Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sharing Nugget #31

#31: "All they ask, is for their leaders not to ever send them into harm's way - unless absolutely necessary."

Prof showed us a bit of this show "Fahrenheit 911" in class. And I went home to watch the entire show again.

You should watch it.

The firt part is very entertaining, the way Michael Moore makes fun of Bush. But its too out-to-mock to be credible. However, the later part of the show becomes an emotional ride. It shows us the pain of families that has lost a child in Iraq.

Says one parent, "A parent is not suppose to bury their child". And she went on to read out the last letter from her son.

The cries of sorrow by a Iraqi lady who had five family funerals since the American bombing started is heart-wrenching. Goodness.

I agree with some points of the show - that the reason to invade Iraq is still not justified. And as of now, the death toll in Iraq is more than the number who died during 9-11. For what? Weapons of mass destruction? Nope. Link to Al-Qaeda? Nope. Replace a brutal regime? Maybe justifiable. But what about Sudan? Rwanda? Come on.

Says a insider in the show, "We would never have paid interest in Iraq if not for its oil". This is the most plausible explanation I will subscribe to. The show's case that its "all about the money", with Iraq "been the 2nd largest reserves of oil in the world", may be biased. But it is very attractive to believe in because I always held a disdain view to greedy people who builds a wealth on the backs on others who suffer for it.

This goes back to the industrial age where kids and women are literally chained to machines to produce goods for the capitalist. This oil-money grab is one of the reasons experts cite for the rise of fundamentalists who are willing to become a martyr because they have nothing to lose. And these oil companies are the very reasons why alternative fuels cannot find daylight - which will be good for global warming and allows cheap access for the poor to energy - because the companies have invested too much in oil-based infrastructure. (This is from a credible source)

But well, these are too complex. And I am a fatalist in this - we cannot change anything can we?

But what is simple enough to grasp is this: At the end of the show, Moore tells us that the majority of troops in Iraq comes from the poorest part of USA. Of the hundreds of US congressmen, only ONE have a son in Iraq. Only one.

Says a corporal who came back from Iraq, "I will rather go to jail then be sent back to Iraq. I will not kill another poor person who pose no threat whatsoever to my country.... I won't do it."

The poor people who are neglected by the liberal systems are the very first people who are willing to fight to defend the freedom of USA. And all they ask for, is for their leaders not to ever send them into harm's way - unless absolutely necessary."

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sharing Nugget #30

#30: Everything else looks brighter when you have been to rock-bottom.

I went back to a camp - which I rarely visited - to take my IPPT (fitness test) this morning. The camp is situated in Lim Chu Kang – a nice quiet corner of Singapore where you can taste the fresh air that blows in from the Johor Straits.

When I was jogging pass the rows of hangars, a flood of memories poured in. “I was here!” I remembered. There I was, at that spot, standing in formation, waiting for the fierce instructor to arrive. There I was, right this staircase, that 3 of us hauled 300kg of equipment up 5 stories. That was bloody tough.

I remembered how life was as an officer cadet. I struggled badly due to my fitness. Because of my feather-weight, everything was so much heavier for me. It was painful. I can still remember vividly when I collapsed at the finishing line after the SOC test. I almost fell into unconsciousness. My heart was so over-worked that it might fail anytime. That was a time I really thought I would die.

On my way home from camp, I was chit-chatting with a fellow colleague. We talked about how life was as a regular. Although we are hail from a different unit, we faced the same ugly politics. We agreed never to let ourselves get sucked into it. I thought about the vicious cycle where course-mates were pitted against each other to fight for ranking and promotion; and with battle-lines dug deeper and deeper, the scene becomes a WWI trench-warfare.

I was reminded that I am very fortunate to be thrown a life-line and pulled out of the trenches to come to SMU. After today, I will look at my study and CCA commitments a little bit differently. Everything else looks brighter when you have been to rock-bottom.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sharing Nugget #29

#29: Aquascaping is also therapeutic.
I came home today and found out that my new aquatic plant is photosynthesizing!
Whoo Hoo! It means that it is adapting to the aquarium and is doing well. I am very happy because this sort of plant is the most beautiful ones around when they produce oxygen. Check it out for yourself.

Never been so excited about photosynthesis since primary school.

Check out my Cherry Shrimp busking in the vegetation.

Now a Melaya Shrimp joins in the fun.

Looks like it just snowed in the fish tank!

Nice isn't it? I always spend some time , when I reach home, to observe how my little fishes and shrimps wander around aquascape I have meticulously (read stock by stock, grass by grass) planted. It is very relaxing and takes my mind off work. Not to mention it is a great display in a room.

It has been almost a year since I took up aquascaping. It is not a cheap hobby. (No figures here if not I will get ear pulling.) I went from amateur hobbyist to an enthusiast who scouts Singapore on weekends to find rare aquatic plants. It is the satisfaction of recreating nature that is hidden away from view that is most fulfilling.

And guess who I met at one of the aquarium shops? Mr Alan Goh, Director of SMU Office of Undergraduate Admissions! We chatted as fellow enthusiast. It was a npleasant surprise. We promised to exchange notes. He even mentioned inviting me over to his place to see his aquarium. (Maybe not la, shy.)

I just revamped my 2 tanks. Once they are more lush, I will post the pictures!

Watch this space.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sharing Nugget #28

#28: A blog is a conversation.

I received feedback that people reading “the story of J” might misinterpret that some of the characters are depicting them. Well,

“The story of J” is fictitious.

The characters do not depict any real life persons. Rather, most of these characters are inspired by them – meaning that real personalities serves as a starting point, and the rest comes from my imagination. For J, she is a character I built by melting a few people I know, general behavior traits, and my own struggles when I was a president of two student bodies.

Admittedly, I adopted some of the scenes that happened in real life (which I believe is the source of this misunderstanding). Such powerful experience makes for great story telling. Thus, I borrowed and weaved them into the story. They make up the scenes. And that’s that.

But anyway, therein lays the fun in reading stories. They are meant to be interpreted. An author may want it vague – so as to spark off a discussion with the reader. Readers might grasp the message, or readers might misinterpret it. In Wikipedia’s article on Ernest Hemingway’s “The old man and the sea”, critics are torn over the debate of Hemingway’s real message. What if he doesn’t really have a message? What if all he wants is to tell a beautiful story?

The story of J is vague. There are messages. And different people will interpret it differently. It means something to me - it contains many lessons I do not want to forget. Thus, not to bore myself, and using this space to practice my writing, I decide to write a story instead of a reflection entry.

Today, I experience the dichotomy of blogging - the dichotomy of fact versus fiction, private versus public, and reflection versus prediction.

Some people might become angry and try to get back at me.

Some people might reflect and learn from it.

Some people think I am attacking some people.

Some people think I am attacking myself.

Some people think I am depicting imagination.

Some people think I am depicting life.

What a conversation.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sharing Nugget #27

#27: The story of J.

Chapter IV: A sunset.

This story is inspired by real-life characters

A month before her term as president ends, typing away on her notebook while seated in a cubicle tall enough to hide her, she overheard a conversation.

“…She just has no charisma. Leaders need that X-factor that draws people to them. When they talk, people listen. People will feel warm around such leaders. They can rouse a desire to serve, a want to belong. J just doesn’t have it!”

“Yeah, I think so too.”

“When the office directors see her, they will be like, who’s this girl? They will think that she is not matured, and thus will not trust her. And I think it’s true, their support for us are gone. How to do work like that?”

“Yeah, you know, Ku was able to settle, or even initiate things by just a phone-call to the other presidents. When Ku talks, the rest of them listens.”

“Yah, and remember that coup meeting? J was totally out of control of her feelings. How to lead people like that when you cannot be composed?”

“Yeah! I think it boils down to that J inherited a position, a title, but not the influence. That influence disappeared along with Ku. Haiz. How I wish it had been Lin who is president. I would have voted for her. Although she is not as task-oriented like J, Lin has the X-factor. Managing tasks can be learned much easier than people skills.”

“You know, now I don’t care how many projects we churn out, I want to work with a leader who I trust, who I can relate to, who I respect as a leader and a friend, who I can ask to go chill out anytime.”

Upon hearing the last sentence, nothing else can register in J’s head. Her fingers lay paralyzed on the keyboard. She stares blankly at the screen. Her surrounding collapses into darkness. The conversation that invaded her life so cruelly is drowned out by a piercing tone in her ears.

J melts into the armchair.

A month later, Lin is appointed to the presidency in a vote by the members, consisting of existing members who decides to stay on, and new recruits. J loses as a candidate. After the voting, one of the old members, who remained a neutral all along, approached J.

“Don’t be too upset about it”, she consoles, “all they want is a fresh change of leadership”.

J tucks her lips in, tilts her head down, and replied.

“I am not power hungry. All I wanted was to be able to serve the club and the community better.”

“You feel like you have been misunderstood.”

“You will know that I have put in my heart and soul for the club”, J confides.

“You feel your efforts are not justified by appreciation from the rest.”

“Yah! I did so much, what else can they ask from me?” J asks. “I really don’t know why they don’t like me.”

“You feel they don’t like you because they overlook your dedication to the club?”

“I don’t know… I really don’t know…”, mumbled J. Then she slowly looks up, and said, “All I wanted, was to be liked.”

“Well, you want to talk about it?” The old member asks.

With a smile, she extends the offer to J, “You can join me and we’ll talk over lunch.”

The end.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sharing Nugget #26

#26: The story of J.

Chapter III: Running into reality.

This story is inspired by real-life characters

On the bus ride home after the fateful meeting, J wears a half-smile. Her thoughts skip to and fro the changes she is going to make as a president, the glory and prestige she is bestowed upon now, the attention she will be basking in, the inspirational speeches she is going make and who she is going to tell the good news to. Yes, who can she tell the good news to? She tries to divert her thoughts to any but the last question. Then more questions came. Did I ‘piss off’ anyone with my heated attack? What will they make of me? What if I ‘screw up’? Will they do the same to me? Will Lin plan a counter-attack? What will they think of me after this? Will they think that I am a power-hungry ‘freak’?

J put her right hand over her forehead, unconsciously trying to hide her now frowning face. J tries to talk herself out of this mess. I am not a power hungry girl, J thinks, I am just trying to put myself in a position where I can serve better. Lin will not be able to bring the club forward. Neither did Ku. All he did was to walk in after we did all the hard work and claim the glory. In time, everyone else will know how capable I am and how dedicated I am to the club. They will forget the fateful meeting. They will thank me. They will know that all I wanted was to serve better. I am president now. I must be strong. I am not a bad person.

The days pass, and J hardly notices. Her days are filled with meetings, deadlines to fulfill, administrative work to worrying about, other presidents to meet, plans to draft. She immerses herself completely, determined to prove her worth. “In time”, she reminds herself now and then, “they will see”. The rest of the members did see – too clearly in fact. They begin to see J as ‘fake’. They start to feel that whatever J does, is to prove them something. J does gets things done, which the members appreciates. The club is running like a well-oiled machine, but there is something that is missing. They cannot relate to J - even her ‘supporters’. They cannot get beyond a polite conversation with her. They roll their eyes secretly whenever J starts on an ‘inspirational’ speech or stutters when conducting meetings. They begin to huddle in their clicks, and draw themselves further from J. Instead of just a cold war of liberalism and communism, the world has descended into scattered nations hostile to each other.

J believes that her ‘let everyone decide as one’ democratic style will give the involvement the members need. And she will continue her important job of making sure the club churns out the projects. In the name of efficiency, she makes it a norm to appoint members to tasks unilaterally. Of course, it is done very politely. No one voices their unhappiness, she thinks, it means they trust me with the authority. J loves to be introduced to new people as the president of the club. She indulges in the nod of respect that these new people always offer. She indulges too, in the feeling of being important. She is somebody now. Not just a petty project leader.

But still, J sits alone at lunch. Whenever J feels the pain, she will dive into the comforting pool of being an important person. Leaders are lonely people. No one understands them, she thinks. The bus rides home feels heavier. The weight is caused by the scurry of activities like meeting other important people – which makes the silence in the bus stands out.

It does not help that her work is, unlike the early days of her appointment, going too slowly for her liking. Emails are replied late, especially by other important people. She cannot call them as she does not know them well enough. Some members have disappeared into the background. Those who stay, are closer to Lin than J. J hardly talks to the members except during meetings, where attendance is low, with missing members citing all sorts of reasons. She begins to pick up the tasks and does it herself. Her workload piles up. She does not bother to hold regular meetings or update the members of what is going on. They do not care, she thinks, I, alone, will hold up this club.

It got worse. The office directors that gave a lot of support to J’s predecessor went quiet. The warmth extended to Ku by the other who’s who, went cold. The projects that come out from the club’s factory get lesser. And J takes credit for most of what is left of them. She deserves it, she thinks, because she is instrumental in all of them. She is the president.

Her trips home get lonelier and lonelier.

(to be continued)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sharing Nugget #25

#25: The story of J.

Chapter II: Hostile take over.

This story is inspired by real-life characters.

J started a clandestine operation that involved firstly, a battle to discredit her foe, Lin; and secondly, to mount a mutiny against the decision made by the ‘tyrant’, Ku. She carefully compiles a list of reasons why Lin should not be the president. It was compacted into a page – not too long to be a tedious read, but not too shallow to fail as a case. Over MSN, she ‘conveniently’ starts conversations with other member of the club – who are surprised by her sudden initiation to talk.

She found a surprising handful of disgruntled members who are unhappy at the decision of succession. J found her strongest ally in Hy, a political animal with ruthlessness to boot. Hy is a senior who was in the same batch as Ku. Hy has an air of self-admiration, and he speaks as thought no one is worthy of his wisdom. Hy wants to have a say in everything. It rubs Ku the wrong way. As a result, Hy was marginalized by Ku when he voiced out against Ku several times to undermine his authority. This forced Hy into a corner. Hy lay low, but hung around, waiting like a hyena for a moment of vulnerability. Now, Hy saw his chance. By ‘killing’ Lin, he can get back at Ku. Hy doesn’t care about whether J has the competency to lead the club. Heck, he doesn’t even care if the club ‘closes down’. All he wants is blood.

J seeks Hy’s ‘wisdom’ to draft a coup. J doesn’t care if she becomes Hy’s puppet. What J wants is the presidency, and with it, the glory. If Hy can help her get closer to her dream, Hy is an ally. Together, they infected the minds of other members, all the while feeding intravenously the horror that will be befall the club should the Ku and Lin dynasty be allowed to reign. The pair got to almost half of the members. Plan A is done. Now, they are ready to strike.

During the meeting that is supposed to be Lin’s first one as a president, a sheet of paper is distributed to the club members. On it, read the ‘charges’ against Lin. J initiates the first volley. Her face turned red. Her hands trembles, as is her voice. She goes through the ‘reasons’ point by point, reciting it in an emotionally charged, almost angry tone. Her gaze darted across the faces, interjected with brief, awkward glances at Lin. A few members voiced out in support of J. The rest tried to stay objective, and rational. Lin kept quiet. Hy casts as the supporting actor, lending fuel to fire. It is ugly. And it pains Lin.

Sensing victory, J calls for a vote. Reluctant, and dismayed at the turn of events at an otherwise routine meeting, the members cast their votes. It is a draw. It is enough nonsense, Lin thinks. The voting will create a fault-line that dissects the club. Even if she wins, Lin is not confident that she can work with such a polarized group. However, Lin thinks that if she lets this ‘maniac’ take over, the club might be driven to ruins. It is a dilemma. And she has only minutes to make the decision.

Lin interrupted the commotion that ensued upon the surfacing of the stalemate. She made eye contact with every member, pausing slightly longer at Ku and J. With a composed voice, she declares that she will withdraw from her appointment. A brief but painful silence followed. It then sinks in. J is now president.

The very first thing J says as president is, “I think we should vote whether to remove Lin from the club, totally.” Another piercing silence followed. Quick glances are exchanged between the members. J just hangs her head low. Lin is stunned. A member asks why the need to remove Lin.

With the same tone of voice as before, J explains, “I will not be able to work with her anymore! I mean.. I mean… I had just attacked her! How can someone who has been attacked like how I did, be able to live with each other?”

“I think at this point, some of us may have issues against Lin as the leader, but I believe that we have no issues against her being a fellow member”, offers a neutral member. The rest sounded in agreement. J got as far as “but…” when Hy stopped her. The cunning hyena he is, Hy turns the game on its head. “J, I think you should calm down”, he spoke in a measured voice, motioning his hands up and down to signal ‘slow down’. “I think we all want Lin to stay”, Hy continues, this time stretching his right hand out as if offering a handshake towards everyone. It is a master stroke, Hy contends, the rest will vindicate him from any part in this coup.

Then, the exonerated hyena withdraws into the shadow. The tiger with fresh blood smeared over his mouth, is speechless. What J, Hy, Lin, Ku and others do not know is that the line has been drawn. The club is spilt into two camps.

The damage is grave. And disaster looms.

(to be continued)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sharing Nugget #24

#24: The story of J.

Chapter I: The flight from reality

This story is inspired by real-life characters.

J lugs a briefcase-shape informal bag as she zips around the campus. She occupies herself with work-related meetings that distract her from her lack of social life. She loves meetings as it allows her to bask in the company of people. Dressed in smart casual almost all the time, she would seem out of step from the fashion-savvy SMU crowd.

J wears a smiley face – which she loses when in private. On the daily trips to and fro campus, she will stare out at the moving scenery, even into the darkness of the train tunnels, and wonders. Who can she ask out for lunch, or simply to ‘hang out’? J always runs out of names. I am just too busy for friends, she thinks.

Her footsteps always get lighter as she draws near campus. That is where her world starts.

“Hi Eugene! How’s your day?” J asks with a smile.

“Erm… I’m fine”.

“Going to class? What class?”

“Yah, I got to rush. See ya.”

Most of J’s conversations go like this. It rarely goes beyond polite exchange of pleasantries. When she needs to ‘bitch’ about things, she will usually resort to speaking to herself instead. However, this vomit-and-swallow cannot remain a viable outlet for long. It grows into loneliness. And it drives her to find salvation in indulgences that keep her mind occupied –thus distracted.

One of such indulgence is her attention to details in her work. It gives her a sense of control. It fills the emptiness. It is also a source of her pride. It makes her feel she is good in something. Another indulgence is her position as a project group leader. She will be very timely in reminding group mates to adhere to deadlines. One can count on her to compile reports in the most orderly fashion and go the extra mile to ensure that it flows. She will send each member little notes of encouragement before a presentation.

J believes that such dedication will make her a popular project group mate – and win her friends. She is half right. She is hot property as a group mate. However, as the average day draws to a close, she will look out at the moving scenery and wonder, why does none of her group-mates invite her to dinner, or for a drink? She cannot help falling into the empty hole that sucks her in when distractions fade away. Doubts about what she really want – achievement or friends – creeps in. She cannot think straight. Her heart and the head are fighting for attention. She does not know who to listen to. In response, she dipped into another indulgence – she brushed it off thinking that it all comes down to her invincibility. She is too good, she thinks, everyone can make lots of friends but not many are high-achieving. The peerless is lonely.

As J’s loneliness slowly deepens, a new pain surfaces. A gulf of contrast between her and a colleague begins to serve as a reminder of her emptiness. It hurts her. This colleague, Ku, is the president of a club J has joined half a year ago. Ku is popular amongst the student community, even revered with tremendous respect by some. Ku is seldom seen alone. He is always surrounded by friends. Ku runs the student group like a country club. He is always ‘out there’ building relationships – with peers, student life managers, and directors of offices in campus. Many will not give Ku much credit at the first impression, but he always breaks the schema with his eloquence and substance of thought. He will then expertly weave in his sense of humor, and the crowd is won. Partly because of the ties he has bridged, the profile of the club rose steadily.

Ku’s high-relationship-low-task working style irks J deeply. It is on the other spectrum from her no-nonsense working paradigm. Ku’s emphasis on external relations is seen by J as a neglect of internal efficiency. Despite this loathe, envy slowly creeps into J’s consciousness to take the dominant position. J begins to believe that she might get her acceptance if she replaces Ku as the president. With her ability to get tasks done, she will raise the club to greater heights, thus win people over, and be able to feast in a buffet of admiration, love, respect and appreciation. There is no need for pretentious networking.

That dream bubble bursts before J could even savor its sweetness. Ku announced his decision to handover the leadership – to Lin. Lin is a bubbly character, whose enthusiasm and sun-shine attitude wins her much affection. When she breaks into her smile, all is forgotten. Her matured and steady demeanor mirrors that of Ku’s. She would be an ideal successor to Ku. J will find Lin likeable too. However, Lin works too much like Ku. Lin is a female version of Ku. That is not acceptable.

This is war. And she is not going to lose this war. She will overturn the result. She deserves it. Lin is not as efficient as J. She relishes a fight. She is a high-achiever. She did not get here by letting others win. She will take all her time to plan, and then plan some more.

That will keep her busy. That thought put a smile on her face.

(To be continued...)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sharing Nugget #23

#23: The beautiful heart of service.

I chanced upon this para today.

"(Servant Leadership) differs from other leadership approaches by eschewing the common top-down hierarchical style, and instead emphasizing collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power. At heart, the individual is a servant first, making the conscious decision to lead; his drive is to lead because he wants to serve better, not because he desires increased power. The objective is to enhance the growth of individuals in the organization and increase teamwork and personal involvement." (

Wow. I started dreaming.

Imagine that a community has a good number of such people.

I realised that the community that dedicated their summer to the FTB experience has a good number of such people. No wonder we miss those times.

If only, if only.

I am dreaming. Yes.

But whats the harm of dreaming something beautiful?

Something as beautiful as the heart of service.

Sharing Nugget #22

#22: The story of Z.

There was a young man named Z, who entered SMU as a freshie ready to make the best of uni life. He had a strong belief - that a uni education is not about studying, but also an education in life, which comes from an active involvement in student life. There, people will grow in character, pick up life skills, and realize that the fulfillment from giving service to the needy or to a community goes deeper than material ones.

Z decided to do dedicate himself to draw fellow students to participate in student life. He co-founded a society and worked with a good bunch of people who served with their heart. Many of these pioneers when on to become leaders in other CCAs. But Z realized that it is not easy to get student participation. Students are more worried about grades!

When he handed-over, he decides that if he can make the orientation camp a great one, he can make the freshies feel like they want to be involved in student life too. Furthermore, he intends to involve many more people to help execute it. The camp came and gone. But he learnt a lot about politics amongst staff and students.

Z then headed a big event done with an external agency and a SMU student body. He saw the ugliness of how the agency played the politics to manipulate SMU people to further their own agenda – and pitted student bodies against each other. In the end, SMU decided to huddle together as one. But Z was scarred from this ugliness.

Z then decides to take part in a national social entrepreneurship competition. And the team won. Z was very proud to do his part in representing SMU, and subsequently, S’pore. Z then became tired. His GPA dropped. He could not find any energy to go on. It has been a year and a half. What has he achieved? Yes, he did contribute a lot, but how much a difference has he made?

Z saw for himself how other student bodies tear at each other, and refuses to work together – to the detriment of SMU student life. If Z’s student body does well, intending to set an example, they will be seen as rivals. Antagonism seems to be the outcome of success. Z realized that there are many forces at work which will prevent sincere student participation. And he could not make a significant change. He got disillusioned.

Then, after half a year in the wilderness, he woke up. He was shown how one can make a difference. Its not the position one is holding, it’s the influence. There is such a thing as high-task, high-relationships.

Z got charged up. But ghosts came back to haunt him. There was an ugly scene. And he had to hand over as the head of the student body. He still believes strongly in the merits of student participation. But he has no involvement in student life save for been a member for the student body, which he has to minimize his influence to avoid more ugly scenes.

Z feels drained from politics after these 2 years, but still has a fire to serve, to apply his new learning, and to do his part. Z has a chance to start afresh.

Z realizes that by trying to changing things from the top, he risk getting lost in the limelight and let his pride and ego get the better of him. Also, he might spend too much time handling politics and not enough time to address the feelings of his team mates. Z also realizes that since he is now on the ground, he might try a different way to make a difference in SMU student life.

Z learned that he should set his targets small. Cultures cannot be built in 4 years, norms overhauled and mindsets changed without a dramatic punch from an iron fist. Z realizes that in a capacity as a student, there is only so much he can do. He needs to get his studies right. He cannot be a full-time CCA person.

Z has set his targets small. He will do his part from the ground. His only influence would be to rub off his enthusiasm for the love of student life to his team mates and the example of selfless service. Most importantly, Z needs to let go. To let go of a habit of been involved in everything. And let go of the habit of being on the front. Let others have their chance to make a difference, he thought.

Z feels free. Z feels a burden off his shoulders. Z still has his beliefs and heart of service. Z has grown. Z feels the innocence of intents that comes from the lack of politics. Z has been in touch with people he cares about.

Z has no regrets about his traumatic 2 years. If he has to, he will do it all over again. Z knows that he will only regret not trying.

Z dug deep and brutal into his heart. He found answers. Z has found a direction.

Z still has dreams. But not now, he thought, not now.

This is the story of Z.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sharing Nugget #21

#21: Peer Helping.

This is my entry for the journal submission for my facilitation and counselling module:

How Peer Helping touched my life.

Peer Helping?

Facilitation and counseling?

A year ago, I won’t have given them any significant attention. All I needed is my leadership skills, I thought. Yes, I have achieved a lot in my short 2 years in SMU. Heck, they even gave me an award for it.

But, where do I go from here?

Do more events? Continue to lead student organizations? No no no… I am tired. I have gone through a burnt-out last term. Enough. I have given enough…

Then the answer dropped on my lap.

Over the summer, I am exposed to facilitation in experiential learning. It changed my life. There is a way to let people own the learning. We don’t need to advice.

In the spacious classroom, I sat at a corner – my favorite sitting position in a room – so that I can observe people, and not having the uneasy feeling of been watched. The classroom was well-lit naturally, the mood was relaxed, and the lecturer was fun and engaging. However, I could not ignore the lingering weight on my body. The lecturer, and the new counselor who sat in, taking a position behind me, served unknowingly as a reminder of the difficult times I am going through.

During the last few intense days, I was drained emotionally. What kept me from a breakdown was that there were friends who listened when I needed to talk. Of the three who I really opened up to, two are peer helpers.

Thus, I have personally felt the difference a person can make - by “peer helping”. I have been touched by peer helping.

This reinforced my new-found belief in peer helping. When I signed up for ‘faci and counseling’, my intention was to learn the skills to be able to engage people and if necessary, help them. These are essential soft skills to do facilitation in experiential learning. Now that I have been ‘helped’, my conviction has strengthened. It will be a skill-set that can carry me through life.

Now that I am back on the ground CCA wise, I can pay more attention to building relationships while serving the school. (Something in me does not allow me to sit still and not participate in student life) I may have seen too much of the politics in SMU student life. But I have not reach out enough to the people who makes the positive difference. I have been concentrating on the big picture for half my SMU life. Now it’s time to be personal.

I look forward to future lessons, and the difference I can make for my two “clients” and others who come along and need a listening ear. I am hungry for the learning. And excited about how I can grow with my friends…

The lecturer’s sharing about the importance of listening, not judging and not giving advice drew a smile on my face. I slowly drift out from my reflections.

Where do I go from here?

Facilitation and counseling.

Peer helping.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Sharing Nugget #20

#20: Reading can be Therapeutic

Before recently, my ratio of fiction to non-fiction books is 1 to 100.

I never saw the need to read them.

Then I found a book, “Lord of the flies”, lying on my sister’s table. I picked it up and glance at the synopsis. Whoa! The plot is screaming with potential. I found out in a while that it is written by a Nobel Prize for Literature Winner, William Golding.

Now that I have more time to myself, (and my wife – whom I have met for dinner almost every evening), I decided to read a few classics. I have tons of non-fiction heavy reads – enough to fill 2 big cupboards - but precious few fiction books.

So I trotted the book stores looking for a good read.

And behold, I found a literature classic, “The old man and the sea”. It is only 99 pages long. I was mesmerized by it. I felt good in the company of a genius; and was humbled by the mastery of story telling. Its harder to write a short story than a long one. I couldn’t put it down.

I begin to understand the merits of reading across genres. After working through heavy current affairs books and papers for years, this introduction to fiction writing came as a fresh breeze.

The style of describing the atmosphere and bringing out the details makes it worthwhile to dedicate time to read - instead of just watching a movie. Ernest Hemingway’s “Old man and the sea” is extraordinarily rich in details, thoughts and the emotions. Respect.

I will find more fiction gems to read. (My modules require me to read non-fiction anyway – so I still have a balanced diet).

I have discovered that reading does not have to be tedious and heavy.

Reading can be therapeutic.