Monday, May 30, 2005

Before Peru

Jet lag has seriously taken its toll on me. Before recovering from the lag back to Singapore, here I am back in London. Maybe I’m suffering from double jet lag now. Oh yah, I’m flying to Peru tomorrow, it’ll be another lag once I’m there. (Peru is 5 hours behind London.) My circadian rhythms mediated by the PER, TIM, CRY and BMAL1 proteins have seriously been disrupted never like before (Oh, I still remember my neuropsychology exam material). How fun is that?

Anyway, I’ve sorted out most of my stuff in London and in Peru. Packing 2 years of London stuff and rubbish in 3 hours wasn’t that easy. Moving them to my new place wasn’t any better either. But somehow I’m glad I was back in Singapore, since everything was so cheap back home. E.g. I got my six malaria pills for only S$24+ (they cost 30 pounds in London).

While I’m in Peru, I’ll be posting regular updates, most probably every fortnight, or every week if possible. Hope everything goes smoothly. I’ll see all of you in 2 months time.

Saturday, May 28, 2005




上星期五考完最后一张试卷(第七张),我在 Four Seasons 吃我的烧鸭。然后电话响了。






然后,前几天在 Heathrow 登机前,我又打了回家,我直接问了。


我已经 100% 肯定了。




Monday, May 23, 2005

Hysterical and hectic weeks coming…

Everybody was shocked when I said I am going back to Singapore tomorrow. I was shocked myself by the way. Henry commented I have a crazy schedule ahead of me. Yeah, indeed, the next 2 weeks is going to be hysterical and hectic. Actually it all started after my last paper on Friday. Something cropped up back home and I had to book my air tickets to Singapore right after my exams. So the whole afternoon after exams was spent talking to my tutor about my 3rd year research project and searching for the earliest available tickets back home. And it turned out the cheapest ticket I can get is NOT cheap at all (I could have flown to Paris 10 times and back). Moreover, I am only going to stay in Singapore for 5 days. But whatever, I had no choice since it was a last minute decision.

Anyway, after booking the air tickets, I went to watch Star Wars with Eugene and Max, which took up the whole night. Then the whole weekend was spent in Bath, and I missed my 8 am coach at Victoria on Saturday. But Bath was nice, but what I did not expect was I missed my coach back to London today as well. So, I actually missed BOTH my coaches to AND from Bath. How unlucky can one get? When something wrong cropped up, everything else went wrong. Or was this the agency effect described by Byrne?

And now, I have to start packing a bit of my stuff and luggage for tomorrow’s evening flight. And I’m getting a haircut tomorrow morning and then I have a medical appointment at noon at the travel clinic, getting my Yellow Fever vaccination. Then I have to leave for Heathrow at 2 pm. So basically, I have no time to stop and breathe.

And then, I will stay in Singapore till Saturday morning, will reach London in the evening. Then I have to pack my stuff and store them in my new place on Sunday (last year I had 4 boxes, this year I think I will need 6 boxes), because I am staying over at the airport on Monday night as my flight to Peru is on Tuesday early morning and I have to check in at Heathrow at 530 am.

My schedule sounds really ridiculous, even to myself. I really don’t know how I am going to cope with what’s going to happen in the next 2 weeks. Especially because I am flying over so many time zones in 1 week and that Cusco is about 2700 meters above sea level. I think I am going to be so jet lagged from all the flying about, since it usually takes 3-5 days for me to recover after each long flight. Maybe the high altitude will make it worse. I really wonder how long I will take to recover from jet lag and get acclimatized to the altitude this time round.

Bless me.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


I thought “Mary Poppins” was my first and last musical of this academic year.

But I was wrong.

I went to the West End yesterday with my good friends.

Yes, I’m crazy. I went to watch “Phantom of the Opera” yet again, with 4 major exams ahead of me.

But I have to say, every time in Her Majesty’s theatre, it was a magical experience.

So magical that I feel it’s worth it not staying in my room cramming.

By the way, if you think the film version is fantastic, I can assure you the film version is really nothing compared to the stage version.

Well, if it is not phantastic, the musical wouldn’t have been running everyday for the past 18 years. And nobody would have thought to make a film version based on the stage one.

And I really enjoy the 谢幕 of Phantom. Simple yet elegant. Just like 黄城.

I really don’t mind watching Phantom again.

It turns out we’re going to watch another musical before I leave for Peru.

Maybe “The Producers”. Or “Billy Elliot” which just opened 4 days ago.


“Hey EW you are really young!”

“How do you feel hanging out with a bunch of oldies?”

I was struck by these comments made by some friends yesterday after Phantom and dinner at Mandarin Kitchen at Bayswater.

By the way, I need to digress for a while. The lobster at Mandarin Kitchen which specialises in seafood was fantastic. We were so satisfied after dinner.

So after all, London has good food. It’s just the matter of willing to spend money.

For the past 3 months, I’ve been spending money as if my father prints them.

Well I’m sponsored. And hey, I’ve got the money!

Oh no, it’s really not me. And I know this is no good. But who cares?

I need to indulge and have pleasure sometimes. Oh yah, I went shopping a bit in Covent Garden as well before the musical.

We then went to a nice jazz bar after dinner and I had my most expensive Long Island Iced Tea in my life. I could have gotten two whole big jugs of Long Island back in Singapore. Now I know beer is dirt cheap in London, but not cocktails.

Anyway, I was insane yesterday and so, I had expensive alcohol at that cool bar after Phantom.

And so now I can’t study.

Partly because of the comments made by my friends.

Ok, back to the point I want to make.

It then occurred to me that for the past nine months, I’ve been hanging out with people much older my age. Some of them are at least a decade older than me. Neil is probably 4 decades older than me. Well, he always claims he is only 35. And he runs faster than me, I can’t believe it. He once joked, “The speed of running seems to be inversely proportional to the person’s age.”

And yet I don’t feel distant from them.

Not at all.

Although the conversation topics have mostly been really serious, like politics, investment, religion etc.

Yet, I don’t feel any gap between us.

And I really learnt a lot from them. Things and lessons you can never find in books and journal articles. Well, they have much much much more life experience than I do.

Am I growing old too fast?

(Well I guess maturing faster also has to do with my career choice as a journalist. Every internship every summer seems to add 5 years each to my mental age.)

Friday, May 13, 2005


Seriously, I am freaking out! Help me! Help me!

But not because of exams only; I’m experiencing much more stress about the preparations for Peru.

I got a 4-page email from Peru regarding my volunteer trip. Tonie opened the letter with “Greetings from Peru and welcome to the program! I would imagine by now you are starting to get excited and possibly a bit anxious about your upcoming travels to Peru.”

Yeah! I was VERY excited in January. And I was also a bit stressed and anxious in January. But just when I thought my preparations are on the right track, I just realised there ARE still so many other things to settle. I am freaking out despite having travelled independently to so many countries already! I am seriously freaking out this time round!

Ah well, I sort of miss Youth Expedition Project (YEP), where everything is sort of done for you. For YEP, a normal volunteer just has to do about 6 months of fundraising, learn some basic native language, decide the things to be done and how to execute the project in that country, have a few departure meetings with one’s fellow group mates, take the various vaccinations according to SIF’s guidelines and so on. Jobs are divided among the group members. But that’s it! No other worries. Everything in YEP is taken care for you by SIF.

This time it’s totally different. I have to do everything myself. No wonder there aren’t many volunteers around. Now I really admire true volunteers, and understand the true spirit of volunteerism. Simply put, YEP seems like a 2- or 3-week holiday trip more than a volunteer trip really. So being the pampered me, I am freaking out now!

Can’t the organisation I’m under help me a bit? No. They say “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” which I agreed with 100%. This is independent volunteerism. This is true volunteerism. I am a Non-Government-Organisation (NGO) Intern in Peru from June onwards. And for the rest of my life, I will be proud of it. This is THE trip of my life.

Okay, travel wise… I’ve booked my return international flights from London to Lima long ago. I’ve gotten my travel insurance long ago (1st time I actually decided to get insurance for travelling). And I just booked my domestic flight from Lima to Cusco. But I just realised I’ll reach Lima at night and my connecting flight to Cusco is on the next morning. So I need to stay over in Lima for one night…

Ok. Ok. I’ve been following the news in Peru for the past few months. Peru isn’t that stable, and Lima isn’t that safe after all, with the Shining Path rebels still VERY active, even though their chief is still imprisoned… Ah well, the President from Ecuador (Peru’s neighbour) just went into exile because of public pressure, and there was immense chaos in Quito for quite some time a few weeks ago. Hopefully this does not happen in Lima!

And then there is this fresh fierce row between Peru and Chile because of a stupid advertisement by Chile indirectly insulting Peru. Lan Peru and Lan Chile are the 2 major airlines owned by Chile, Lan Peru is under the management of Lan Chile actually and is ironically the major airline in Peru currently. The national Peruvian airline went bankrupt some years back. Well, I’m flying on Lan Peru from Lima to Cusco. So I better pray the dispute will be resolved soon and not snowball into some international dispute, and affect my travel plans. I don’t want to be stuck in Lima, and get mugged by the rebels.

Ok. So one thing I have to do is to arrange my plans for that night in Lima ASAP.

Now vaccinations… I just visited the travel clinic a few days ago. Gotten whatever vaccinations there are, but did not take the Yellow Fever one. Should I take the Yellow Fever one since I might go to Manu Natural Reserves? And I am still contemplating whether to get Malaria pills as well, since I might venture into the Amazon Basin. Ok, I kind of missed the times during BMT in Pulau Tekong, where you are readily given the pills and then forced to ingest them in front of the Platoon Commander. Now I have to decide whether I should take the pills and to source them down and purchase them myself. I wonder how much the pills will cost in London. And I will have to take the pills 2/3 weeks before I travel to the Amazon right? Or what? Ok… this is another thing to consider seriously. I am afraid of death.

Ok, these are just 2 minor issues I need to think about. I haven’t even started to think about my actual volunteer work yet. I can seriously rattle on forever on my other preparations for the trip. I better stop now and concentrate on my revision for the moment.

Don’t freak out! Don’t freak out! Think of Machu Picchu. Think of the Inca trail. Think of Lake Titicaca. Don’t freak out! I will learn a lot through the process! Don’t freak out! Don’t freak out!

Oh yah, perhaps the most pressing issue is I don’t know anything about the Spanish language even though I say I want to learn in January. I put off the Spanish learning since acquiring Spanish might interfere with my German course and exam. Well done! So now, I only know “hola,” “buenos dias,” “muy bien” and “gracias.” Well done!

So how to carry out volunteer work when I can’t even speak basic Spanish?

So how can I not freak out?

Maybe I’m freaking out more and more because I have 4 exams (all essays) next week everyday except Tuesday.

FREAKING OUT and looking forward to what will happen after freaking out...

Only 18 days to Peru and 7 days to the end of exams…


I got another nice surprise yesterday evening. My friend Neil, the man who seems to know everybody in the world from the Chancellor of Oxford University (he was the ex-governor of Hong Kong, I’m sure you know who) to the chief of HSBC, from the top barrister in Hong Kong to one of the top ministers in Japan’s government, called me yesterday evening to say that he has got a good friend from Peru visiting in London now.

Talking to this Peruvian friend of his, my worries are allayed a little. Peruvians are indeed friendly, sincere and truthful. This Peruvian’s hometown is in Lima and he readily admits that Lima isn’t safe. You just have to live with it yah, not all countries are as developed as Singapore and London. He offered me some practical advice and asked me to take a crash course in Spanish. He left me some contacts of his friends in Lima and Cusco as well, even though yesterday was the 1st time we met (on the phone). :)

I’m starting to love Peruvians already and I believe I’ll make some good Peruvian friends in the 60 days in Peru.

I’m glad I know resourceful Neil.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


I’m actually intrigued by the stuff I’m reading and revising now.

Just like how I’m intrigued by the many novels, plays, films and television programs exploring what many people see as the dark side of human nature. I’m sure you’ve read one of the many self-help books that flood the market.

This fascinating field is known as Abnormal Psychology.

Psychology can only become abnormal when a norm exists. People then deviate from this norm and culture. For instance, 10% of people believe they have seen a ghost (ghosts don’t drop by, if they do exist); 23% confess to not flushing the toilet all the time (flushing toilets is a social conduct); 39% confess to snooping in their hosts’ medicine cabinets (checking out friends’ medicines is deemed undesirable and sick)…

Psychology can also become abnormal when people develop mental dysfunctions. James Bond said in “Tomorrow Never Dies”, “The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.” Albert Einstein commented that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So, let’s face it: nobody in this world is normal, including you and me.

Everybody has some mental disorders at some juncture in their lives, and it occurs in varying degrees. From obsessive compulsive behaviour like biting your fingernails or checking several times repeatedly that you’ve locked your door after leaving your apartment, to fears of spiders and heights and even sexual intercourse… from getting anxious when taking an exam that we are not confident in, to developing auditory hallucinations and persecutory delusions. All these behaviours are deemed to be not normal.

Ok… It’s kind of practical to study these in many ways. It’s sort of cool as well to study such topics as stress and anxiety when I’m actually feeling stressful and anxious. So most of the time, I’m actually evaluating myself… oh I seem to have this symptom as well, and that as well, does that mean I can be diagnosed with GAD? I’m getting severely depressed because that happened, I should engage in cognitive-behaviour therapy and maybe ingest some SSRIs or MAOIs so as to alleviate my depressive symptoms. I accidentally got a deep cut, and it’s damn painful, but hey, I can divert my attention to somewhere else, and this will close the gate hypothesised to be in the spinal cord, to prevent pain signals transmitted in the C-fibres from reaching the cerebral cortex, according to Melzack and Wall’s (1965) gate control theory...

Perhaps, the reason we get insane is because insanity is the only perfectly adjustment to an insane world.


*Damn it… There were a few surprises in the exam yesterday… Depression, which appeared every year, did not come out yesterday. The most common psychological disorder with 1 in 6 people possessing depression at some time in their lives, and my lecturers decided to surprise us. What the hell… But the getaway to Oxford was fantastic, and Mary Poppins on last Tuesday compensated for everything else. :)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Things have been getting on rather smoothly. Strangely I haven’t been revising much. Instead I have been going out more often despite the nearing exams. To pubs, to restaurants, to the Heath. In fact, I’m watching Mary Poppins the Musical tonight. Hmm… seriously looking forward to my 1st musical for this academic year, probably the last musical this year too, since I’ll be leaving London for Peru in 20 over days.

And I’ll be going to Oxford (again!!!) for a while after my 1st paper this Friday. Sounds crazy yah… especially I have 5 more papers to go in the next 2 weeks and I’m already going Oxford to have fun after my 1st paper. Whatever…

Another update… I’ve decided to make my final year in London count (well, its my final year if I don’t stay here for Masters). So, I’ve decided not to share any flats with any Singaporeans. And I also decided not to stay in halls of residences anymore. As much as I love Netherhall House, especially the environment and the facilities and the people, I seriously hate the food. Its potatoes every single day, in various forms e.g. chips, mashed, sauteed, baked, jacket etc. But I really love Hampstead and I definitely cannot live without the crepes and my beloved Hampstead Heath… But accommodation in Hampstead cost like twice or thrice the normal price in central London. A normal small single room would have cost about 200 pounds (S$600) per week. Well, I can’t afford that amount, but I got a really really really really pleasant surprise while surfing online for accommodation in Hampstead yesterday night!

So guess what? I’ll be staying alone with a very nice traditional English family from September onwards for the next whole academic year. And the house is in Hampstead, just opposite the Heath! Its 5 minutes to my Hampstead crepes! And just 30 seconds to the Heath. And my future room is triple the size of my current room, or about twice the size of my bedroom back in Singapore (normal bedroom of old HDB 3-room flat). I can probably set up a mini gym in my room. My future house has 4 storeys and my room is on the top of the house! I have my own bathroom and own kitchen! Oh yah, there is a REAL fireplace in my room as well! And the rent is cheaper than what I’m paying now, only 100 pounds per week! So it seems an incredibly good deal to be true that I immediately accept the landlady’s offer. So next year there will be no Singaporeans, no other students living around me. Only 100% British! And the landlady seems pretty nice! She offered me a television in my room and asked me if I need a microwave! So I guess I’ll learn more about the British culture and way of living better in my final year. Who knows I might stay in London for Masters just to continue staying in that apartment?

That’s about it for now! More updates when I’m free.