May 1st, 2013


:: Did you feel the same way as I did? ::

:: Did you feel the same way as I did? ::

Did you feel the same way as i did.

Did you feel the same way as I did?

Did you pause, and ponder, last week? Over your personal story, when the topic of Assignment One was revealed to you?

Did you recall the memories, of the past events that shaped your life, and created the voice in you, that wanted to be heard?

Only that there was no sound to the voice - the only sound would probably be the clattering of the keyboard of your laptop.

The voice was metamorphosed into the written word - as you typed the last few concluding words to your story and submitted the prose with a click on the "submit" button.

And did you feel that same way as I did, after you are done with your story, and then ventured into the forums?

Did you read from the myriad of stories, shared by the many individuals - most, if not all, of them, would be people that you would probably never meet, in the course of your life?

Did you feel connected to these writers, even though you have never met them in person?

That the only common denominator was the fact that these people, like you or like me, had a voice, and enunciated this voice through the power of the written word.

That was what I felt.

It became an intriguing discovery, somewhat voyeuristic at times, as I went from story to story, listening intently on the voices of the writers. There were heartfelt revelations - each writer had a reason to write. Writing started as a therapy and a hobby for Eric Valls Cabrera, while for Patrick Hogan, writing is simply a way of life, and a manifestation of logic and argument. And for some, writing is an expression of one's current frustrations and struggles, such as the one which was poignantly shared by Terence Wong.

Notwithstanding, the story that struck a deep chord with me was the one written be a Jamaican, jackie knight, titled "A Masquerader Going Public". Jackie wrote a fascinating story about his love for words and his career with copywriting. In the course of his career, Jackie had several encounters with executives who were master of linguistics and the written word, and one of such persons made a remark which he remembered and noted in his story:

"This inability to articulate what comes to me intuitively has dogged me all my life. I think it no small irony."

Did this statement resonate with you the same way as it resonated with me?

The power to write stems from the power to articulate, and articulation comes from the ability to master the language of communication, and the ownership of an array of vocabulary. I recall my university days in Japan. As I did not have any native ability in the Japanese language, my first year in Japan saw me struggling between learning the Japanese language and my first-year subjects, all of which were conducted in the Japanese language. My classmates were mainly Japanese natives, and with the constant interactions that I had with them, it was natural that our conversations were held entirely in the Japanese language.

There were countless moments when I was engaged in a heated debate with my classmate. Debates, as we know it, are conversations of perspectives substantiated with a basis of reason. For these debates, I was very positive that my perspective was the correct one, yet more often than not, I lost a debate due to my poor command of the language. I was unable to describe my view with finesse, and that reduced my credibility. And hence I lost my ground. I realised then, on the importance of mastering a language. For we are articulate creatures, and if we are unable to convey what we think or feel through the right juxtaposition of words, to give our voices a meaning, then our voices would not be heard. We would be silenced, and we would not have the ability to form a connection with those around us.

Do you not think that this is similar to how we write?

While the reasons to why we write may be different, how we write serves a purpose; it serves to articulate our thoughts, and convey our message to a wider audience. Hence, if we feel something, and yet we are handicapped by our lack of vocabulary to describe that particular feeling, we would have lost the power to affect the readers. And hence, the meaning that I glean from establishing the connections with you and the many other writers in this course, is to understand how each and every one of us articulate.

And with this, we all become better articulators.


:: Learning French via Duolingo ::

Learning French via Duolingo

Jan 5, 2014, 3:44 PM

After reading about the acclaimed language learning game, I decided to try out Duolingo during my Taiwan break in December. Duolingo is a free language-learning and crowdsourced text translation platform. The service is designed so that, as users progress through the lessons, they simultaneously help to translate websites and other documents.

Since my company is a French company, I reckoned that French would be the most appropriate language to learn. The first few modules of the lesson revolved around the basic words such as "La", "Le", "Les", "Homme", "Femme", "Fille", "Garcon" - really basic words that would allow me to form a basic sentence. It then slowly progressed to "Je", "Tu", "Nous", "Elles" and others. For some reasons, we had to learn a few fruit words in the beginning, such as "pomme" and "orange". Probably to form the word - An apple is red, translated to "La pomme est rouge".

I found the masculine and feminine distinction rather difficult to remember, as well as the different verbs, such as "mange", "manges", "mangent", "mangeon". The French pronunciation is also audibly different from that of the English language, and I had a hard time trying to decipher words just by listening to them. Since the "s" sound is not distinctively pronounced, it was not easy to distinguish between:

"Elles mangent une pomme" and
"Elle mange une pomme"

I have gone through some food words, some animal words and some colour words, and while I doubt I would be able to get by in France or Quebec with fluent French, it was still nice to have a few "aha" moments where I realised why some words are the way they were. For one, now I realised why the brand Baleno is called thus - the French word for whale is Baleine.


Mount Merapi and Prambanan

Mount Merapi and Prambanan


Going for a jeep trip to Mount Merapi sounded like the thing that I'd like to do. Erupting last in October 2010, Merapi sat in the horizon, like a giant time-bomb of a mountain, especially from the lobby of the hotel. I could see Borobudur a few kilometres away, rising from the dense foliage, and then, far away in the background, the grand stature of Merapi.

Thus a day trip to Mount Merapi and then to Prambana Temple sounded like a good outing. We woke up earlier for a slow breakfast of Nasi Goreng, fresh fruits, and jasmine tea, and then made our way to the hotel lobby. This time, our guide was not Noordin but Jamal, a tanned and humorous local guide looking smug in his yellow "National Tourism Association" polo.

Jamal was very chatty, and in the drive to Mount Merapi, our conversations revolved around "salak" or snake fruit, clove and clove cigarettes "kretek", why there are not many Indians in Indonesia (apparently in the 1950s, Sukarno ordered all foreigners, with the exception of Chinese and Middle-eastern races married to locals, to leave Indonesia), the upcoming elections, migration policy to encourage locals to move to Kalimantan, and of course, Merapi.

Upon arriving at the "base camp", Jamal looked for the tour operator in charge of the jeep tours. Grinata Adventures was fully booked, and we had to wait for 9 jeeps before our turn came. No matter, as it gave us the opportunity to walk around and enjoy the cool weather, as well as to admire the volcano.

The jeep ride was a bumpy adventure along small trails and tracks, passing by numerous quarry sites. The locals are licensed to remove the volcano soil and ash for sale. According to Jamal, a truck of ash can be sold for 1 million IDR. We eventually arrived at a makeshift Merapi "museum", which was originally the home of a village family before it was damaged by the volcanic rocks. Placed on display was a collection of melted paraphernalia, such as crockery, timepieces, toys, and indistinguishable objects. It gave a sense of what used to be there, which was there no more. As we drove past the empty roofless houses which succumbed to the anger of Merapi, I was once again reminded by my trip to the desolate ChristChurch city centre two years back.

From Merapi, we had a delicious lunch at Ayam Goreng Suharti, and then made our way to Prambanan......


:: I Will Wade Out ::

i will wade out
                        till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers
I will take the sun in my mouth
and leap into the ripe air
                                                 with closed eyes
to dash against darkness
                                       in the sleeping curves of my body
Shall enter fingers of smooth mastery
with chasteness of sea-girls
                                            Will i complete the mystery
                                            of my flesh
I will rise
               After a thousand years
             And set my teeth in the silver of the moon

-- E. E. Cummings --


:: The Blind Man and the Lantern ::

:: The Blind Man and the Lantern ::

In early times in Japan, bamboo-and-paper lanterns were used with candles inside. A blind man, visiting a friend one night, was offered a lantern to carry home with him.

“I do not need a lantern,” he said. “Darkness or light is all the same to me.”

“I know you do not need a lantern to find your way,” his friend replied, “but if you don’t have one, someone else may run into you. So you must take it.”

The blind man started off with the lantern and before he had walked very far someone ran squarely into him. “Look out where you are going!” he exclaimed to the stranger. “Can’t you see this lantern?”

“Your candle has burned out, brother,” replied the stranger.

:: Are Leaders Made or Born? ::

:: Are Leaders Made or Born? ::

Are leaders made or born

There is a perennial question that goes like this "is a leader the same as a manager?"

I think this statement has some relation to the posed question of whether a leader is made or is born. I subscribe to the idea that when we are born, we possess some innate qualities that would make us a better leader, or a better follower. Like the oriental Yin and Yan, a good leader is one that requires followers to believe in him, and a good follower is one that is able to take instructions from the leader. Hence, a good leader must know how to be a follower, and through this process learn to be a leader that is able to leader with inspiration and respect.

Then can leaders be made? I feel that leadership, unlike management, is more of an innate skill. While a leader can be made, it is definitely easier to train a person to be a manager. Management skills or an MBA will imbue a determined executive into a smart manager, but leadership requires more than this. A true leader is usually made in times of crisis, and many times leaders are created out of ordinary human beings that are thrusted into the limelight due to a certain crisis or event, and they muster the right courage and vision to rally an organisation towards excellence.

Hence, are leaders born or made? I think leaders are first and foremost born, with the right set of personalities, and given the right circumstances, they can rise to the occasion and lead. Notwithstanding, leaders can also be made, first as a manager, and then, through determination, develop the right leadership capabilities.