It’s coming towards the end of November and for a group of people in Japan and ASEAN, like myself, we fall ill every single time during this season which starts from late October to mid December. It’s a season which has changed over 38 years, over 38 generations but the illness has never changed.
The illness I’m referring to is SSEAYP Sickness.
The severity of it differs with individual. I was from the 34th generation coming from the year 2007 and just like everyone, suffered from SSEAYP Sickness withdrawals for the first year after the end of the programme (YES! It is a programme!). I remember calling my friends from the different parts of Japan and ASEAN just so I can hear their voice to feel normal.
SSEAYP disrupts the normalcy of your life for 53days (it increased over the years! It was 52 during my time) and takes you on a journey that many would never have been able to experience. SSEAYP brings you to places around Japan and ASEAN, and it also shares friendship and love between cultures as well as engages you in issues affecting youths in those countries and lets you discuss to find solutions to those issues. It brings people together but it also takes you away from your immediate family, comfort zone and familiarity and puts you into a different environment where you feel safe, happier and in a zone where you feel like time stops.
At this stage, I’m sure most of you must be wondering what SSEAYP is and why do people like me get SSEAYP Sick. SSEAYP simply means Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Programme. It’s a programme sponsored by the Japanese Cabinet since 1974. Initially started as a programme to seek peaceful relations and build mutual understanding and friendship amongst ASEAN countries after World War II, this programme has since grown and evolved in it’s own unique way over the years.
As a Participating Youth on SSEAYP, you’ll travel onboard a cruise ship throughout the entire journey. Whilst participants used to travel onboard the Nippon Maru, the vessel has since been changed to Fuji Maru. SSEAYP doesn’t just end when the programme ends, it’s organic and grows by itself through the people involved who dedicate themselves back to the community in more ways than one. Some go on to become Members of Parliament to contribute back as national leaders (Hawazi Daipi was an ex-participant) and some go on to realise their dreams and ambitions.
Earlier last week, I travelled to Jakarta, Indonesia to help out as a Liaison Officer in SSEAYP’s Country Programme in Indonesia. The choice was clear because you’d have to be able to speak the local language aside from English and other than Malaysia, Indonesia was the best choice for me since I had to visit my parents who reside here! It also gives me an insight into how well I could possibly communicate effectively in Bahasa Indonesia or the lack of it.
A week passed and I definitely came out better than when I started. I learnt more about the Indonesian culture in working with them and I also made new friends as I caught up with old pals and possibly even, forged potential business networks which are crucial for my career growth as an entrepreneur.
Compared to the Singapore culture which is focused on accomplishing the task, Indonesians are just as focused but with more ease and are less anal. They put an emphasis on bonding between members and this perhaps drives the team to perform beyond expectations or for the team to smile and laugh amidst stress. It’s perhaps this lack of bonding that I see in Singapore or feel as Singaporeans are always task-oriented and emphasize on the tangibles rather than the intangibles.
It’s definitely something which I absolutely appreciate having worked here in Indonesia, albeit voluntary. I’m definitely anal about certain things with regards to work but being here, the environment here doesn’t allow you to be anal, especially when it comes to punctuality because traffic is a killer. You’re lucky if you’d be able to meet punctually but more often than not, it’s always best to ensure you’ve got sufficient buffer period, to wait.
With that, I am definitely more patient in my approach with time as I drove the busy streets of Jakarta during the rush hour. An hour plus of driving to a location that would have only taken 20 minutes. Not to mention the conditions at which you drive whereby you’d have people pressing on the horns and brakes faster than the speed of the traffic.
But all that traffic and with the company you have in the car, there’s ample time to bond and THANK YOU to all my Indonesian friends for the wonderful experience! I definitely look forward to being there again and as how most of my friends have put it, visit my ‘pacar’.