Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
A Simple Plan
“A few weeks from now, I shall be cycling down the east coast beach on my 11-yr old bike with the warmth of the tropical sunrise on my face.”
Sounds like a simple plan. It shouldn’t be that difficult, is it ? Only problem was, that statement was said months ago. The delays are sickeningly depressing. There is much one could complain about. The maintenance mayhem. The thorny weather. The planning disarray. The instructor’s schedule. And a million other things.
Now, if complaining brings me results then I’d definitely do it. But it doesn’t. At least, in this case anyways. And I don't like finding or giving excuses too. My parents brought me up in such a way where excuses are never a valid reason for failure.
Once, in primary one – I failed my spelling test. My mum didn’t know. Dad on the other hand, wasn’t furious, but he asked anyways. I told him that it was difficult, not many in class passed, I didn’t have much time to learn – you know, the works. He asked in Malay :
“Did anyone pass ?” I nodded.
“If others can do it, so can you. You have to believe that and stop finding excuses for yourself.”
He’s not like my mum. He spoke just enough, without the extra nagginess to it. I don’t even need to answer that. We then tuned in to the Malaysian Cup highlights for the week.
I still failed after that. But I didn’t give excuses anymore. I just studied harder during commercial breaks of my tv-time. As impressionable as a little boy could be, I just gritted my teeth, clenched my fists and aspired to grow stronger. Maybe watching ‘Rambo’, ‘Ultraman’ and ‘Sarjan Hassan’ helped, somewhat.
In primary 3, I found myself in the company of a whole set of new classmates. I felt a little lost. I’m nowhere near their level and had a really hard time matching up to their academic results. There were times when, some of them actually cried upon receiving 80% for their tests. Truly, I thought I had strayed into a bad dream.
Years later – I realised that I missed them a lot. We played so much, I don’t think I studied at all. Life’s more about discovering then. Knowing that we do not know anything, compels us to learn. Our curiosity keeps us thirsty. I realised that I liked learning. But still, I loathed homework. To date, there is no teacher or friend in the world that could get me to do my homework in time all the time. It got me into a hell of a lot of trouble. Even in secondary, and later stages of my education.
Anyways, those friends inspired me. And they still do. Although we’re all scattered now, we still do keep in touch once in a while. Most of them graduated and are having a wonderful life.
Amongst some primary school mates that I still keep in touch are doing rather splendidly; Mohamed is pursuing his nautical studies degree in Tasmania, Australia. Khalidal, whom I lost touch when she went to RGS, resurfaced a couple of years ago and will be getting hitched soon. Lis Hartini, a teacher after graduating from NUS is blisfully married with 2 kids now. Anwar, on the other hand, will have to play catch-up to Lis and others as he had just graduated with first-class honours in Civil Engineering from NTU last year. Farah too, is happily married, though she’s still in family-planning mode and is focusing on her career for the moment.
Thinking about them opens the colourful history books. Its film seemed to play in my head as if they were just yesterday. I loved my childhood days. Adolescent as well, but that will require a chapter of its own. Like I said before, it is our time. Our generation. The ball is in our court, now.
“How do we want to paint the future ?” The choice is ours.
In the meantime, I’d just have to relax here in Perth and wait my turn. A dear friend once told me, that since I’ve waited a year already, what is a few more weeks. It is heartening to hear such words. Sometimes, I wondered, why do others put their confidence in me when I rarely save any for myself.
Paulo Coelho, the author of Alchemist wrote this seemingly simply;
Then, we warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know that the universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how.
I ask myself: are defeats necessary.
Well, necessary or not, they happen. When we first begin fighting for our dream, we have no experience and make many mistakes. The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times".
So yes, let us get up again. Keep our chin up. And walk tall. Sounds like a plan - a simple plan. Unless of course, it’s time to sleep ;)
Monday, July 02, 2007
So. The future. What do we have ?
The race will never end. The giants are waking. We are to be poised to ride the growth of several economic powerhouses. There is strength in networking – as many of the bloggers would realise. The same fundamental force binds this world. What happens in one part of the world, affects the rest. The advent of technology has made this once-a-huge world, that small a place.
With so much hype and gusto that pervades our government’s every decision in the news, I believe every self-respecting Singaporean would have already known about integrated resorts by now. The culmination of the Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa projects brings with it a thousand repurcussions. Some will be negative, but mostly, financially positive. The financial centres are already raking in the dough, so are the property developers. The tourism industry is poised to benefit the most, presumably. Its spillover effects are tremendous and far-reaching.
The country is also planning for an increase in population. Just when we thought that the queues at Mc Donald’s are already as long as ones for free balloons or NDP tickets of yesteryears, we are to welcome 2 million more fellow dwellers – most notably in the form of foreign workers.
“Welcome brothers, come and take our jobs.”
Yet, looking at it on a more objective view – one will realise that it is of pertinent inevitability. We will eventually have 6.5 million people, whether we plan for it or not. It comes back to our basic, primary tool for survival. Singapore’s only resource is its people. We have 4.5 million people now. In simple terms, a country that produces 1 million barrel of oil one year, has to either produce more than 1 million, or charge higher per barrel, or cut costs in production per barrel in order to continue posting a growth in profits. In a starkly different yet fundamentally similar fashion, since we have only people as our resource – we will need more people to cater to more diverse industries, we have to create more jobs to make more money. It will eventually has to come to this, especially so as our birth rates are not increasing, despite the monetary carrots that the government departments have dangled out to us.
Thus, in order to anticipate that growth – the plans to double the rail network in Singapore has been approved. Plans for more lush green gardens are in the pipeline to give us more breathing space, both in the heartlands and the perimeter of the CBD; Singapore River and Kallang Basin as well. Older housing estates will be rejuvenated and their capacity increased. Jurong and Paya Lebar have been designated as new business hubs in a bid to bring businesses out of the overcrowded CBD. East Coast Park will undergo a huge makeover. The Gardens by the Bay will be bigger than Botanical Gardens – their preliminary designs are already making waves of impressionable statements from the international landscaping world.
Having won the contract to hold the Formula One races for the next five years with another five years on option – Singapore is personifying its mettle and commitment in boosting its tourism industry. Sometimes, I wonder whether that aggressive desire to succeed is any different from the ‘fear of failure’ mentality that we used to have just a generation ago. It appears that some things remain the same. We have to succeed to survive. There is no other way. Although no one can be certain that the world’s only night F1 race will be a hit, it looks like it has all the right ingredients to date.
The competition has been and will always be stiff.
Despite their age, we still have the world’s busiest port and Changi is still the world’s best airport. But, the world is catching up. As Changi is running out of space, Seletar will be developed into an Aerospace Park to cater to the burgeoning aircraft maintenance, repairs and overhaul (MRO) industry. Research found that Asia is set to double its fleet of aircraft by 2015 and requiring 76,200 additional pilots by 2024. The aeropark thus, will help Singapore to position itself strongly to ride this growth. Channelnewsasia reported that the 140-hectare park is expected to contribute S$3.3b annually in value-add or about one percent of the GDP by 2018, whilst creating 10,000 new jobs.
In Changi however, a new Terminal 3 will officially commence its operations on 9th January 2008. Its construction had been purposely delayed due to the September 11 incident, which had stalled the growth of air passengers momentarily. The new terminal will help add a handling capacity of another 20 million, bringing about a handling capacity total of 64 million passengers per annum.
Another interesting development in Changi is the proposed US$115 million spaceport by Space Adventures. It was said that the spaceport will “service the Space Adventures Explorer suborbital tourist rocketplane. It will also provide astronaut training facilities and a public education and interactive visitor centre.”
In another quote, "Singapore is one of the best-connected countries in the world. It is home to one of the world’s busiest air and sea ports. Singapore, with its superior geographical and economic infrastructure, is primed to be the hub of a new, revolutionary form of travel – in space."
Those two quotes should be enough to tickle your interest buds.
On a lesser attention grabbing news to the public, one may take solace that many other industries are also expanding rather forcefully as well. Singapore will be poised to be a Centre for bio-energy production, Shell will be building a multi-million cracker plant in Pulau Bukom, rock caverns will be built underground on Jurong Island to boost the fast growing chemicals and petrochemicals sector. There is of course, a lot more developments than I could care to write about.
What about developments in other parts of the world ?
Again, there are too many to be discussed. China’s markets are expanding at such a monumental rate that the legislators intervened to slow it down; so that the growth can be sustained instead. There are currently 380,000 millionaires at least, in Shanghai. India too, is expected to follow the trend too. Property developers, airlines, traders, businesses of all sorts wish to have a slice of the burgeoning pie. Other than these two giants, we could also see Vietnam, Brazil, Russia and the Middle East growing exponentially too.
United Arab Emirates for example, is taking ‘modernisation’ to an unprecedented level. It has undertaken quite a number of adventurous construction plans. The Burj-Arab, a seven star hotel and the Palm Jumeirah are just amongst some of them. Another one coming up will be The Burj-Dubai. It shall claim the tallest building and structure of any kind in the world by a huge margin. It shall house shopping malls, a hotel, offices and also residential apartments. The height is still kept a secret by the developers.
What is remarkably phenomenal however, is the fact that it may be twice the height of the Petronas Towers. Interestingly enough, it’s nearest future competitor may also be from Dubai. Or perhaps, in Kuwait in 20 years time. The title for Earth's tallest structure shall be restored to the Middle East — one which they had not recovered since the Lincoln Cathedral upset the four millennial reign of Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza in 1311 AD.
So. What’s the moral of the story ?
That perhaps, knowing that the world is moving at such a pace brings a thousand splendid opportunities. It is a known fact that there will be a global shortage of 15 million skilled workers by 2010. Singapore notwithstanding. In order for these places to thrive, they require skilled, knowledgeable individuals. Their doors shall open to those whom assiduously keep themselves relevant and marketable. So, be a global citizen. Go out there and explore the world. Develop our niche skills, and seize our opportunities the world has to offer.
ps. But of course, I may be wrong. Do not mind me, I’m just talking to myself :)
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Monday, June 18, 2007
Money for Monkeys
A fellow blogger would've generalised the title as 'financial management for Malays'. He had written about "The Bankrupt Mat" - Malays’ Current Money Habits Will See the Community in Financial Disaster.
I wouldn't want to argue with him. We live our lives differently. I've written in an earlier post; "that we have a right to have our own views in life. And how to live it". So perhaps, what one sees as a problem, another would see it as a challenge. What one sees as a forsaken cause, another may hold on to hope and faith. Even in storms, clouds have a silver lining.
This write-up however, is an attempt to share some of the generally simpler methods of managing one's wealth for anyone who cares to read - regardless of race, religion, sex, political affiliations or profession. It will be written in plain simple english devoid of financial jargon so that even the ahpek-under-the-block who owns the Hotel 81 chain, millionaire taxi-driver auntie, the opposition parties' bankrupt lawyer & doctor and the next Singapore Idol wannabe, could understand.
This is the part where I have to say that I am not to be held liable for any financial mishaps, loss of money-laundering friends, being arrested for not having enough to pay for your tv license or any other disasters in your life should you choose to practice what I have to share here. I am neither a financial advisor nor working for any insurance company whatsoever. So, rest assured that I am not trying to earn a single cent from this.
I am not in any way 'qualified' to give financial advice. In fact, I do not even have enough money to marry or hold a wedding with the savings I currently have. I earn about a thousand dollars a month, and after CPF deductions - I have less than a thousand bucks to spend and save. So, you have been forewarned. Only if you are still really interested, then carry on.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
A friend asked me to write about our days here in Perth. "Especially this last lap," he requested. I turned my head and looked at him. I know that face. He wanted me to encapsulate the intangible emotions that seemed to sap the very soul of our lives away.
But, I thought to myself. Words fail.
We have clocked about a year here in Perth. The fiery excitement of living in a foreign land had long been extinguished. Our days are spent in drawing whatever strength from every little crevice left in our hearts. We pray for relentless hope to achieve and unyielding aspiration to succeed. The shining force of enthusiasm that fueled our spirits at the start is waning. Yet when we looked up to the sky above, it takes our breath away. At least one thing is certain, our passion has never diminished.
The predicament is uncanny. Unlike running the last lap of a race, we are not as fortunate to know where the finishing line is. We live one day at a time. Study and practice. Learn and familiarise. Preparations for each lesson were made as early as possible, lest we need to repeat them should our performance do not make the grade. We are subjected to many an external factor that may affect us – ones that slow our progress, hinder our skills acquisition or downplayed our abilities.
Please, do not misundertand me. I am not complaining. I am merely sorting my thoughts out so I do not lose focus. Always keep your eyes on your goal, I was taught. Bring yourself nearer to it, everyday. So yes, that is what I would do. What we, would do.
My mind shifted. I wondered. About Singapore. My home. My family.
Mum had been bored for too long a time. Unlike most girls, she does not thrive on the idea of being a "tai-tai" at home. She needs to get out there and do something. After decades of little adventures, being anything from a halal-meats butcher in a wet market, a canteen vendor in my secondary school and polytechnic, a free-lance cook for festivities, sales agent for pyrex and tupperware (amongst other companies), a real estate agent and many other little thrills - all this, while taking care of five children; she now looks at the prospect of becoming a cab driver. Sometimes, I wonder what is it that she cannot do.
Dad lives his day in anticipation for me to graduate. I have this feeling that he wished to retire and start a business on his own once I am done. He shared his vision with me, once. To be a farmer. I can already imagine him wearing a straw hat, large retro sunglasses and khaki pants, tending to his small-time cattle and crops. Under the tropical sun, drinking pina coladas (more probably to be teh-tarik or milo-ais) over green meadows in the country's sultry tropical sun. My mum perhaps, would intercom him over the walkie-talkie every half an hour asking him to come back and eat lunch / tea-break / dinner in a real kampung house. There, they shall bask, in a simple life. But then, how can mum even stay at home ? Anyways, he sounded chirpy the last time I spoke to him over the phone.
"Didn't you get the news ?"
"What news ?" I queried his too general a question.
"We're having a six-month bonus this year !"
I could sense the hearty smile from his voice. It was almost child-like. Dad had been with Singapore Airlines all his life, since Paya Lebar days. His affinity and loyalty, is disdainfully unquestionable. He loved the planes to its bolts and screws.
My siblings are generally fine, save for some "post-natal and post-honeymoon period" crisis for my first sister, "what to do with my life in the future" crisis for my second sister, and "searching for an identity" crisis for my teenage brother. All in all, these are the phases of lives we all have to go through, one way or another. Hana, my eight-year old sister, is still too young for crisises. She still lives in a time when forgetting your homework is like the end of the world. How I wish, I am an eight-year old too.
Then, I pondered a little deeper. Of the past. Present. And the future.
We are living in interesting times. Never before in history, have we had the ability to dream freely and the opportunity to make it true. Every baby born in Singapore today, are granted that right. We are free from serving our colonial masters. Free from legislations of birth rights and racial privileges. Free from unjustified bereaucracy that opens the doors of education only for the males or wealthy or politically affiliated. Just fifty years ago, we were deprived of these basic rights. Our fathers have fought hard so we do not suffer like they did. Many had forgone their dreams, so we can live ours.
So go on. Dream. And live it. If you want to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, architect, engineer, manager, accountant, writer, artist, composer, director or whatever your dream career is, what better time or era is there for you to realistically go for it ?
Draw it out. Chart it out. Work towards it everyday. Slowly, we are realising this. With every success story of someone close to us, we celebrate a common victory. Liberty unfolded. We begin to have more faith in ourselves and surge forward. Come, let us shape the future. It is our time. Our generation.
Do not listen to the naysayers. There are many. And they come in every shape, size and salutations. Some may come in the form of petty criminals or drug addicts who had lost the plot. They cry out that they have been marginalised, left out, unfairly treated - amongst other excuses given. Yet many still, unfortunately - manifest themselves in the form of trusted friends, uncles, aunties and even those people whom we are supposed to look up to.
I know of a Malay teacher whom had 'lost hope' with the Malay language. She believes that it is a waste of time learning it, her point being that we will not be using it in our working life later on. Its usage is merely symbolic, she argued. I shudder to think if her negativism and pessimistic views rubs on her students.
Christopher Gardner, in the movie 'Pursuit of Happyness' told this to his son :
"You got a dream, you gotta protect it. People can't do something themselves, they wanna tell you that you can't do it. You want something? Go get it. Period."
Perhaps, it sums up what I have been trying to drive at.
I still have much to say actually, especially about the future. Just that perhaps, I think it may be too much to spill everything in the same entry. So there, I shall have to hold those thoughts until next time. Have a good life, and protect your dreams.