No Shame Poo? Hair Soda Instead?

Have you ever wondered what your personal daily cleaning products such as shampoo, skincare, soap, make-up products are made from?

Yes. Palm oil. Chemicals derived from palm oil and palm kernel oil.

Do you know palm oil has become one of the biggest drivers of deforestation in Southeast Asia over the past 20 years?

According to a study published by Greenpeace in February 2014, some 3.5 million hectares equivalent to 8.7 million football field of forests were cleared in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea between 1990 and 2010. Can you imagine the price of all other precious flora and fauna that had wiped away along the forest destruction?

Palm Oil Documentation in Central Kalimantan

The ecological footprint by consuming such products is largely reflected through the resulted manufactured landscape of such clearings and plantation. As guilty as charged, we are indirectly funding the deforestation of unsustainable practices of companies such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever in their supply chains.

My journey of minimalism for the past few years have nurtured my practices in conscious consumerism, both striving towards socially and ecological conscious consumption. Along its altruism motive, I’ve been weeding out unnecessary chemicals in my life and most importantly saving some bucks from excessive products. Among some contaminants primary found in personal care products include in the form of synthetic fragrance (dioxine), sodium laurel sulfate, and parabens which are linked to asthma, cancer and other health problems.

One of my most successful experiment to get rid of such nuance is my attempt to a make my own hair soda! Yes! Yes! It’s guilt-free and most importantly greasy-free?

It’s easy and cheap, it smells good and it leaves you a healthier and shinier hair!I kid you not.

So what is hair soda?

As simple as 1-2-3?

  1. Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate
    This ingredient is available cheaply and famously known for its multi-purposes. The fact that it can be consumed orally shows that it does not pose any threat to our health. Not to mention it has over 50 usages for personal care, cleaning and deodorizing.
  2. H20
  3. Natural Essential Oil (optional) of your choice. My pick is rose.

These three ingredients are best mixed in a 100 ml bottle to keep its freshness.

First fill ¾ of the bottle with baking soda and then water. Place 2-3 droplets of essential oil accordingly. Lastly, give it a good shake!

And there you go, apply hair soda as your shamepoo, rub it in thoroughly as it does not lather into bubbles. Rise it with water. This hair soda does not only clean your hair like shamepoo did, it doesn’t strip the oils completely from your hair thereby no conditioner is required.

By simply making our little d-i-y experiments, it does not only enhance our creativity but also truly strengthening our capability in problem-solving thereby dealing with trade-offs in our daily informed decisions.

Pâtisserie de Lydie

Ever wonder how it feels like to be showered with top quality French Patisserie? Delightful French-styled macaroons, meringue, crème brûlée, and pain au chocolat at its finest and freshest ingredients. Well, I’m lucky enough to live with one Nigella Lawson!

Lydie the gourmet, my french housemate has brought the french food and culture to its best. Her exquisite french culinary and gastronomy style is simple, fine and yet delicate.

Here are two of my favorite recipes of hers:

Crème Brûlée

For about 4 persons :

5 egg yolks
110 gr sugar (I rather put 100gr)
50 cl liquid cream (min 30% fat)
one vanilla stick
some brown sugar

1) Open the vanilla stick to extract the seeds. Mix with the cream (put the empty stick as well) and warm up slowly
2) Beat the egg yolk with the sugar till it gets “white”
3) Add the hot cream slowly and stir
4) Pour through a sieve (filter/strainer…) and avoid froth as much as possible
5) Pour into the cups and bake 75 min at 105°C (Thermostat 3). The cream should be wobbly and will get firmer by cooling down
6) Either let cool down first and finalize just before serving … or right when getting them out of the oven: put some brown sugar on the top and place right under the grill of the oven (leave the door open to avoid further baking). Get out once the sugar caramelized

Moelleux mi-cuit au chocolat

90 g butter
110 g cacao
3 eggs
70-80 g sugar
40 g flour (optional)
190 degree for 10-15 minutes

Bon appétit!

Mucho Gracias

So another year is passing by and for many years I fail to fathom the hype of overrated New Year’s celebrations and parties. The party hats, glittery dress, fine wine and dine and not forgetting the alcohol and ‘the’ resolution list. Of course it is ‘the’ almighty teaser of an additional digit to our age and yes responsibilities. This year, I’ve came into realization that New Year is a symbolic opportunity for me to take a step back despite of all my voyages to contemplate and reflect of my occasions and highlights I’ve encountered over the last 12 months and trust me it’s a challenge! So here am I dedicate this day before the clock strikes 12 to recollect all my special moments.

To begin, I owe myself a huge apology and confession for abandoning this site for a whole year. 2013 is an intense and eventful year which I’ve learned to grow so much. I’ve traveled to more than 28 cities in 12 different countries. That’s an average of 2 cities in each country every month. This somewhat contributed to my absence in the cyberworld. My world revolves around organizing, planning, arranging and voyaging from one place to another. At times, by foot, by bike, car, coaches, ferry, train or as phony as I could be, by plane.

 

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Truth to be told, I’ve stayed in more than 10 different households with countless generous people across the world. To put into perspective, imagine being relocated every month, the amount of time spent and effort made to adapt and build social bridges and network in a foreign city. My curiousity and openness have yet being brought into a next level. I’m shouldering less baggages as time passed. My toiletries have reduced to bearing merely a shampoo, shower gel, cleanser, tooth brush and toothpaste. Clothes are obtained in thrift shops or recycling shops where used summer clothes are swapped for winter clothes and vice versa.

My attempt to avoid consumerism, waste and striving to be a captain planet grants me to explore different opportunities with various communities. With the right people and attitude, hitch hiking and dumspter diving are not only an alternative way to rekindle societal spirit but also allow me to save some bucks while promoting communal trust and collectiveness in sharing common needs and ideas.

The more people from all walks of lives I’ve encountered and crossed path with, the more personal values are reinforced and reaffirmed. People of all cultures and diversities cherish and crave for the the same essence in life.

TBC with snippets and best of 2013 photos…

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Au revoir Montreal

Exterior spiral staircases with a touch of Anglophones in a seemingly european francophony northern-american city, a poutineville, and snow-laden walk way with friendly people, and discovering a city with 70s-like subway system with mon bébé is the beginning of an end!

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Maple Story

Our love across the universe is traveling through five continents (Asia, Oceania, North America, Africa and Europe) and is reunited in this glorious Christmas and are able to witness and celebrate the transition to 2013. Hallelujah to our 16-month anniversary!

Honestly, what more can we ask in our inauspicious relationship?

Admittedly, aside from all guilty carbon footprint that I left behind as a result of my extensive travels as you can see above, 2012 has been the most intensive year I’ve ever had. I’ve made some drastic decisions, committed myself in a seem-to-be impossible love, graduated as an environmental engineer without being able to tell the difference between a synchronous or asynchronous generator in wind turbine, seen one of the most beautiful desert sunset in World, tandem sky-dived from 13,000 ft, bungy-jumped for the first time, swam with dusky dolphins, inked again, picked up french lessons, sang with my loved ones, ate caterpillars, kissed a girl, made my first snowman, snowshoed, and……. I’m loved!

The fortune cookie tells that 2013 will be a year full of love and laughter!

Happy 2013!

Happy Globe

69. BUDDHA: Less is more

Source: http://zenpencils.com/comic/69-buddha-less-is-more/

Knowledge = Power (1)
Knowledge = (2)
Power = (3)

Let me open my case by presenting you some basic arithmetic derivation. Sir Francis Bacon famous aphorism “knowledge is power” produces equation (1) whereby Albert Einstein’s quote on “More the knowledge lesser the Ego, lesser the knowledge, more the Ego” equates (2). So, substituting algebraic equation (1) in equation (2) yields equation (3), fairly simple mathematics. “More the power lesser the Ego, lesser the power, more the Ego”, how true does this statement holds?

The world map above clearly shows the heavy distribution of scientific research, or publication of results, in richer territories which is concentrated on the global north. This locational bias is such that roughly three times more scientific papers per person living there are published in Western Europe, North America, and Japan, than in any other region. I’m deeply triggered by this map and somehow feel rather ashamed and overwhelmed by a deep sense of humiliation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m trying to spark off a race on which country hoards the most scientific papers winner earns a prize for that. NO, but I’m resentful on such indicators which is terribly shattering the confidence of the people from the developing countries to develop further. I argue that even education in the form of research and development is not serving as a stepping stone for local empowerment in most developing countries. More often than not, people’s well-being, be it poverty, the livelihood, even the level of civilization is measured by scientists trained and educated from the Western society. They impose biased judgments and values based purely on their understanding and interpretation of the researched society.

It’s not enough to have science which enriches knowledge but what more important is to understand the science and the arguments. Arguments are sets of sentences, statements and propositions. We can all agree that they are all made out of language. So, if we understand language better, we can understand humans and arguments better. Even Helen Keller who wasn’t able to see and hear gained her ability to use language and was able to communicate and transfer her ideas to people.

The illustration of this language diversity of the world can be seen from this chart complied by the Economist:

Economist reports that linguistic rivalry and relative poverty deter the emergence of a single language as occur in Nigeria and India, therefore scoring a high diversity index. Secondly, geography factor contributes to high language diversity. Countries consist of scattered islands like Indonesia and the Philippines shelter small languages. Two main factors combine leave Congo and Papua New Guinea the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. Therefore, is it a fair verdict that the lesser the power, the more Ego people possess to obstruct any form of intrusion? Or the more the power, the MORE Ego people tend to have to dominate the inferiors and vulnerable?

Language can be seen as one of the greatest barrier in the scientific communication and publishing field. Poor translation and misinterpretation as well as weak institutional guidelines and policy hinder the development both in soft and hard sciences. Many developing countries hence are isolated from the mainstream international science community. For instance, in China only a tiny fraction of 6,5964 scientific journals are abstracted in English and indexed in Scientific Citation Index Expanded (SCIE). On top of that, only 3 percent which is 495 of more than 15,000 scientific periodicals among the ‘BRIC’ countries is listed on the Scientific Citation Index Expanded (SCIE). The proliferation of the “hidden” science sources in native languages raises question about quality as they are not up to the standard of a global comparative study. The scientific society claims that lack of high quality standard assessment prevents the presentation and publication quality data. Yet, in order to overcome red tape and gain recognition from a renowned and accepted academia society is a hurdle for many developing countries’ scientists. As a result, due to lack of funds, resources and network, many undiscovered scientific outputs and potential seeds of breakthrough are swept under the rug. The excuse of governments and scientific society often lies at the core of complexity and transparency of the matter. When this access of academia outputs from the global south remains invisible to the scientific society the global level, it can only hinder growth and makes all global science poorer. Solely depending on the more influential northern society will only impede the knowledge dissemination as they can easily take this matter for granted.

In most general cases, it is reasonable to conclude that through acquired knowledge, power is gained or earned, either by means of invention, affluence, discovery, invention or innovation. When the developing nations are denied the least access to this knowledge transfer and communication, we’re destined to be marginalized and exploited in many ways. This simple anomaly projects not only the entire system of how we view the world but also the co-existence of white supremacy which continue to linger today. There’s a substantial effort made to revive and renew Area Studies by rendering globalization not in a US-perspective, but in perspectives coming from different regions of the world, “Global in reach, local in perspective”. This modification of Area Studies tends to promotes global agenda but national/local perspective. As Globalization is connecting our world closer, we are also viewing and defining our world through an americentrism-tinted glass.

Imagine

Imagine there’s no nature
It’s easy if you try
No trees around us
Above us only smog

Imagine all the people cutting trees for money
Imagine there’s no LGBT
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to shame or fight for
And no discriminated immigrants and labor too
Imagine all the people living life without dignity

You, you may say I’m an advocate,
but I’m not the only one
I hope someday we’ll be awaken
And the world will be as one

Imagine apartheid I wonder if you can
Black in prison and white in mansion
Non existence of brotherhood
Imagine only xenophobia

You, you may say I’m an advocate,
but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll initiate
And the world will live as one

Inspired by John Lennon’s Imagine

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; None but ourselves can free our minds. – Bob Marley, Redemption Song

I heard you asking what are the above mentioned themes have in common.
How reverberation of salvation of flora and fauna from ever-growing human violation and over exploitation or the propagation of equality of lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and their liberation from all forms of discrimination can shape a better world that we live in? How can the rights of the 240 millions migrants around the world be protected when they are in a state of powerlessness? What about the forgotten victims of Apartheid who were compelled to endure discrimination and enslavement due to racial superiority and whose voices always are belittled?

Global social advocacy, global civil society or transnational advocacy network, whatever roles there may be, however they may be named or categorized, and these global movements have an important role in placing international pressure to the undermined society as mention above.

Take a look at Uganda, a country with almost 35 million people is preparing to endorse an anti-homosexuality bill that proposes tough jail sentences for consensual same-sex behavior. East African nations do not recognize LBGT communities where they are considered as social outcast in the society. The new bill proposes a harsher penalty as homosexuality behavior will be punished with life imprisonment. This oppression of freedom to human dignity, equality and justice to all is clearly demonstrated when prominent gay rights activist David Kato was beaten to death in the country in 2011. This bill nullifies international treaties and protocols such as withdrawal from UDHR. Reaction and outrage from the international advocacy arena responded through civil society movement such as Amnesty International and International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) as well as campaigns launched by Avaaz.org and Allout.org to collect signatories for their petition ‘Stop Uganda’s Kill The Gays Bill’ and ‘Hours to stop Uganda’s gay death penalty’ respectively. While more nations in the West are gaining momentum on legalizing full-marriage of homosexual, opposition to gay rights and homophobia remains ferocious. Change of attitude and trend in Muslim and Africa world stays onerous.

Zooming into South Africa, apartheid (apartness) is a legalized system of oppression and separation based on race. One start to question the Apartheid system which haunted South Africa for almost half a century beginning from 1949 to 1994 even as they intentionally abstained from signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which South Africa did in 1948, what critical role did the Transnational Advocacy Network play to abolish and repress this system? The detailed apartheid legislations were so carefully crafted to support the white supremacy and discriminate the majority of black inhabitants. Even with international oppositions to apartheid in South Africa, the whites were able to enjoy their dominance which was lingering over an astonishing half a century. How emerging global civil society can learn from the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM)?

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) were instruments used by AAM to intensify and spread the anti-apartheid campaign. Although AAM’s successes in forcing South Africa to quit its Commonwealth membership in 1961 and its expulsion in Olympic participation in 1970, other boycott and economic sanctions did not receive as much acceptance and support as intended from the west. AAM effortlessly spearheaded more radial cooperation with United Nations in 1966 to formulate an international campaign with range of measures to isolate the regime, imposing effective sanctions and promoting public opinion. The AAM was advocating using tactics like information disseminations, community empowerment, media and communication which were complemented by the existing infrastructure. BDS tend to influence government policies if organized by grassroots levels.

From legal to political issues to environment, woman empowerment, child abuse, human rights, social welfare, economic development and many more, people long to make these people’s voices heard in various areas. The idea of global advocacy to create a “better world” through a set of predefined morality and social justice is definitely possible if everyone in the world embraces the similar idea of change.
Whether all these advocacies in various vulnerable matters can be effective or condemned in an international scale largely depends on the dimension of involvement and approach of the global civil society network.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. – Mother Teresa
The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but those who watch without doing anything – Albert Einstein

Gangnam Style

“Broccoli Obama or Meat Romney?”
Simple choice cause I’m a vegetarian

This morning while the day has finally arrived for Americans to decide its future, President Obama was asked about PSY’s Gangnam Style dance craze, yes even amidst the Election Day, he too needs to do the ‘Obama Style’. “I just saw that video for the first time…I think I can do that move,” he said of the gallop dance from the viral Youtube video that has a traffic hit of a staggering 659.970.000 views since being uploaded in mid-July.
South Korean rapper PSY has taken the world by storm with his splashly ‘Gangnam Style’’s dance move, that it was performed to the British Prime Minister David Cameroon and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon who hailed “Gangnam Style” as a “force for world peace” and sparked off “UN Style”. Next his video became a source parodies to many prominent figures1. Students and fans around the world through internet have organized Gangnam Style flash mobs. How can this catchy pop song gain so much popularity? And what is ‘Gangnam’ style?

Gangnam is in reality a district of Seoul about half the size of Manhattan where its neighborhood is covered with designer boutiques, a boom of plastic surgery clinics, women with trendy and classy style, which is often described akin to the Beverly Hills in California. It has been reported that Gangnam is home to the wealthiest 1 percent of Seoul’s population and the average Gangnam apartment costs about $716,000, a sum that would take an average South Korean household 18 years to earn. Indeed, this neighborhood has access to the country’s best education opportunities, best cultural offerings and best infrastructure. This Gangnam style is nothing new to many emerging countries around the world; in fact it is a global scenario where no country can escape from the present trend of unequal distribution of both wealth and opportunity. The gap between the more and less educated has widen and cronyism continues to prevail in all layers of society. One in which the rich get richer and the poorer get poorer. Unequal income distribution is a reflection of market and government failures which all in all impede growth and social mobility. Can we call this disaster capitalism as described by Noami Klein? Is Gangnam, a green zone – product of capitalism?

Yes, strategic and economic reforms are crucial, but to what extent? Firstly, enhance market competition and restrain cronyism and monopolies are measures to promote equality both at the national and global level. Hence, in our 21st-century liberal capitalism, the access to the free market should enable and offer equal opportunity to everyone to compete on the global playing field – the fittest and the evils of the state survive. However, the current trend shows otherwise. Going back, it’s rather G20’s playing field. After the financial meltdown in 2008 many worlds’ largest economies have reverted to trade protectionist measures to dampen foreign competition as oppose to a consensus in a G20 crisis summit in Washington. A study shows that EU and its 27 member states are the culprits who have generated more than a third of the protectionism policies which 93 percent of them discriminated foreign competition. Laissez-faire capitalism or Western liberal capitalism is clearly not the case here. Fair trading in a global economic system where some companies are benefiting from national government’s support, overtly and covertly is questionable.

On the contrary, developing countries in Asia-Pacific adopted vigorous open trading through exporting to rich countries during the Asian crisis in the late 1990s. State capitalism adopted today was started in Singapore and the model was then implemented by Deng Xiaoping in opening China up to global market. Clearly the intervention of state in the liberal market demonstrates a system’s contradiction and self-defeating. Vested interests at the end might initiate a trade war. On meta-level governments around the world are ready to commit to progressively increase social expenditure, to create more jobs and reduce hunger to tackle the divergence in fortunes of the people and boost national growth. Education is the main ingredient to build a competitive society which can drive a nation collectively. Money has to be largely spent on improving education materials and incentive for teachers and students in developing countries. For instance, while America allocates roughly 4.8 percent of GDP, U$ 700 billion in military spending in 2010, shift of spending towards education which holds 5.7 percent of GDP, U$ 972 billion can be utilized to boost social mobility through investing in the younger generation.

As the Americans have opted for “Broccoli” for a more sustainable diet, people around the world can rejoice and continue to anticipate for more equitable world!

 

Love actually

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Three people from three different continents traveled over 1500 km, crossed path with one cheetah, one leopard, four lions, one spotted hyena, eight white and black rhinoceros, ten hippopotami, countless zebras, elephants, giraffes, wildebeest, kudus, oryxes, springboks, ostriches, impalas, elands, hartebeest, damara dik dik, bushbuck, steenbok on the way to attend and witness a wedding of a German-Namibian couple over the weekend at Etosha National Park and Caprivi Strip.

Love has been defined in this short period. The love which is unconditional, with complete acceptance, pure happiness, trespasses time and distance is ultimately proven and witnessed in the wedding. The joy of finding our one true love and commitment to spend the rest of our lives with the one regardless of sickness, hardship and how big the storm might be is the greatest gift one could ever have. Without love, we are nothing.

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On the other side, I also have witnessed that love is jealousy, possessive, selfish and unreasonable. Love can both bring out the best in one individual and destroy the best of one. Distrust, thoughtlessness, inconsiderate, depressive, egotistic in one’s personality can be the result of love.

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I’ve seen how the newlywed couple truly appreciates one another and despite of the cultural differences, they can honor and respect their traditions and people of their own creed. Humility like one quoted is one of greatest quality in the humanity. We respect our partners and remain faithful to the people around us. We strive to treat everyone as how we want to be treated. Humanity exists because love brings us together and makes us whole. However if love were manipulated, it can also destroy our humanity.

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So, here I am in Namibia learning about love for animals, love for a child, the respect to nature and experiencing the love shared by others: the beauty of love, the infinite love, as well as the selfishness of love, the protected love, the love that demands and not given.

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I’m once again overwhelmed by the extent of it. I can only admire and learn from the all these people around me and ultimately be a better person.

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Ubuntu

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My arrival on “Land of the Brave” has been positively invigorating and needless to say as this is my first time in the African continent, I don’t know what to expect. Before my departure, Namibia has never appeal to me or has caught much of media attention as much as the Central Africa due to much poverty and HIV/AIDS.

Truth to be told, Windhoek has surprised and charmed me with her very own way. I’m aware that I’m still a beginner when it comes to traveling and expanding my horizon, therefore with a tad little of beginner’s luck, I could go really far.

If there’s anything that I can help to draw you a picture of Namibia, it would be somewhere between Mongolia and New Zealand! The vast land, desert, landscape, sand dunes, rich wildlife as bonus and beautiful tribal people just excite me to thirst for more.

So, here I’m in Namibia, situated at the southern Africa just above South Africa and between Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Well, this is beginner’s luck! Little did I know the click language originated from this region.

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Lord of the Wings

What’s NEXT?

The million dollar question overflowing by million possibilities; if I’m able to tell with a snap of a finger, you might see a halo circling above my head.
Indecision, fear and underestimation have all overthrown our own potentials and capabilities.

You see, the inability to see the imminent is what we human have been struggling to accept. On the contrary to many people who resist CHANGES in their lives – meaning being out of their comfort zone is an unforeseeable option, I suffer the otherwise.

In my case being home in Malaysia with my family, that being said: being fed, chauffeured, laundry and clothes being done, no tedious house chores and dishes waiting for me to fill up my day and no hassle of me taking sweet time to do groceries by my own is a HUGE change in my life. All these being in “comfort zone”, having stability, security, privileges and sudden “change” of my lifestyle hasn’t been easy for me to digest and adapt to for the past few weeks.

I’m challenged to accept this change of being pampered while enjoying my sweet time watching the clock ticking away while idling around.

After reading the ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ by Amy Chua, I somehow feel perplexed and have led me to reflect on my very own childhood with my siblings. I question my parents’ parenting skills and relate myself very closely to the character in the book, “Lulu”. She displayed a lot similar personalities as I myself will define it as attitude.

Let me shed the light by explaining the dynamics in our family, and how in merely 4 years, we’ve grown and things around changes. Mind you that, although my parents are nowhere close to being ‘Tiger’ parents however this term is highly applicable when it comes to being ‘immigrant’ parents in Malaysia where we have to fight for our presence among the ‘native’ people.

My dad is the government. His autocratic style of leadership makes him a dictator. Unlike behind every dictator, there is usually a wife wielding considerable power, but my mom’s gentle face and character leaves our only hope of a would-be reformist regime down to zero. I was brought up to be a rebellious kid questioning every sense of our actions and despising discipline. Nevertheless, my relationship with my dictator has trained me to fight for everything I want in my life. The higher the resistant, the more exciting are the challenges and the more perseverance I tend to be. Stubborn is how they define me.

The next person I’ve came upon to respect after my parents has got to be my elder sister. She displays a picture perfect of our Y generation these days. She’s fashionable, stylish, contented and beautiful. In other words, she places high importance in aesthetic values. Until today, I’m still figuring out if the definition of beauty to her is equivalent to skinny. Needless to say, she and her boyfriend are ambitious and have the future well in hands.

Then my younger sister, I’d like to think that we possess similar personalities by accident. One of the reasons can be contributed by our love for the environment. Hence, we care for similar cause and are able to share and discuss when problems aroused. She’s jovial, soft, sweet and smart.

I’d have to give in that my respect and admiration for my brother mounted over the period. He has grown into a man of words. Quiet but considerate, he acts without words. Steady and diligent which I hope I could pick up from him.

While everyone around me is busy living their lives: work, universities, boyfriends, girlfriend, paycheck, future, career, babies, aging, I’m overwhelmed with a huge sense of gratitude and reflecting on the life I’ve chosen.

I’m right here today, while checking my bucket lists I’m standing on a crossroad questioning and following my heart and the opportunities appeared to me.

Over the years the experiences through traveling, relationships, friendships, hardships, love, loss, illness, loneliness, grief which have thought me to be who I am today, I’m still waiting for the calling of my life.

Western, Chinese and Asian influences, you many name it? What have universities, professors, Germans, Russians, Europeans, Indians, Chinese, Scandinavians, Canadians and Kiwis to student hostels, backpackers, farms, NGOs, ashrams, tropical forests, national parks, and deserts have taught me?

For whatever reasons they are, I know the next is waiting for me to unveil its mystery.

And for now, I just want to continue what I enjoy best, LIVE and LOVE courageously

Flying without wings

Funnily being away from home for almost 4.5 years now along with my perpetual nomadic lifestyle has raised my sensitivity in my identity crisis’s issues. Over and over I’ve yet to explain to my fellow travel companions and acquaintances of what being a Malaysian and a Malay means. Being said, I was in Beijing for 7 months and that didn’t make things easier. I’ve had to explain of what being a Malaysian and a Chinese means.

“Nah li lai?” (Where do you come from?) asked the Chinese cab driver.

“Mah lai si ya” (Malaysia).

“!#$@$&%??? NAH LI?…” (Where?)

“Thai guo ni zhi dau?” (Do you know Thailand?)

“Ohhhhh… Shi shi.. Wo yi wei ni shi Yue Nan ren. (Yes yes I thought you are a Vietnamese)

“So, what language do you speak?” the taxi driver puzzled.

These people from the Middle Kingdom don’t seem to acknowledge Malaysians, well just like Indians or any other Africans.

And the process repeats like a broken record wherever I go.

I’d try to brush away any questions regarding my origin. I’d affirm my identity as a Malaysian avoiding any further complexity. I speak Malay and English. Many times, I’d try to avoid racial issue as much as I could. Sometimes, as much as I hate to admit it, I dislike being associated with any Chinese genealogy. I can’t help to feel disconnected to my own generic specie.

For seven months, I struggle to discover the beauty of my environment, the people, the system, and culture through an open mind and spirit but instead of capturing the best I’ve noticed the flaws and faults. The more I tried the more anxious I was trying to get out of the bubble. My mind was fighting but my body and soul are rejecting the environment.

My lungs were crying help after 7 months of toxic inhaling fumes, my body was surrendering to catch the goodness of the sun and my eyes are tearing for a glimpse of greenery.

Here am I feeling the presence of a human being again, not a human race.

I was feeling it all once again when I was soaking the sun the Perhentian Island, when I was swimming with giant turtles and coral reefs. The goodness of fresh food, beautiful and friendly people which were all used to be part of my entity seems to reemerge again.

Imagine this; I have the honor to call our fellow waitress and waiters “Hey Boss, Beauty, or Handsome instead of Hey Servant!

Wow, back to civilization!

This seems to be more prominent now that I’m in an organic farm of New Zealand’s South Island. The landscape, scenery, people and greenness seems to be surreal. The natural energies that present, the happy and loving community that reverberates around us are not only nourishing and reinvigorating our body, mind and soul but serves as a reminder of simplicity of alternative lifestyle can deliver such fulfillment…

New Zealand is truly something!

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Mr Mario

As the boyfriend was sharing with me on how human being’s talent and destiny can sometimes be so easily determined by our folks during our last breakfast’s conversation left me kind of bewildered. Well, he left for India and have had led me with no choice but to think of some futile INTERESTING stuffs to keep me occupied in our lonely little apartment.

Correctly speaking, say in a medieval context, we humans can be destined to be as philosophical as a poet or to be designed to have an inventor’s complex mind to solve quantum mechanics.
So can a think tank who’ve had just issued a 1000-page report on climate change perform a 1.9 m Michael Jordan’s slam dunk?

He got me into thinking if we human beings can be classified as a generalist rather than specialist! Well, someone who can put together Moonlight Sonata and put up a bloody lawnmower at the backyard at the same time.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. — Robert A. Heinlein

I’ve been telling people all my life that I’m a ‘Jack of all trades but master of none’ and today I feel as though I’ve came to a point of enlightenment knowing that there’s something called INTEGRATED HUMAN. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not even close to constructing a lawnmower or playing the Fur Elise, just the philosophy or concept of it got me all hyped up though I have to emphasis that it’s the implementation and not the definition that counts.

So an ‘integrated human’ is an individual strives towards development which encompasses physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. They recognize their body as a part of their person (not the sum). They are consciously trying to maintain the level of health necessary to have a positive impact upon the world.

I’d like to share with you these guiding principles which I find pretty amusing:

Physical

Physical Fitness
Flexibility
Agility
Nutrition
Healthy body, healthy mind
Hand-eye coordination

Mental

Thirst for Knowledge
Critical thinking
Researching skills
Willpower to do physical and mental work to get things done
Awareness
Philosophy of Liberty and Abundance, not Greed and Theft
Knowledge or intuition of how the world works
Follow the golden rule, treat others as you would wish to be treated
Forethought, good judgment
Open minded
Able to work independently
Able to cooperate with others
Focus, concentration, mental discipline and positive inner dialogue

Emotional

Emotions are controlled, they do not control
Empathy and Compassion
Respect for one’s self and others
Independent
Cooperative
Mindset of sustained sufficiency, rather than consumption of resources
Able to honestly change mind based on facts, not hung up on ego attached to something
Self assured, not dependent on what others think
Resilient “survivor” personality, able to thrive in challenging conditions
Accepts other people as they are, no one can force another to change, individuals can only change themselves
Looks past the superficial surface of things to try to see the core, the true nature
Can take direction
Can give direction

Spiritual (different than but compatible with religious)

Intuition, informed by knowledge
Meditation, yoga or reflection

Source: Opensourceecology

I have definitely a lot to learn and improve in order to achieve the state of ‘integrated human’ but hey, I’ll strive to be a better me, girlfriend, daughter and a better citizen! And I still don’t have to know how to fix a car, boyfriend. :)

Now, C’est ça l’amour!

Flower Power

Just as we’re approaching the year of Dragon in a couple of days and being blessed a good 24 years old of life, I’ll never stop believing that there’s hope in this world. Undoubtedly 2012 will be the year of change as suggested, and Rio +20 as a key milestone of Sustainable Development, since 1992 Earth Summit will map out our achievements and challenges yet to come.

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Given the enormity of the problems that are faced, I never failed to question, if

Is it possible to fundamentally change the economic/industrial/military system?
Is it fair to curb the Western style ‘development’ in other parts of the world, especially Africa and Asia?
Is it possible to have sustainable energy for all?

Can we move from a society based on the pursuit of power, profit and consumption to a society that has the well-being of society and the environment at its core?
Can this be done at a global level?

These are difficult questions to answer, but in my opinion, yes there is hope.

All the ideas, techniques, technologies and cultural models we need to transform the world and steward the environment for the better exist already. They have developed throughout history and can be seen through several currents.

I find it’s utterly important for me personally not to feel overwhelmed by the extent of the problems, but to examine existing, easy to implement and inspiring approaches that we can use to both improve the environment and the lives we lead, looking at the holistic approach of minimalism and permaculture in particular as a mechanism in creating change.

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Sustainable living is more than just a nice life for those that attempt it. It also offers a vision of a better world, and a daily, practical protest against the cultural, corporate and state structures that lay waste to the world.

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It doesn’t really matter where we start. Follow our curiosity and passion, make it part of our life with practical action and steady learning. Celebrate our achievements and turn others on to the possibilities.

Each positive action links us to a new global family that has the interests of the Earth and all its beautiful inhabitants at its heart. We’re not alone. Millions of people across the world are working to make things better. When you go to bed after
a good day of rabble-rousing and Earth repair, others are just waking up, ready to put in another day’s effort.

Inspired by The Trapese Collective

When giving is NOT buying

I love Christmas. It’s a season of hope, renewal, love, inspiration, joy and contemplation. It’s about giving and sharing.

Being in Beijing, well in a country which originally doesn’t really have anything to do with this celebration or meaning, it has definitely a lot to offer. The lights, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, billboards, jingly decorations and snow man portray nothing of any sort of the birth of Jesus. This is definitely not surprising coming from a City where there’s not a single sight of a standing church.

Unlike in many western countries, where the smell of mulled wines, cookies, waffles and bakeries lurking in the winter air, the Chinese smell OPPORTUNITY in the air, well which is literally translated into MONEY. Whether it’s the money-burning shopping spree from the consumers or the cashing-in sound of the register, it spells ECONOMY.

This is unquestionably a trend of globalization, no? One World?

This is purely an excessive crapload of commercialized and propagated consumerism. People just want to find reason to buy. Oh, Christmas Sale? People can save thousands on this season? Listen, people save when they DON’T buy what they DON’T need.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of giving, especially to our loved ones, but not the twisted and manipulated picture painted by greedy corporations. We shop for months, getting into debts, rip apart the packaging one morning, forget it the next day and chuck them in the closet and shelves collecting dust. Do we need more cluster? C’mon it is about giving, or buying?

The focus here is certainly on buying not on sharing.

Christmas is NOT about wish-lists, shopping, overconsumption, frenzied malls, consumer debt, environmental waste, excessive fancy wrappings, and bunch of endless needless stuffs that goes with it but it is the time for family, friends, eating cookies, laughing at each other, gossiping, tightening bonds, reunion and reconciliation.

Giving can be in many forms, with a little thought and creativity; we can give our loved ones gifts which can leave little footprint to our environment but large footprint to our hearts.

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2012 my dearest ones!

Thank you 2011.

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Inconvenient Truth

The most profound thing that I’ve discovered and learned in 2011 is trying to define “truth”.
For this discovery, I’ll have to thank my collection of experiences for the past few months. It’s never a question of Black or White to begin with. Let’s put it in a very bleak clarity, that truth has NEVER seemed so far away.

Before I proceed further, I find it essential to stress that there’s a difference between trusting and accepting THE “truth”. Trust to me is a fundamental faith that involves a reliability that we have for a certain source or person. Trust can be harnessed with time.

Truth for example reveals the reality of something. It brings precision and transparency, the yardstick we use to identify our moral correctness or righteous consistency.

Being an engineering student requires us to work with pure hard facts. You can’t defy F = ma or E = mc2. We grew up with utter scientific proven hypotheses and figures which have been used and generated over the past centuries. From these theories, innovations are made and new technologies are discovered. My curiosity on science and technology has then been substantiated when I know I want to be part of a solution – ideas being transformed into reality.

Of course in practical, it sounds too good to be true. There are always limitations and constraints and it is our job to link scientific discoveries and their subsequent applications to human needs.

Engineering ethics aside, my curiosity on social behaviors and code of conduct has intensified over the last years. I try not to impose myself to seek for the cause of social unjust whereas I’d prefer to look for answers. I’d like to think that as much as we’re bumping up against “harsh reality” such as wars, economic crises, inflation, depression, suicide bombing, famine, HIV, climate change, peak oil, natural catastrophes and things will only look bleaker as we head into the future, there’s a tinge of hope that I can hold on to.

But there’s no instant solution without knowing the roots of the problems. I’ve figured that it’s more important for us as a society to first question ‘WHY’ are all these happening around us.

And then I start to question myself how important are all these projected truths to me?

I’m filled with doubts and finding it difficult to accept certain ideology, habits and practices.

Something reminded me again that it’s doubt that drives a man onwards. All these barriers that are dividing society bring so much agony and tension amongst people.

We are disrespecting the planet, squeezing and exploiting till the very last drop of natural resources it could offer. An egocentric society which focuses on affluence and power, security and possessions just to keep the flow of economy sounds senseless to me.

Our economic indicator portrays obsessive figures on our development and progression, but people forget about the true value of our Earth’s assets, which we can get for free.

The national pride, competition, history, and stereotype wipe out human beings’ common goal which is the pursuit of happiness and love.

I’d like to bear in mind that no matter how heart breaking and bitter the situation and system is, I’ll consciously remain optimistic and cling to the hope for a holistic, sustainable and renewable world. That’s my hope for 2012. Change. Less equals to more. < = >

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PS: This blog post is triggered by the death of Kim Jong Il. Cheers to our fellow comrades!

The “Popcorn”

This is Yungang Cave, 1500 years old.

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A place with 51000 Buddha statues and statuettes.

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A 6-hour train journey from Beijing to Shanxi province…

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Damn the 2 full bags of POPCORN in Datong, we missed our train back to Beijing and ended up seating in front of the toilet. :)

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A place, where the friendly local delicacy is rabbit’s head has brought thousand smiles to our faces…

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On the other note, chapter two has unfolded…

Thank you for everything. *love*

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Words without borders

It was on the 13th August I stepped my foot on Beijing’s soil as a first timer. I know my merely 2.5-month’s observation and stay in Beijing will not justify my whatsoever opinion I have for this city. As superficial as it might sound, as an ‘outsider’, my instinct urges me spit it out before my intangible time here vanishes.

Oh boy, my very first impression for city was: this place seems to have undergone an extreme makeover. It is nothing new to mention that the economic development that has taken place here is simply jaw dropping and deservingly admirable – modern high rise buildings, shopping malls, and more skyscrapers mushrooming like hotcakes. Almost all families own electric bicycles, motorcycles or even cars; walking seems to have become a lost art. People are inseparable from their latest electronic and mobile devices.

Children and teenagers are losing their competency of mingling with people as a result of the implemented “one child” policy. Growing up in an environment where absolutely no one knows who their neighbors are and people are busy minding their own business shuts them off from the social institutions completely. Kids’ best friends are television, brand new toys and I-pads. Going outdoor seems alien to them.

It would terrify parents today if their kids start playing mud and throwing stones, as kids these days are destined to get themselves ready for good scores in the upcoming test or an interview for a kindergarten’s enrollment. While internet and technological devices are booming, there’s also no need for local or public libraries. As kids and adults in other big cities are privileged to borrow books on a wide range of subjects, local bookstores are equipped with textbooks, college entrance exam preparation guides, or various electronic handheld devices called ‘study machines’.

And as the kids’ main purpose of life is studying, the adults now have more free time on their hands. Most seem to fill this time eating and drinking. Food is unhealthy and rather expensive, yet restaurants are always crowded. Karaoke clubs, pubs or “Mahjong” is in the next agenda and often till the following morning.

Though some people confide that they find such dinner parties unwholesome and meaningless, but they go anyway, as they do not want to stick out or become a social outcast.
Adults no longer can identify what are the activities available to spend quality time with their kids apart from shopping malls, since their kids are the happiest when are showered with brand new toys and gadgets.

I found a great difference in the use of spare time between the place I grew up, Hamburg and Beijing. People might think that life would be more monotonous in the west, where people live further apart from each other.

Activities in the evenings, where people mow their lawns, wash their cars, jogging, go fishing, baking, gardening, play sports, read books, or develop various personal hobbies such as in music or art. Things that I take for granted, such as hiking in the wild, visiting local museums or libraries or going to the park, are rare excursions in Beijing apart from the local tourists or senior citizens. Even the China’s literary culture such as calligraphy and ink painting are losing its ground amongst the youngsters.
The cultural landscape here, especially in emerging economic areas, is a wasteland that cannot be concealed even by the glare of red-hot economic development.

I couldn’t escape the feeling that its newfound economic prosperity seems to be defeating the purpose of improving standards of living.

Can this constant fear that people have of not securing enough wealth and possessions which is the sole driving force to this economic development and prosperity in material life be called progress?

If people’s hard-earned money is spent on wasteful eating, artificially engineered food, unhealthy drinking and ear deafening Karaoke clubs, can this development actually be called progress?

If a society can allow a 2-year child bleeding in road after being run over by two different vehicles and then ignored by 18 passersby and later found dead, can this development be called progress?

If human beings are denied from the very basic of nature’s essential, namely clean fresh air and water, can this development be called progress?

We are what we do and eat.

Twenty years from now, what will we be doing?

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Love Affair

There are some days when we’re awake, there’s a great gush of contentment that kicks in, bringing in a big broad smile to our face to welcome our day.

Today is one of those days where it feels so natural to think simply and presently. There’s no smog, no rain, solely the goodness of sun throwing incredible beauty to its vicinity on a cold autumn Monday morning. I felt nothing but gratitude for being alive, for seeing the sun shine again. It’s clearly a reminder that the sun will always shine again no matter how big the storm or particularly SMOG it might be.

On a day like this, it’s easy to see how we forget to stay present, be happy, and reacquaint ourselves with trust and faith – things that were once a natural part of us.

It is the joy of smiling for no apparent reason, and yet for thousands of reasons.

I breathe. I give. I receive. I love. I am loved. I am healthy. I have fresh food. I’m present. I’m excited. I’m trusting. I’m grateful.

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I’m falling more and more for this city bit by bit.
I fell in love in Beijing.

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I LUB YOU, MIIIIIISSSSIAAAAOOOOOOOOOO says my lover.
She’s a two and a half year old girl, Ping. I’ve been home staying with a Chinese family for almost two months now. This family has been so kind to me.

For years, I’ve learnt that giving is purely a personal selfish act to grant me keys to my contentment and happiness. The more I could give and offer the happier I’m – which is only partially true. In other words, I’ve came to realization that, being in that place of receiving where we can validate the giver’s blessing is one of the greatest gift one could ever have.

Whenever I feel that I’m unable to receive, I’m reminded that I’m actually denying someone else the pleasure of giving.

This totally makes sense!

I’m counting my blessings, on every single day!