Rountines, Rituals and Final Presentations

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Everybody has a routine. For some it’s wake up argue with their alarm clock about if it’s actually 8:15am and then proceed to roll their way into the bathroom and begin their day. For others it’s a 5:30am hop outta bed leading into a brisk 5k run to get themselves on the right track for the day. For me it’s something in the middle, I’m a morning person and a night owl which doesn’t really help my sleep schedule but once I’m going I don’t really like to stop. For the past few weeks though I’ve been (along with my mates here) killing myself with final presentations for my design classes which I’m taking here at NUS. Now you may be thinking, everyone at some point has presentations, everyone has been working hard. I don’t disagree with this but to understand the scale of this one must make note that at NUS we take 3 classes that’s it, only two of them being what is known as studio. In these classes, you are assigned ONE and I mean a singular project, that’s it. So all semester you work diligently on this project, making occasional consultations with your professor about how it’s coming along and how improvements can be made but then the next thing you know it’s November. Once November has come, you are required to present in front of roughly 3-400 people consisting of your peers, professors, various faculty and industry professionals that you are in fact not a complete screw up and show proof that you’ve accomplished your assignments goal for the semester. Oh did I mention this presentation is also 70% of your grade and isn’t even graded by your professor but rather other audience members who have to understand your concept. To say the least the past few weeks have been high stress.

Normally when I’m back in the states I have a few different methods of stress relief which keep me sane, primarily, Brazilian jiujitsu and rock climbing. Now in Singapore both of these are available but neither are close or more importantly cheap. Due to my  lack of stress relief, I have been experiencing a change of emotions. I have been sleeping less, and I mean a lot less, maybe 3-4 hours. Even on nights when I get home at 10pm I don’t go to bed till 4am. Along with that my irritability has increased greatly and I generally try and approaching things level headed but recently I’ve been a little more short tempered (in my defense sometimes the world is just horrible).
It’s tough being on exchange and having to sacrifice parts of your routine because you know there are other experience that you need to have which cost money. It’s a tough trade off but I hope it will be worth it.

Well after a long semester of hard work, one of two final presentation is over and in my eyes, we did exceptionally well. As I continue to trudge through this experience every obstacle gets a little bigger and trying to clear them becomes a little harder. I realize this is part of life and I’m gonna learn to deal with it, just gotta make it through life one day at a time.

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Thailand

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Here is a much over due video of my travels in Thailand. I was all over the southern part of the country and had an amazing time there. Thailand is one of the places I’ve been dying to go to from a very young age and it was an experience to say the least in the things that I learned there. Watch the video if you’d like, I’ve been trying to make something that did the trip justice and this is what I came up with.

 

Half way done.

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A little over two months ago I left my home and my midwestern life to explore and learn in Singapore. Now when I left, I had no idea what the future held remotely. Everything was scary and new, it was the unfamiliar and human nature has always taught me to believe that to be unsettling. I remember laying in my bed with my then girlfriend the night before I left and thinking, “what are you doing?” Realizing there was no answer to that question, I thought to believe this was part of the experience that I was embarking on and that answers would come later.
Well now I am in the present. Now the vanity of Singapore has worn off. The city is no longer an unknown phenomenon that my friends and I eagerly explore. We now spend whatever weekends we have drinking duty free alcohol and talking about the trips we have taken and the ones we intend to do. I think after this short period of time, my mind has begun to associate Singapore with home. Singapore is a great city in many different ways. It provides me with mental and physical security which after a long trip in Asia, I can retreat back to my little dorm room and feel safe and comfortable again. The reason I say this though is that by making this association of Singapore as home I believe I’m downplaying the home I have back in the states. What I mean by that is many of my friends and peers that are here on exchange with me seem to be getting homesick. They miss the life they had back home and want to experience those feelings again with the people who matter. Now for me personally I see it a little differently. I see it as the life I left behind was amazing. This past year and specifically this past summer provided me with some amazing memories which I am so happy to have created. The thing that is hard to come to terms with is that I can not get those memories back. I can not recreate those specific instances and when I do return back to the states there will be differences in who I am as a person. Often we find us exchange students talking about things we miss. Most of the time it’s food and cheap beer but it always digresses to the people that matter. My time in Singapore is wearing down. I have roughly three more weeks of class and have already began planning my four trips to Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia along with a short stop in Italy to visit a friend on my way back to the states. I haven’t even left Singapore but I’m beginning to realize the affect it has had on my life thus far. I am excited to see what the next 7 weeks have in store and the experiences that will come along with my travels. I apologize for not writing in a long time, life unfortunately got in the way and I will try my best to update this regularly.

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A formal apology

So I’ve been bad. I have been all over south east Asia specifically, Thailand and Indonesia for about 25 days out of September. I am working on a bunch of things right now to try and show how amazing the past month has been. I promise, that you may enjoy it and that I will have put way too much time creating what I’m doing. With that being said I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing and I’m gonna try and make something worthwhile.

 

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I’m going to Thailand

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My necessities

My necessities

Since I was 13 I have dreamed of this trip. Hopping on a plane and going to Thailand has been my top priority for the last 7 years. I don’t know why I have had such a fond desire to travel there but every time someone would ask me, “if you could be anywhere in the world right now where would you be?” “Thailand.” Would always be my response. I am excited and edger to get away from Singapore which is almost ironic because Singapore is a paradise in its self but I think that human nature just gets too used to ones surrounds and then proceeds to take it for granted. Regardless I can’t wait for the next chapter of this adventure.

 

- Nav

Tioman, Malaysia | The First Trip

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TL;DR / In Short, it was amazing, there are photos if you scroll down.

The crew

The crew with their captain

Friday 8.23.13

It was a hazy Friday in Singapore, I woke up at 7:15am to embark on what I know now as one of the craziest trips of my life to Tioman, Malaysia. For those of you who don’t know, Tioman is a small island off the coast of Malaysia. Malaysia is a country just north of Singapore and is suppose to be a relatively painless travel excursion for many locals and travelers. Naturally myself along with 10 of my new friends decided that it would be a perfect, quick weekend trip! We did everything in such organized manor, facebook groups, bulk ferry and bus ticket orders, everything down to one girl writing an extremely detailed itinerary explaining everything down to the minute. Of coarse when ever anyone sets up something with such detail and precision that is when everything falls apart!

We all woke up early on Friday and met outside the residential hall known as Code name: Peter Pan to head to the train station as one. We said that it was all of one and one for all in regards to leaving at exactly 8am. I, being the one who is notoriously late for everything was there 10 minutes early and anticipated someone to sleep in or cause something to throw us off. 8am rolls around and BOOM, everyone is there, ready to go, weird. We begin our walk towards the Dover metro station and things begin to get a little hectic. As we all walk up to the platform we see that the train is packed and I mean PACKED with people going to work. We stuff as many people as we can inside the train in various locations, similarly to me packing my bags before initially leaving for Singapore a few weeks ago. Much like my packing, somethings just don’t fit and a few of us didn’t make that train BUT thankfully there was a second one literally two minutes later which once again made be think, “well shoot that worked out well.”

We got off at the train station and began walking towards the bus stop where we would be leaving. At this moment I thought we’d encountered a few hiccups, everything was going amazing, we were even 20 minutes ahead of schedule! Well we arrive at the bus stop throw down our gear and relax with a few of those weird water bottles with the plastic on top which is just a total and complete waste! Anyways we are sitting and 9:50am rolls around and we see no bus, honestly wasn’t a huge deal it was peak traffic and I wasn’t to concerned as long as we made it to Mersing before 2pm to catch the ferry, we would be fine. 10:20am rolls around, nothing. 10:40am comes and an employee says the bus broke down earlier and it is now fixed up and should be arriving shortly. 11:20am comes up fast, nothing. At this point I’m a little nervous but the bus ride doesn’t take more than 3 or so hours so still we could make it! Finally at 11:35 the bus pulls in and loads up. We get a move on and make it to the border in a fairly good amount of time and finally we are in Malaysia, awesome right?! Not so awesome. We drive about another 30 or so minutes and the bus pulls into a depot and stops. We are then informed, it was lunchtime and the driver needed to eat. We are now told the bus will not be departing till 1:25pm. At this point I have come to terms with that we probably won’t make it. We hop back on the bus and head to Mersing finally arriving at 3:45pm. We get off and after a little confusion and find the proper ticket booth for our ferry. A representative tells us that the last ferry for the day has departed and that we should be able to catch the 9am the following morning. Here is the thing, I had prepaid for my ticket. I had actually paid WAY too much for my ticket. At this point I was tired and hungry and all I wanted to do was relax so I thought maybe spending the night in Mersing would be okay? Well, thankfully, my friend Darren was not having it at all, he was on a mission to Tioman and I was in no place to tell him otherwise. Like Clark Kent throwing off his glasses, I transformed myself into a haggling machine. I got on the phone with the owner of the ferry (Mr. David Lee) and requested that he charter us a boat. He came down to meet me personally from his home and after a little resistance, he subsidized the charter boat by the original cost of our tickets and even let my friend Meghan ride for free! After being a little shady, Mr. David Lee turned out to be a good man.

We waited anxiously for the boat to arrive and we thought we would pass the time with a few bottles of Jamaican rum and a little game known as pass the bottle! Suffice to say, that is a wonderful game.

A shot of Darren, Aaron and I in Mersing waiting for the charter boat.

The charter boat arrived and the captain Benjamin and his crewmate Saleh helped us on. This ensues the exact moment when everything began to go insane. To keep it short, we let loose on that tiny boat. In so many ways did a little 20ft dingy relieve built up stress from the past few hours. We even stopped in the middle of the ocean and took a quick swim. Absolutely amazing. The moment that did it the most for me was sitting on the bow of the boat, hoping over waves and looking at secluded Malaysian Islands, realizing that all my apprehensions and predetermined thoughts about this whole study abroad were slowly melting away and I was beginning to realize how this was exactly what I wanted since day one.

We finally arrived on Tioman island and immediately assessed the most pertinent issue of our trip thus far, where in the world is the duty free? After a little hike we found the shop and were literally ecstatic about how cheap everything was on Tioman. We all grabbed a beverage of choice, some grabbed two and walked a little more to find this amazing seafood BBQ restaurant just up the road. The food was ordered family style as per recommendation by my friend Ian and eaten like family as well. In the past few weeks I have become extremely close with a lot of people here in Singapore and that moment in the restaurant reminded me of my friends back home and how we interact, it was comforting to say the least. The meal was a god sent gift and literally hit so many spots but it was time to finally get to Juara on the other side of Tioman, which required us to take a taxi. My friend Katya earlier had found a truck to take us Juara and 11 of us piled into the vehicle and we took off. I apparently was not paying enough attention in my freshmen year geography class because what I didn’t know was that Tioman was a mountain. So when I say we took a taxi to get to Juara what I actually mean was that we took a 4×4 through the mountains to reach our destination.

Backseat Riders

This seemed like a great idea.

The ride through the mountain was insane to say the least. We yelled, we screamed and had the time of our lives riding on this natural roller coaster in order to get to our hostel. It was honestly one of the most invigorating things I’ve ever done.

We finally reach our hostel known as Beach Shack and are guided to our private bungalows, which seemed pretty standard for 6 bucks a night. We required nothing more than a mat to pass out on and that is pretty much what we got. After settling in at about 10:30pm we decided to all blow of some steam so I grabbed my liquid buddy Jim and headed to our private beach. All of us enjoyed a few drinks and partook in a bonding moment in the ocean that I don’t think any of us will ever forget.

Saturday

The next morning, Saturday, a lot of people were riding the struggle bus especially because we awoke to the sound of roosters crowing at 8:30am. This day was a recovery day I’d say, filled with a bunch of methods of relaxation. Some picked the hammock, some read books and some explored a little bit. Me personally I kinda got antsy and was trying to find something to do because if you know me at all I am terrible at relaxing. My friend Chris knew of a place not to far away and we took off to go on a little snorkeling adventure. It was exactly what I needed to curb my slight boredom.

Our hostel known as "Beach Shack"

Our hostel known as “Beach Shack”

Obligatory handstand photo

Obligatory handstand photo
Photo by Nico

This cat and I got along real well

This cat and I got along real well
Photo by Nico

The day progressed and nightfall came about us. We gathered for dinner and I can say the food at the Beach Shack was great in so many ways and the women who ran the place, Anika was doing a really great job as well. After we filled our stomachs we decided to hangout around Beach Shack for a little while and mingle some with the fellow guest who happen to be 20 something travelers as well. After a few hours and a few drinks we decided that we wanted to try and crash a party on the other side of the beach hosted by our Uni for a trip that they had planned. Some decided to head to bed but the others threw on some clothes and headed over to party only to find about 50-70 exchange students from NUS having a great time on the beach. We fit in perfectly. That night though a little vague was an absolute blast. We laughed and some cried about the sheer magic that was happening that night. For me sitting on the Jeti and starring this glowing light was something just so entrancing for me. Words can’t even explain what I was going through but something just clicked and that single glowing light triggered it all. It was something straight of out The Great Gatsby. We headed back really late that night and my friend Nicole aka Nico and I laid on the beach for a while just taking in everything that Tioman had to offer, it was calming and extremely peaceful.

Sunday

Sunday was a very active day to say the least. We woke up and decided we were going to do this waterfall hike that everyone in Tioman talks about. I geared up with my Tevas, camera and gopro in hand and we headed into the jungle. This hike was reasonably hard especially because I was paying the consequences that my last night’s decisions had brought forth that morning. We spent about an hour going up some steep grades, some leading the pack and some trailing behind due to some technical difficulties with a pair of Rainbow sandals. We finally reached what we thought was the waterfall but actually turned out to be a dam and Ian decided to just say, “screw it” and hop in the reservoir anyaways which led to all of us hoping in. Needless to say that the water felt amazing and after a quick dip we wanted to head back to the actual waterfall which the stragglers had seen signs for.

We arrived at the waterfall and it looked like something out of a movie. It was serene in so many ways and we jumped in like it was the first time we’d ever played in water before. All of us decided to venture upstream a little climbing on rocks and swimming through little streams ultimately leading us to split up completely and have some alone time in our own private space. I sat on a rock in the middle of this brook and reflected on my time in Singapore thus far. I came to some interesting conclusions in my life that I’m saving for another post but it was definitely another great moment of the trip. It was awesome to come back a little downstream and see every one enjoying their time at the waterfall in their own way. I hope each one of them gained something new that day.

It does not look like much it provided us with a lot.

It does not look like much it provided us with a lot.
Photo by Nico

We packed up our stuff and headed back down the mountain encountering a low tide, which made our method of crossing a river a little bit harder. Ultimately we got back to Beach Shack only to all pass out after an amazing little trek to a burger joint, which ended up being literally the perfect meal after a long hike.

Our method of crossing the river to continue on the trail.

Our method of crossing the river to continue on the trail.

A sunken boat reveled to us at low tide.

A sunken boat reveled to us at low tide.

A quick shot from the raft as we crossed the river.

A quick shot from the raft as we crossed the river.

The burger joint and all of it's glory.

The burger joint and all of its glory.
Photo by Darren

Sunday night was calm, I think we all needed a little calmness in our lives. We continued to chat with locals and made some more new friends. It was a great way to wind down. “Papaya leaves” and good times were definitely a theme that night.

Monday / Conclusions

Our time at Tioman had finally come to an end as we were woken up with thunderstorms and cold weather. It was almost as if Tioman was telling us it was our time to leave. The ride home was long and I was definitely awaiting the long hot shower once I got back to NUS. Covered with cuts and bruises and enough memories for me to have to sit down for two hours and write this, I can say thus far Tioman was one of the best trips I have been on yet. It allowed me to do things out of my comfort zone and really live the life that I think I’ve always wanted in some way. I cannot wait for the other upcoming trips to places like Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and The Philippines. This is only the beginning of this whole experience and if I learned anything on this trip it was this best said by my friend Ian, “It will all work out in the end. If something is not working out, then it sure isn’t the end.”

A true savior of this trip

A true savior of this trip

I’m a pep talking fool but hey, I’m okay with it.

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From the bed

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I like writing posts when I’m in my bed. When there are no fluorescent lights or construction noises outside, when the temperature is a little cooler and my pillow is my sanctuary. Today marks three weeks away from home, I still can’t believe it. The past week entailed new classes and peers which is something that I get excited about every year. My courses are extremely interesting and more importantly challenging. My module on Tuesday is a class dealing with social innovations and clean water technology. My Thursday class is adjunct with a tech lab which allows me to have access to future technologies which is absolutely insane as well as a work place filled with computer hardware. The nerd in me is ecstatic! I also some how managed to set up my schedule so I don’t have classes Mondays or Fridays…it is absolutely amazing. Some people may think,”well isn’t that a little ridiculous?!” To those people I say, not at all because for the last four semesters I’ve woken up at 9am everyday for class so please just let me have this? The next week I hope will go by quickly so I can depart Singapore and head to Malaysia for a little weekend adventure!

Booking trips and sippin drinks,

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Also here is a photo from me hiking through the MacRitichie nature preserve
MacRitichie Park

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