Thursday, 27 May 2010

Just like First Love...

…you will never forget your first consultancy deal.

I’ve been writing a lot and keeping those chunks as drafts. I talked about how I loved the carefree lifestyle of a student. I can fall asleep at 3pm and wake up four hours later to continue studying or just go on until the next morning, I can decide to skip some classes I feel I can do without (so modest I am, I don’t do that often...ahem!) and I can watch CSI and cooking shows during the week. One day I also wrote about my obsession with Susan Boyle and Diversity - the champ of Britain’s Got Talent last year – how inspiring they were. At one time, I even jotted down my itinerary and plans for the summer including a workout schedule (I’ve been letting myself go for the past few months and I’m starting to see some ugly flabs as the aftermath, ARGH!). I never completed any of the drafts, mainly because apart from my revision (between the CSI and cooking shows…well, Glee and rerun of Friends for the umpteenth time on weekends), I was diligently working on my first own consultancy job! It was to me an enormous responsibility because I was representing myself so I wanted to make it really, really good. I think I did my analysis exactly that so I’m quite proud of my work. I’ve always imagined being requested to collaborate professionally like my old man with his consultancy company or Prof. Langdon (alright, so I’m just a little too inspired by Dan Brown’s creation) and to have the opportunity at the juvenile age of 24, it felt surreal when I got the call a few months back. I probably sounded like a hyper little girl who finally got to adorn high heels (and suddenly there's Suri Cruise). What I lack in experience, I try to make up for in enthusiasm, a whole heap of research and a refreshing outlook (you never know, potential employers might be reading this!). I’m just glad to be given the chance to prove myself. Let’s hope they’re glad to have me too.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Lost Symbol

One intensive week of computational hydraulics with lectures and assignments due in two hours almost every day. A written examination in two weeks (plus two other papers). A massive coursework to be submitted in less than a week after. And what have I been doing for the last two days? Well I studied a little in the first half but later on I just hopped into my comfy bed, buried myself in the fluffy cover and pillows, and got sucked into Dan Brown's world with The Lost Symbol. LOVED it! I couldn't think of a better plot. It's simply a kaleidoscope of emotions. And with all the numbers jumbled up in an assortment of technical applications I have to extra crunch this couple of weeks, I can't help but feel that symbologism is waaaaay more exciting.

But unless you're Tom Hanks, I don't think cryptographers get a fat pay cheque these days.

Alright, 12.45am. Let's call it a night and rise early for a new day of variables and derivations. Sigh.

Friday, 14 May 2010

A Hidden Gem

I hate being in an elevator with strangers. I feel like I'm stuck in an awkward moment. I don't know where to look. Should I stare at the dirt on the floor as if I'm a health inspector? Should I smile to the old man or will he think that I'm hitting on him? What if I tease the little girl, will she cry and scream for her mummy? I have this kind of thoughts running through my head just to get from one floor to another. I have to confess, sometimes I just take the stair to spare myself from the intricacy.

So when I was taking the library lift today after my last class, my eyes were fixed on a cover of the four books I got from the ground floor. I guess you know by now that it's typically me to head straight to the library to celebrate the last day of school. It was so intense that I looked like I was trying to absorb the whole content just by analysing the cover. I missed my floor and got to the top floor instead. I figured the trauma was too much for one day so I decided to take the stair down when lo and behold, I got to a lovely small corner of period writings! There were only a few people there who were all, well, equally aged. I spent one hour going through the books since you can't take them out. That made it sound even more enticing. What do you know, being claustrophobic sometimes pays.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

After a Hectic Day

I want to be an engineer, a professor, an archeologist, an artist and a chef...all at the same time.

I want to see:

1) Antartica - seals, polar bears, walruses
2) America - cowboys
3) Mexico - Mayan city
4) Egypt - duh!
5) Tanzania / Kenya - double duh!
6) Finland - Aurora Borealis
7) Netherlands - legal drugs & prostitution
8) Spain - specifically Barcelona
9) Greece - Athens
10) Germany - Holocaust
11) Russia - half Europe and Asia
12) Israel / Jordan - Dead Sea
13) India - Taj Mahal
14) Mongolia - Genghis Khan

Sorry for wasting your time reading this, I'm going through a jam-packed week. I can't even remember if I had a shower today. Alright, hyperbole. One of the side effects of having too much work. Later!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Being able to Choose

My little sis got admission to the engineering pre-u program in the reputable UIA but two days ago she decided to go for matriculation in Malacca instead. It wasn't an easy decision. I, too, had the option of playing safe. I would have steady income coming in every month and a fixed career path, being bonded for years. It wouldn't hurt knowing where you're going to be for the next 10 years right? Why would someone want to explore the scary unknown when a secured destination with everything familiar awaits them? I didn't sign the bond and for a while there I wondered if I was being too ambitious and stupid in some way. But then, how would I know if I didn't take that step? How would I know how far I could go if some other people made that choice for me? Above all, one cannot put a price on freedom. My little sis was obviously at that kind of crossroads and she made her choice. I was telling her to go for UIA because it's an academically stronger option. Right now she thinks she wants to do electrical engineering and so it's even better because it's certain that her degree after the one-year pre-u would be exactly that and in the same university. It's naturally a safe choice. Two days before the matriculation registration, she made up her mind. She wants to be able to choose afterwards. She wants to have options to explore. Well I guess she's not so little anymore.

Sis, I'm so proud of you.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Life's a B***h

Probably not the kindest thing to say and I’m not going to pretend that I’m a know-it-all at this point of my life but I am learning A LOT….in European style. In a risk of being politically incorrect, I shouldn’t say more. We all know what kind of trouble one could get from writing a little piece of mind that’s available for the world to see.

Some people may have realised that life can throw you some really nasty, acerbic lemons for those who are unconventional. People always tell you what to do and what not to do based on their own experiences, fears, crushed dreams and triumphs. You need to have a strong sense of who you are, what you believe in and your aspiration. By all means, listen to other people and learn from them because you won’t get much from hearing yourself but don’t let them define you.

So the board meeting was over after two long, mentally draining days. It was an eye-opener at the same time. The result will be out in two weeks’ time. I have a hunch that I’ll be getting my first choice so I’ll just spill the beans. I chose Hungary! After the much developed France and UK, staying in the New Europe will be a change of atmosphere with a different set of fresh challenges. The major key is of course, I think they have the potential in the domain that I’m really interested in – Inland Water Management – cultivating the untapped nature of water resources of lakes, rivers, as well as forested floodplains to name a few. It’s like tackling the problem at its core. One significant detail that I’m personally fond of is the fact that the university is one of the world’s oldest technological institutions, founded in 1782; 228 years ago if my Math doesn’t fail me. It seems ancient and full of stories. Imagine what their library looks like….

To wrap up the day, we went to a really nice pub with the board panel. They ran out of fruit juice and the only non-alcoholic drinks left were Red Bull. My first Red Bull and hours later I’m still wide awake. Life...sometimes it's bitter or sour and sometimes you get excessive sugar and caffeine.

Either one, it's good to detox once in a while.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Danish Tidbits

I’ve made my decision on where to go for next term! It shall be confirmed after the big interview with the board this Friday so until then, I’ll keep it sealed.

I have some free time on my hands this week so I’ve been reading about Denmark to get a heads up and found some really fascinating facts.

- Main religion: Lutheranism, 2% Muslims (I guess very few halal stores, if we’re lucky)
- GDP: ranks 16th in the world (read: high cost of living)
- World’s highest level of income equality
- World’s highest income tax as well
- The happiest place in the world (before or after the tax?)
- The second most peaceful country & the least corrupt in the world (interesting correlation huh?)
- Legalised pornography and the first country in the world to approve same-sex marriage (not that it matters to me)
- Home to Hans Christian Andersen (The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor’s New Clothes)

And apparently Lars (Metallica), Aqua (didn't we all love Barbie Girl) and Michael Learns to Rock all hail from Denmark!

Boy, I love Wikipedia.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Looking from the Other Side

I got three new books from the city library and all are travellers’ tales. One is an account of a middle-aged English woman going on a world trip alone with anecdotes collected from fellow mature backpackers she encountered along the way, the second book was written by a man who visited a dozen destinations most people never think of going and the third one is about a lad who tried to travel by water around the globe despite having no prior experience with boats, or anything that sail. I realized how relatively inexpensive for the Westerners to pack their bag and fly to other parts of the world. I remember holding out a fat stack of Ringgit Malaysia notes that I had carefully calculated a few times just to get four Euro notes in return from the Money Changer. I remember clearly how my heart sank.

Still, talking to other Western backpackers, I'm delighted to know how they have started to realize the world outside their wonderful bubble is far from idyllic after seeing it. Poverty, abuse, corruption and violence rule in some regions that make their hometown looks like a playground. It reminds me of when we were in Sri Lanka last year for one night. We were greeted by fierce-looking soldiers holding guns everywhere in the airport and we got stopped at several check points. It was really frightening having a bunch of armed officers opening the coach door, eyeing every inch of your body with a crooked grin. I hate to think being in that situation alone. I swear some of them looked like they should still be in school.

Europe, on the other hand, is undoubtedly well-off. Well apart from Greece right now but that’s an occasional story. Credits to their brilliant and devious history, they had a strong base to build on. Sometimes I envy these people getting all the benefits. Even the homeless and beggars receive monthly allowance. I bet some of them even have more money than I do. I wonder if that’s one of the reasons why some Malaysians never return home and change their nationality. Yet, I don’t think I could ever have the heart to do that. It’s like trading your parents. No matter how bad they could be, I will never abandon them and opt for another set of so-called perfect parents. I don’t think I could learn from perfection anyway.

I do regret not grabbing the opportunity to see some of my neighbouring, equally beautiful Asian countries when I was in Malaysia but the thought of travelling didn’t occur me that much. I was in my comfort zone and climbing the career ladder. I was startled by the tricks of the business, thought I was too soft and so I was focused on developing myself professionally. I certainly didn’t think travelling would help. I was dead wrong of course. And that’s how most Asians are though these days many are coming out of their shell to experience new, exhilarating adventures. I especially love the idea of volunteering for a certain period once in a while in poor countries like those is central Africa, India or Cambodia. The risk is there but one good thing about not being a Westerner is that the threat is less apparent and Asians blend in. An American friend once made a remark that no matter how long she tries to integrate or how comfortable she gets in an Asian country, the locals still look at her differently. And we’ve heard how dangerous it is for white people to wander in African cities. Unlike Asians, even in Europe, are building up and thank God, most of them maintain good reputation. I’m not being prejudiced but the fact is, some ethnic groups are not really welcomed here and the locals make it clear. At the end of the day, what I am sure is opening your mind and heart allows you to learn more about yourself, the world and life itself. Imagine how enriching it would be – mentally, artistically and spiritually. And I have a long way to go with so many things to learn.