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UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit jocelynesze.wordpress.com if you're interested in more recent writing.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The end of a chapter of Singapore's history.

There isn't anymore I can say that hasn't already been said about the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of modern Singapore and our first Prime Minister. I'm in fact a bit late for the obituaries, cos I just got back from Scotland a few hours ago, where I was travelling the past week, but this post, if nothing else, is more for me and my blog archives.

I was walking along the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh with the friends I was hiking with, heading towards a pub when we heard that LKY had passed away (3.18am Singapore time, but we found out about 9+pm here). We were all primed for the news, having heard a few false alarms a couple of days ago while we were still on the West Highland Way (and having very patchy connection with the rest of the world. I meant to blog on WHW but obviously this trumps that). So we took a while to check and verify before finally conceding that this time it was the truth.

I must say I didn't quite know what to feel. I spent most of my time in the pub reading the obituaries by the news agencies that were already on it, feeling a little detached from the rest of my friends. We drank to him of course, that his soul may find peace and eternal rest. And for the rest of the night/today,  I just watched my social media fill up with orbituaries, dedications, quotes and photos. There really isn't much more I can say about him that hasn't already been said, and I can't say I really knew that much about him anyway. I've not read any of his biographies, though I fully intend to.

I'm just incredibly glad a good 22 years of my life overlapped with his, that I've seen quite a bit of him on TV and media and that I can see how his influence has shaped so many aspects of my life while growing up. I wonder if the generation of toddlers today and of future generations to come will only ever know of him as the Founding Father of modern Singapore, with as much feeling and emotion as I regard Sang Nila Utama, or Sir Stamford Raffles (who is the founder of modern Singapore? but not our founding father?).  All that LKY has done for Singapore is undeniable, and his dedication to public service is super admirable, and while like many other people my age, I'm not all too pleased about some of the policies and stance he took, I'm very grateful for what he and his generation had created for us. Education, garden city, clean water, and a largely successful and recognised country, nation and state. He is the last of the Old Guard to depart this ephemeral earth we inhabit, our social studies and history textbooks will be re-written and life in Singapore will carry on as it did, changing and never quite being the same again.

I only wish I could be back in Singapore to pay my last respects, join in the National Mourning and properly reflect on all he and his batch had done for us. Being in Cambridge though, there is still some element of connection as I wonder how he might have been like when he was here. In any case, may eternal rest be granted to LKY and perpetual light shine upon him and that his family will be comforted in their grief. Rest In Peace Lee Kuan Yew.

Taken from Remembering Lee Kuan Yew Facebook page

家 - 陈洁仪
Home - Kit Chan

1998年新加坡国庆庆典主题曲
1998 Singapore National Day Theme Song
作曲:李迪文
编曲:Iskandar Ismail

每一次我感到徬徨 不自禁就会回头望
Whenever I am feeling low, I look around me and I know
我知道心中有个地方 一定会有一盏灯
There's a place that will stay within me, wherever I may choose to go,
照亮每一颗黑暗的心房 指引未来方向
I will always recall the city, know every street and shore
沿着生命河流向前航 就能登陆理想
Sail down the river which brings us life, winding through my Singapore

我的家 收藏 我的欢喜悲伤
This is Home, truly, Where I know I must be
只要点燃希望 梦就会自由飞翔
Where my dreams wait for me, Where that river always flows
我的家 给我 一双坚定翅膀
This is home, surely, As my senses tell me
我的梦 不论在何方 一生的爱 唯有家
This is where I won't be alone, For this is where I know it's home

再也不会感到徬徨 不会再失意回头望
When there are troubles to go through, We'll find a way to start anew
我要用心中一点烛光 燃放千万户辉煌
There is comfort in the knowledge, That home's about its people too
要让繁华的城市更灿烂 世界和平共享
So we'll build our dreams together, Just like we've done before
全凭生命河流来导航 一起登陆理想
Just like the river which brings us life, There'll always be Singapore

我的家 收藏 我的欢喜悲伤
This is Home, truly, Where I know I must be
只要点燃希望 梦就会自由飞翔
Where my dreams wait for me, Where that river always flows
我的家 给我 一双坚定翅膀
This is home, surely, As my senses tell me
我的梦 不论在何方 一生的爱 唯有家
This is where I won't be alone, For this is where I know it's home
 (世世代代 温暖的家)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Women's rights, last undergraduate lectures and impending exams.

So after I blogged about one of the best weekends I've had in a while, it's now the last week of term and it's still been pretty awesome.

Last Sunday was International Women's Day, and while there was a flurry of posts on women-related issues on my newsfeeds, I didn't take particular not of anything. I did however, get the time to watch the BBC documentary India's Daughter on Tuesday. It's on BBC iPlayer till Sunday 11pm (GMT I presume), but one can apparently find it on YouTube as well. And there have been some criticisms of the documentary, that it might not be accurate, or that it showed a rather narrow perspective, but nonetheless I think anyone who watched it can't say they didn't get angry and upset while watching it (assuming you have the same sense of justice/equality as most people in contemporary society I guess). I really can't believe that the rapists and their lawyers thought that she deserved to be raped, and that what they did was perfectly justifiable. Normalised perhaps, and so desensitised to the horrors, but surely not right.

And I think that's what women's rights is about. I find that often times here, I would not want to count myself as feminist, cos feminists seem to demand things from society that I don't necessarily agree with. A shit storm was stirred on Facebook when CUMSA (the Malaysian & Singaporean Association) specified that the annual ball's dress code was black tie and "For ladies, while black tie does not mean floor-length dresses, please do bear in mind the nature of this event, so please don't arrive in overly tight, revealing or short dresses." and some one asked to clarify why this specification was necessary. I agree that being that specific was rather bizarre and seemingly unnecessary, but it somehow boiled into a sexist rage because ladies don't necessarily have to come in dresses, they could very well come in suits. And I'm just like yeah I guess they don't, they can come in whatever they want, but statistically speaking ladies are most likely to come in dresses so talking about dresses when referring to ladies seem rather sensible right. I'm not particularly cogent when it comes to these issues, and I tend to prefer to let the more eloquent speak for me, but I really just feel that we sometimes take things a little too far. Women should be respected equally as men, and not be treated any less, or objectified, but if you're going to be talking about 'just cos I'm a girl doesn't mean I have to wear a dress' then I really don't identify. Though on the topic of dresses, it is disappointing that women are judged intellectually based on what they wear.

Anyway, I had my last official undergraduate lecture yesterday, though to be honest I didn't feel too emo about it at that time. I had a really good last day of term yesterday, with the usual lectures, practical demonstration, and supervision, but also a really awesome tour of the Peterhouse Perne library. I never realised how interested I was in heritage till during my gap year, and one of the things I'm really glad about having come here, was its rich history and the abundance of people who knew such things and cared a lot about it. I still don't know much, nor am I that interested that I would look it up online, but I know much more than I did, about the Catholic church history, history of Europe, bits of the UK etc. And belonging to Peterhouse, the oldest college of Cambridge, and being able to tour the library of old books, and listen to a knowledgeable person share stories was just amazing. Just random facts like lots of books used to be bequeathed to the college at a Fellow's death and that's how libraries start out, and the library being a workspace and where you borrow books for studying is a very modern concept (last 30 years). And seeing really old books, like the 3rd oldest printed bible (1482?) in the world, with their hand-made leather-bound covers, elaborately hand-drawn illustrations and everything, was just awe-inspiring.

[have got photos on my phone but I'm too lazy right now to upload them so they'll just have to wait]

Borrowed a photo off the web; read about Andrew Perne from a former Petrean here.


The weather's been really good recently, and one definitely feels like Spring is in the air. The freedom from lectures and the good weather however kinda heralds the impending exams. And it's a rather bittersweet feeling actually, cos the exam term last year had some of my best and worst times in Cambridge.

Monday, March 09, 2015

counting down the undergrad times.

It's the last few days of Lent term, of proper undergraduate teaching, and 'typical' undergraduate life. It's the last weekend of term, and it was one of the best weekends I've had in a while. Did absolutely no work at all. Not to say that no work done always means it's a great weekend though, cos I've had a few weekends of minimal work this term, thanks to me not doing much else apart from studying.

I went down to The Arch climbing centre in London on Saturday for the last of the four London University Bouldering Event, along with 7 others (2 teams of 3, 2 individuals). I had climbed all of twice this term, me finally being tired of Kelsey Kerridge and so thoroughly uninspired I actually can go for weeks without climbing. So I went down yesterday really just for the fun of it. And it was great fun, the problems were nice, and I was actually quite amazed that I managed to flash as many as I did (10/25 routes) and finished 2 on second attempts. It was a pretty shitty score compared to everyone else, but I had fun (: LUBE runs on quite a different competition format from what I was used to in Singapore, but it was the second time I was participating in LUBE (I went for the one at the same location last year as well) and it was much more like climbnival back in Singapore, and had 3 hours to complete the 25 problems in our own time. I really miss climbing in a nice gym with a stimulating and exciting vibe. Did a soup run in the evening, intended to have somewhat of an early night, but ended up staying up late watching Big Bang Theory on YouTube.

Then there was mixed netball cuppers on Sunday, which is just an Oxbridge term for inter-college matches. But it's somehow different from inter-college league matches in some way I know not. We played 4/5 matches, and it was quite reminiscent of rgs netcarn. Again, results wise we weren't great; Peterhouse is a tiny college with a small pool of players to draw from (even with mixed instead of ladies netball), and we're accordingly quite crappy at most team sports. But I think that was one of the nice things about Peterhouse, that you don't have to be good to play sports, so everyone can take part if they want to. And it's great fun, even though there are dejecting times when the opposite team scores continually (we celebrate if we score even one goal).

And I realised that that was going to be the last time probably, that I would ever get to play team sports. After graduation, even if I were to stay in graduate school, depending on where I would be and what the culture of the place is like and how much work I would have etc, I may/may not get to join in for team sports. I've never been particularly keen on team sports, cos I'm not particularly good at any, but it's been really nice being able to play at a low level in rg (netball), rj (floorball) and Peterhouse (netball, and like, 2 football matches or something). There's that feeling of camaraderie and belonging to a team, an us vs. them thing that gets feelings and emotions running high. I love climbing, and hiking and kayaking and all that, and they do make me really happy and excited and all, but they're totally different kinds of positive emotions that I can't quite explain.

So it seems that as you grow older, the harder you have to work to stay in a team or a group. Cos you can always find local groups to join, or perhaps at your workplace, but it'll no longer be as easy or convenient as when you're in school. I still really miss being in the handbell ensemble, and the hardcore trainings of odac. Just the feeling of belonging to a special, small group of people I guess.

Then there was the weekly visit to the residential home in Cambridge (called Hope Residential & Nursing Care Home), that I've been going to every Sunday in Lent together with the St Vincent de Paul Society from Fisher House. As I sit there trying to engage the residents, it just made me incredibly aware of our own human frailty and the transience of youth. It makes me wonder what I will be like 40, 50, 60 years down the road, if I am not called to God before that. I don't ever want to send my parents to a nursing home, not because they are gloomy, cheerless places. Hope is really pretty nice, and perhaps a pretty nice place to live in at my age (a TV in my room all to myself, meals prepared and served to me 3/4 times a day, someone else cleaning my room and doing my laundry, and I'm left to my own devices most of the day...). I suppose it depends on the individual, but being on my own, even now, I can easily get into bouts of moodiness and isolating loneliness, and probably even more so when I'm old, even more brooding and unable to go out and do things. So no, I never want to send my parents to a place like that, and I never want to go to a place like that myself.

Last week, before going to Hope, I cycled past a couple of police cars and ambulances which were surrounding this body that was wrapped up. I had earlier gone past this same body lying in a doorway, and had assumed the guy was sleeping. It was fairly chilling and disturbing, and again made me wonder how I'll leave this earthly dwelling.

Anyway, I went back to Fisher House after Hope, for a session of Saints and Scones to learn a bit about the doctors of the church (we have 36 apparently, the last one declared just a few weeks ago), and then on to Trinity Evensong to hear Fr Kevin, our former chaplain, preach (and he spoke about Caravaggio's The Calling of St Matthew, the first time I've ever had a piece of art explained to me in such detail). Before going for a fairtrade formal at Peterhouse, and then back to Fisher House to catch the last bits of a Lenten concert.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio: The Calling of St Matthew. Image taken from Wikipedia

I don't usually go into such detail about what I've been doing, but I guess for memory's sake.