Thank you, Singapore. You have been good to me for the past ten years. Goodbye now.
Live Journal has been my second blogging platform (the first being the now-defunct Upsaid.com) since 2004. That’s five years ago. I remember how desperate I was for an LJ token (back then, it was by-invite only). So when the entire platform was opened to public, I signed up immediately.
Since then, I have toyed with many other blogging platforms, this being the latest one. But I kept on my LJ account. What really made me remain on LJ are the friends I made here. Over the years, I met up with many LJ-ers. Some of them remain friends, others fleeting acquaintances. Such is the fact of life.
Last Friday I was fortunate enough to spend time with some of the most important LJ-ers in my life. It was a dinner at a “Mongkok Char Chan Teng”. Perhaps a little ritual to get me acclimatised with HK culture? Hehe. After eating our hearts out, we went out for a night out clubbing.
Thanks to those who turned up that night! :)
When I started to meet friends old and not-so-old for dinners, drinks and merriments, I vowed to document every single encounter.
My plan worked well for the first few, but after that, it went downhill. It amazes me how many friends I have made in my ten years living in Singapore. It is almost an impossible feat to blog about my daily meet-ups. Not that they are not important to me. They are. But I hope the following records will remind me of the good friendships I had with you guys.
Everyone needs someone as their “career-buddy” – to share his or her aspirations in the paths they take in their jobs, to be encouraged when they take risks, to be reassured when the future seems uncertain. For me, I have Christine. Our paths crossed when we first joined a conference company, both as a producer albeit in different divisions. The many long hours spent together locked in a conference enduring the equally long orientation programme.
Like many of our other colleagues, we hit off right from the word go. As new producers, we both had a lot of difficulties to overcome as the unfamiliar was overwhelming. But unlike me, Christine had the sense to call off the whole ordeal before it consumes her whole being, unlike me. But we remained in touch over the years, witnessing each other’s exciting progress as we climbed up the career ladder.
And for all those moments of revelations and inspiration, thank you, my girl. Great Wall of China end of this year? :)
My years in NTU would have never been the same without my Malaysian friends. Yes, I know I seem to be a very localised “foreign talent” since majority of my friends here are Singaporeans, but it was this trio of lovely ladies which saw me through my academic hardship when I first stepped onto this island.
How could I forget the succession of early mornings when we “chopped” study benches and hogging from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., everyday? The endless supply of tutorial answers, past-years papers and lecture notes? The steady stream of sickening sweet coffee and packs of nasi lemak which contributed to my then-enormous waistline (hehe)?
The truth is, without you girls, I would never have achieved what I set out to do in NTU. For that, and for the steadfast friendship over the years beyond our graduation day, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
And Louise, when you little baby come into world, please gives us all a BIG BIG SHOUT! :D
In my course of achieving the nirvana heaven of being a true web geek, I have been blessed with the presence of many computer wizards and coding gods. Thet was one of the very first programmers I have hired in my career. He is from Myanmar, speaks in a weird accent and has an eccentric lifestyle.
But little did we know that, over countless cans of beer, endless nights of yakking and incessant strumming of his guitar, we bonded and became real friends?
Nowadays, I draw a line when it comes to fusing my work and personal lives, but I was glad I didn’t do that with Thet back then. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to experience the joy of his friendship. Yes, dude, I know we had our drama moments, but it was through such turbulence our friendship strengthens, no?
Now, let’s get Ryan’s and Jude’s collective asses for a proper farewell!
My brother, Jason, and I
My aunt, my cousin sister Angela and I
My cousins, Kin Loon and Pooi Ching, and I
Over the last weekend I also paid a visit back home to Ipoh for a reunion with my family. For those not in the know, my family members are truly globalised… and with my imminent departure, it will be even more so. But a visit is a must, for my family does not see me often enough, seeing that I return only once a year despite being only seven hours away by coach.
When there is an entire sea separating us, it will be even tougher for me to return. So I did, for one short weekend.
We did what we also do whenever I return – family dinner, shopping, eating out, lazing around. This time round I also paid respect to my late great grandmother and grandfather. Despite having passed on for more than ten years now, memories of them linger on strongly in my mind, and I wiped away tears as I prayed for their blessings in front of their marble altars for my new life.
And how could I not meeting up with the ever lovely Min? Despite the fact she was the very first one to meet me after that fateful day, she still complains that I am not spending enough time with her for a proper farewell.
Min and I went through a lot together – break ups, job changes, family problems – and for some reasons, despite our very different lifestyles and social backgrounds, we gelled like bread and butter. Hours can pass by as we sipped on our coffee watching the world goes by at Starbucks Orchard, while we caught on each others’ news from the last time we met.
Min will be one of the very few people whom I know will remain a close friends despite the miles between us. I mean, we have been there and done that, don’t we, darling? And thank goodness for your short getaway next week. We will explore my new home together, yes? :)
I walked down memory lane and realised that twelve years have passed since I got to know these two lovely ladies. Chee Leng, Pooi Yen and I went back to my days as prefects at St. Michael’s in Ipoh. Yes, they are my secondary school friends. Hence the number of years.
After we have completed our STPM (which is like A-Levels), Chee Leng and I came to Singapore to study in different courses in NTU. Despite being in the same campus, we didn’t meet up often enough. It was upon graduating that we actually meet up more… but still not as often as we should be.
And then I got to know that Pooi Yen came to Singapore to work…. two years after it happened. I still remember being fuming mad when we met up over a Japanese dinner earlier this year lamenting her lack of news. But I was glad that our friendship was reignited.
But who would have thought it would come to an end so soon? No, not our friendships. But our time together being in the same city. It was a pity that we couldn’t be a part of each others’ lives as much as we could, girls. Like what we talked about last night, there is always Facebook, yes? Heh :D
The date is drawing near and I still have more goodbyes to say, more hugs to be exchanged, more tears to be shed. But I shall be strong. It was the word of encouragements from these friends that embolden me to take this very next step.
What the heck is Generation 3?
Well, presenting my colleagues from the third company I worked with. Hence the coined term G-3. LOL.
I managed to dig out this pic out of the very few photos I took with them. This one was taken back in 2007, during my first ever Christmas house party at my very old place in AMK. Almost the entire gang turned up. This was after I have left the company actually, so the party was kinda a “farewell” for me after being a colleague to them for a grand total of one year, one month.
And of course, the whole gang started way back. Even at my very first bachelor’s pad at Toa Payoh, the G3 people have been staunch supporters of my house gatherings. This pic was taken at my place not long after I joined the company. I remembered being worried of inviting them to my place – for fear of them rejecting my invite, or worse, for not turning up at all.
As you can tell from the pic, I shouldn’t have worried at all.
As with any company, people come and people go. Some are destined never to be friends to start with, and yet some become more than just colleagues. I am blessed to be bestowed with friendships from some of the best people in the company. How can I forget the laughter shared over the months, including this infamous trip to Genting Highland? Lisa, Tess, Daniel and I certainly had an experience difficult to forget during this weekend getaway. We know the reasons, don’t we?
Yes, yes, I know I looked extremely off-putting in the photo.
Fast forward a few more months, and again I am saying farewell to them. This time, the meaning is deeper, more significant, but no less impactful. I am grateful to have them by my side during my most uncertain moment, career-wise. Needless to say they have been extremely supportive and encouraging.
To the good people of JobStreet, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will miss you all dearly.
GNB the next time I am back in town?
And for a stroll down memory lane with you guys, click here.
At times, one’s life can be tremendously blessed by chance encounter.
I met Faisal one night by chance when I met with another new friend. We hit it off right away, and since then our friendship never looked back. In fact, he is one of the bigger influencer in my life… consider the following which happened one day at my house:
Faisal: Raz, I need to borrow a shirt
Raz: Okay, just look through my clothes
(Rumbling through my rack of clothes)
Faisal: (Looking incredulous) Raz, you need to change your wardrobe
What can I say? Faisal is one of the most fashionable person I know. The proof? Something happened a few months after we got to know each other of which I am sure I am not allowed to blog about. Heh.
Faisal is always someone whom I can count on to dish out spot-on advice, especially on my love life, for he understands me better than most. I can’t say I know him as well as he knows me, but I am confident enough to say that my life changed since our chance encounter that fateful night in January 2008. For the better.
And of course, the highlight of the strength of our friendship came about when we went to Celine Dion’s concert in KL last year. It was a miracle that we didn’t throttle each other to death. Dude, you will know by now that I have the patience of a saint. LOL.
I wish I have better pics of him to put up here, but as he has yet to send me the photos we took during our fantastic farewell dinner at Little Bali (by the way, Fais, thanks for the treat!), this picture of a basket of crackers will have to do for now.
And he is also someone who buys me the most thoughtful gifts. Thanks for these. It is fated that you bought these when I needed one. And when I write in them, I will remember you. And thanks for all the beautiful memories – the nights out, the pillow talks, the dinners…
… you know they meant a lot to me, don’t you? Thanks, bro.
I have known many Terence-s in my life, but two of them stand out from the rest.
I am speaking, of course, of Terence Leong (TL) and Terence Cheah (TC). Our friendships started “accidentally” actually. We didn’t get to know each other until the final year in our studies at NTU, and even then we weren’t as close as we became after graduation. Partly because we clicked well, and also I wanted to maintain strong links with a select group of friends after I have stepped out of the comfort zone of the Boon Lay campus.
TL and TC were one of the few who were with me through thick and thin.
Since graduation day, the few of us maintain close touch with each other. TL, TC, Tony, Liping, Zhiren and I were the usual gang, with the occassional Jinguang joining us. Later on when love blossomed (hehe), Dora and Yali joined the gang as well. As a clique, we have seen each other through many ups and downs in life, be it in relationships or career. Just thinking back on how much we have known each other the past over six years gave me a warm fuzzy feeling.
The highlight, of course, was when TL got married to the ever lovely Dora. I was honored to be one of his “brothers” for the wedding. Seeing my buddy going through the most important day of his life upfront was a blessing beyond description. It is different when a good friend of yours is getting wedded and you are part of the occasion, compared to when you are just a dinner guest at a wedding of someone you hardly know.
Considering how tough their schedules were, it was almost a miracle how we managed to meet up on Monday night for a farewell dinner. TL was literally flying in and out of country all the time, since he is (drum roll please) a pilot with Singapore Airlines. TC was also flying all over the place, often bestowing with tales of foreign places as a regional sales guy for a HR consultancy firm.
So we met up for some drinks, and chatted and of course talked about my imminent departure. It saddens me that it will be even more difficult for me to catch up with them when I am no longer in Singapore. But deep inside I know these friends will be one of the handful whose friendships will remain steadfast regardless of time and distance.
Thank you, my friends, for being part of life for the past years. This is not the end; it’s the beginning of something new. For you, and me.
Those of you who follow my blog will know that I am an avid traveler. I had always wanted to go to a backpackers’ place in Singapore, hang out with tourists and then, just for a day or two, go around Singapore like a tourist would. I was crazy enough to actually buy a Lonely Planet for Singapore.
And so, as a farewell gift, Cheryl planned one full day of Singapore tour for me with Shafik. I reserved the entire weekend for these best buddies of mine, and I had absolutely no idea where they will be bringing me to.
The day started bright and early… at 10 a.m. LOL. I was out the night before with my SMC gang and didn’t get home until early morning… but eh, I was not the only one who woke up late hor! And so we were off to our first destination…
The Esplanade Park! Cheryl wanted to start off the day with a picnic right at the park. This was the first time I was there. I mean, the sights were familiar all around – the Esplanade, the Cavenagh bridge, the CBD skyline etc. – but what I didn’t realise was a whole carefully tended park in the midst of town.
And only in Singapore can you find a “designated exercise area”. In a park. Makes you wonder what the rest of the park is “designated” for.
Cheryl has outdone herself with sumptuous spread for the picnic. Spaghetti, hot dogs, chicken wings, egg salad (for me!), muffins… we were starving by the time we settled down for the picnic, and Shafik chosen a spot of carpet grass right in front of the Asian Civilisation Museum.
Someone is obviously very happy that we have settled down to feed… but remember the food was catered for Ma’at, not Rashid!
Our next stop was the Asian Civilization Museum. I know Singapore has got quite a number of museums, and ASM has got to be one of the more famous ones. The museum didn’t disappoint with a mind-bogging array of artefacts from different Asian cultures. If not for the fact that the toilets were so few in between and they are forever occupied, the trip to ASM would have been perfect. As usual, Cher was up to her tricks with my camera when she pretended to take photos of me playing with some Chinese costumes and banging on some Malay drums, when she was actually video-ing me instead!
After the museum, we made a small detour to the Victoria Memorial Hall to see the Stamford Raffles statue. The place held special memories for me; during my university days, every year the NTU Symphonic Band will hold their concerts here at this concert hall. It was here where I played out months of hard work at endless rehearsals playing win band pieces I had never dreamed of playing when I was in Malaysia. Nostalgic indeed.
The next destination caught me by utter surprise. Never in my wildest dream would I think the duo will bring me to the Singapore Flyer! The entire ride was a surreal experience. I was totally transfixed to the sights of Singapore as we made one round the giant observation wheel in 30 minutes. The audio guide pointed out places after places as viewed from high above – Chinatown, Little India, Marina Bay, Suntec City… I was constantly reminded of the memories I sowed at these places, and I couldn’t help but to tear at the thought that I am leaving all these behind. It is harder than you think.
After a lunch of curry chicken rice at the flyer (there goes my diet), we headed to somewhere at the other end of Singapore; the Changi Prison Museum & Chapel. The prison was enshrined in Singapore history as the place where countless POW (prisoners of war) were enslaved, perished and survived during the horrifying Japanese occupation years. In one afternoon I learned more about Singapore’s history than all my ten years combined. Those who said Singapore “has no character” obviously didn’t bother to learn about the tumultous past of this tiny island. It is all here on the walls – literally. The Changi Mural was a collection of five wall paintings drawn during those years, bringing much spiritual relief to the POWs.
This place also held special memory for me – for being the ultimate fool walking around with three ASM stickers on my back the entire time. And Cheryl had the cheek to take this photo first before telling me through her laughing tears. Thanks, hor. Grrrr….
Did I mention that my diet totally went bust this weekend? After the prison museum, we went to sample the famous Changi Village Ayam Penyet. The dish was delicious, and I was famished. All these walking really did it for me, despite the fact that I just had one whole bowl of curry chicken merely two hours before. And, yes, the ayam penyet was as good as it looks in this photo.
In all my years in Singapore, I have been to the zoo and the butterfly farm and the bird park, but never the safari… Cheryl made my dream come true by bringing me to the Singapore Night Safari. We reached the place after a long, long bus ride. Although we were irked by some factors here (which I shall not mention in case people think I am racist!), we enjoyed our time here thoroughly. We took the 45 minutes tram ride which took us round the entire safari. The animals were definitely much more active during the night time, and at times we were so close to them that we could touch their body!
The highlight of the trip was definitely the Creatures of the Night show. The animals were fantastic, but the hostess was the one who brought the house down. Her impeccable sense of humour had us in stitches with laughter. She was almost as good as Kumar, and we really enjoyed the 30 minute show. I think she should go pro as an emcee!
And something else which shock the fuck out of me (pardon the language). Shafik and Cheryl have been to the night safari before, so they know exactly what will happen during the show. We were seated two rows from the front, much to Shafik’s insistence. What I didn’t know was that there was a fucking snake right under my seat!!! I have an ultra fear for all things slithering and slimy and hissing, so imagine my shock when they unlocked the panel under my seat to reveal this big ass python.
I swear, I wanted to wring their necks for scaring me like that. Unforgettable, indeed!
After such a long, eventful day, we went back to my home, where I took a long long shower to wash away the fear of the almighty python. Little did I know there was one last surprise for the night – my very much advanced 30th birthday cake. You see, by the time I return to Singapore for my 30th birthday celebration end of June, Shafik would be crawling around Tekong with his shaved head, so this is the only time we could celebrate my birthday together.
Look at the volcano of flames on my cake. The heat almost melted the cake into half! You don’t have to light up thirty candles just to tell people how old I am. Didn’t you guys know a man’s prime start at 30? Tsk. But I was touched. Pardon the bad singing in the video. For the first time it wasn’t my fault. LOL.
After an episode of Friends (like we did on many different nights before), we went to sleep. I was so deep in slumber that I didn’t realise Cheryl woke up (rather) early the next day to prepare this delicious laksa for lunch. It was simply delicious. Girl, if I gain a pound over the weekend, I hold you entirely responsible. Your laksa was wicked.
And so that marks the end of my weekend with Cheryl and Shafik, one that was perfect in every imaginable way, in the way I thought it would be, and more. Thank you so much, guys, for making this possible. To Cheryl for her immaculate planning and thoughts that went into all the surprises (the flyer! the snake! the cake!) and for Shafik for being with us that weekend.
You know you guys mean the world to me. Hugs.
Click here for the full set of photos of my amazing weekend.
My journey with the Singapore Men’s Chorus (SMC) started off by chance. I was posting about how amazing was this group of men’s choir on YouTube, and and of my friends told me about SMC… and I decided to go for it.
For friends who know me well enough, they know… that I can’t sing to save my life. And perhaps that’s why my audition was a perfect disaster. But as luck would have it, I was in.
In January 2009, I started to rehearse with the people of SMC… and hence began my meaningful journey with this bunch of really talented guys. We came from all walks of life – the students, the execs, the directors, the idol-wannabes, the ex-wind band members – but we shared a common passion for the performance of singing.
Through my five month journey with the group, I made many new friends, some of whom have become very dear to me. I mean, how could one deny the blessing and joy of friendships bestowed so unconditionally? Like…
… the one who flirt with me at every single practice
… the one who never fail to have a drink with me after every prac
… the ones who always club the Friday nights away with me
… the one who always put everyone on their toes, like a mother hen (heh)
… the one who is so humble, so talented that he still awes me
And most of all, these guys shown me that no matter what kind of person I am, they will accept me with open arms and understanding hearts. And that is what I cherish the most about SMC.
Some of my most memorable moments were made during the preparation for our small group performances. The members of the chorus gang up to put up a small number to be staged at the end of our Friday performances. And being the shameless guy I was, I had not one but two groups.
One was a duet with Alex, singing “The Start of Something New” from High School Musical 1. The song meant something to us, since both of us are a fan of the popular movie series. We practised for quite a couple of time, mostly on Sundays, until our duet is ready. During these Sundays, we spent a lot of good time together. I am also very grateful the ever talented Sean played the piano for us. The actual performance didn’t go too shabbily despite the ultra stage fright, and I enjoyed myself.
The second one was a five-some with Mark, Kitson, Lucas and Andy, singing Jason Mraz’s most famous “I’m Yours”. Actually, I kinda gatecrashed the group. When Mark told me they are singing this song, I asked to be part of it… and that started our journey of getting to know each other better. The actual performance (YouTube here) was incredibly unpolished, but we enjoyed ourselves tremendously.
On my final night with with SMC, a big group of us went to have drinks for some final moments together. That night coincides with the night we did “I’m Yours”, and the presence of one of the co-founders of SMC, Todd. I was incredibly honoured and flustered at the same time… but nothing some rounds of champagne couldn’t handle. LOL. The night ended on a high note, and I was incredibly touched to see so many of my good friends around.
And so, that spelled the end of my journey with the Singapore Men’s Chorus. It was short-lived, but one that was filled with passion, friendship and love. One of the things that I will miss the most when I leave Singapore will be SMC. It pains me to leave them even before I managed to sing for one season… but I guess you gotta deal with life’s ironic turns.
To the lovable members of Singapore Men’s Chorus, thank you for making my journey with you guys a memorable one. You will be fondly remembered.
More pictures of the dudes of SMC here.
When I got to know the song Mark’s small group intended to sing, I was beside myself. I love that song, and love the acapella arrangement, and I was excited about the prospect of doing something similar with my fellow chorister.
So I asked if I can gate crash their group, despite already having a duet myself. And they said yes.
Over the last few months, we met a couple of times at each member’s house to rehearse. We went through so many rounds of adjustments to our arrangement – including once when one of us left the choir and later came back, much to our relief and happiness – and finally, we are ready for our big night tomorrow.
We were supposed to perform in front of the Singapore Men’s Chorus at the first week of June, but because of the changes in my circumstances, my fellow choristers decided to bring forward the date so that I can do this with them.
For this, I am eternally grateful. Thank you, guys. You have no idea how much your thoughts meant to me.
From left to right: Lucas Leong (the shaker), me (the blower), Andy Hsu (the stroker), Kitson Chia (the… one, hehe) and Mark Goh (the plucker)
The first time we met was when I was a small lad of thirteen. We often recounted that fateful morning with much glee… at least for him. He remembers me as the new band recruit who dressed in purple pants (as in slack, not jeans!) with matching purple-patterned top.
I was a literal walking fashion disaster, and he picked on me. Yes he did, although at that time I was too nervous as it was my first day with the military band.
How would I know the friendship will span over almost two decades?
As we grew up together, proudly as Michaelians – head prefects, band leaders, goody-two-shoes in school – we learned not to throttle each other. We learned to tolerate each others’ arrogance and flaws, we learned to accept what can and can’t be changed.
Over the years, we sure went through a lot of drama together. Oh yes. The nights of long phone conversations, heated arguments under the sun, sobbing episodes during band camp… I remember them.
Soon we reached a point when I left school, and him in university. My letter of acceptance from Singapore came, and was besides myself with excitement. In my last coffee session with him (back then, alcohol is foreign in my dictionary), we talked about a lot of things, but he left me a message that I remember to this day.
“I know you are very excited for Singapore, and you have made this decision in good fate for your future. But had you decided differently, it would have made a lot of difference to many people”
I carry that with me as make new friends in Singapore, where I celebrated most of my twenties. In the next decade or so, I met up with him everytime I return to Ipoh. Those sessions never fail to rejuvenate and reaffirm me as person.
Fast forward to early this year… when I got wind that he was moving to Singapore! Excited was an understatement; I was immensely proud and I can’t wait to show him my life in Singapore.
I want to introduce him to my friends here as was my mentor, my angel, and my friend. For without him, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
He is Liang Hin, whom I have known for so many years that I don’t know what I would do without him.
Now again, we have come to a crossroad, where our lives will take on in different directions. Our “reunion” was short-lived, but I am confident to walk away knowing that our friendship will remain steadfast, true and pure to face whatever fate throws in our way.
It had been so for the past (almost) two decades, it will continue to be so for the years to come.
Thank you, my dear friend.