As I am now serving a full-time mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have left this blog under the stewardship of a family member, who may post updates on how I'm doing as he/she sees fit.
Enjoy your stay!
Friday, November 30, 2007
This week has been considerably busy. Dad and Ray came down from KL on Monday to see Mom off for her first day of Chemotherapy. All is well so far, although Mom mentioned that the nausea gets her depressed sometimes. I can only imagine how terrible it is to be stuck at home. Thank goodness for those people who are nice enough to come over to pay Mom a visit. She needs good laughs with friends.
Tuesday was the first Tuesday of the holiday that there was no band practice, because Thursday, today, and tomorrow are all FULL DAY band practices from 9am to 5:30pm at ACS Independent. Crazy. I'm going to drag everyone to the concert on the 26th at the Esplanade after all this crazy practicing. The ACJC and ACS(I) band members are freaks. No offense, but they seem to be practicing all the time. Heck, when I was at the bus stop we heard someone playing the trombone while walking back to ACJC. Not that it's a bad thing. I'm sure their outstanding reputation owes to that much practice, but it still amazes me how people use break time to practice. I know it's a good time to make sure you get some tough parts right, but I love my lips very much, thank you. They're still hurting...
I missed Salsa lessons on Thursday thanks to Ying Er's fantastic Singapore National Youth Orchestra concert (she got promoted!) - The Joy of Music - It was awesome. They played Garden Veils (a soothing new composition by local Professor Ho Chee Kong), Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 featuring 13 year old virtuoso/super-pro soloist Lanabel Teo, Richard Strauss' Tod und Verklarung (Death and Transfiguration) tone-poem that was easily the BEST piece of that night, and Amilcare Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours (featured in Disney's Fantasia).
The first piece was a very soothing piece that speaks for itself. Picture a cheerful morning where the mist hangs as a veil over the air. The sweet, melodious singing of morning creatures and the mere thought of the beginning of the new day is already nicely done in musical expression, but add in that wonderful garden that gradually reveals itself as the Garden Veils are removed... Absolute bliss. If I had that piece on Mom's iPod, I'd be listening to it every time I go out for morning walks or photography trips.
The next piece was a familiar violin concerto that I've listened to while "studying" for Music (it was featured in the CD). The soloist was fantastic. Benji who was with me in the concert wouldn't stop ooh-ing and aah-ing haha. Actually, we were already impressed by the orchestra itself. A million years wouldn't be enough to get us a place in the SNYO unless we signed up to be their official score-printer or cleaner or anything like that =) Anyway, back to the performance. I don't think I've ever seen in person someone with that much virtuosity for her age. I heard from Ying Er that the soloist, Lanabel Teo, did better during the rehearsals. But heck, if she made it onto the stage, it already shows something. Sure, there were the occassional screeches on the strings, but who are we to complain. It was a great technical display anyway. Sadly, violin concertos just don't seem to capture me. I'm mostly a sucker for piano concertos, especially Mozart's. I imagine an oboe or cello concerto would be very nice too, but I've never been able to attend a concert featuring either two. Anyway, Violin Concerto in E minor was a good show.
The third piece was easily the most awesome piece in the entire concert. Richard Strauss' Tod und Verklarung, Death and Transfiguration, is exactly what its name is: all about Death and the final Transiguration of an old man whose final breaths brings back flashing, vivid memories of his life. His daring struggle with Death itself, and finally the awesome Transfiguration when he finally meets his maker. Credits go to Kwek Mu Yi Theophilus, 1st Violin from Raffles Institution for preparing a description of the piece in the program, from which I shall quote:
'Indeed, it is no wonder that English music critic Ernest Newman described this as music to which one would not want to die to or awaken. "It is too spectacular, too brilliantly lit, and too full of pageantry of a crowd; whereas this is a journey one must make very quietly, and alone".'
My ears were ringing after the piece ended, completely awed by its brilliance, passion, and intensity. The conductor, Mr Lim Soon Kee was literally cutting the air in front of him in half with the baton. He'd have poked my eye out clean if he suddenly let go of the baton and it flew straight at me at, say, Mach One. Basically, all music-lovers must listen to Death and Transfiguration by Richard Strauss.
The last piece was so dwarfed in comparison that I'm guilty of not paying much attention to it. All I recall was flashing memories of the funny ballet from Walt Disney's Fantasia which featured that piece. I know, I should have paid more attention to details as a Music student, but after a full day of band practice and after such a supremelyawesomelyfantastical piece right before it, I just... died....
Their second Encore piece was a joke. The cross between Mozart's Overture to Marriage of Figaro and Christmas music made me laugh out loud. Sadly, no one else seemed to find it funny. Either that or they're just too mechanical to laugh. Or, Death and Transfiguration left them in a daze.
Uncle Yen Wei and Auntie Chai Yan treated us to a nice supper at Newton Circus after that. Imagine! A feast for the mouth after a feast for the ears! Many many thanks to them.
Waltz is killing me so far. I am very sorry to Germaine Yee for making so many mistakes and having to go over and over again trying to correct my issue with the sliding twist thingy during the preparation routine. She was a very patient temporary partner. Next week Marie Low should be back and I'll get to work with my fixed partner. It's one thing when your teacher is your dance partner, and a whole other when your partner is learning just as you are. As long as I'm able to glide across the floor, I'll be practicing the Waltz. Kept kicking Germaine accidentally when I was putting my right foot forward, just in between her right foot and backing left foot. Aaargh. Add the need to maintain a good posture throughout, it is a lot of fun for people who don't mind repeating the learning process over and over again. I can't wait for the next class.
Off to go pillaging! In-game, of course =P
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
- Trying to replace backed up files on a computer that lags
- Trying to sleep with booming thunder
- Trying to cook without a sense of smell nor taste
- Trying to draw without the mood
- Trying to dance with the constant urge to rub your nose
- Trying to think of something interesting to talk about but going blank
- Coming up with stupid lists like this when it was a great day anyway...
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
There's clearly a lot more things to do than Friendster, but that wasn't why I joined in the first place. I wanted to start searching for ex-classmates, preferably Primary school since it's more fun to find out where they are now and how theyr'e doing. Instead, I didn't find a single one, save a few from Tsun Jin and ACSBR. Mostly Church members all over the place. If you saw my list of friends in Facebook you might think Facebook was built for Church members...
Anyway, things have been going at an increasing pace lately. I think I've been able to keep myself fairly busy. There was a Stake Young Men Mini-Mission on Saturday, which was loads of fun. After receiving some training from four sets of missionaries in the morning, we had lunch and set off with assigned missionaries and other Young Men, each team consisting of a Missionary, a Priest, a Teacher, and a Deacon. I went out with Elder Longmore to the Bedok area where we taught a recent convert. I was the Priest in the group, and the Deacon, Scott something from the 1st Ward was awesome! He had a lot of the Scripture Masteries ready. His Seminary teacher should be proud. The Deacon of our group was Samuel Lim. He's rather young and thus did not really take part when we were contacting people in the MRT. Funny enough, when I said I'll have him next to me and make him a part of my contacting process, I wasn't able to contact anybody XD Oh well.
After that I went to watch a concert with Mom and Ying Er's family. It was a combined string ensemble of MGS and Hwa Chong Institution. They place some interesting pieces by Arensky, Bela Bartok, Britten, and a relatively unknown composer. My favourites were the 2nd and 3rd pieces. The 2nd was by the composer who is so unknown that I forgot his name. He wrote Argentinian suites! Very exotic, and very nice to listen to. Mom said it sounded weird, but I have a taste for ethnic music, and anything South American is bound to please me. (Naturally, there were tango influences in some parts of the music). The 3rd piece by Bela Bartok were Romanian folk tunes, another classic example in ethnicism in music. I dunno, but world music is just fun to listen to. I'm sure Irfan would agree all the way =P
About the string ensemble itself, I won't deny they've got skills far surpassing my own and thus I have no right to criticize (I don't even play string instruments myself), but I could clearly hear some imbalance. When Ying Er and I discussed it after the concert, she felt the same: the celloes and double basses were just too covered by the violins. She told me that MGS has a shortage of Double Bass players in the first place. Anyway, we felt that when the violins/violas played a melody and then passed it on to the celloes, you can feel a drop in the "size" of the music. I suppose they can't really help it if there are just less players in the cello section, but I must admit it did cause a bit of musical disturbance. Otherwise, I think they did very well. I'm not a very accurate player myself so I won't point a finger about them playing a bit out of tune, although I've heard from some of the CO members that sometimes strings deliberately have that 'out of tune' style for effect. Either way, I know I have to work on playing in tune on my Clarinet >.<
Well, next Saturday I'll be going for yet another concert. This time with Irfan... we're going to watch a Singapore premier of the world's only Gu Qin concerto =) If I'm not wrong, it's going to be the first Chinese Orchestra concert I'm paying to watch. Can't wait....
Friday, November 16, 2007
This holiday I wish to be able to pick up some better photography skills, since I like to look at old photos. Being able to capture good memories in nice photos would be a great skill to have. Another thing I want to do is get that Rock & Roll dance steps into my head. You never know when you're given the oppurtunity to dance with someone haha. Danced with Germaine at the BBQ last night without music. It goes to show that just being able to dance, regardless of the surroundings, is a good skill to have. Can't wait to start ballroom...
It goes without saying that I'll be drawing as much School Blues as I can during the holidays. Just today I did strip no. 124. Just too bad I wasn't really in the mood... the quality sucked compared the the birthday presents I gave away last Sunday.
Ah! I just remembered... I was sustained as Choir President at Church last Sunday. Maybe the holidays will be a good time to plan some performance for our Ward choir. But first... gotta make a recruition poster.
Then, I also have music homework to do. Have to start writing music for lyrics blah blah blah, then get to know our next year's coursework piece by Haydn...
This holiday would also be a great time to have loads and loads of board game matches with friends. I ought to contact Boon Siang and Irfan and Kok Wai one of these days...
Another good holiday project would be to practice my Photoshop abilities, which are currently still quite limited and Mom will be able to teach me. For starters, I'll give my blog title picture a new look.
There's still too much time to play around with at home. Wish I had more (fun) things to do. What I do know is that I don't want to paint the grill nor do my chinese homework. Heh.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
I used to do (being forced) lots of gardening around the house back in KL, which usually took up an entire day. But other than that the only activities I had were gymnastics training, piano lessons and the ocassional band camp. This year, there have been so many things going on that it's hard to keep track of what I've been doing. I suppose it's something to do with the endless amount of Church Youth activities. Just today we youth had a "private" BBQ. Meaning it wasn't an official Church activity (so our leaders weren't invited). I got up early today to go over to Sheng Siong to shop for the ingredients I needed to cook the seafood fried rice which I offered to bring to the BBQ. On the way I listened to a good bit of Joe Hisaishi's Howl's Moving Castle soundtrack while practicing my photography skills. I got back in the afternoon, had lunch and the started chopping up french beans, crab sticks, an onion, and fish cakes. When the rice was ready and the time was right, I started cooking seafood fried rice for the first time.
Under Kakak Tun's supervision and guidance, I was able to come up with a decent meal (with a special bit of sesame oil I felt should be added to the original family recipe). I learnt a few things by the way.
1. Cats that are afraid of you offer good photographic possibilities but they keep running off!
2. I cook with my right hand.
3. I cut with my left hand.
4. Number 1 is nothing to do with cooking.
5. Crabsticks suddenly seem a lot less than what they appeared to be once you realize what they are.
Apparently those who tried my fried rice at the BBQ liked it. Either that or they were being polite =) Either way, I suppose it was a good sign that they finished it. Or maybe I just didn't cook enough XD
Now, back to the 'being busy' part. I now have band practices at least twice a week, since we're preparing for a concert the day after Christmas. Next, I signed up for dance lessons, and to make it more interesting, ballroom. And they say ballroom dancing training is intense, and is not to be taken lightly (unlike the Rock& Roll course which I just completed). I'm interested and I'm willing to make it my new "sport" to replace my gymnastics training. The only problem is I need money XD NOW OFFERING SEC 3 A MATHS TUITION! Haha.
Those who did not do well in A Maths this year but are smart will know that O Levels are next year and that this holiday would be a good chance to catch up with whatever they could not cope with, because next year is going to be all about O Levels. Problem is, the smart ones would have done well anyway. Sigh.
Tomorrow is a "free" day. Free meaning I have lots of time to practice the piano, the clarinet, the Rock & Roll dance steps, and lots and lots of time to clean my room. After that I probably have lots of time to draw. I'm suddenly addicted to social outings, but each time I go out my wallet wails in agony. I think I need to start inviting friends over for board game nights. SPM and many obligations have crushed my plan of having Ran and some others over for a few days. I hope I can find something good enough to replace it...
Monday, November 12, 2007
We can't change the world, but we can change what the world is to us. What the world is to us is what we see it as.
Based on that, my "grand" idea is to appreciate things for what they are, don't hate them for what they are not.
I've been quite the whiner many times. And when that happens, things usually get worse. Put on a pair of glasses tinted red and everything you see will be red. We're often told to see the good side of things. It can be hard sometimes, but an optimistic spirit can crush tough situations with just a bit of perseverance. We like to complain about a lot of things, and very often, what we complain about can't be changed! Take, for instance, pop music. I'm not one that usually enjoys pop culture, especially music. I may not like pop music because to me it lacks the finesse and musical complexity of classical music. But then, pop music often comes with lyrics that we can relate to, and are able to set moods we just don't feel listening to classical music. By seeing pop music that way, I can enjoy pop music too!
So I've been thinking, what if we start to appreciate more things? Appreciate a broader range of music genres and you have more music to enjoy. Appreciate a good sweat and you have many sports to enjoy. Appreciate the outdoors and you have the whole world to enjoy. We all know little children are pleased with the littlest of things, and what happy lives they have!
A happy life begins with our decision to be happy. Be happy with more things, and we'll be more happy! So deceptively simple...
Sunday, November 11, 2007
The first one involved Yung Hui, my first secondary school crush ever. Annoyingly, just like all my past dreams which I can remember that involved her, it started off with me and her talking the way we usually do: we don't say much to each other, my ears tingle nervously and I sense our reluctant attraction for each other; and then, it ends with my going all around the place trying to find her (she keeps disappearing near the end of each dream with me panicking and then I wake up slightly lovesick). This time round, we were in a big house the had a nice garden. I remember being in some sort of bar, speaking to her, swimming in those eyes of hers, and then she brought me to a place, saying she wanted to show me something, in that typical sheepish way she does whenever she speaks to me (we both seem to act differently when we're together). Before I knew it, she disappeared and I was lost in the garden trying to find her. Unless I mixed the next part up with another dream, I remember ending up on the MRT going around for what seemed forever, reaching stops that I recall being there in different dreams. Strangely, there was once a dream I had back in KL about me sending her off at an LRT station (she disappeared as well). I woke up confused and lovesick.
The next night I was back in Tsun Jin in my dream. It was a weird kind of twilight. It seemed to alternate between night and day. At one point I would be walking around in the night, then day, then an unknown time when I suddenly found myself in the canteen talking to Poh Mi. As usual, I didn't know what to say at all. You must understand that it is hard enough to talk to your major crush, but even harder to talk to her in your second language. Anyway, when she spoke, I vaguely remember her speaking in the poetic way her brother -1 writes. It is a very distinct style to me (possibly due to my lack of chinese reading) and I normally have trouble figuring what's hidden in his compositions. An example here. Since it was a dream, I magically figured out that she was trying to tell me that she had some trouble with her friends, and she was feeling down. I put my arm around her to comfort her (something I've never actually done to any girl in real life except Mom) and said a few things I don't remember. The next chain of events were a blur and I do not remember any details except that she disappeared as well. I hate it when they do that XD After much fruitless searching, I woke up realizing how badly I wanted to go back to sleep and find her.
Having a dream about an old crush once in a while is normal, but having a few dreams in a row involving multiple past crushes is disturbing, especially if involves losing them and endlessly trying to find them. I recently read a book by Anthony Horowitz, the 3rd book of The Power of Five, and it mentions how, in the story, the dream world is used as a form of communication between the heroes. Sometimes I like to wander off in thoughts on the dreamworld. Scientists say dreaming is a way for our minds to sort out all the cluttered information in our brains, which explains the weirdness of our dreams that can be connected to all sorts of real life events/objects/people. Sometimes I wonder if all our dreams have hidden meanings. Or what if our dreams are about an alternate reality, a reality that could have existed if different decisions were made? Sometimes we love particular dreams so much that we wish we could go back to sleep and continue the dream. Sadly, this rarely works for me.
As it is, I can only say that magical effect dreams have on us are only experienced as long as we do not know the true meaning behind our dreams. Perhaps it would be better that way.
Anyway, I spent most of my week working on three birthday presents which I just gave away today on a visit to the Toa Payoh Ward.
First was Benji and Marie's birthdays on the 7th. It took me a while to think of something to make for them. These are the final results.
First off, this was for Marie Low. I took all my 8 School Blues characters and repeatedly drew their profiles, carefully leaving gaps to create 5 ugly alphabets to spell out 1 beautiful name XD This creation took seemingly forever (excessive drawing, even during A Math differentiation classes). My original intention was to fill up the gaps with coloured profiles of the characters, but when I tested the idea separately, it wasn't as nice (thanks to Mom, Dad and Shuan for giving comments and critique). Finally, if you zoom in and check the top left corner, there's a little surprise =) Let's just say I really appreciate Mom teaching me the use of turpentine, cotton bud and toner....
Next is Benji's. This idea has long been used. However, this round, instead of printing the photo, drawing, painting, cutting and pasting the characters onto the photo, I used Photoshop =) I drew the characters on paper, scanned them, then coloured them using Photoshop (something I've done even when I was 13) and then carefully placed them onto the photo before printing it. It's relatively easy, but fun both to look at and to create. It save a lot of trouble compared to the traditional, manual way. I think I'll be using this technique a lot more in the future, and it just so happens that....................
.....I used it for cousin Ying Er's birthday too! Happy Birthday Ying Er! She came over to celebrate last night, eventhough her birthday is today. I realized today just how fast and fun it is to create these stuff. Maybe next year a lot of my friends are going to get one each XD. That is, unless I discover something new. One thing for sure, I won't be coming up with something like this anytime soon. I'll have to save that for someone truly special =P
Anyways. If any of you youth from the Clementi Ward happen to be reading this, below is the assignments for our BBQ at Sister Connie Woo's place this Wednesday.
- Marion, Ariel, Germaine Yee - Drinks, chips, marshmallows, plates, cups, forks & spoons, foil
- Sherwayne & Shemnon - 40 Chicken Wings (marinated)
- Michael - 40 Chicken Wings, Butter
- John & Neal - Sausages, Fishballs
- Germaine Tan - Nuggets
- Han - Seafood Fried Rice
- Chrystal - Ice cream
- Shannon - Corn & Sweet Potatoes
- Brian - Satay + Gravy
- Andy & Mandy - Fruits
- Shem - Bee Hoon
- Kenneth - Charcoal, firestarters, matches, gauze, tongs, brush, sticks
- Mathias - Ice
- Sister Woo - Her place, and hopefully an ice cooler XD
Just another reminder, it starts at 6:30pm. If nobody comes up with any suggestions for games, it will probably (or should I say will most absolutely likely and definitely) be murderer XD. OH YES AND THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: PLEASE KEEP A RECEIPT OF YOUR SPENDING SO THAT WE CAN SPLIT ALL THE COSTS AMONG OURSELVES, UNLESS YOU'RE WILLINGLY DONATING TO US.
For further details, please contact Shem Woo. If you need his contact details, just leave a reply. Thanks!
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
I was just wondering if nothing existed at all. Forget the Creation, forget religion. For a while, just think, what if there was nothing, ever. Nothing ever existed, nothings exists, and nothing will ever exist. Everything would just be... nothing. But then, what would be 'nothing,' so to say?A vacuum is technically nothing at all, but then, there's the existence of the vacuum. I'm not sure if I'm making sense to anybody reading this, but I think I'm not even making sense to myself either. If nothing ever existed, it would technically not be nothing either according to relativity (there's nothing to compare with nothing so there's no such thing as nothing in the first place). Okay, this is getting crazy. I think after having a stupor of thought for a few minutes, I appreciate my existence a little bit better...
Sunday, November 04, 2007
I left the house at 10am to attend Ying Er's SYO concert (Singapore Youth Orchestra). They played a bit of Beethoven, Borodin, and then Christmas songs. After that, Shuan, myself, Ying Er, Myra, Jesmine, and Marie Low had several hours to kill before Seminary Graduation.
My sense of direction in cities has never been quite good, so all I remember was eating lunch at Pastamania at a mall where I watched Fantastic Four with Ben, Marion and Joshua during one of the holiday Seminary days. We later went to those photo taking parlours for some crazy fun (Myra happened to wear the background colour, with interesting consequences) and then window shopping (I found RISK: Star Wars Original Trilogy edition). We reached the Singapore Stake Centre at about 3:30pm. The graduation started at 4.
I was the first speaker, and gave a talk about obedience and blessings, based on D&C 130:20-21. The next speaker spoke in Chinese, and bore a wonderful testimony. I later received my Seminary graduation diploma. At last! After four years! How many people get diplomas at my age? Haha.
After the graduation I was treated by Auntie Chai Yan and Uncle Yen Wei to an SSO (Singapore Symphony Orchestra) concert at the Esplanade: Pomp and Circumstance (by Edward Elgar). The entire concert featured Schubert's Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, D. 485; Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches, Op. 39; Mozart's (wohoo!) Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467; and Elgar's Cockaigne, Op. 40.
Ying Er and I were extremely lucky. There happened to be two people who had complementary tickets but nobody to use, and so we were given them for free just so the ticket's won't go to waste. They were good seats too! Very grateful to those people.
Regrettably, I fell asleep during Schubert's Symphony No. 5's 3rd and 4th movements. The 1st movement was extremely familiar (I think I studied it from my Music textbook), and the 2nd movement has been transcripted into a piano piece for our Church's Primary songbook Prelude Music. The next piece, Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance, would be instantly familiar to those who watched Donald Duck and Noah's Ark in Disney's Fantasia 2000. The next piece was my main reason for watching: Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21! The piece showcased the talents of Finnish pianist Antti Siirala. All 3 movements were all very Mozart-ish and beautiful to listen to, but the 2nd movement was my favourite. I've listened to it countless times at home (Shuan's CD) and it was a wonderful experience watching it live. Even if Mozart wasn't my favourite composer, I would have enjoyed it all the same. The final piece, Cockaigne, was supposedly a piece depicting London, and a person who dreams of the London countryside, but has his dreams dashed, which I seemed to have felt at certain points of the music. Nice contrast between the joyous phrases and the melancholic ones. Many thanks to Ying Er's parents for bringing me to the concert!
I'm going to miss Seminary....
It would be crazy to provide an exact record of events, so I'll just blog about some highlights.
We arrived on Pulau Ubin in the morning, and were sorted into our watches (groups of 16 people) and then assigned an instructor. I was placed in the watch Columbus, alongside members from the band and bowling CCA's. My watchmates included memorable characters such as, starting from the band: Asher, Ling Kee, Jon Au, Eugene, Ke Li, Samuel Yu, Daniel Sim, and Bryan Sum. From the bowling CCA: Reuben, Justin Yeo, Benedict, Wong Chong, Luke, Zachary, and finally, apparently not from any of the above CCA's, Dominic. Our instructor was Haizul, whose overuse of "Well done" (pronounced 'well tan') forever instilled the in our hearts a burning desire to have the phrase as our watch catch phrase....
Our first few activities involved administrative handling, selection of a few leaders in charge of specific tasks, followed by preparing our kit such as tents, ponchos, jerry cans, water bottles, backpacks, helmets, harnesses etc. The first interesting bit came when we were taught how to pitch an A-frame tent. All my life I've been pitching lazy man tents, and I can do it alone. But pitching an A-frame requires cooperation with those whom you pitch tents with.
After pitching our tents, we were given some activities to build trust in each other. The key activity was where we got into groups of three, and one person would stand between two, close his eyes, twist his arms and let the other two rock him back and forth. The trust lies in the middle person trusting the other two that they will not drop him. The next key activity was the reason we needed that trust --- belaying.
Used in the height activities, belaying is the reason why climbers have a safety harness. Each climber is supported by a belay team, which consists of the belayer, the anchorman, and the ropeman. The belayer is the key person of the belay team. He is in control of the rope that is attached to both the climber and himself. Through a simple 4-step procedure, he increases or decreases the tension of the rope attached to the climber. He is anchored down by the anchorman behind him, who squats down and holds on to the belayer's harness to ensure that if, in the event whereby the climber falls, the belayer will not be pulled upwards. Finally, the ropeman stands behind the anchorman, and holds onto the excess rope from the belayer. The ropeman must maintain a certain distance from the belayer, as well as a certain rope tension, to ensure that in case the belayer accidentally lets go of the rope, the ropeman will still be holding on to the rope and the climber will not fall. Thus, the climber must trust that his belay team will support him when he climbs.
Our belay training took place at relatively short climbing poles around twice our height. It is then we were taught how to play different roles in the belay team, as well as the climber who has to follow a procedure to make sure he is on belay before climbing.
In my OBS journal which I was given for the 5 days, I reflected on the matter and likened it (inspired by my instructor) to us and those who support us in life. There are times when we have done all we can, but still we have to put our trust in our family and friends to support us in times of need. The thinking point is, am I worthy of such trust from another person?
Our activites that day involved preparing for a kayaking trip to Camp 3 (we were previously at Camp 2). First, we all got wet by going into the sea with our life jackets on and performed a ritual where we greeted the sea by immersing ourselves entirely in the water. I wonder if it was Haizul's own idea. After that we had a "no kick" jetty jump (due to the height which was not as high as we were told to expect). It was still thrilling at the point where I jumped off though. Later we prepared our 2-man kayaks and pedals before learning the basics of kayaking. The coolest part of the lessons was when we learnt what to do when our kayak capsizes, and how can other kayaks rescue a capsized kayak. That was the fun part. It works two ways: apart from us knowing how to rescue capsized friends, we also know how much trouble it is and will be more careful not to get capsized...
After packing our stuff and putting them on a boat for transport, we had a quick lunch before meeting with another watch, Cook, to be briefed on our combined journey to Camp 3. We were taught kayaking pedal signals, the diamond formation (so that ships will see a large body rather than individual specks all over the place) and how the navigator, the port, the starboard, and the sweeper work together to keep this formation. Basically, the Navigator is at the front leading the way (and supposedly nobody is supposed to go beyond him), while the port is on the left making sure no one is beyond his left, the starboard on the right making sure nobody is on his right, and finally the sweeper who makes sure nobody is behind him. I volunteered to be the navigator after much persuasion from my watchmates who knew my geography exam results (they figured a good geography student should be able to read maps well). while some other people became the remaining three roles.
After plotting our journey, we set off in the afternoon. My kayaking partner was Luke. Throughout the whole journey I was consistently overtaken by the same few people who felt the journey should have been faster. I felt the same, although I could not speed up because the people at the back were laggging too badly. During our 2-3 hour trip we saw many things like small dead fishes, medium dead fishes, big dead fishes (like an arm's length), rubbish, more rubbish, and lots of rubbish. The sea is disgusting, and all because of Man. On the plus side, we got to see, from a distance, some wildboars who were near the shore. We finally reached Camp 3 in the evening, and after placing the kayaks away from the shore and greeting other watches who had arrived either by trekking or kayaking, we went to our campsite to pitch our tents. Camp 1 to 3 are decreasingly civillised. Camp 1 is mostly like a resort, while Camp 2 is mostly like a run-down resort, and finally Camp 3 is the wild. Thus, there were no toilets nor proper water sources nor electricity at Camp 3. To make matters worse, the campsite was rocky and tent pegs were near useless. We had to tie the tents down with rocks that could easily be accidentally kicked away. We cooked dinner in the dark (lots of instant noodles) and after some reflective exercises facilitated by our instructor, we went to sleep.
That night was the longest night in my whole life. After sleeping for merely 2 hours although it felt like 8, I woke up. I went back to sleep and then woke up at 1am due to a heavy rain. Many were woken up as well, and unlucky tents (such as mine) collapsed due to the weather and volunteers had to go out and fix the tent in the rain. Such as myself. Worse still, our tents flooded and most of us had no choice but to sleep in drenched (and horribly uncomfortable) conditions. I kept waking up at hourly intervals due to the discomfort. The rain stopped at one point and I had to fix the tent again. Some people decided to lay out the blue tarpelin outside, on the ground, and sleep in their ponchos, fed up with their tents. It later rained again. We had to get up at about 5am to unpitch our tents (in the rain) and get ready for our land expedition. Long night.
We set off on our Land Expedition as a single watch. Once again I was navigator, with Samuel as my pacer. I realized during the kayaking that although I am able to follow the map well, I have absolutely no sense of distance at all. 30m and 300m make no difference to me at all. I am simply horrible at estimating distances. A pacer was very much help indeed.
We set off in a slight drizzle to reach designated checkpoints. Our instructor gave us 8 digit coordinates and I had to plot the journey to the exact location with the help of a compass and map. After a few checkpoints we reached the luxurious Camp 1! Dinner, supper, and the next day's breakfast were all catered for us there (we had to prepare our own meals otherwise). The main highlight at Camp 1 was our only height activity - rock climbing. I managed to reach the top alongside a couple of other watchmates. Loads of fun.
Much to many watchmates' dissappointment, we were still expected to pitch our tents for the night. At least we didn't have to cook our own dinner... dinner from a kitchen beats dinner from a mess tin any time. That night we gathered with watches Cook, Armstrong and Batuta for briefing on our combined Sea Expedition which would take place the next day. A 30km kayaking trip consisting of four watches is no small deal. Much planning took place, as well as selection of leaders. Each watch had to come up with one leader. Benedict from my watch succumbed to our persuasion in the end. The rest of the night was spent packing and sleeping.
Our Sea Expedition launched at about 9am. We crossed the channel from Pulau Ubin to the main island of Singapore and hugged the coast until we reached Pulau Ketam. Our original plan was to circle Pulau Ketam. However, we moved so slowly that we only had time to touch one side of Pulau Ketam to stop for lunch, before heading back to Pulau Ubin to get to Camp 2. The expedition was super long and super tiring. But it was still super fun. Luke and I had much fun battling the current which kept pulling us to undesired directions. I had the priveledge of having to pee in the sea. Three times -.- Thank goodness nobody had to crap. It's crazy enough to have to get into the water and pee, think about crapping....
Being one of the "smarter" ones, I wore a long sleeved T-shirt borrowed from Dennis, trackpants, Ninja headgear made out of a T-shirt worn over the head, and lots of sunblock. I came back from the Sea Expedition with no sunburn at all.
Our Sea Expedition ended at about 6pm (we reached the shore of Camp 1 at 5, then had to wash and keep all the kayaks). After pitching our tents, we were given the luxury of baths at last (the last time I took a real bath was Day One). After that, our instructor cooked us a rather creative camping style meal. I'm not allowed to reveal our menu =) It was just too good to be true heh heh...
Since we cleared up most of our stuff on the previous night, there wasn't much cleaning up to do on that day. We played frisbee in the morning where my team got pwned 8-0 or something like that (Asher was the star player and he was on the other team heh). After packing everything, we had our final activity - the leap of faith. Basically, we had to jump from a platform to hit a bell, dropping onto a sheet that was held by our watchmates. We were to announce a commitment we wanted to make, then jump and attempt to touch the bell. I committed myself to stop swearing, a seriously bad habit I seem to have picked up after a year in ACSBR (to nobody's surprise).
We were later given a few items to remember our good time at OBS such as a watch photo which we paid for, our journal and other little things. We were later given time to buy stuff from a souvenir shop (I bought a polo shirt). OBS finally came to an end!
In closing, I would highly recommend anyone to go for the camp. It was indeed, more of a self-discovery camp than an outdoor discovery camp. We realized our limits, our strengths, our weaknesses, and how to deal with others. It was truly a good learning experience.