, 6 years from now, my friends would be getting married. and in another decade or so, there'll be kids involved. Can't say for sure now, whether I'll follow the same path. I'd like to say no, right now. But you can never tell the future, I guess.

I'm 20, and most people (working adults) tell me, wah so young still. I look at school kids around and feel rather old and nostalgic. (But I know I still have school to look forward to, soon. geeky but well xD) And people tell me too, when they ask for my age, that I don't look 20. Most usually say I look like I'm still in secondary school. Which I take as a compliment, but it sucks when sometimes people don't take you seriously just cos you look like a kid.

People used to tell me that I'm still young and so naive. Recently though, people tell me I'm jaded and cynical. Sigh, the effects of working. Just 1.5 years, and I've seemingly changed.

I think perhaps I'm too mature/sensible for my age. Even when I was still in primary/secondary school, my parents' friends would say I'm very "懂事" (sensible), for some reason or other. Cos I'm usually looking after my brother perhaps.

I think a lot, maybe too much. I talk a lot too (over dinner conversation with friends from Gerik here in Malaysia, they said we were (probably just me) "吵" (noisy). whoops :X) And my usual topics are on education, politics, governance, conservation, youth and whatever else interests me.

In the past year or so, I've talked to many people about many different things. I've learned a lot, I've read a lot, I've thought a lot. I feel a lot older and perhaps, wiser. I don't like to think that I've become jaded and cynical though. I prefer to think that I've gotten a lot more realistic.

To admit that I'm jaded and cynical would somehow imply that I've given up hope. That I don't believe things will change for the better, that I think things will just be this way, the way it is right now, the way it will always be.

But I don't. I believe things will change, that things will improve. I believe and I hope, because Hope is the only thing that can keep things going. Hope, and Faith in humanity, despite many evidences to the contrary.

How else can you live, if you have no hope?

There are times, there will be times, when I speak as though I've lost faith, as though I've given up hope. But these are usually temporal, ephemeral feelings, because by and large I still believe in what I'm doing and in what I want to do. And I may sound cynical, but probably that is the reality of what's happening now. I sure hope that it isn't what will happen in the future.

I think sometimes I set high standards for myself, high expectations. Or perhaps, I feel they are imposed upon me (not by my parents). I don't feel particularly pressured by it, and I think I've just accepted it as a fact of life.

That's why I need a break, and do some brainless things. I recall, about 4 years ago, right in the midst of End of Year Assessments in RG, I was blogging rubbish about brainlessness. Trawling through my old blog posts, I quite miss those sillier times. Ah wells. That's why I started blogging in the first place, as a storage place for memories. Like a time capsule, only virtual. And it reminds me of how much I used to climb. Argh :(

Apologies for the long rambling in this post.

Little Boxes - Walk Off The Earth

Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes all the same

There's a pink one and a green one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same

And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same

And there's doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school

And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same

There's a pink one and a green one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same