Monday, November 30, 2009

Reflections from SSEAYP PYs Hosting

Playing host to the Ship for South East Asia Youth Programme (SSEAYP) Participating Youths (PYs) had given me a memorable experience. What better ways are there to forge friendship with friends from other countries besides staying together under one roof?

In the weeks leading to the hosting period, I was hesitant in whether to bring them around Singapore. That was the study week right before the school exams. The decision to host them was made just a day before meeting the PYs. It was a decision well made.

Over the course of 2 days and 2 nights, I learnt much about Cambodia and Myanmar as much as they learnt about Singapore. The following are some of my take-home points after the hosting.

Alex (Cambodian) shared that MediaCorp TV soap operas are screened everyday during the prime period in Cambodia. Cambodians adore Singaporean celebrities and Alex even calls Zoe Tay as "Bobo" (the name of the character in one of her popular shows). Interestingly, Alex said that one reason why Cambodians love Singapore shows is that our productions usually promote family values and good moral values.

When Alex and Thu Yein heard that Singapore politicians meet their constituents once a week during Meet-the-People sessions, they were amazed. They don't have any channels to meet their local political leaders when they want to.

Thu Yein (Myanmar) shared that he likes our Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong because SM Goh frequently travels to his country. The friendship fostered by our political leaders with their counterparts built over the years is valuable. The efforts to build ties with other nations are consistent.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

36th SSEAYP Homestay Programme

25-27 November 2009

The Ship for South East Asia Youth Programme (SSEAYP) is a 52-day programme, which sees youths from 11 countries (Japan, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Laos, The Phillipines, and Vietnam) gather on board a ship and travel to different countries. The whole trip is sponsored by Japan. Youth participants fly to Tokyo for their first stop, before departing to other countries. During each visit, they would be hosted by locals in the homestay programme.

My senior Chee Wei was selected for the 36th SSEAYP this year, thus he sought my help to host 2 Participating Youths (PYs). And I agreed.

So after my RT IPPT at Bedok Camp, I rushed over to Buona Vista Community Club. There I met my PYs - Alex from the Kingdom of Cambodia and Thu Yein from the Union of Myanmar. As we took the cab back to my place, Alex kept asking questions about Singapore while Thu Yein dozed off from motion sickness.

Alex (Kem Sithipanha) is in the education business and currently teaches English and elementary Japanese. Phyo Thu Yein is a government administrative officer under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Once we reached home, I introduced them to Mother and Brother. Alex affectionately addressed me as Gor Gor, and Mother as Ma Ma.

How could anyone miss the beauty of Singapore's night scene. While Thu Yein turned in for the night, I brought Alex to take a look at the skyline of Singapore. From City Hall, we went to see the St Andrew Cathedral, Supreme Court, Parliament House, Old Supreme Court, City Hall, Padang, and Esplanade.

Alex was crazy about the "durian", so I brought him up to the roof and enjoyed the breathtaking skyline.

On our way back, Hock Rong joined us for supper at the famous Bedok 85 market.

We ordered sugar cane drink (Alex said it's real expensive here), satays (Alex's favourite), oyster omelette, and barbeque stingray! According to Alex, Cambodians love spicy, sour and sweet food but not salty ones.

We reached home, with a satisfied stomach, at about 2 am.

The next morning, Thu Yein was feeling much better. We visited the wet market, a unique heritage of Singapore. We settled our brunch at the Pasar Makan @ Bedok Reservoir food centre. For their first time, they tried Mee Rebus and Mee Siam.

After brunch, they learnt about our local grassroots network, with the first visit to Eunos Community Club.

And my Residents' Committee centre.

Hock Rong and I also briefed them about Singapore politics, stopping by the PAP Eunos Branch, where I collected the party magazine, Petir, as their souvenirs. They were fortunate that the current edition of the magazine featured the party's 50 years in power, so they could learn much about Singapore from the readings.

Both Alex and Thu Yein were surprised to hear that Singaporeans can see their Members of Parliament every week at the Meet-the-People Session. In their countries, they don't usually get to see their political leaders.

We also went to the PCF Kindergarten and share with them how the Party created the Community Foundation to provide affordable early childhood education to Singaporeans.

Leaving my neighbourhood, we went to Bugis Village for simple souvenir shopping. We met quite a lot of hosts and PYs there.

We also visited the Kwan Im Thong Hood Temple and an Indian temple beside it, before going to Illuma for window shopping.

Time is the essence. 2D2N is really not enough to discover Singapore. On foot, we headed towards Dhoby Ghaut, where we wanted to show our guests the official residence of our President - the Istana.

Along the way, we checked out the National Library.

The Singapore Art Musuem.

Singapore Management University.

We took a rest at Plaza Singapura, the most popular hangout place for local youths. Just as we were leaving the shopping mall, Kung Fu Panda appeared! We playfully lined up among the crowd of children. We were the only non-parent adults in the queue!

Alex and Thu Yein took a photo with the Istana as their backdrop. Then we headed to the Singapore River, where we walked around the shophouses, across the Cavenagh bridge to the Merlion Park at One Fullerton.

Alex finally had his dream come true - for having the splurting water photos.

Along the way back to City Hall, we found ourselves at Parliament House (for Thu Yein who missed it).At night, they presented souvenirs from their countries to my family.

From Myanmar: a scroll and a traditional puppet

From Cambodia: An Angkor Wat plate, keychain, hand-woven scarf and a postcard (drawn by the handicapped)

Before they slept, I too surprised them with some local goodies, which included: a copy of the Petir, PAYM wristband, a copy of the Army magazine, a book titled "Things that make us Singaporean", Uniquely Singapore postcards (which I collected and kept for years!), PUB notepads, Singapore's 40th NDP caps (which they proudly wore on their way back to ship the next day), as well as my secondary school's camp tshirt and my junior college orientation shirt (which they were so touched, they immediately wore it till they reached their ship). While presenting the souvenirs to them, I talked about the background information of each souvenir. That took a whole hour, and we found ourselves turning in at about 1am.

In the morning, all of us, including Mother and Hock Rong, ate at the Kopitiam. We bought half-boiled eggs and toasts for them to savour the local breakfast.

We reached Vivocity at about 11.30am. Their ship proudly stood at the harbour. It was great to hear Singapore songs like "This is Home", "Uniquely You" and various NDP songs being played.

Note the NDP caps and their tshirts in this picture!

At noon, the PYs went up to ship for a change of clothes. When they returned, they were dressed in their smart attire, with name tags bearing their respective state flags and their names.

The Kingdom of Cambodia (Kingdom of Wonder):

The Union of Myanmar:

The Republic of Singapore (Uniquely Singapore)!

And the rest:

At about 1.30pm, we boarded the ship for a tour.

This is where the PYs dine. When they stop at different countries, they get to sample the local food specially prepared by the chefs on board.

3 PYs are housed in one bunk.

While on board, the PYs have a packed schedule. In the morning, there is physical exercise. During the day, they discuss various issues in their designated themed groups. Alex is in the group that discusses educational issues. They would need to develop a plan that can be executed. This is one of the place where they discuss:

They even have a hall and a theatre:

So this is how the Snowman looks from a ship!

The sending off ceremony was supposed to commence on the ground, but due to the sudden heavy downpour, it was carried out inside the ship instead.

We were rather disappointed when we were told that we could wait but we won't be able to see our PYs. Alex had routinely requested us to stay until the ship leaves, as there would be a ceremony where the PYs would throw a roll of paper tape down from their deck and the hosts would hold on to them until the paper breaks.

Fortunately, the rain went off just as the ship is setting sail!

Perhaps due to the rain, there were only about 3 PYs throwing the paper tape down, and Alex was one of them!

Shouts of "I Love You" came to and fro. Alex and Thu Yein did their part too. At one point, Alex turned emotional and wept. That was really touching. It was just 2 days ago that we met.

The ship left the berth but the waiving of farewell didn't stop, until the ship vanished from sight.

I wonder what's the probability that 2 people living in another side of the world would actually get to stay at my place and spend time together for days. It is really a fruitful experience and a very memorable one too.

A Celebratory Weekend

21 November 2009

The organising committee for Make a Wish this X'mas met on Saturday morning and conducted a site recce. Many interesting ideas were mooted and I really look forward to the party!

22 November 2009

Eunos Zone '3' Residents' Committee launched its Basketball Interest Group with a friendly multiracial basketball match. The Guest-of-Honour was Mr Lin Tze Kin PBM, Chairman of Eunos CC Management Committee.

Students from Telok Kurau Primary School also participated in the match.

Halfway through the match, Mother, Brother and I went to a restaurant at Defu Lane to celebrate Uncle's birthday.