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 http://natureramble.wordpress.com.

UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit jocelynesze.wordpress.com if you're interested in more recent writing.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Home for the next 3 years.

So after a 13 hour plane ride (toilet almost always long queue!!), a brief, desperate search for my CAS number at Customs (which we ended up not needing, when we finally decided to just heck it. the process was really fast), waiting for the coach (that left 45 minutes late from the Central Bus Station), 2.5 hour coach ride, and a quick cab ride, collecting of house key at the Peterhouse Porter's Lodge, lugging my luggages that 10 minute walk away and up the 2 flights of stairs, I finally arrived at my home for the next 1 year!

But I realised when unpacking that I forgot to bring my camera :( and for now, while my SIM card is somewhere in the post mail system, and before we matriculate and get our Cambridge accounts, I have no internet access in my room and have to resort to camping out at cafes with free wifi to leech off it.

There's still quite a bit of stuff I need to get and settle, but otherwise it's been pretty uneventful, since most of the students in my college aren't back yet.

There's the usual excitement of being in a new place, and having almost complete freedom (not that I've been doing anything out of the ordinary), but I guess until I meet more people and make more friends, this place still feels somewhat foreign. And I guess, over the next 3 years, memories will be created in places until I've got a mental map of my own.


Reading all the notes given by friends and family who took the trouble to go down to Changi Airport Terminal 3 to send me off (thanks much :D), (as well as all those who emailed/facebook messaged) I felt a serious pang of what (or who) I'm leaving back in Singapore.

I think what struck me the most is that I never thought I had made such a great impact on others. Well thanks guys, I feel really blessed to have all of you as friends/family, and will try not to let all of you down (:

For now, take care and God bless!



Go The Distance - Michael Bolton (RGS Sec 1 2005 orientation song)
I have often dreamed of a far off place
Where a hero's welcome, would be waiting for me
Where the crowds will cheer, when they see my face
And a voice keeps saying, this is where I'm meant to be

I'll be there someday, I can go the distance
I will find my way, if I can be strong
I know every mile, will be worth my while
When I go the distance, I'll be right where I belong

Down an unknown road to embrace my fate
Though that road may wander, it will lead me to you
And a thousand years, would be worth the wait
It might take a lifetime, but somehow I'll see it through

And I won't look back, I can go the distance
And I'll stay on track, no, I won't accept defeat
It's an uphill slope, but I won't lose hope
Till I go the distance, and my journey is complete

But to look beyond the glory is the hardest part
For a hero's strength is measured by his heart

Like a shooting star, I will go the distance
I will search the world, I will face its harms
I don't care how far, I can go the distance
Till I find my hero's welcome, waiting in your arms


I will search the world, I will face its harms
Till I find my hero's welcome, waiting in your arms


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The start of the rest of my life.

So this is gonna be my last post on my gap year, since my gap year is officially drawing to a close.

It's been an amazing 21 months, and I've learned lots. My reflections on the conservation side of things can be found on my Nature blog here, so I'm just gonna take the time to reflect on more personal issues here. I went to Nepal with my friends to climb Island Peak, made quite a number of good friends, practised more of my writing so I think I can express myself better now among many others.

I feel incredibly blessed in my life so far. God has given me so many good things, I feel overwhelmed, and I guess this desire to pay it forward and give back to society is partly what drives me to do what I do. If it's not humanitarian, that it'll be environmental.

I'm thankful for my wonderful family, my parents who are one of the most understanding and liberal parents I know, my brothers for the support they've shown me and simply being there. I'm thankful for my mentors, who guide me and open up opportunities for me to learn. I'm thankful for my friends, who look out for me and have always stood by me. I'm thankful for everyone else I've had the chance to meet and learn from.

"I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you..."
- lyrics of For Good from Wicked
I am truly very thankful, that God has blessed me immensely in life, and I truly hope that whatever I intend to do is His plan for me.
And i love and miss my brother!!!
Although I've had a wonderfully enriching gap year, I also sometimes feel like my gap year was just to delay leaving Singapore for overseas studies, just to let things remain as status quo for one more year, just to keep things constant. Perhaps I just wanted to spend more time with my family (brother!) and friends (since most of my close friends study locally). And this is now, the start of the rest of my life. That things could go horribly wrong, and I end up losing contact with most of my friends.

I realised, while saving contacts, that while on Facebook I may have 1000+ "friends", and probably 100+ contacts in my address book, those worth keeping amount to about 70, and of those, only about 10 whom I would really consider close. I guess all I'm saying is, we meet many people over the years, but friends, true friends, are hard to come by.

So wells, to all my friends in Singapore, take care and make good use of the time we have on this earth!

Next updates will be all the way from Cambridge, UK (:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Stories of another generation

I'm a rather sentimental person I think. I spend quite a bit of time thinking about what life is like in the past, and I like reading about them. Have a blogpost on an extract of life in Singapore in the 1830s here, a Facebook note extract of life in Singapore in the 1870s here, and a blogpost on a very short extract about Kampong Lorong Buangkok here.

I also recently read a book, Good Morning Yesterday: Growing up in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s by Lam Chun See, who's the author of the blog Good Morning Yesterday. The book is a collection of memories of growing up in the 50s and 60s, with most of the essays written by him and found on his blog.
Image taken from goodmorningyesterday.blogspot.com


There's also a short film on life in Singapore in the past that puts things into visual perspective very well for me, because of my lack of imagination when I read.


Anyway, one of the things I intended to do during my gap year was to interview my paternal grandma (ah ma) for her stories, but I never quite got round to it, me being the procrastinator that I am :/

So on my last Sunday (23 Sep) in Singapore for a long time (I go to my ah ma's house for lunch almost every Sunday when I'm in Singapore), I asked her a bit about her childhood. I've asked her previously, ages ago, but with my terrible memory, I can't remember much (which is why I intended to do a proper interview with a recorder). Had quite some difficulties though, cos my understanding of Teochew (my dialect group) is disgraceful and when my grandma gets excited, she tends to go off in rather rapid Teochew (hence I need a translator aka my dad/mom with me). Also, didn't have much time.

My ah ma, like many others her age, is originally from China, somewhere in the Guangdong province (the Chaoshan region of Eastern Guangdong province according to Wikipedia) . They always talk about "Sua Tow" when they refer to their hometown, so although my parents clarified that "Sua Tow" is actually the port town and that my grandparents are actually from some outskirt village, that's what sticks in my head. (I'm sure my parents know where the village is, because we visited the place many many years ago. I just haven't gotten round to asking them and remembering :X)

Her childhood in China wasn't the best, she groused a bit about how while her brothers could go off to school, she had to till the land for farming and fetch water from the well and generally do the hard work and not get to study, because her grandma was mean... My grandma's a lifelong learner by nature, she picked up some English words a few years ago, so I guess she really wished she could have gone to school...

Her dad brought the family over to Penang when she was 13, and when they got very sea sick during the journey. The boat dropped them off at Singapore, where they visited my grandfather (ah gong)'s family in the current house at Hougang, before heading up to Penang. Their families were friends back in the village in China. My ah gong's mother apparently made my ah ma eat 13 rice balls (tang yuan) cos she was 13 and they were awful back then cos there wasn't the peanut/sesame/red bean filling that we have now.

In Penang, they stayed in a 2-storey shop house, and owned a business selling pots and pans. And then when she was 18, she got married to my ah gong and came over to Singapore. Didn't ask much about what life was like, but she used to go watch the opera/puppet shows during the 7th month Hungry Ghost Festival (getai) with my grandaunt (her sister-in-law), though they were both Catholics, as that was free entertainment.

And like most households, they reared lots of chickens and ducks. Though from what I understood from my dad, my ah gong's family invested in some business for a living. At that time, the house still had zinc roofs, like those of the neighbours. But slowly as the government tried to spruce up the living spaces, the old attap houses gave way to the concrete terrace houses of today surrounding my ah ma house. I don't know why my ah ma house was spared, I think it's cos they actually owned the land it's on. Whatever it is, apparently the old neighbours moved away and well, now my ah ma house looks out of place in modern Singapore.

I didn't get the chance to ask her how things were like during WWII and the subsequent tumultuous years of Singapore's struggle for independence and the transformation into what Singapore is today. I do remember that during the occasional lunch conversations that revolved around political parties and campaigns, she used to sing this Teochew rhyme that apparently the opposition party used to play when going around the area (needless to say it was not very supportive of the main politcal party in power). I need to record it!

Some photos of my grandma's place (taken in March 2012)
The driveway

The house proper

The shed. I just found out it used to house chickens...

Old school design, but provides great ventilation (less need for aircon)

The kitchen (separate building from the house proper). Looks like a major fire hazard!

Still using the old food cabinet. And the old fridge...

Working well, only there's a pump installed


Water from the well used to wash clothes here

Though there's the washing machine as well now. Between the toilets (left is a squat toilet, right has a toilet bowl and shower). And yes, the toilet is separate from the main house as well, so my aunt used to have to wake up one of her siblings to accompany her to the toilet in the middle of the night :P




This whole reminiscing about the past thing is not just me, my (older) brother is also quite into old school stuff. Though I think he's more into the gadgets and places, while I'm more interested in the way of life. He did a short Super 8 film on my grandma and her house as well.

So yes, though it's not a thoroughly done examination of my family history (and I haven't even touched on my maternal side), at least I managed to blog a bit about it before I leave for the UK. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

A place can be a powerful thing.

I went back to RGS today (21 Sep, Fri), to see if I could bid farewell to any of the more familiar teachers before I leave.

And thankfully, I did manage to catch some of them (Mrs Anis, Mrs Alison Wee, Mr Shaun De Souza, Ms Tan Beng Chiak, Mr Bryden Chew (briefly) and Mr Lim Cheng Puay) and it was really nice talking to them.

Then spent some time walking around, because RGS is gonna move in about 6 years and I'm leaving for the UK now and who knows what will happen in between. And as I walked around, memories started flooding my mind, snapshots of what happened at that location.

Revisited emotional highs and lows experienced throughout that 4 years, which at that age, were really high and low. I find that as I grew older, hopefully wiser and more mature, my emotions also stabilised. Perhaps I didn't invest so much of myself in all that I did in JC and subsequently, or perhaps I have wised up and realised many things don't matter in the larger scheme of life, or perhaps I just got more cynical.

In any case, it was a rather emotional visit for me. Maybe because I hadn't gone back in a pretty long while, or it could be the realisation that this place will not always be here, or just the fact that I'm a girl and girls usually seem to be more sentimental and emotional.

I remember when I was an awfully geeky Sec One (not that I'm not now), during one of the orientation talks (which I almost invariable fell asleep in all the time), our then-principal Mrs Deborah Tan mentioned something about how the friends you make in this 4 years are the ones you'll keep with you your entire life and how the times you'll spend will form treasured memories etc etc. I recall being very skeptical about what she was saying; I thought that my primary school days in Kong Hwa School were the best times of my (very short) life and that nothing could beat it. I was obviously wrong (though I don't think I'd say now that RG were the best times of my life either. It's very difficult to judge.)

When people (you've just met) hear that you're from Raffles (Girls' School or Institution or Junior College), they tend towards two reactions. Either they go "wah, so smart!" or they think you must be some snobby elitist brat. Stereotypes, which is why I don't like them. But honestly, I think what I got the most out of my RGS education wasn't the academics or elitist thinking. In fact, my grades in RG were rather terrible (below average) and I don't think I can stand for any elitist thinking. 

My best memories of RG are not that of studying, or exams, or even the lessons (learnt in classrooms, taught with an objective in mind, examined with a scoring rubric. Though they are, of course, still rather important). They were of the groups I joined, the places we went, the activities we did, the emotions felt.

I think what I valued the most from studying RG was the freedom we had, in terms of things we could join and do and of course, the exposure we had. There are many flaws in the system still (some may complain about opportunities, or about the achievement-oriented outlook etc), but I can say that personally for me, things went well overall. I learned a lot about leadership (being in Peer Support Board, as ODAC chair and hence the Student Leaders' Network) and service learning (Overseas Service Learning), outdoors and the environment (OutDoor Activities Club and my Research Studies project on seagrasses at Labrador Nature Reserve) and from a whole lot of other rather random things I did.


In no particular order:

Where I did my first climb. And first overhang! Where ODAC met every Tues and Thu at 330pm. Where we did our PTs (Physical Training) and sat in circles for debrief.

The roof under the stairs which had an impossibly difficult route at that point in time, but now doesn't look too hard. With the (un-utilised) gym on the right where we held ODAC exco interviews.

View of the roof route from the other side. 

Where I first abseiled, over the railings up there. 

The dance studio. I watched the Sec Ones do their dance lesson for a while, recalling my own lessons. Also where I recall us Sec 4 OSL mentors sitting and reviewing which Sec 3s to accept into OSL. 


Where we cooked maggi mee and cabbage during some (ODAC or OSL) camp with our Trangia.


The amphitheatre. I remember in Sec 1 during Racial Harmony Day, the theme or something was Food. And I was supposed to be Tom Yum soup, cos our class was supposed to be Thai or something like that. And in subsequent years, having to dance for Peer Support Leader investiture or something. Watching Speech Days and National Days and everything else.

The KS Chee Theatre. Ringers (handbell ensemble) performances and rehearsals for Singapore Youth Festival. And on hindsight, where we received exam results as well. 

Placards for standing positions during morning assembly! 

The PSB notice board. Nicely done up; I recall my year didn't quite bother :X


The parade square. Where we had morning assemblies and volleyball lessons during PE. And the Science labs. 

The low wall (in the left corner)! I remember one of the obstacles during ODAC camp was having to scale the wall. 

And another obstacle was having to commando crawl under the wooden planks meant for sit ups. After it's been made muddy.

The canteen. The layout was quite different when I was there I think. Or we had different benches. Where we had our meals, Open Houses. I recall a retarded conversation with my Sec 4 classmates about why fish balls were a misnomer cos most of the time they aren't perfectly spherical. Or something like that.


Among many other memories. The pavilion, where OSL mentors had morning discussions, where we worked really hard on our seagrass presentation. The corner where I broke down because being Chairperson of ODAC was a pain in the ass. The benches in the quadrangle where I remember I had my ODAC interview, and when asked on a scale of 1 to 10, how much did I want to join ODAC, and I said 10! without hesitation. 


The places bring to mind the people who were there with me, the things we did, the emotions we had. Of course, I missed out on a lot of other places, but I think I could traverse through the walkways of RGS (at 20 Anderson Road) and remember an incident at every location. 

All that will be lost once RGS moves from its current "prime location" to Braddell/Bishan. New memories will be formed for the students who study there, but for us who have passed through those gates for that 4 years of our lives, it will just get harder and harder for us to recall those wonderful memories. Because places trigger memories and emotions and makes people like me sentimental and emotional.


This post may just be about RGS, but looking at the bigger picture, I'm sure it applies to everywhere in the world. But especially in Singapore where the rate of change is fast, so fast that we sometimes forget to stop to catch our breaths, and realise what we've lost. The old National Library Building at Stamford Road (that I have no memories of, but you can read some here and here) is a classic example of what we've lost that comes to mind. And of course, there are also those times when we do want to stop change from happening, but realise that the forces make it impossible to do so. After all, the only constant is change, as some Important Guy (the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, according to Wikipedia, but I shall not pretend to know him) once said.

Somehow I've been dwelling on this topic of change and memories (read more about it on my Nature blog). Must be because I'm leaving Singapore soon, and I'm afraid of what there will be left when I'm back.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Books that inspire and motivate

I've been reading the past week, in between lunch/dinner meetings and everything else.

Biting the Bamboo: Insights and Stories from Yunnan by Dr Tan Lai Yong (There seem to be several books, Biting the Bamboo: 8 years in Yunnan and Biting the Bamboo: Promoting the spirit of community enterprise... but Google doesn't reveal much...), which Mr Lim passed to me, and The John Carlos Story: The sports moment that changed the world by John Carlos and Dave Zirin, which Siva passed to me, are amazing books. Everybody should read them.

 Image from www.johncarlos68.com

In short, Biting the Bamboo is about this Singaporean doctor, Tan Lai Yong who went to Yunnan, China in 1996 to help train village doctors, while The John Carlos Story, is about John Carlos who is an African American athlete who stood up for black equality.

While they are fundamentally different books (one is more about community service while the other is about standing up for equality), there are lots of parallels. I felt very inspired reading both books. And a lot of it is about persevering in the face of difficulties and sticking to your beliefs. Very heartwarming and goosebump-raising and makes you aspire to be more than what you are now...

And I realised, that humanity has changed little over the years (John Carlos' famous moment was during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, when he and fellow African American team mate Tommie Smith stood on the podium and did that very symbolic gesture, the Black Power Salute. While Dr Tan went to Yunnan in 1996.)
Image taken from wikipedia


People have always fought for justice and equality and all that stuff, and people still are now. Why is it that we still have not reached that level of perfection yet? Why are people are still corrupted, in fact, how do people get that way? Is it in the education, the upbringing, the society or ??


I really think those books are worth everybody's read, and it just reminds me that there is so much more to be done and that we can do to make this world a better place for all, no matter our social status or education or anything at all.


But I guess it's too easy, when we're so far removed from many humanitarian issues, to care about and actively make a stand. It's too easy to be comfortably ensconced in our everyday lives, just being concerned about our own needs and wants, and not thinking of others. Once again, I guess it's an out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing. Which is why overseas trips, service learning trips are supposed to give our students a wider perspective, let them realise there are greater issues happening overseas and that we can try to do something in our own way to help.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist


Maybe that's why I seem so obsessed with doing something worth leaving behind, making positive change, trying to leave the world a better place than it was. I feel like it's the only reason for living, and if I don't, then life is meaningless. Not that it means that I think any less of people who don't think/do the same, everybody has different circumstances and perspectives. But I only hope to appeal to the better side of humanity that we all try in little ways to make things better?


Maybe it seems a little ego, but I do seem to find myself being told quite often by friends or people I meet that I'm an inspiration or that it's rare to find someone my age who's so passionate about environment (or sth) or something along those lines. I will just graciously accept their compliments, but deep down, I don't quite see what makes me so different or special. I just think too much. Probably talk too much too. And have wonderful parents and mentors to guide me in my life, whom I'm very thankful for.

Yet when people find out that I'm on a scholarship to Cambridge, and their first response is that I must be very smart, I do feel a little affronted, like being intelligent, or smart, or having scored straight As isn't what got me the scholarship. Not that I think I'm that intelligent (or as smart as people would imagine me to be). I'd like to think that it was my other qualities that made the scholarship board decide to award it to me.

And I realised, while trying to keep fit on a treadmill, that getting a (bonded) scholarship is analogous to running on a treadmill. You can drop out easily (break the bond), if you really want to, if you don't have the discipline to stick to the programme (or think that breaking a bond is fundamentally wrong). Otherwise, you'll run to the end of the programme (and finish your bond). And some people continuing running even after the chosen programme has ended (and continue working).

And I also realised that many things are as much physical as it is mental. Some people just prefer physical comfort over mental comfort. I guess that's the difference, that people who are very principled would rather be physically uncomfortable than mentally comfortable. It's always easy to explain things away in your head, find excuses for yourself. However if you're physically uncomfortable, it's damn hard to explain it away.

Personally, I need a peace of mind, I don't think I can live with myself for doing something that isn't right. Which is one of the reasons why I don't like ethical issues, where the area is very grey and the line is not drawn clearly. Yet I have a physical threshold too, I find that I am unable to push myself to the limits physically, I always stop when I still have sufficient reserves.

And when I meet very cynical people, I don't know if I should explain my thinking and reason with them, or would it be a "waste of my breath" and just to live my talk?

I guess a lot of issues in life is just a matter of principles.

I'm getting very confused. I've been thinking a lot these few days about all sorts of different things, from the mundanely practical like what I need to get before I leave and what I need to get when I'm there, to "fluffy" things like what I just posted, so forgive any ramblings here. Just go and check out those books (:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reflecting on the gap year

So I'm finally almost at the end of my gap year. (well I can see the end coming in two weeks' time anyway) And it's the time for reflections.

There is definitely no regret in taking that year off from studying – I did a number of things, made many new friends and discovered more about the world at large, our society and heritage, and myself. And definitely got a little more cynical and a lot more realistic.

Just to summarise how I spent my gap year:
8 months working in the Education department in the Singapore Zoo
3 months interning in the Raffles Museum of Biological Research in the National University of Singapore
~1 month climbing Island Peak in Nepal
4 months working in the National Biodiversity Centre in the National Parks Board
1 month volunteering with Rimba in Malaysia
1 month volunteering with Coral Cay Conservation in the Philippines

It's been a pretty good mix of work and play I think, and I think while at the start of it I was not too sure what exactly I'd like to do with my life after graduation, I think now I've got a better idea.

Some things I've learned 
You gotta have the discipline to regularly exercise. Or be prepared to get fat (which I definitely did) :X
Everyone can be bribed with food! ^^
Always act with humility – you're not above anyone or anything
Politics (bitchiness) abounds, no matter what field you're in, no matter where you are, sadly :/
I'm not meant to operate motors. Judging by my failure to acquire a driver's license and a powered pleasure craft driving license
I'd probably have been very annoyed with my few-years-ago self

It's been a very valuable year, I read a lot, thought a lot and talked a lot. Not just about biology/conservation, but also about heritage, politics, and education. Got to know a lot more people, and hopefully, left a good lasting impression. Don't think I listened as much as I talked, unfortunately. But I've kept in contact with the friends who matter to me.
Climbing has suffered, unfortunately, and so has my overall fitness. But ultimately, I think every second of my gap year was still quite well-spent.

Didn't do some things I thought I would, or said I would. Like learning how to play a guitar, or learning to draw/sketch. In fact, from a musical point of view, it's been terrible. I must have touched my piano all of about 5 times in my entire gap year. Don't feel much loss there though :P

Think I've missed out some parts and I recall having presented on my gap year to a bunch of RI students earlier this year, I thought about editing my slides and uploading them here, but have yet to get around to doing it. Which I will, eventually.


Still have a bunch of things I intend to do before I leave: visit Nature areas, interview my grandma for her life story and needless to say, meet up with friends. And then, it'll be a whole new ball game, and possibly, out of my comfort zone.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Out of my comfort zone, for once.

So I finally get my lazy self round to doing a post on my latest trip, to the Philippines. It was an interesting trip, to say the least. I do think it's the first overseas trip that I actually felt like I was out of my comfort zone, and I don't think I mean physically.

I was volunteering with Coral Cay Conservation at Napantao (Barangay), San Francisco (Municipality), Southern Leyte (Province), the Philippines. It was really cool, to see how the UK based organisation did conservation, working with the local community and using citizen science. I was there for a month, spent about a fortnight undergoing science training and the rest doing surveys. You can read more about on my Nature blog here.

But apart from that, this trip was one that I actually wished would end earlier. Not cos it was a terrible programme, really, but I think for one the timing was quite bad. I would only have 3 weeks in Singapore when I get back and would have to apply and receive my visa before I left for UK. And there were other paperwork to settle as well.

And of course, it wasn't exactly the most luxurious accommodations or food. There were bedbugs, and for the first two nights I could not sleep. Plus there was no fan (don't even mention aircon) in our room (that I shared with two other girls for the first three weeks, and one girl for my last week) which made everything unbearably warm at night. There's no running water in the toilet (that I shared with the girls) so we need to keep fetching pails of either sea water or fresh water from the tap outside to flush. And there's no hand soap – everything is done with bleach, even washing of hands before meals.

But I can deal with that, at least I've got a mattress to sleep on and stuff, and I think I've been to worse places.

What got me though, was feeling totally foreign. Apart from a handful of local staff (a cook, a SCUBA instructor, a boatman, a logistics guy, a driver and a community liaison officer), the other staff and volunteers were mainly from the UK, with a few from Canada and Australia. I was essentially the only Asian, most of the time. I think that feeling was very out of my comfort zone, and I actually felt very homesick 2 weeks into the trip. Add to that the terrible internet connection (It takes me 20 minutes to read and reply 2 emails, and that's on gmail basic html), I was not a very happy kid. I was quite proud of myself for managing to go without the internet at all for 10 days. (I know, people of the past survived without having internet at all. But coming from super-connected/online Singapore, and being a person who spends most time online, I think it's quite a feat. Gotta see it in context.) As a result, I think, I managed to read 12 books in that month, a mixture of non-fiction and fiction, thrillers and classics. That's possibly more books than I've read the past 1.5 years.

It was also really interesting observing Western culture. I noticed that most aren't able to use the fork and spoon properly, which is strange cos I always thought the fork and spoon was a Western concept. They use the spoon like a knife, essentially just pushing food onto their fork, or else totally ignoring the spoon and just eating with the fork. Also, perhaps they're too used to automatic flushing toilets. But the volunteers were quite interesting to carry out conversations and discussions with too.


Eitherways, the Philippines is a really beautiful country with very friendly people and amazing diving. I missed the whale shark season by a few months :X but if you have the cash and time to spare, it's quite interesting volunteering with Coral Cay!