Friday, December 15, 2017

Asia's Got Talent Season 2

Asia's Got Talent Season 2 was phenomenal! Asia has crowned  The Sacred Riana as the winner of Asia's Got Talent in its second edition.


I was elated and very grateful indeed to attend Asia's Got Talent Grand Finals Show last week to witness all the nine finalists showcasing their best act. Hailing all the way from countries like Mongolia, Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan and Philippines, all the participants had shown how eager they were to achieve the USD$100,000 prize presented by Traveloka.


Looking at these talents whom were mostly younger than me and come from backgrounds that were beyond my imagination gave me a sense of awareness that I too should be working my hoot off - no matter what the outcome will be.

For months they had toiled in fine tuning their acts, be it graphic dancing, synchronized epic somersault movements, or even as delicate as playing the harp, it is inevitable that be it work or play, we should be giving out best even if it is unclear how the outcome would be. Importantly, to walk away with your head held high even if you do not win.

The sportsmanship was evident as everyone else crowded around The Sacred Riana - although to much of my amazement, she was just as how you would had seen on television.

Truthfully, I do not know if that was still a stunt to keep her in character or probably real (because no way on Earth one would be announced a winner and look poker faced). Nevertheless, having herself tight lipped throughout the season and emerge as winner is a great epitome of how one actually has to stay composed, relaxed no matter what happens.

Her win was symbolic in a sense that her act revolves around magic and the supernatural. Asia's Got Talent lived to its name when it resonates with Asians. Anything that is of horror, supernatural and eerie is definitely a go for most Asians. Whether we believe it or not, like it or not, we Asians know at heart that it is prevalent in our culture.

That is what that makes Asia amazing because it is something that we dare not question.

Just, don't lose sleep on this. You know what to recite before you sleep.


Much thanks to AXN Asia and SONY Pictures! To more amazing seasons ahead!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Community Project at Yangtzai Village, China

As promised! I will be sharing with you guys about my latest humanitarian trip in China!

My frist trip to China was for vacation and I was exhilarated, inspired and wooed by the massive size and population. Its inventions and innovations made during its time and its political dynamic it had during its ancient dynasty has brought China to where it is today. I got to see the evolution of modern China last year. This year, I am very, very grateful to be a part of a community project done in Yangtzai, a small villages in Kunming, learning more about the people and worked with some of them! Thank you Majulah Community for this wonderful opportunity!



Kunming was a four-hour flight from Singapore and there were some awkward moments seeing the rest of participants as there were new faces which I had not seen before. Just needed a little warm up!

We arrived in the morning. I was a little sick. Seriously, I was worried I would be as sick as I did in Aceh. I was not fun at all. I do not go thousands of miles away from home to get sick! Luckily, I was all packed with my medication but I cannot possibly use it each time I go on for a community trip, right? Thankfully, one of our friends Faizah the essential oil expert gave me a rub of peppermint oil for me to get a whiff and all the nausea went away.

A bus then took us to Guizhou province. It was another 4-hour journey on the road and I must say I was so amazed by the massive infrastructure China has built to connect cities and towns! The highway was flat manouvering through and around mountains. We did not get car sick and the gradual change in altitude did give our body some sort of pressure shock!

Yangtzai village is located in Guizhou, Kunming. We were not at the villge when we alighted from the bus. There was another hour of car ride to the heart of the village because the bus is too big for dirt road. The dirt road was so bumpy. Most of us were already spent from the journey, and we were not able to sleep throughout the car ride. It was so much similar to the dune ride I had - except  nobody signed up for this!

The weather situation was somewhat unwelcoming. It was raining throughout our journey to the village. Cold, windy and misty. The scenery was majestic though as mountains towered over the bridges of roads, and as we went through the mountain tunnels, there was some sort of amazing juxtaposition of our size versus the mountain we were in.


We finally arrived at this hostel where other volunteers had stayed. It was a three storey building with a square in front, a mosque adjacent to it, and a kitchen for our meals. Scattered around us were corn fields, tobacco plantations, and of course villages. Near to the hostel was a school that we would be be visiting for the week.

On the first morning, we went to the school to get to know the students, teachers and the potential programmes that could run given the time and resources available. Some of the many programmes we did throughout the week was gardening (ultimate favourite), painting (Picasso feels), cultural day, reading to the kids, and many more! Some of us did toilet cleaning and I salute them for doing it because honestly, I could not even go to the toilet for number one without cringing. Even thinking about it now makes sick.

The Morning Routine
Here at home our morning school routine would be attendance taking, silent reading, followed by the singing of our national anthem Majulah Singapura, and reaffirm our Singaporean identity through our pledge. It is a little different here at the pre-school. The kids would actually spend the morning coming down to the square a do a series of morning dance. A series of famous Chinese children songs would be played as the teachers stood in front of their classes, ensuring they stay on the marked points meant for them to do their routine. It was so cute to see some of the kids actually losing focus when they saw our faces which were new to them! So as not to distract them that much, we did the routine as the teachers to blend in.


The Toilet Cleaning
I was very grateful honestly to not be put in toilet cleaning. Till today, I have no idea how I would survive had I been put in there. Salute my team mates whom actually got down and dirty scrubbing the toilet. I think it is their typical toilet culture. There is no way I could sugar coat this but seriously, it was as though the flush system and toilet rolls did not exist. I would not say they are personally unhygienic but I guess their toilet culture is just like that. Be it in the city or in the village. I must say they have a long way in learning about hygiene. Ironically, I did not fall ill like I did in Aceh.


The Gardeners
The gardening team like myself was a little bit eager to turn a relatively massive plot of land into an eden where flowers grow, butterflies and bees hovering, and water fountain and garden bench laid side by side where the school staff would be able to enjoy the serene sounds of water but that was too much to dream of. We were also eager to plant crops in hoping to have a 'sustainable' school that could provide for itself.


We rooted out all the existing flowers and put it in the bin to replant them aesthetically manner. We loosened the soil which had caked up over time, we had vegetable seedlings to plant and even broke people's spade and shovel along the way. Right, we were all on the high gear to spruce up that area. We planted the vegetables seedlings in and guess what. Not even two days passed and it wilt while most of the flowers had dried up (probably dead?). Apparently the weather was bright and sunny all week then!


We could not feel worse. Some of us got up to level 3 and happen to see the already-vast plantation surrounding the school. Why did we even try! 😂 We should have learnt how to grow them instead, right? It was amusing really! I think gardening was the one activity that we could have called on the locals to help us because we certainly had a concept in mind, but when it comes to execution, I guess we are not!


The Painters
Some of us painted common village stuff like the well, trees, bonfire, mountains and rocks. I like painting the most although I could not stand the stench and viscosity of the oil paint but it brings out a certain thrill to mess up someone's clean wall. I was entasked to draw my own rendition of a well with grasses and just before I painted I really had to take some time to relook and see if there is anything else I could add on. I was more than happy to mess up the wall but I would want to do it neatly still!


So happy to be a part of the painting team, better yet to have all the paintings completed on time!

The Hygiene Programme
Some of us were like Mr Muscle going into every class to teach the kids about hygiene. I was not directly involved but I was around to take photographs and some content for social media. If you are looking for some sort of satisfaction with that alcohol wipes that you have been dying to use, these kids are the to-go-to. I guess to them, as long as there is no smell or colour their hands are considered clean? When we had these kids wash their hands in the basin, God knows how the water turned murky. Some of the kids were seen somewhat happier after using the soap as they probably love the smell. Some of them even wanted to wash their hands again. Not sure if this would ever evolve them into hygiene freaks, but it goes to show that kids do feel a difference when their hands are clean!


The Art and Craft
Of course the hand washing programme did not come without reason! We actually wanted them to have fun with the snacks. To make it feel like its gourmet worthy, we gave them a few sticks of banana Pocky and a cut of banana for them to design into an animal. After which, they could eat them. From the looks of it, I do not think they had the luxury of having Pocky in their life! It really ignites their creative side because some of the sticks were broken. There were many types of animals made like rabbit, horse and dog. No unicorns.


We also had painting session where the kids could use their fingers and paint. Then, they could hang in their classroom. To inculcate hand washing one has got to have their hands really dirty then they could see the difference and feel the joy of washing their hands. I guess the tough part about the classrom programems was the language barrier because they know nuts about English, and even with our Mandarin speaking participants it was not much of a help as we could not match local parlence.

The Night Class
As most of the kids actually stayed in because their parents are working in town through the week, the teachers would actually spend night time with the students too. It was only through the night classes I realize that these teachers do not go home because they had to stay with the kids. We were hopeful that our presence relieves them from their night duties even if it was only like a few days. Can you imagine, some of you are parents yourself and would have worn out taking care of your own child. These teachers, took pains and time to manage these children round the clock. Mind you, not just one or two, but forty or so day and night. It takes immense passion and patience to be in their job.


We split among ourselves that few evenings. Some of us told bedtime stories to the kids before thier bedtime while the other half taught the teachers how to use MS Office. Obviously, the kids need to be watched while the teachers are learning, right. We even took the time teaching the kids how to brush their teeth because we distributed dental hygiene kits that some of you guys had pledged for.

The teachers were really enthusiastic to make full use of the MS Office. They have the resource - a shared computer. The only thing was that they did not know how to utilize the MS Office which by now a typical city dweller would have known is useful for day to day activities. We taught them how to use general formulas in Excel, animation in PowerPoint, and tables in Word, a typical skillset needed in every teacher that uses a computer.


I was really heartened to see these teachers eager to learn when they themselves were already highly revered to in their village. It was only through the evening programmes I got to see the teachers actually took turns to come up to the staff room to learn, just so that the kids would be in order at the same time benefit from the new things we shared.

The Morning Hike
One of the days was a non-school day so being in the middle of nowhere, it was actually an opportune time to get to the city and see modern civilisation. I was so happy to see Walmart!


Earlier that morning we had morning hike. Walked down the river, enjoyed the sun, and the breeze was so fresh we never felt so energetic walking so much! It was very energizing to see so much greenery and to see a tomb of villager there while at it.


Cultural Day
On the last day we visited the pre-school to spread some love from home. We brought some local snacks like muruku, icegem biscuits, and made ondeh-ondeh so that they could have someting to try out during their meals. We even had some props for class photo taking. It did not seem like they have a class photo taken like we do and just to entertain the kids, we managed to pull through a last minute silat and dikir barat performance. The kids were so psyched looking at the silat performance! It ended off with Baby Shark which we had been singing to them all week. Even till today that earworm still haunts my mind.


Food Distribution
We took a tour around the village and took the opportunity to distribute food hampers to them. The village was not systematic or planned. One of the houses I entered the floor was muddy, things were unorganized, no valuables that was eye catching. Not even a television. They wear shoes in their houses and even so their feet were covered in soot. If I had remembered vividly, the only striking appliance I saw was a dated washing machine. Not sure it was still functioning. There was an instance I saw a kid carrying an infant who was her baby brother. Word has it their parents were out working on the field or something. It was sweet really.


Thank You
This experience was indeed eye opening, amazing and defniteliy something beyond words. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and I would like to thank all of you for supporting! In no order of importance, thank you all donors who supported in-kind and in cash, colleagues and friends who pledged for the dental kits, industry friends, my best friends who came down to support the fund raising initiative, family and family friends whom generously donated, all your relentless support is all so wonderful! Thank you to my team members from the trip that never fail to make each day a fruitful one, and thank you Majulah Community for once again having me to be a part of this wonderful community project!

Log on to www.majulah.sg to find out more about Majulah's other local and overseas projects! Enjoy some of the bonus pictures below!


My team managed to interview some of the key people like the principal, the teachers, and the imam of the village to find out more about the village lifestyle.


The school kids were eager to see us! The activities were a great catalyst to have something in common because it was very hard to communicate due to language barrier. Everything was run through the translator or body gestures.


The panoramic vista was something we could never get tired of. Even though we saw the same landscape each day, the weather made it so different each time. Research has it it was bound to rain every two to three days but it did not! We were very thankful for that! The scenery was so majestic we even held our interviews, and sharings outdoor and sometimes on the rooftop. I even got to see shooting stars! No camera could justify the gift of sight really.


For a pre-school, the facility is huge with three storeys and an annex.


As it was the very last day and we had some time to spare, we had a barbecue to get bonded among team mates. Amazing food, amazing company! It ended with a dramatic twist and everyone rose to the occasion to help out. Very heartening indeed!