the last summer

27 09 2013

I’ve spend a good few weeks back home in Singapore. It was a timely rest-stop, especially after running around the world and living in 3 continents the past year.

My returning home wasn’t too timely though. Most of my friends have already flown back to the States, or are either already working, or busy with studying, their final year projects or labs. It was tough trying to make appointments, with everyone so busy with their lives. I can totally imagine next year on when everyone starts working (and probably have a family), how much harder it will be to casually meet up and stuff.

Nevertheless, I’m still glad and thankful for the opportunities and efforts of everyone to make time and meet up this summer despite busy schedules, and also for the really fun and memorable mahjong, movies and stayover sessions. It definitely shows how much you guys value me as a friend, and I thank you sincerely for that. This would most likely be the last proper holiday I’ll be having as a student. Can’t believe time went by so quickly – from a freshman to a graduate, and coming back next year will be totally different.

I’ve also had the chance to do something which I had always wanted to all along – working as a promoter in Comex The PC Show. This time round, I was fortunate to work as a salesperson to sell Microsoft Surface, a device that I believed in and always wanted for myself. Hence, it wasn’t too hard to talk to people and pass on my excitement about it. Despite it being my first time attempting sales, it turned out pretty well, and in fact I sold the most devices during the event among the other promoters. I then figured out for myself then it was actually fun to do sales; especially so when customers I spoke to came back to find me to purchase one.

Among meeting up with friends and family and catching up with all the good food, the official things I’ve been working on were the signing of my masters deed with IDA, my UK Visa application and finding accommodation in the South Kensington area. The UK Visa application for me was pretty annoying. Because apart from communication breakdown, there was also the delay of payment by IDA to CMU, which resulted in the financial hold on my transcripts to ICL. And when that was cleared, there was also the part where my transcript got lost in transit, and CMU and Imperial had very different ideologies about urgent handling the sending and receiving of transcripts. During the whole process, without all the necessary items, Imperial College could not grant me an unconditional offer and provide me a CAS number, hence I could not apply for the visa. The hard part was when all 3 parties (CMU, IDA, ICL) that I am emailing happen to be in different continents with different time zones and working hours, so it took almost forever to get things moving. I almost thought I will not get my visa on time, but I’m glad it all finally worked out.

Tomorrow, I’ll be on a flight to a familiar city, but an unfamiliar school. I still have so much I want to do abroad, and I’m not sure if 1 year will be sufficient to accomplish all. I wonder what lies ahead, in my final year as a student…





The Rwanda Finale

8 08 2013

I’ve just had a 2-hour wrap up meeting with the management team of the village together with Professor Bezy of CMU-R, and despite having not really prepared for it, I felt that I had presented pretty well in terms of delivery as well as content. Apart from throwing in a couple of Kinyarwanda phrases which I was already very familiar with by now, I felt extremely confident in my recommendations, and I could tell that the clients and Professor Bezy were extremely impressed with our work despite the “short” 10 weeks here. On a personal note, I felt that I’ve accomplished much more than what I’ve set out to do from the beginning. I really felt that I’ve made a huge impact, not just to the way they manage their IT stuff here, but also to the kids as their big brother, cousin and mentor.

I definitely ended my stay here on a high note – I’ve had the best weekend here ever with a fair share of luck and adventure. Last Friday, we had a bowling session with the CMU-R freshmen. And then on Saturday, I was planning to head out to Kenya via a 24-hour bus. However, after arriving at Nyabugogo at 9am on Saturday, I found out that the bus already left much earlier at 5am. Thus, I had no choice but to decide if I wanted to lose a day and wait till next morning 5am. In the end, I decided to take the next available 3-hour bus to Kibuye.

Armed with no extra clothes, just a camera, a phone, an iPad and my barely-conversational Kinyarwanda, I headed all the way out to the Western Province. Without a plan, I had no idea how long I’d be staying there, and where I’d be staying for the night. Upon arrival slightly past noon, I trekked all the way towards Lake Kivu couple of miles away where I had my lunch at a hotel facing the beautiful lake. I must be really fortunate to have met Brigitte, a 60-year-old South-African lady travelling alone, and we ended up in a chat. To my amazement, she mentioned that she was heading to Nyungwe Forest the following day. I have always wanted to visit the forest, but due to the problem of transportation (unless I rented a car which will be too costly since I travel alone), I was unable to get there, and was already planning to give it a miss. After lending her my iPad to send a message to her children, I asked her if I could hitch a ride and she agreed! Awesome luck.

After lunch, I decided to head out to explore the town. Within Kibuye, I trekked deep into tall grasses and downhill towards the lake into a village, where I saw the most amazing local kids tending to their cows and enjoying sugarcane by the lake. I stayed the night at some cheap accommodation which was located in a secluded area located at the top of a hill, where I had to trek to in pitch darkness after sunset. I doubt I would have survived that if not for my army training.

Cow boy and his radio

Cow boy and his radio

The following day, I headed back to the hotel to meet Brigitte and her tour guide/driver, Joe, and was invited to a (free!) boat ride to check out the islands, which would have cost me 10,000 francs if gone on my own. It was an amazing experience – we saw thousands of bats flying out of trees on Napoleon Island some 20-mins by boat away, and even a blue (balls) monkey and refrigerator built using wood and charcoal on Peace Island afterwards. We also saw many unique plants and animals in the wild on the go. Being a (South-African) tour guide herself, she was sharing with me lots of interesting information about the wildlife. Her tour guide, Joe, too, was extremely knowledgeable, and they kept throwing at each other lots of African-related information, of which I benefited the most.

Bats in Napoleon Island

Bats in Napoleon Island

Following which, we took a 4-hour scenic drive along the Congo-Nile Trail to Nyungwe, which was where I parted with Joe and Brigitte. Nyungwe proved to be a little challenging, because it was mountainous and cold, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for it. Moreover, I wanted to walk the famous Canopy Trail, but the starting point, Uwinko Outlook, turned out to be another 30 km away from the head office. I certainly wasn’t prepared to trek that distance so late into the day, so I decided to find accommodation for the night and worry about the 30 km later. Somehow after a few miles of trekking, I stumbled upon the Nyungwe Forest Lodge, which turned out to be a 5-star hotel built within a tea plantation. I was totally blown away by the lodge by its beauty.

Canopy Walk

The canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest

After a long internal struggle with myself, I decided to spend some $190 to stay in the forest lodge, despite my miserable $250/month stipend. Well, I was kind of left with the choice of sleeping in the forest, or at the lodge. In fact, I was pretty fortunate already – firstly, it was the last room left, and secondly, I should technically have paid $240 because I was a non-resident, but I happened to meet some Chinese residents whom I spoke to earlier, and managed to book our rooms together which gave me a discount. Even better, they were planning to head to Uwinko the following day, and I managed to hitch a ride in their car. Speaking of the Canopy Trail, despite it being really frightening to be crossing a bridge at some 700m above the canopies beneath us, it was not worth my $60.

Ever since I have done my research on Rwanda, I badly wanted to visit a tea plantation in Gisovu and take photos of workers plucking tea leaves. I thought it would be impossible because there were practically no public transport heading that way, and I’m glad I had the opportunity via my newly-met Chinese pals, whom I managed to convince to drop by the plantation for a visit. It wasn’t too easy taking photos of the locals here; people wanted money to have their photo taken, and I usually have to make friends with them, try to speak their language, convince them I’m a student and have no money, and I mean no harm, before I can take their photo.

Tea Worker

Tea plantation worker

Eventually, I also took a ride in their car to a tea factory (which did not grant us a visit because we did not make prior reservations), and then back to Kigali on a 5-hour journey, which would have taken me > 6 hours if I had taken the public transport route. The tricky part was to refund my bus ticket which I had bought earlier prior to meeting them, and somehow I managed to convince the ticket seller to return me my money with my poor knowledge of Kinyarwanda. Indeed, I was really fortunate enough to have met this Chinese group, which also turned out to be reporters and professional photographers, and they taught me how to use my DSLR properly. In return, I taught them how to speak the local language (since they only arrived a few days ago), and helped them translate, whenever necessary.

The Nyungwe forest lodge that I stayed turn out to be pretty awesome though – after all, which I later found out, it was a 5-star hotel. The food was great, the atmosphere was great, and they even had a swimming pool built overlooking the forest. Despite having brought no swimming costume, I decided to head for a soak after sunset for a skinny-dip, when no one would be around. After which, I had my own bath tub which I soaked myself in for 2 hours in hot water while watching the news on large screen TV, something which I have been missing out for weeks. It was an awesome experience, definitely the best way to end my 10 weeks here. Looking back, I’m glad I spent my 10 weeks pretty well – travelling to all provinces, seen everything that I could have in Rwanda (except for the Mountain Gorillas which are too expensive), and have even been to Kampala. Wish I could have taken the chance to see the migration in Kenya though; but I know I’ll be back one day.

Nyungwe Lodge Pool

Pool in the rain-forest

As I’m starting to pack my bag now preparing to go home, looking back, I’m really glad I chose to come here. I’ve learnt a lot about myself, became more resilient and more confident in my intelligence (I usually feel relatively dumb in CMU with all the very smart people around) and strengths/weaknesses. I have seen and experienced for myself the love and life of Rwandans, their way of life travelling around like a local and shared their visions while living as a minority here. Also, it is always heartwarming to hear from locals, “Wow, you speak Kinyarwanda!” whenever I attempt to greet them in their language and try to strike a conversation with them, and see them becoming extremely friendly to me. It’s like… can you imagine seeing a black person (not being racist here) speaking to you in Chinese (I did meet someone up in Musanze couple of weeks ago who spoke Chinese), and I bet you’d go “wow” too.

So after a whole year of staying abroad in 3 different continents, from Europe to North America to Africa, I am so totally ready to go home. In fact, this is the longest since I’ve been away from home, and I’m already drooling thinking of the food that I’ve been missing, looking forward to gaining back some of the 10 kg I lost here and catching up with my friends. A pity I’d be missing out on the national day parade this year though. The past year moving all around has been one hell of a ride, and in fact, I think I might have scattered parts of my soul and heart in too many parts of the world.





Gisenyi weekend on the go

28 07 2013

I am currently on a bus now up to the north western province of Rwanda – Gisenyi. I was reading about how beautiful the place is with the Lake Kivu, how Gisenyi is the tourism cash cow of Rwanda, and thus I couldn’t wait to spend the weekend there. I was also pretty excited to even think about crossing the Rwanda-DR Congo border just less than 30 mins on foot to Goma from Gisenyi since Visa isn’t required (I really appreciate our Singapore passport for all the free Visas it has given me), until I read about how dangerous it was, where my balls shrank and I decided to drop that crazy idea. I read reports that it was common to hear gunshots and bombs in Goma, and the border has been taken over by M23 militants. Also, i learnt that some militants from Congo may cross the border into Gisenyi, so I think I better watch my back while I’m there.

On this 3.5-hour bus ride, I’ve seen the most beautiful undulating hills of Rwanda, filled with mud houses, plantations and fields cut into the slopes. I’ve also seen many people doing their domestic affairs on the hills, and also along the river – bathing, washing, collecting water; and also children playing. I even saw a group of locals killing a cow for their dinner. It then struck me that all that I’ve learnt in geography in secondary school days has been brought to life. Never before have I experienced living life in such a rural place (be it the US, UK or Singapore) and seeing sights like these first hand for myself.

10 weeks for Rwanda sure is too long and boring for me. Every week, I try to explore different provinces, only to be challenged by the inconvenience of long travels, accommodations, getting around and attractions to see. Last week for instance, I went to the south province of Hyue/Butare, and found that the 2.5 hour bus ride was not worth my time and money, except for only the King’s Palace and the Museum that I spent most of my time in.

I’m less than 2 weeks away to going home, and I’m really looking forward to it, besides the fact that I’ll miss many of the students from ASYV that I’ve grown closer to. So far, it has been an eye opener to see things out of my world, learning how to communicate in and hence getting around, bargaining for goods/services and learning the culture in a totally different language that originate from the native. Most importantly, I’ve learnt even more about myself and have become more confident in my competencies. While this is true, I still miss and want my food, my comfort zone and the convenience of everything back home. While I may still complain a lot about my discomfort; on hindsight, I’m still glad I have chosen to come here, especially when I don’t have to spend a single cent on my own for this trip, with many thanks to CMU and my scholarship.





final weeks. rwanda

23 07 2013

It’s finally down to the last few weeks of my term here in Rwanda. Oh my, I CAN’T WAIT to get home. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been back, and I definitely miss my friends, family, food and country.

Couple of months ago, while the rest of my peers chose the easier and faster way out, I still can’t believe I decided to put myself out of my comfort zone for 10 weeks to be a volunteer here in Africa, and I certainly wasn’t sufficiently mentally prepared for it.

The past 7 weeks here has not been easy at all. I still clearly remember the first few weeks – I thought the food and its smell was terrible. Hence, I ended up not eating at the dining hall for the next few weeks, and I’d rather go hungry. Came to a point where I realized no matter how much money I have, I cannot eat what I want, and it made me cherish food back home even more.

Slowly but surely, I got used to it, mainly surviving on plain bread and bananas. And I certainly can’t help but complain about how annoying it is to see on social media – all my best friends back home hanging out, eating all the awesome Singaporean local food, while I can only lament being stuck here with disgusting food. In fact, I simply try very hard to imagine how chicken rice or hokkian mee would taste in my mouth everyday. I can already imagine shredding a tear of joy after heading home in a couple of weeks and tasting all the local delicacies again for the first time after a year. Then, I got used to the cold showers, to the slow pace, to the dusty roads, power outages, slow internet etc.

Nevertheless, I know that on hindsight, I’ll walk out of these 10 weeks knowing that I have not regretted making this decision of coming here. It’s the only time now that I can afford to live abroad like this, to experience discomfort, adapt to a totally different culture and learn how to manage my cravings. And most importantly, I guess I want to make the best of these 10 weeks, and make them really count, and impact the lives of the people here. After all, how many people can say that they have done something like this.

So it was crazy how I spent the whole of last week building a customized application for the village, even to the extend of sacrificing my sleep and falling sick. It was an amazing feat how quickly I pulled everything together using Ruby on Rails. Thankfully, all that I’ve learnt in CMU was put to good use, and I managed to pull up an integrated information system for the special needs of this village. And when I showed it to the staff, it was heartwarming to hear them go “wow”; telling me how timely this solution was, and how happy they were. Moreover, I’m starting to get used to many of the students; many of them would drop by my room often to talk to me, learn piano & guitar from me, and even asked me IT-related questions. I’m glad I made an impact here.

On an even happier and personal note, I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit Kampala 2 weekends ago, and also to finally visit the Akagera National Park last weekend.

Kampala was insane. I took a 10-hour overnight bus up north, and another 10 hours back again, definitely a road less travelled according to this read, which definitely summarizes my bus experience thoroughly. Walking across the border at some 3am was not exactly very fun. It was freezing cold, and I definitely wasn’t prepared for it. Despite being a crazy and messy city, I met many awesome people there – a few whom I hitched a ride from around the city and even paid for my entrance fee to the attractions. I also made a couple of new friends whom I might be meeting in London again.

Akagera was different from what I thought. The ride there and back was super tiring; we literally sat in the 4×4 the whole day from 4am till 10pm. At first, we were extremely excited to see the animals, stopping at every one of them to take photos. Past midday, we were all bored of the animals, and started to hate the bumpy ride. Glad that we finally made it there, despite having planned for it months ago.





Genocide Grounds and the Hackathon

10 07 2013

I’m more than halfway past my 10-week term here in Rwanda, and I believe I am actually starting to get used to the rural life here. I’m slowly getting accustomed to the cold water, the relatively not-so-yummy food, communicating in the Rwandan Kinyarwanda language, the frequent power, water and internet outages, the inconvenience, the slow pace, and the starry yet cloudy night sky.

During my stay here, I try as much as possible to head out and explore. Over the past weekend, I’ve been to both Nyamata & Ntarama genocide memorials over the weekend. Getting to the church was atrociously inconvenient, as they were located in the Eastern Province, some 30km away from the city center. While taking the bus to Nyamata wasn’t too hard from Kigali, it was extremely difficult to get directions once we arrived at Nyamata – most people we asked couldn’t speak English, and Google maps had no information on our destinations. We got on different buses which seemed to take us back and forth aimlessly, until I got fed-up and decided to walk. Turned out that we had to walk for almost 3 miles under the hot sun, where we somehow got lucky to find a bicycle taxi to bring us to our destination.

Nyamata Church was the first stop, and about 10,000 people were killed in the compound in April 14-16 1994. Within the compounds, photos weren’t allowed, and I certainly didn’t want to take any anyway given its horrifying and eerie nature. The victim’s clothes and belongings were piled everywhere, and there were unlit underground chambers which smelt stale, and filled up with numerous skulls, bones and coffins on shelves, and they stare right into your face. From what we were told, these chambers which were turned into crypts, contained up to 40,000 people’s bones. From the skulls, you could see how the victims were murdered – holes in the skulls from bullets and grenades, smashed skulls from weapons such as machetes, clubs and knives. Can’t believe I actually mustered the courage to enter the chambers alone; well, I thought mind as well after travelling all the way.

Ntarama Entrance

Happy to finally get to the genocide ground. It was really inconvenient and hard to find.

Ntarama church was sort of similar to Nyamata Church, with all the skulls and bones too. There were also many coffins and flowers placed on them in the church. Victims who locked themselves inside then, hoping to hide from their murderers outside, were unfortunately killed by grenades thrown in through small holes in the walls. The bricks were clearly seen with many holes from bullets and grenades. In the compound, we could see personal belongings of victims which include toys, jewelery, identification cards (which labelled victims as “Tutsi”), and also lying on the ground were the different weapons used then. At the back showed a school where children had their heads smashed against, leaving a large patch of dried blood stain. The kitchen also showed how people trapped inside were burnt to death. I managed to take these pictures as they were less graphical/eerie.

Ntarama

From outside Ntarama church, personal belongings of victims can be seen

Ntarama Kitchen

Victims were trapped and burnt in the kitchen

Ntarama Classroom

Wall of a classroom where children had their heads smashed against

 
 

On a lighter and happier note, I had the opportunity to organize a hackathon here in Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village last week.

Hackathon Briefing

Hackathon Launch and Briefing

 

Through this hackathon, vulnerable kids here had the opportunity to share their aspirations and vision for their future, hence the theme “Our dreams, our aspirations”. They used the program Alice for the competition. Alice is an educational software by Carnegie Mellon University that teaches the logic of programming, and is easy to learn.

Hackathon Consultation 2

Providing consultation for teams on Alice programming

While we developers in Singapore may have the best equipment to work on our codes (and perhaps take it for granted), the students here do not have such a privilege. They do not have sufficient computers to work with, and most of the computers available are old and slow. Nevertheless, they shared whatever resources they could find and learnt to deal with the problems, and they eventually came up with very interesting projects. 

Despite only being given a tight schedule of 4 days, participants managed to explore & learn the software on their own, plan their story boards, and eventually program a 3D video to tell their stories. On the last day, participants presented their ideas and stories to a panel of judges, where they were judged on creativity & uniqueness, theme adherence, technical aspects and their final presentation.

Team member presenting their completed project

Team member presenting their completed project

Teams presenting their demos

Teams presenting their demos

 

During final presentation, they shared their aspirations that include healing the world, making children happy, being a pilot and even an astronaut that goes to the moon! Finally, the winners were presented a medal in front of the whole village.

Medals in the spotlight

The winner’s medals

Winners in the spotlight

All participants during prize presentation

 

In fact, I’m really glad this hackathon materialized. After the hackathon, I’ve become so much closer to the students and connected to them at a personal level. I even went to their family time for the first time with Patrick’s invitation. I just came back from Patrick’s family, and I actually stayed with them until past their bedtime. Before I left, Patrick actually requested for me to be their cousin, which was an honor. I think I might actually love to be a cousin for the family, despite the short time I have left here with them.

 

Also, if you’re interested in my journey here in Rwanda, be sure to check out my tumblr posts!





The Rwandan Experience

25 06 2013

It has been 3 weeks since I’ve arrived in Rwanda now. It’s kind of annoying that my friends who decided to stay for Summer 1 have already gone home, while I will still be missing home, people and food back in Singapore for another 7 weeks…

Nevertheless, I’m really glad I chose to come here, and experience a unique and meaningful opportunity to serve as a volunteer while I’m still young and free.

I definitely had a hard time during the first 2 weeks adjusting to the food and the lack of comfort, but I think now that I have started getting used to it all, it really isn’t that bad after all.

I serve as an IT consultant in Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, a healing place that house orphans and vulnerable youths (mostly affected by the Genocide in 1994 where 800,000 people lost their lives and 95,000 children left as orphans) and help them realize their maximum potential. These children have witnessed unspeakable violence as they saw the lost of their parents, and their country destroyed.

The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village isn’t like what I’ve imagined before. The students here, those who were somehow affected by the genocide in one way or another, are so motivated and eager to learn. They are like sponges, waiting to soak up every knowledge available/presented to them. They perceive education as a privilege. Compared to our education system which forces us to go through school and hence makes us dread going to school, it’s heart warming to see them so passionate about their work, and to see the children running down the hills happily at sunset from school.

The locals here are really strong not just physically but also mentally – since a young age, they witnessed the murder or the loss of their loved ones in the horrible genocide. Their lives are just so different from us born in urban cities. In some parts of Africa, they are so blinded from the outside world. Their existence is simply to farm, eat what they farm, sleep, wake up, farm, eat what they farm, sleep.

The volunteers here come from all over the world, like from parts of Africa, the US, Isreal, UK etc. Most of them stay here for a year, with a few that have been here more than a year. These volunteers are pretty cool – they are so motivated, and they really want to make a difference in this part of the world. They know not just only so much about Africa, but also about the world, about the stars, about the people, about science, about math, about music, about life. For instance, the science volunteer experiments with pretty cool stuff in his lab, and then teaches them to the students. He owns telescopes which enable one to lock on and find the stars/constellations.

Rwanda, too, was different from what I’ve imagined it to be. Unknown to many (even myself before I came), despite being one of the world’s poorest countries, Rwanda is actually very safe, and very similar to Singapore in many ways. Despite the lack of natural resources, both countries have its own strategic entrepot location. That said, Rwanda has a vision to be the “Singapore of Africa” in terms of being a high-tech hub.

After 3 weeks, I’ve gotton used to and learnt how to speak some local language to get around via public transport. The buses here are totally different; everything lacked organization; there are no proper bus stops sometimes, the buses are hot, small and squeezy, and you have no idea where they go to (there are no bus numbers). Definitely worth an experience learning to travel around like a local, learning how to buy things, greet people in their language. And it’s amazing how friendly people are here.

I’ve just had the best weekend thus far. Last Friday, I made an impromptu trip up north of Rwanda. I took a 2 hour bus+motor taxi from the village to Nyabugogo, and from there another 3 hours bus up to Musanze for Jose’s concert. We stayed a night at some convent, and then I hitch-hiked a 1-hour ride further up north to Kinigi – the border of Rwanda, where the volcanos and mountain gorillas reside.

I was also in time for one of Rwanda’s annual grand event – the Kwita Izina, the Gorilla Naming Festival. In this festival, very important delegates and powerful people were invited to name the baby gorillas, and with some luck, the person that I took a ride from happened to be a VIP with an extra ticket, which entitled me to run around as a photographer for the event + get close to delegates, plus free lunch! It was an awesome experience, to be able to get involved in such a sacred ceremony, and to see the different walks of life of the local/children on the way here. I definitely need to go around Africa more often.

I’ve also set up a separate blog to document my experience here in Rwanda. (http://terence2013asyv.tumblr.com/)

Oh, and Man of Steel was an awesome movie. :) Definitely one of the best movies thus far!





this parting s*** is getting real yo…

7 05 2013

Wow, all this parting shit is getting real man…

This past week has been not just an emotional ride, but also a physical battle. Friday was the last day of classes, ended it on a high note with awesome snacks during Japanese class from our very awesome Japanese teacher, followed by lots of running, soccer & gym sessions, end of semester dinner by the SSA, and finally the Ironman 3 movie at night.

On Saturday, I also went skydiving in Ohio with Ming Swin, Joel, Choon hua and Fabian. Woke up early in the morning despite having slept late the night before from the movie, and alongside my muscle aches from the soccer. And so, we leaped off a plane at a really insane altitude. I swear that was some crazy shit; I used to be even afraid of taking the massive escalator in Orchard, and I ended up jumping for almost 123499872 x that height.

It’s definitely a must-do, but I don’t thing I’d ever want to do it again. The flight up was really uncomfortable though – being squashed into such a small plane with so many people. If I had a muscle cramp (which I did while playing soccer the day before) in there, I think I’ll not be able to recover at all. The plane ride up was so slow and hot, and it felt like I’m sitting on a roller coaster which will never reach the top, and the anxiety just kept building up. The scary part was when the door was finally opened some 11,000 feet above ground, and I was told to put my feet outside the window…

Actually, once I overcame the fear and leaped  it wasn’t that bad. Free fall was actually pretty fun, and the view was awesome! I could still remember screaming like crazy, despite being unable to hear myself from all the wind gush. Can’t wait for the video to be sent to me though. I felt like s*** when the parachute opened. The harness almost choked me, and I couldn’t breathe; on top of that, I thought my thighs were getting burnt from the uplift of the harness. Although it was fun when the parachute was maneuvered (makes me feel like I’m a bird flying around), I started to get some motion sickness soon after and almost thought I would puke airborne. After the leap, the world now looks different.

Sunday was the day Jie Yee left though. After a fun night together at Catman after skydiving, I stayed over at Ming Swin’s and then sent Jie Yee off to the airport in the morning. Then I started to realize I won’t be seeing many people here again, at least for a long time. After having spent a wonderful semester in CMU (with all the mahjong, poker, karaoke night amidst the insane school work), I suddenly realize I actually might miss this place and the people.

And so, I’ve just got about a week to decide if I wanted to stay in CMU for another 3 semesters or Imperial College for 2 semesters. Tough choice, especially when considering the opportunities in both places, the things I would be learning, and the people I’ll be spending time with.

On a separate note, I was supposed to go to Alaska for the summer, but turned out that i would be headed to Rwanda instead, because the people in Alaska withdrew. Honestly, I feel that 10 weeks in Rwanda might be a little too long for me to enjoy the experience – living is tough conditions, eating not-so-delicious-vegetables for meals. And I do agree that I would actually be better off staying in Pittsburgh for 6 weeks to complete my final project instead. By then again, I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I somehow agreed to go for it. Hopefully it all pays off.

On a happier note, I just had an interview with Microsoft Singapore, and it sounds like a pretty fun job. Hope to hear good news from them soon!








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