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UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit if you're interested in more recent writing.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Surprises while out for a raid.

I spent about 2 hours today "raiding", or in Singapore terms, doing flag day (collecting money for charity) for the first time in my life, cos I've always managed to avoid doing flag day in Singapore. I was raising funds for my adopted charity for the Kilimanjaro climb that I'll be doing in Summer, and so I stationed myself outside Marks and Spencer's at the Market Square with my Practical Action bucket.

Trying to get people to give you small change is difficult. Majority will just walk past you, with some perhaps giving you a glance and a surreptitious shake of the head, others completely avoiding eye contact, and some deliberately walking on the other side of the road just to avoid you.

There are a few who will pause in their stride to say they've got no change, or that they donate to other charities already, which is fair enough. Fewer still, who will stop and rummage around for change, while I explain to them what the charity does, but for these few, I'm extremely grateful.

Anyway, while it was an interesting experience in itself, way more exciting things happen because of the people you meet.

Singapore is small, and as you get older and meet more people, you realise how everyone's all connected to each other in some way or other. But Cambridge is smaller still, and the chances of meeting people you actually know on the streets are quite high, and I did meet a few people (including our chaplaincy's priest) passing by. Nonetheless, it must be quite a chance event that I happened to meet this sweet old (English) lady who happened to be born in Singapore!

So there I was, standing with my bucket and a big smile on my face, asking passers-by if they'd like to donate to Practical Action. This lady comes along, with a reusable bag dangling off her arm and hobbling very slowly with a walking stick. She looked so inconvenienced (if that's even a word) that I thought to myself if I should bother her to rummage through her stuff for change. I eventually decided to just ask, cos you never know!

It turned out that she didn't have any spare change on her, but she asked, "where are you from?". Confused, I went, "uhh, Peterhouse?", thinking she was asking about colleges. "No, I meant where are you from originally?" "Ohh, Singapore!" And then the excitement and the revelation that she was born there.

I was really excited, and we stood there outside Mark's & Spencer's for a good 30 or 40 minutes, just chatting. She was sharing with me how she, her younger sister and her mom caught the last boat out of Singapore to India before Singapore fell into Japanese hands when she was 6, how they had to escape in the darkness and about her dad as one of the civilian war prisoners confined in Changi museum etc. It was really cool, hearing her stories about her childhood in Singapore, and the escape from Singapore and everything (:

I asked if she had any photographs, and apparently she does, cos when they were escaping, her mom insisted on bringing along one trunk which she filled with, not clothes, but photographs and other artefacts that held great meaning to her. Hopefully one day, I'll get to visit her and see her photos and hear more of her stories!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

21 years of life.

So the time finally comes round that I can finally say I am fully, legally an adult (in Singapore). When the next General Election/Presidential Election comes round, I can vote.

I have never been a big fan of celebrating my birthday. (The last time I even mentioned my birthday in a blogpost was in 2010, and then only in passing...) I felt it was kind of like unnecessary attention to myself (which is why I don't put it on Facebook). I don't like attention being focused on myself; on the things I say or do, it's fine. I am more than happy to talk about what I believe in and my passions. But I don't know, I don't like attention focused on myself, outside of all the things I often post on Facebook. Seems slightly narcissistic to me and I've always grown up thinking narcissism is bad.

Nonetheless, I realise my birthday isn't about me, but about the people around me who made me, me. So for these 21 years of my life on this Earth, I am very thankful to all whom I've had the fortune to meet and interact with. For being a part of my life, for talking to me, for sharing your thoughts and ideas, for being retarded with me, for everything – I feel very blessed.

My wonderful parents. Thanks for bringing me up the way I was brought up, I think I have the world's best parents :) I know we can't choose our parents, but even if I could, I wouldn't choose anyone else. Besides, God chose them for me :) 

My awesome brothers. Thanks for the times spent together at home, for my childhood, for cooking for me :P

And from henceforth, representative photos. Because there are way too many people and not enough photos (either because they're not on this laptop or because we never took photos).

My friends, mostly made in school. Whether it's from being in the same class or the same CCA or just by God's grace. Thanks for the memories and the laughter. For listening to my whining, for making school something I look forward to, for just being there for me.
I realise how important spending lots of time together is in building friendships, because school basically meant we'd be spending most of our days together whether we liked it or not. But now that we're out of it, and spending time together required extra effort, the friendship we have becomes all the more valuable.

My teachers. From Mrs Oh in kindergarten to Ms Tan in P1 and Ms Yap in P6, from Ms Lim in S1 and Ms Pang in S4 to Mrs Lim in JC. And all the wonderful mentors in the fields of biodiversity and outdoor education. Thanks for inspiring and motivating and encouraging me. 
If I had not had the fortune to pass through the hands of these people, who knows what I might be doing now! Medicine? Law? Business? Economics? Or maybe even housewife-in-training.

Climbers in the climbing community. :/ don't have a photo of the Krabi gang in this laptop. Thanks for climbing with me, inspiring me, and taking me outdoors. 
The reassuring familiarity of the relatively small climbing community in Singapore is definitely something I miss. And I also miss climbing high wall. 

Nature-lovers in the Nature community. This is just a tiny tiny fraction, Team Seagrass. But the start of everything, for me. Thanks for teaching me about our awesome biodiversity, about cynicism and not losing hope, about sharing with everyone else what we still have. 
The very small Nature community in Singapore is like a family to me, almost. The places I've been able to go, the things I've been able to see and hear. It's just amazing knowing all these people from all walks of life doing what they can to keep our biodiversity as it is, and this is definitely one of the major reasons why Singapore is still very important to me.

Friends I've made here. I've been in Cambridge for about half a year now, but I think I take more time than just 6 months to cultivate meaningful relationships (to me). Nonetheless, it's not that these people aren't great friends, and I am very thankful for the friends I've made and the friends I will meet in the future :P For making this place seem less foreign and more like home.

I've had an amazing 21 years on this Earth, and I know I am very very fortunate compared to many others. Some kids don't even get to live to their 21st birthday. Some kids don't get to celebrate their 21st because surviving their current predicament is more important, or they just don't have people to celebrate it with. Some kids get a lot of things on their 21st, yet nothing that they really crave/need – love.

So all in all, I am very blessed, for it must be thanks to God's love and blessing that I have so much to be thankful for. Thus finally, it's thanks to God for my very existence and my life (:

100 Years by Five for Fighting

Meanwhile, for the rest of my life, I will try to
Live Like We're Dying by Kris Allen

NB: This post is auto-posted because I am on a field course on this day! Somewhere in Pembroke, Wales, hopefully having a lovely time. Too bad there are no Ben & Jerry stores nearby, cos it's Free Cone Day too!

NB2: Because this poem is too beautiful not to be shared, but I couldn't figure how to fit it into my post, I shall leave it here. HT Alex Teo.

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life. 
   Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease.  This often exists in a man of sixty more than a body of twenty.  Nobody grows old merely by a number of years.  We grow old by deserting our ideals. 
   Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.  Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust. 
   Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being's heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what's next, and the joy of the game of living.  In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the Infinite, so long are you young. 
   When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Social pressures.

I went to the playground on Sun (it was Easter Sunday), near Coe's Fen. There were loads of children there naturally, along with their parents and their grandparents.

I was looking for the swing sets, because I really miss swinging, but I realised many of them were for infants. Finally found the children ones, ones that I could actually still squeeze into (cos they had a chain across the seat, presumably to make sure kids don't fly out. But also makes sitting on it when you're not 8-year-old-sized a pain).

It was great, swinging is always great fun, and I was really happy :) like a retard just smiling to myself.

When I met my friends (guys) later on, I implored them to go to the playground one day too and sit on the swing. And to my immense dismay, they refused cos apparently it's not right. Like, guys just aren't supposed to go to a playground and sit on the swings.

Once you've "grown up", playgrounds are no more. If you've got kids with you, or a girl, apparently that makes it okay. But a guy on his own, or two together? Definite no-no.

I was just horrified. At the fact that they think guys can't sit on swings cos society will judge them for it, and the fact that they care that much about what society thinks. Though I guess it's not like a, I-really-wanna-do-it-but-I'm-afraid-society-will-judge-me-for-it thing, but more a society-will-judge-me-so-I-wont-do-it-anyway-I-don't-really-care-for-it thing to them.

The people from my generation (early 90s) and earlier still have childhood memories of playing rough and battle scars. Fooling around and doing stupid things with other kids, falling down and getting scrapes and generally staying as far away from home as possible (unlike kids of later generations/our later years which saw childhood getting consumed by tv and video games and mobile phones and all that gadget-y gizmos).

While I had many friends who were like that, I wasn't that kind of kid. When I was a kid, no one probably ever thought I'd end up as someone who likes adventure, going outdoors, and being happy with getting grimy. I wasn't the kind of girl who liked to dress up and play with dolls either, but I did prefer safe, indoor and clean environments to playing rough and falling down (if I rmb correctly).

Don't quite know how I changed from being very much a conformist and typical kid to someone who likes doing things differently (yet still socially acceptable) from others and being a little more atypical.

I still conform to societal pressures for sure, by and large. (Not gonna be a uni dropout anytime soon) But I guess my philosophy has become one that's more focused on happiness and meaning in life and doing what I really want to (even if it means taking a slightly different path from most others), rather than working just for the sake of earning money and studying hard just to get "better" and being just another cog in the system. Which in Singapore is still a rather minority mindset, it seems. One that many acknowledge but find hard to adopt perhaps?

I think I should do more random stuff next term. Go for walks to no where, with no destination in mind, just seeing where my feet takes me too. Be more spontaneous and random. And try not to let life overtake me.

practice makes perfect.

That was probably one of my most oft heard phrase while growing up. Mainly because I was terrible at the piano but I was too afraid to tell my mom I wanted to drop it and so I persevered all the way till grade 8 at the age of 18, when I failed the test 3 times and gave up. Nonetheless, during those about 12 years or so of banging away at the piano, I was always told that practice would make perfect and so I should practice more (and annoy all the neighbours while I was at it).

And that makes sense. It applies to almost everything. There's a Chinese phrase for it too, 熟能生巧. You get better at something the more you work at it. The problem is, most people, me included, don't really like working hard to get the results we want. I very much admire all those talented people, to whom a certain skill just comes naturally. Fair enough, they still practice very hard to get to where they are, but still, if it comes easily to you, you would probably be more willing to work harder at it to become even better, if I make any sense.

Which was probably why climbing appealed so much to me. It was probably the first thing I ever tried that came somewhat naturally to me. I did competitive swimming when I was in kindergarten. Liked it till I got transferred to a more advanced class and had to train way too many times in the week. I eventually got out of it by refusing to wake up in the mornings to go for training, when I was about 9.

Anyway, back to climbing, I love it. I don't know why, maybe just because it's not something that everyone does (unlike say, badminton. Or tennis.), maybe because it exercises your whole body (and not just one half of it), or maybe because it's as much a mental test as it is physical. Eitherways, climbing is something I always enjoyed, though we only did it sporadically while I was in ODAC in RGS. Then towards the end of Sec 4, a few of us (Juan, Si Hui and I) started taking it more seriously, and MR Chew very kindly trained us, during the intervening months between sec sch and JC.

Three times a week or so, I remember. It was horrible too. I didn't like training, but I guess eventually it seemed to have paid off. I would definitely attribute it to having an awesome coach and awesome climbing partners, but I suppose the fact remains that I was *finally* actually good at something!

That was very short-lived though, for studying for A levels soon kicked in in J2, and I stopped climbing for a while. I guess I made the choice halfway through JC that climbing would remain just a hobby for me, definitely not a priority in my life. So even through my gap year, though you would think I would have more time on my hands for climbing, I actually spent a lot of it working and volunteering and doing other biophilia stuff, instead of climbing more regularly.

After coming to Cambridge, I wished I could climb more often (at least once a week!) but needless to say, I barely even climbed once a fortnight, especially last term.

Naturally, my climbing standards dropped like shit, which thoroughly depressed me when I went climbing today. I say climb, but it's really just bouldering (which I don't even like). Sighs, it's very depressing when you know you used to be able to do a route but now you can't.

I guess it also doesn't help that there isn't quite the climbing community here that I was used to and familiar with back in Singapore. Getting to know a community anywhere requires time and effort, both of which are highly limited especially when you're in uni (and busy doing other things on top of studying). So there was hardly any motivation to improve or even just to climb.

It's just so incredibly difficult to balance everything. To be good at studies (I know, I'm presumably doing a lot better than others seeing what uni I'm in, but compared with other people here T.T), good at sports (whatever you choose to do), good at some performing art (be it music or theatre or fine art) and still have a social life and all that stuff. Presumably most people aren't good in everything as well, so there's really nothing I should be "stressed" about. I guess it's just the Singaporean brainwashing of being an "all-rounder", the Rafflesian pressure of scoring in all fields. (Does not help when you do know people who manage to do well in everything)

Still, it's so frustrating to suck at climbing now and know that I'm gonna have to put in a lotttt of effort just to get back. Argh. Perhaps it's all just about time management. If I spend less time reading and sharing articles, if I spend less time blogging, if I spend less time chatting with friends, (if I spend less time eating)......

But I don't think I could ever give up on those. Climbing, much as I love it, clearly no longer scores anywhere near top priority for me now.  :( I guess I'll just never be perfect. (To end on an emo note haha)