Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wilson and I have jointly embarked on a journey of culinary discoveries, beginning with our astonishingly successful muah-chee-making experience for the UMSSA three weeks back. Buoyed by our success, we decided to start experimenting with more recipes in his kitchen- and so far, we've fared quite well! Take today's dinner for example: pan-fried wild salmon fillets seasoned with cajun spices, the remainder of the nonya chap chye which we cooked on Saturday, peanut pancake (ming jiang kueh), and of course the obligatory muah chee for dessert! Can't get enough of that. Hahaha! Check out the pictures below. And of course, much thanks to Daphne of Kitchencrazydaffy for all her inspiration!


Pan-fried Salmon

Pan-fried Salmon on Japanese Rice

Peanut Pancake

Muah Chee


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

This photo entry is dedicated to the two people in the world who love to suan me the most. Hahahaha.
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Sunday, March 26, 2006

It's strange how some people, despite your fleeting interaction with them, leave an overwhelming imprint on your life and make you contemplate your own goals and motivations, just by the things they say and impressions which they convey.

I didn't even see him that often- just three times at the interview panel, a couple occasions during Delta visits, I might've chanced across him perhaps once or so during my month-long internship in June, and finally, one last time, just days before I was to leave to commence studies in Michigan.

I vividly remember the talk he gave that evening- after trooping into the auditorium, the cool air from the air-conditioning a welcome respite from the humidity we'd encountered while marching up the three flights of steps en route from wingline. At that point in time I was undecided and unsure, as I'd be for a long time after- but his address, delivered on the basis of heart and soul, rather than rank or seniority- struck a resonating chord within me. The simple, trusting faith in God, the goodness, the humility, the values of a leader, were overwhelmingly evident as he shared his experiences with the audience. The tab he bore on his sleeve- a representation of loyalty, sacrifice, brotherhood, and ethos- things I wanted to experience for myself, if only for the edification of others. I left that night knowing that I'd entrusted my future to the right place, because the things he spoke of coincided with my desires for the good of myself and what I hoped to achieve for others.

The evening at Stagmont- my mind torn between a thousand possibilities, a myriad of divergent paths that promised varying options at what the next couple of years might hold. I was clear about what I wanted to do, but unsure about how I'd want to go about achieving that outcome. In the midst of my turbulent mental anguish, his eye met mine, and as though having discerned that I was in a state of turmoil, he came over. He didn't give me a solution, because that'd be something only I could decide for myself- but that brief encounter did help me. It reinforced my beliefs, and in the process I gained even more respect for this man, for whom relationships and an honest interest in the wellbeing of others transcended rank, without sacrificing professionalism and responsibility.

I couldn't have foreseen that my final encounter with him would be the last time I'd ever meet him. BL and I were in the conference room, nervously awaiting his entrance, and apprehensive at the very thought of the meeting. When he arrived, however, after the business-like handshakes, he immediately put the two of us at ease- never once doubting our motivations, but gently probing to ascertain that we'd both made the choices that we would stand to benefit from, in the long run. The meeting didn't last long- only about twenty minutes, and at the end of it all he stood up to leave, looked deep into our eyes, perhaps in an implicit conveyor of trust, which underlied his expectations for us, and grasped our hands in a firm handshake, wishing us both the very best in our studies abroad. It was a fleeting moment, indicative of the discipline that was necessary in such an organization; but by no means compromising goodwill and consideration for individual welfare.

So when I received the news early this morning that he had unexpectedly passed away, at the prime of his career and leaving behind two young daughters, I grieved- less for the loss of a brilliant mind or a capable individual, for those are common traits- but, rather, for a man whose deeds and actions depicted his unwavering purpose and faith, and who taught me, by virtue of example, what it really meant to be an officer in the SAF.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Quintessential Stalker Song- coincidentally, also one of my favorite songs from D. Hayes.

Creeping up on you is the wrong thing to do
I've found your address
Got your phone number too
Visit all the stores where you buy all your clothes
Been to secret places you think nobody knows

If I have to live without you, nobody could
I need to be around you, watching you
No one else can love you like I do
Feel it when I'm creeping up on you
I know that it wouldn't be right if I stayed all night
Just to peek in on you
Creeping up on you
Creeping up on you

I've been hanging round all the places you haunt
Spying on your friends to find out what you want
Drinking from a glass that you left on the bar
Follow you around, driving home in your car
Do I have to breathe without you, 'cause nobody could
I need to be around you, watching you

No one else can love you like I do
Feel it when I'm creeping up on you
I know that it wouldn't be right if I stayed all night
Just to peek in on you
Creeping up on you

I know this must be wrong, it can't go on
This kind of thing is taking all my sanity and making me a mockery
This must be wrong, it can't go on
So won't somebody free me from this misery?
Bring my baby closer to me

No one else can love you like I do
You feel it when I'm creeping up on you
I know that it wouldn't be right if I stayed all night
Just to peek in on you
No one else can love you like I do
I know you feel it when I'm creeping up on you
I know that it wouldn't be right if I stayed all night
Just to be
Creeping up on you

'Cause no one else can love you, no, no, like I do
I'm only peeking in on you
Watching everything you do
No one else can love you, no, like I do
No one else should love you, no, like I do
Baby, creeping up on you
Watching everything you do
No one else can love you, no
No one else should touch you, no
No one else can love you, love you, be with you

Creeping Up On You Darren Hayes

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Right now we're heading into the final throes of the Winter semester and in a couple weeks it'll be time for me to reflect on what's been effectively my first academic year at UMich. Weirdly enough, I still feel like I haven't been here for long- perhaps because the school year in its entirety is only eight months long, not counting Spring/ Summer term which is optional and primarily for those who choose to take classes over summer break. I foresee a pretty crazy four weeks ahead till the end of classes and the beginning of finals. I've got quite a lot on my plate- here's the (unenviable) list of major assignments which are due sometime within that four-week frame.

- POLSCI 160 essay on the International Political Economy
- GTBOOKS essay on Dante/ St. Augustine/ The Bible/ Boccaccio, or a final project left entirely up to individual whims and fancies- say, a photo essay dealing with common themes in the books we've read, or a play modelled on Sophocles' style, for instance
- COMM 101 final paper on Reality TV (those of you who were in the '04 and '05 batches of RJC may remember that as my pet topic)
- COMM 111 group website on media bias
- GERMAN 102 role play (not good, my spoken German is abysmal)

And on another note, today marked the first time I've borrowed books from the Shapiro Undergraduate Library (affectionately known as UGLi by the student population here), and primarily because I decided it would be in my best interest to actually read the books I'd listed in my reference page for the proposal I turned in for the upcoming COMM 101 paper. Whoopee. Aiyah so busy. Looking forward to Singapore in about a month's time!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Hahahaha this is crazy. Edwin, Aileen, Jiayong, Efrem and I have signed up for the 2006 Chicago Marathon on October 22nd! 26.2 miles, here I come! Time for a marathon-specific training plan!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

"I think you're amazing."

It's funny how these four words have turned up in my life so often.

When Weiqi and I first discovered "Amazing" by George Michael, a song we both loved.
I remember signing off with this sentence at the end of a letter, stuffing it in your locker back in the good old days, strangely, not too long ago. And breathlessly anticipating the time you'd go there after school ended, dial the combination, and open it to reveal those sheets of paper with everything I wanted to say to you.
Scribbled on top of foolscap just last year, back in June, when I sat down and wrote you that first heartfelt note. You liked those lyrics, and you replied, saying so- and that you thought it meant the same to you as it did to me. We did believe that, and it was lovely while it lasted. But, as most good things do, it came to an end. We went our separate ways, I haven't talked to you since, but I do hope you're happy with whatever you're doing right now.
And just the other day, after morning practice, she stopped me as I had thrown on my fleece and sweatpants and was getting ready to leave the room back to South Quad to grab my books for class. I was about to leave alone; we had had two practice times that day, and a choice of which to attend. I had come for the earlier one, and stayed to repeat half the workout together with the girls who had come later, of my own accord. It wasn't particularly unusual, since I'd done that several times before. They'd say I was crazy, but I didn't care.

Our eyes met for a moment; a brief but discernible flash in her eye told me that she had seen and knew everything, right from the very first day I had turned up at tryouts. It happened so quickly that I was taken aback as she pushed a folded piece of paper into my hand and sent me on my way. I didn't open it till I was out of Cliff Keen Arena. When I was safely on the other side of the street, I unfolded the paper, to read:


I think you're AMAZING.

- V

My eyes blurred and watered, and I stared down at the ground as I quickened my pace back to South Quad, clasping the piece of paper in my hand, as everything came flooding back into my head. The gnawing disappointments of not being boated, not because of lack of will or power, but size, something I had no control over. The solitary hours spent in the erg room, tired but determined to finish the additional self-imposed workout. Unblemished attendance records, despite illness and injury. The feeling of being flung out of my foot stretchers those early days in the fall and almost being dumped unceremoniously overboard. Sitting in the bow in the bitter cold, teeth chattering, not being able to feel my fingers and getting more desperate by the moment. Pulling hard, every stroke, all the time, never letting up, right through the line.

It's true, what I'd learnt back in the Army:
"Rank is what you wear, but respect is what you earn".

Earlier this year, she had come up to the erg I was on, between sets as I was catching my breath in the short pause between sprint intervals. We were about midway through the workout, which was relatively short but extremely intense; an anaerobic Level 1 workout. It was the day after I'd sent her a long, heartfelt email, which tore me up inside as I typed each word. I still remember what she said then as I looked up to catch her eye, sweat dripping down my face and unable to muster enough breath to speak properly-

"You're a fighter, and I like that. Go out there and stake your claim".

I know I posted this quote before, but it basically summed up everything I felt right then, and underlined my motivation:
"The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it."
- Juhn Ruskin

I knew it would be absolutely impossible for me to be the fastest, or even come anywhere near to reaching those sub-1:40 split times, but did that really matter? Or did drive and character matter more, and pushing yourself till your breaking point? I chose the latter, and never looked back. Say what you want, do what you like- including doing weights for "purely aesthetic purposes"- but for me I choose to bust my ass to challenge my limits, and that's something you can't lay claim to.

I'll keep that slip of paper forever, as a treasured reminder.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I know it's been a week since I returned from Flagstaff, Arizona, and I've only gotten round to posting a photo of my incredible venture into the Grand Canyon now. Apologies for the delay- as usual, it's always busy here in Ann Arbor, especially since we've begun practice on the lake again, which is pretty time-consuming because of the fact that we've to travel to and fro and deal with a crapload of logistics before we can get out on the water. I'm intending to do a pretty detailed writeup of my trip, with accompanying pictures, but I know I won't be able to do it all at once. I'll probably give a day-by-day account, and hopefully I'll be able to start on that soon. More pictures are on their way- I dreadfully need to make use of my Flickr account so it won't be a waste of money. Just a quick lowdown on the trip to the Canyon: It ranks right up there with the best experiences of my life. Spending a week in the depths of nature in all its unabashed glory, hiking long distances every day over impossibly rocky terrain and steep gradients, with a fantastic group of people whom I got to know better than I'd ever imagined possible. What more could I ask for? Spring Break '06 was, in every sense of the word, awesome.


Gazing into the unknown.