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UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit jocelynesze.wordpress.com if you're interested in more recent writing.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Photograph.

I've just come back from a short trip to Malaysia with my family to visit my granduncle and grandaunt (on both the maternal and paternal side) that I haven't met in a really long time. The last time we went up to visit them, I was perhaps about half the size I am now. Inevitably, the first words they said when they saw my younger brother and I was, "Wah, so big now ah?" This was thus the first time I had any intelligent conversation with them, and could regale them with stories of my past summer travels, and engage in some interesting politics discourse. My grandaunt had been thoughtful enough to put up some old photos of us from our last visit, but we didn't get the chance to see them unfortunately. Nonetheless we could share recent photos of our family that we kept on our phones (thanks to technology) and take a photo before leaving for future reference.

Then earlier today (Saturday), I met up with a group of friends whom I've known for almost 9 years now (since 2007!), and as always when meeting up with such old friends that have not met in a long time, we reminisced lots. Caught up on what everyone is doing currently, then progressed backwards in time to what we used to do, our shared memories, bringing back images of the past back to the front of our minds. It was a four-and-a-half hour long catch up. These are the only friends I've had whom I've travelled with at least twice, and we used to spend so much time together, and despite the weight of our responsibilities (which we perceived to be so great at that point), we were silly yet thoughtful, retarded yet sensible at once. The memories are wonderful, and I'm so glad to have the opportunity to be able to meet everyone still. Looking through the photos we took then though, are perhaps a little more painful - we looked horribly geeky then, as one always supposes when looking back on the teenage years. We still all look the same though, and haven't changed much in the intervening years (in terms of personality, in our speech etc). And once again, we took a photo for keepsakes.

It made me wonder, do we ever know what we grow up/older to be? And photographs, which now being pervasive and cheaply acquired, have somewhat lost their previous value in being preserves of memories for posterity?


Photograph - Ed Sheeran


Loving can hurt
Loving can hurt sometimes
But it's the only thing that I know
When it gets hard
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
Times forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin' me closer
'Til our eyes meet
You won't ever be alone
Wait for me to come home

Loving can heal
Loving can mend your soul
And it's the only thing that I know (know)
I swear it will get easier
Remember that with every piece of ya
And it's the only thing we take with us when we die

We keep this love in this photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Our hearts were never broken
Times forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin' me closer
'Til our eyes meet
You won't ever be alone

And if you hurt me
That's OK, baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won't ever let you go

Wait for me to come home [4x]

Oh you can fit me
Inside the necklace you got when you were 16
Next to your heartbeat
Where I should be
Keep it deep within your soul

And if you hurt me
Well, that's OK, baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won't ever let you go

When I'm away
I will remember how you kissed me
Under the lamppost
Back on 6th street
Hearing you whisper through the phone,
"Wait for me to come home.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Home for a holiday.

Haven't really been in much of a blogging mood, partly because I'm increasingly finicky about how I write what I write and what I'm trying to say in my writing. I feel like by this stage, my writing should be near flawless, spelling and grammatical errors aside, my sentences should flow and my logic be sound, and every post have a point and a message to carry. I also don't want to end up writing things that I may regret later, especially if I'm writing to vent, knowing how these works in public domain come back to haunt you later. Knowing what I want to do with my life, I feel like I have to be ultra careful with what I say on such public spaces. But at the same time, it is quelling my writing and writing is one of those skills that you get better at the more you practice, and once you stop, you lose it. So I guess for now, I'll just have to live with imperfect writing, and hope that it improves over time.

I've been meeting up with friends since being back, as I always do, but this time seems a little different. I seem to have shifted a little closer to being an actual adult, given that I now have a degree in something (Cambridge doesn't actually specify what). But I think I've also become more sure of what I want to do with my life, and what my short and long term career goals are, even if at the moment they're just possibilities (with lots of roadblocks in the way). I am able to state with more certainty what I am doing and will be doing and want to do, and assess my options in Singapore.

A few too many times I've been asked about being a politician, especially with all the politic talk this GE. I have definitely entertained that thought, even from the last GE in 2011. For now though, that's not a career I'm considering. My perspectives might change down the road, but right now I have no desire to give up my weird geekiness to become an MP (and having to interact with people all the time). Furthermore, as it stands, I already habitually apologise when I'm not at fault (think it's a result of excessive politeness, not wanting to offend, and wanting to be humble) and I don't think that's very good either (it gives the impression of a lack of self-confidence I think). Given the current climate and hostility to so-called 'elites', I will probably be apologising endlessly for my entire life if I ever dabble in politics.

In Singapore, we judge way too quickly, way too superficially. Perhaps there is some basis for it, and more often than not, the stereotypes (of ah lians/ah bengs/uncles/aunties/atas people etc) hold. Still though, I find it frustrating when I meet someone for the first time, and after a couple of questions, they find out I studied overseas and go "yeah can hear a bit of accent". Like, really? Or is it 'a bit of an accent' when proper English is spoken? I've realised since coming back, that I actually consciously try my best to speak as Singlish as possible when meeting new people (particular when climbing, but also in every day situations like ordering food/drinks, talking to taxi drivers etc. Not that I take taxis everyday). I try really hard to blend in (as I do when I'm overseas, speaking in a somewhat chimeric accent) that sometimes I wonder if I'm trying too hard? Though at the same time I don't give a damn that I'm the only one reading a book in the MRT instead of being on my phone (though today, in a carriage I was in, there were THREE of us reading, THREE! How amazing is that?!?)

Anyway, it's been nice being home and meeting friends, having good conversations and catching up. It does mean though, that I also slack off majorly, and all my work-related habits (reading papers, articles and blogging thoughtfully) fly out of the window. I've also stopped learning coding and have barely spent time preparing for the GRE. My priorities are primarily to spend time with my family and friends, even if I'm not actually doing anything productive with them, just sitting there and chatting idly, because that's just something precious that I can't do when I'm away.

Physical presence does make a difference, even with all our modern technology to keep us connected when apart.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Singapore's General Elections 2015.


I've been meaning to post on the elections for more than a month now, ever since our 50th National Day celebrations ended and it was announced that we were apparently in 'election season'. But work and holidays and laziness got the better of me, and now it's already voting day. As at GE 2011, I think these are rather exciting times for Singapore, but even more exciting for me is the fact that I can finally vote. There's been so much going on social and mainstream media, from election updates to opinion articles to people posting super long stories about this or that party/candidate or just what they've been thinking in general. But while I'm truly interested in the elections, I don't follow quite as closely, cos I feel like sometimes you just get caught up in vitriol and petty politics. 

This election is a time for us to consider what kind of Singapore we want (I wrote a brief Facebook note on that).  Not so much what has been done so far but more what will be done. Of course, we want to know that the party can deliver the promises they make, but we've only got one track record for one party, and no counterfactual to compare it against. Perhaps Malaysia is our best estimation for what we would be otherwise, but I think it's a pretty poor comparison still.

My biggest bug bear about Singapore is probably with education. Our education system may be well-regarded by many other countries, especially with how we're consistently top-scoring in math and science competitions. But I feel like in other measures, we're coming up quite short. It's a bit like we're a victim of our own successes.

Talking with educators at different levels in different fields, the same things are coming up. Our kids cannot think for themselves, they need to be instructed and need to be told what to do, to be given permission before they start doing anything. They can't think, but our education system doesn't correct that. It seemingly promotes that, and worse, when they get to the workplace, that's condoned too. People don't think critically and don't question, because our exams require us to regurgitate, sometimes word-for-word. There's a fear of failure, and cos we've always been told how to succeed in school, there's no questioning. Deviating from the given formula runs the risk of failure, and then you don't get promoted etc. So there's the refusal to try something new, and to admit they're wrong cos that means they've failed. But is this what we want in an electorate? And in our civil service? And in our leaders?

Scholars get chosen because they do well academically, and they know how to give the answers that the interviewer wants. But just cos they did well at one point in their lives doesn't mean they'll always do well forever. Our scholars have to be promoted before non-scholars, even if they're not performing as well. How is that meritocratic :/

Success in Singapore is still so narrowly defined in terms of academic success. It's a societal mindset thing that's going to be difficult to change, I know, but I feel like more could be done still. Streaming is I think, beneficial for students of all abilities, but resources should still be equally distributed I feel. (Though of course I greatly benefited from Raffles having more resources than the average school...) And there should still be interactions between students of all abilities, and not in a "I'm from a good school let me give you tuition you poor things" way... Our current system picks out the academically able from an early age, but late bloomers and people talented in every other area are sidelined. Even SOTA and our Sports School which are supposed to be specialised schools for students with an interest and talent in other areas still have to perform well academically. But really, if we want to fully develop talents in these areas, why do they have to do that, unless the prevailing mindset is still that it's not a viable career option. Why can't we make those viable options? I don't follow football at all, but Neil Humphreys wrote an article about Singapore's dismal football scene which I thought really just reflected everything that could be made better about our education system.

It's not just about the government and the teachers and the students of course, parents have a huge role to play as well. More helicopter parenting and kids who are incapable of doing anything for themselves. But I realise I'm just ranting about our education system here, and not really talking about GE2015. I guess that's cos I really don't have much to say that hasn't already been said.

I want to vote for a future where our society is more open to discussions and are more able to think critically, where kids aren't punished for thinking and using their brains, where kids don't have to go for tonnes of tuition to do well in exams (cos apparently private tutors are earning lots of money and barely paying taxes, or so I've heard), where character counts more than grades, where people judge less on appearances (whether you're fat or skinny, tall or short, yellow or white or black or brown, tattooed or clean shaven, dressed like an 'aunty' or 'uncle' or 'smartly') and more on substance, where everyone is respected even our bus drivers and construction workers. And where people think more of themselves as global citizens rather than just inconsequential nothings. But none of those are substantial policies, and anyway, I don't think any of the political parties think any of that is an important issue. Let alone environmental issues (which only the Workers' Party has talked about in some depth).

Anyway, my overall feeling for this election is that we're still pretty immature. Which is understandable I guess, given we're just 50 years old (as a self-running democracy). The character assassinations/personal attacks especially, are just painful to watch, amusing as they are. I think I would like to see an election where ad hominem attacks don't exist, where people debate policies and not just very domestic issues but also consider our position in the world. True, we're a little red dot and are almost inconsequential in the world, but as the only developed country along the equator, and if we truly consider ourselves as a first world country, then we should set an example and act like it. I would like to see a progression towards science-based policies, and not just economics-based policies. I would like greater transparency in decision-making, more opportunities for academics to contribute to policy formation.

It's all been pretty exciting, and I'm really looking forward to the results.