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UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit jocelynesze.wordpress.com if you're interested in more recent writing.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, April 30, 2016

What makes you weird?

I know I'm weird, in that slightly geeky way, but I never really thought that was too far off normal. After all, there are lots of people out there who can go on and on about Harry Potter, and spout ecology/evolution facts randomly, and have their eyes shine at the thought of data and mapping and other cool stuff like that too. I can read other people's body language and carry out (pretty normal?) conversations, so I think I'm still pretty normal.

What I think, perhaps, makes me really weird is how emotional I can get when reading. I'm about to finish The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng, which I got at a second-hand bookstore somewhere sometime ago. It's the kind of fiction I like - set in some historical context, describing events that had happened, though the characters are fictional. They give me a rich in-depth into life at that point, provide cultural and historical context for the region (other historical fiction I really liked was Ken Follett's Century Trilogy, set in the first and second world wars), and I learn so much from them. Pretty much like memoirs which I enjoy as well (Bound Feet & Western Dress by Pang-Mei Natasha Chang, and Wild Swans by Jung Chang, both of which I had read ages ago as a kid), though knowing it's not entirely real makes me feel like it's a lighter read.

Anyway, I don't quite know anyone who gets so emotionally affected when reading. Or maybe people just don't talk about it very much. I cried, so hard, when Twan Eng described the Japanese invasion of Malaya, the cruelties, innocents abruptly taken away, relationships rent, hearts broken. And I kept crying, though I know the characters are fictional, because there were people like that who had existed, who had experienced all the hardships. And as always, it gets me wondering why, why are there wars, how can people be so cruel to others, and though all that had had happened in the past, why such misery can still exist in the present. And I grieve for everyone who has not been as fortunate as I have, and it makes me even more determined to make my life worthwhile.

Does anyone else quite get so affected when reading? Is that actually normal?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Motivation.

I'm halfway through my project, and I'm only just about to start the actual research bit. The past four months have been spent just processing the data I downloaded off the internet into something that I can use as an input. I.e. now's the 'new' bit, and I'm desperately wishing we were taught some spatial statistics and GIS stuff before. Reading up on my own is like a blind person in a maze, trying to get out. Slow progress, but I'll be real pleased once I get it down.

When You Believe - Mariah Carey & Whitney Houston (from the Prince of Egypt)
Many nights we prayed
With no proof anyone could hear
In our hearts a hope for a song
We barely understood

Now we are not afraid
Although we know there's much to fear
We were moving mountains
Long before we knew we could, whoa, yes

There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail
Its hard to kill

Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe somehow you will
You will when you believe

(Mmmmmmmmmyeah)
Mmmyeah
In this time of fear
When prayer so often proves in vain

Hope seems like the summer bird
Too swiftly flown away
Yet now I'm standing here
My hearts so full, I can't explain

Seeking faith and speakin' words
I never thought I'd say
There can be miracles
When you believe (When you believe)

Though hope is frail
Its hard to kill (Mmm)
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve (You can achieve)

When you believe somehow you will
You will when you believe
(Hey)
(Ooh)

They don't always happen when you ask
And its easy to give in to your fears
But when you're blinded by your pain
Can't see the way, get through the rain

A small but still, resilient voice
Says hope is very near, oh (Oh)
There can be miracles (Miracles)
When you believe (Boy, when you believe, yeah) (Though hope is frail)

Though hope is frail (Its hard)
Its hard to kill (Hard to kill, oh, yeah)
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve (You can achieve, oh)

When you believe somehow you will (Somehow, somehow, somehow)
Somehow you will (I know, I know, know)
You will when you believe (When you)
(Oh oh)

(You will when you)
(You will when you believe)
(Ohoohooh)
(Oh, oh)

(When you believe)
(When you believe)


Try Everything - Shakira (from Zootropolis/Zootopia)
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Oh oh oh oh oooh

I messed up tonight, I lost another fight
I still mess up but I'll just start again
I keep falling down
I keep on hitting the ground
I always get up now to see what's next

Birds don't just fly, they fall down and get up
Nobody learns without getting it won

I won't give up, no I won't give in
Till I reach the end and then I'll start again
No I won't leave, I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail
I won't give up, no I won't give in
Til I reach the end and then I'll start again
No I won't leave, I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail

Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything
Oh oh oh oh oooh

Look at how far you've come, you filled your heart with love
Baby you've done enough that cut your breath
Don't beat yourself up, don't need to run so fast
Sometimes we come last, but we did our best

I won't give up, no I won't give in
Til I reach the end and then I'll start again
No I won't leave, I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail
I won't give up, no I won't give in
Til I reach the end and then I'll start again
No I won't leave, I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail

I'll keep on making those new mistakes
I'll keep on making them every day
Those new mistakes

Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Keeping up my mother tongue and third language.

I haven't quite heard it in a while, but I recall hearing this a fair amount in my first year in the UK, when talking to strangers: "You speak really good English!" (the last time I heard this was during the Pennine Way somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales when I was chatting with a shepherd/sheep farmer) A smart-alec answer could be "Thank you, so do you!", but I often just laugh and try and explain the Singapore education system/Singapore.

I would consider myself an English native speaker, but saying that English is my first language makes me more uncomfortable - after all, I technically grew up with both English and Chinese (Mandarin Chinese). My parents speak both languages, and I learnt both languages at the same time. However, the fact that my parents speak and understand English, and that every other subject (apart from Moral Education) is taught in English are obviously what makes me more fluent and confident in English than in Chinese, despite my supposed bilingualism.

Anyhows, I think in English, and speak and write and listen and read English way better than Chinese. My Chinese standard has definitely dropped, especially over the last four years of being here, since the numbers of people speaking it conversationally are fewer. I then picked up Spanish in my second year, thinking it would be very handy and probably easier to learn than French (which I tried to learn at 13 years old but failed miserably). Attended basic Spanish lessons for a year, highly subsidised in Cambridge, then went to Ecuador and Peru for two months. Since then though, I've not really been keeping up Spanish, either with DuoLingo/Memrise consistently, or attending proper lessons (cos Imperial doesn't subsidise language lessons as much and they're wayyy out of my budget).

I've had my laptop settings set to announce the time every hour for a number of years now, because I realised I often get absorbed in my work and lose track of time and end up sleeping too late. Playing around with the settings some time a few weeks ago, I realised I could set it to announce the time in other languages, and I settled for Spanish. My laptop told me that it wouldn't work very well if the rest of the system language was not Spanish, and so I changed my laptop settings to Spanish. That went alright for a week or so, but then I wanted to set up an Imperial VPN so I could easily access academic journals without hassle and gave up on the Spanish.

Subsequently though, my itchy fingers led me back to the language settings, and I thought why not set it to Chinese, which I should be more familiar with than Spanish, and would help me keep up the language. But because I still want to improve my Spanish, I decided to switch my Facebook settings to Spanish. It's been about a week now, and I'm glad to say, I have learnt some new vocabulary, and have not majorly messed up anything.

Did you know that Copy on Safari is 拷贝? I always thought it would just be 抄. Microsoft Word is 文档, Documents is 文稿 and PDF is 便携文稿格式.

On Facebook, the space for you to update your status usually asks "What's on your mind?", but in Spanish, it's "Qué piensas?", Home is inicio, tagged is etiquetó, link is enlace, and profile is perfil. Interestingly,  for Facebook in Chinese (just to see what it was like),  it just asks you to "分享新鲜事" (Share new things), friends are 用户 (not 朋友!), and like is 赞 (not 喜欢).

So it's fairly fun, definitely learning new words and thinking more in Chinese, shall see how long I can keep this up for.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Back in Cambridge.

When I found out there was going to be an ecology/conservation symposium in Cambridge, I quickly registered (after finding out if I could be reimbursed for the registration fee). It was not directly relevant to my project, but being on science and policy, is an interest of mine, and being in Cambridge in the new conservation hub just gave me all the more reason to go for it. I came down a day earlier and am leaving a day later than the duration of the symposium (would have extended my stay if not for meetings) to meet up with friends, and it always surprises me how quickly and easily I just slip back into old 'routines'. Going to the same places (the university centre/grad cafe, Fisher House, zoology department, Peterhouse) along the same roads, meeting up with friends.

I don't just miss the living environment, I really miss the intellectual conversations I had with friends too. I have normalised so much being in Silwood the past half a year or so. Though being exam term, I am definitely not missing the revision fever and accompanying stress.

I have definitely slipped back into consuming copious amounts of caffeine (meeting people and the symposium also keeps us well watered and fed) to stay awake and staying up to do work.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

24.

When I started my gap year after graduating from RJ at 18, I started work at the Education department of the Singapore Zoo. Some 4/5 of my colleagues were 24 at that point, and so when I think of being 24, I think of them, at that time. It's so odd, now that I am at their age. I feel different from when I was 18/19, but I've not started work, am unable to support myself (i.e. still living off my parents) and still am a dependent. It feels though, that at 24, I should already have somewhat settled in life. At least, in typical Singapore terms, maybe?

Could we ever have guessed where we would be now, 6 years ago when we graduated? I think, at that time, I thought life was pretty straightforward and clear. Take my gap year, do my undergraduate degree, get a job. Now though, having gone overseas and been exposed to rather different lifestyle and ideas, I'm so much less certain of my path ahead. Mainly because the possibilities are endless and possibly wonderful opportunities abound. How can I know which path I will take, where I will end up, what I will be doing?

That is probably the greatest value of an overseas education. You feel less constrained by expectations back home. It weighed quite heavily on me when I first arrived, but I will say that as the years go by, I've become more selfish, and self-absorbed. I'm much less exposed to the Chinese?Confucius? ideals of nation before family and family before self etc., and after a while you just think less of it. It is interesting, coming from that kind of culture and background, and then being immersed into a different, more individualistic culture. This WSJ piece certainly provided food for thought, though I've not really thought about it that much - trying to find oneself and one's true calling instead of embracing the changes that come as one grows and matures.

I definitely have come to accept the multi-faceted sides of myself, and realised that personality, traits, behaviours, characters, interests, and values don't all come bundled in a set.

I am 24, and I feel like I have the rest of my life before me, and there are many things I want to do and achieve. I don't particularly feel like I've done anything amazing in my life so far, nor do I really feel like my birth into this world has made much of a positive difference so far. Especially not now, when I'm doing nothing that helps anything bigger than myself. Still though, I am thankful for my family and friends who have been supportive and encouraging, and as I said before, I guess birthdays are for that.


Random aside: So I changed my laptop settings to Chinese. And my Facebook settings to Spanish. Shall see how long I can keep this up for; I am definitely improving my vocabulary in both languages. Not without problems though, such as trying to read translations of other peoples' posts (if they're in a foreign language), and getting Spanish instead of English.


Update 10.05pm: This post was scheduled, before I realised my mum posted a whole bunch of stuff on my Facebook (which doesn't have my birthday publicly visible). It's not that I don't want people to know, I just don't see the point of having my wall flooded with well-wishes from people whom I barely know.
I did nothing much the whole day. Woke up with a bad hangover, went to get ingredients to cook chicken rice, cooked chicken rice (from scratch! No Prima Paste this time.), had dinner with friends, and had some cake. Did nothing very exciting, but it was still a pretty good day. My domestic skills (cooking) are definitely improving at least. Perhaps I wish I could have said, I went bungee jumping, or sky diving, or white water rafting, or hiking, or something outdoorsy and exciting, or that I spent my day volunteering, cleaning up a river somewhere, or visiting a retirement home, or teaching needy children. But I guess ultimately birthdays are just like every other day, and I can't be bothered putting in extra effort to make it a special day for myself. The only effort I'm putting in is avoiding any work at all. Very grateful for my family and friends who wished me/sent a card/present though, they're much appreciated (:

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Easter break.

Spent last week hiking part of the Pennine Way, and it was a wonderful break. I was really happy just walking on the moors, even in rain and snow (just not strong winds please), a joy that I can scarcely find in city/day-to-day life. But taking such a long break from work also made me feel immensely guilty, and so it was with renewed fervour that I tackled my project this week. Still though, I can feel the melancholy of the city living kicking in.

Going up Great Shunner Fell (728masl) right before the snowstorm

Great Shunner Fell just on the horizon

Frequent companions

The joy of being outdoors

Teesdale

Scrambling over rockfalls beside the river Tees 
Battling ferocious sideways winds along the edge of High Cup Nick


Into the Open Air - Julie Fowlis (Brave OST)
This love, it is a distant star
Guiding us home wherever we are
This love, it is a burning sun
Shining light on the things that we've done

I try to speak to you everyday
But each word we spoke, the wind blew away

Could these walls come crumbling down?
I want to feel my feet on the ground
And leave behind this prison we share
Step into the open air

How did we let it come to this?
What we just tasted we somehow still miss

How will it feel when this day is done
And can we keep what we've only begun?

And now these walls come crumbling down
And I can feel my feet on the ground
Can we carry this love that we share
Into the open air?
Into the open air?
Into the open air?

This love, it is a burning sun