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UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit jocelynesze.wordpress.com if you're interested in more recent writing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cambridge before the university.

Or things I didn't know about Cambridge previously. Was chatting with Peter, a fellow soup-runner, and he mentioned several interesting points about Cambridge's history, such as the fact that King's College changed the course of the river Cam so it'll be prettier for them, though I can't find anything on that online now. Anyway, so I decided to look up Cambridge's history, cos it's apparently a lot more interesting than just a bunch of rebels running away from Oxford (actually some Oxford refugees running away from hostile Oxford town folk) to found Cambridge in 1209 (to find more hostile Cambridge town folk).


1. We could have been called Durolipontians (as opposed to Cantabrigians, cos the Latin name for Cambridge is Cantabrigia).
The area was first settled by the Romans, who built a hillfort on Castle Hill in about AD70. It was called Duroliponte. Might have been quite cool to say "Yeah, I study in Duroliponte."

2. We should actually be Grantabridge.
The Anglo-Saxons came next, and by this point the town was somewhat thriving as an inland port, being served by various tributaries throughout the Fens. The river was initially called Granta (and still in, upstream of the Mill Pond, near the University Centre), and the city was called Grantabrycge. Through the waterways, it was connected to the North Sea via King's Lynn, and was pretty rich through trade.
The Saxons also built the tower of St Bene't's, which is the oldest building in Cambridge.

3. The river name was changed to match the town - only in Cambridge.
At some point in the 11th century, during the Normans, the city was known as Grentebrige or Cantebrigge. But clearly it's silly to call the city Cambridge when it's over the river Granta, so why not change the name of the river to Cam instead? Problem solved.
The Normans built a castle on Castle Hill in 1068, and the Norman Round Church (located in front of the Cambridge Union building/near Magdalene bridge) was built by the Knights Templar.

4. We were great for monasteries and fairs.
By the 12/13th century, there were lots of religious institutions in Cambridge - churches, monasteries, and convents (many of them eventually became part of a college). There were also lots of market fairs around, and it was supposedly quite the happening place. In fact, one of the largest medieval fairs in Europe, called the Stourbridge Fair, was right here, thanks to the ease of accessibility via waterways. It was originally meant to support the lepers in the Leper Chapel, part of the Hospital for lepers.

5. The early history of the University of Cambridge is pretty confusing.
Too many names for me, but essentially the start of the university was just a bunch of scholars teaching each other, and it slowly grew bigger, acquired more land from the town, had lots of conflict with the town (still do?), became more bureaucratic, involved a lot of studying of divinity, theology, canon law, Greek, Latin classics and mathematics, and had quite a bit of Royal intervention and so on.
Natural Sciences was introduced in the 17th century, and by the late 19th century, law and most of the other Triposes were established.

Main sources:
http://www.colc.co.uk/cambridge/cambridge/history.htm
http://www.cam.ac.uk/about-the-university/history/

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dash through the New World - Part 3, overall thoughts.

It's been almost a month since I got back from Peru & Ecuador, and more than enough time has lapsed that I may soon forget what the two months was like, the fine details and everyday thoughts. So before I completely forget and put it out of my mind, this post is meant to summarise my overall thoughts and feelings throughout the trip.

Start of the trip selfie...


While I've travelled on my own before, it had been for short durations (before and after volunteering with an organisation) and/or in a developed country (Austria), so this trip was really my first time travelling on my own in a developing country, and being rather a budget backpacker. And I really enjoyed the overall experience. The elements of spontaneity, freedom and solitude are things you can't get when you travel with friends, though to be fair, my trip was also fairly constrained by my flights and volunteering stints, so it's not that spontaneous. Of course, travelling alone, there is the greater need to be cautious and look out for oneself, especially in places where reports of tourists getting mugged are aplenty. Before leaving, I was almost certain I would get robbed in Quito, but to my relief, I didn't have a single bad experience! Though on my last day when transiting in Quito, I found out that my backpacks had slashes, but I don't know if it was just carelessness on my part or people actually attempting to steal stuff.

I really liked travelling on my own, going where ever I wanted, meeting new people and South America seems to be a great place for this kind of travelling. Most others travel alone as well, or in pairs, and it's easy to meet and make new friends. I definitely gained confidence on travelling on my own, what to look out for and what not to do. And I'm glad I managed to practice and improve on my Spanish, though it still can't by any means be considered as proficient now.

Had my first smore! Not a South American thing, but still.


Despite the fact that South America is a whole different continent somewhat on the other side of the world, I felt rather at home in Ecuador/Peru. Perhaps that's because they eat a lot of rice as well, or because the dominant religion is Catholicism, or because they're in tropics. The biggest differences were perhaps the lack of hot running water, or the fact that toilet paper was not to be flushed down the toilet, but disposed of in the bin. Then again, my comfort zone has expanded so much I'm not quite sure what it is anymore. The concept of going outdoors and doing certain things to 'push my boundaries and get out of my comfort zone' no longer holds for me, I think; I just do things cos I enjoy it and I like it and it gives me a sense of contentment.

Swimming in the river is pretty awesome (: Saw an otter in it once too!


When I'm in the forest and hiking on the trails, I realise there's usually a song playing in my head, and  I also spend a lot of time thinking up Spanish phrases/sentences of things I'd usually say in English. Then I will try to think of what it is in Chinese and comparing it with Spanish, and often come to the conclusion that Chinese is really difficult to learn, and I'm super thankful I had to learn it in school earlier. I was also constantly super hungry in Peru, and spent a lot of time thinking of food and what I want to eat when I get home :P
Lentils and rice got slightly boring after a while.


But I also realised I'm a terrible naturalist - I don't have a habit of keeping field observations or anything. I've been to many places, whether volunteering or just travelling, and I feel like I should have compiled lots of notes about the general environment, wildlife seen etc. I guess I'm just not innately one, and never got round to developing the habit of it. And it doesn't help that my identification skills are moot :/ 

Overall though, the main thing I'm really glad for on hindsight is the plenty of down time I had, where I'm alone with my thoughts, without the distraction of the Internet and social media. I had time to think about what I wanted to do, and what I didn't want to do after graduation, goals for the upcoming academic year, and so on. Most of my plans and thoughts/reflections usually come about when I'm on my own, and that's usually when I'm travelling from one place to another. To ruminate and ponder over my life and the direction I should take.

Being proficient at taking selfies is a boon when travelling solo.


I didn't really get tired of travelling solo, I just that I knew I had to get back for my field trip. Maybe I would have enjoyed another month of solo travelling, maybe I would have gotten sick of my own company by then. But I enjoyed meeting people from all over, chatting with them, hearing stories and experiences and sharing mine, and they're usually like-minded, so we end up fuelling each other's interests and dreams.

I've met so many other people from all sorts of disciplines and various backgrounds, and sometimes, when you tell people you're studying in Cambridge, they think you're really smart. I still fail to see how that is so; I don't feel any smarter or more knowledgeable than anyone else.

My main takeaway from this trip though? There is no need to shower everyday. (especially when it's cold and you don't have hot water)
"River shower" 

Also learnt not to bring binoculars when you're going to hike through rivers/waterfalls.
And we're really just a small part of this planet we live on.


Definitely looking forward to the opportunity to travel and explore more areas of South America in the future!


My other posts on this trip:
Ecuador
Peru
On my Nature blog

Thursday, September 11, 2014

sobering reminder.

Back in Cambridge, back to doing soup runs. Soup runs are part of what we do in the St Vincent de Paul Society in the Catholic chaplaincy (Fisher House), and entails picking up sandwiches from Pret a Manger at the end of the day and walking around the city centre, giving sandwiches and hot tea/coffee/soup to the homeless on the streets.

After the past 2.5 months of travelling and enjoying myself and the adventures I've had, it's good to be reminded once more that not everyone is as fortunate and life is not all about myself, there are others out there as well to think about.

Meanwhile, most of my day/night is still spent contemplating post graduation (or specifically trying to narrow down what exactly I am really interested in), dithering around online trying to find out more information, trying to get myself to finish my blogposts, reading and attempting to study for GRE.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Post-graduation crisis.

I'm finally back in Cambridge, after the fieldtrip in Norfolk and a holiday in Iceland for a week. Back here a month before term starts, cos I'm going home in Dec and didn't see the point in shelling out £1000+ to go back Singapore in Sept, and also so I can sort my life out.

As you can tell, I'm having a post-graduation crisis – I don't know what I want to do after graduation. Well, I kinda know what I want to do: postgraduate studies. But I don't know if I want to do a masters  first (seems like a good bridging course) or a straight phd (scary thought), and more importantly, I dont know which area I actually want to go into. I am interested in many things, far too many it seems. Do I want to go into marine biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, biodiversity and systematics (the least likely I think), environmental biology, conservation science or ??? I'm going to have to take time to slowly whittle down and suss out what I would actually want to spend the next few years of my life studying. I really need to think everything out and talk it through. Sighs.

Meanwhile, I will get around to posting photos of my trips, blogging about them and sleeping.