SSEAYP Indonesia Country Programme 2011

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.

Fuji Maru docked!

Fuji Maru docked!

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.

LO Team

LO Team


Reunion On Board

Reunion On Board

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.

Resting at Emerald Lounge

Resting at Emerald Lounge

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.

Driving from Pondok Indah to Tanjong Priok

Driving from Pondok Indah to Tanjong Priok

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.

The one they call my 'pacar'

The one they call my 'pacar'

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’.


Malays, 2nd Biggest Majority in Singapore

Earlier tonight, I attended the final policy forum discussion of the Community Leaders Forum series for 2011 held at Yayasan Mendaki’s premises. The speakers were former Members-Of-Parliament, Haji Wan Hussin Zoohrin and Haji Sidek Sanif as well as former Nominated Member-Of-Parliament, Zulkifli Baharudin. The forum was moderated by By Definition Pte Ltd‘s Director (Community & Heritage), Suryakenchana Omar who is also 4PM’s Vice-President.

The forum began with Hj Wan Hussin giving an introduction to what he constituted as the ‘Malay Problem’, an issue which has long been debated and gone over throughout Singapore’s past and present. Hj Wan Hussin described the ‘Malay Problem’ as one that was started during the time when Sultan Hussein Mohamed Shah sold Singapore over to the British East India Company in 1824. (Read more here,

Whilst Hj Wan Hussin didn’t elaborate further on it, historically, we are able to deduce that Sultan Hussein Mohamed Shah represented the same problems Malays face today, one of greed for wealth and the subsequent inability to manage the wealth, power hungry and absolute stupidity in terms of economic senses as well as in the ease of being tricked into.

Of course, Hj Wan Hussin also mentioned and quoted Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew’s opening speech in the inauguration of Mendaki whereby Mr Lee had mentioned that the Malay problem was a National problem and not a communal one some 30 years ago.

Hj Sidek Sanif spoke at length about how social media had been influential throughout the world in effecting change such as President Obama, Arab Spring, Malaysian politics and also possibly, Singapore politics. I wasn’t really able to keep up with his speech though as much as I’d like to.

Lastly, Mr Zulkifli spoke about world economics and at how China took 62 years to be where it is today and how the world will be run by a developing country instead of a developed country as it has always been the case in history. The big businesses of today are also less than 5 years old and with Eurozone facing a double-dip recession, he mentioned that it was absolutely important for Malay-Muslims to be able to take on the opportunities presented to them. He also mentioned that education will be of lesser importance in the future compared to the amount of wealth one has.

As discussion and questions were opened to the floor, a barrage of questions seemed to be directed towards Mendaki’s efforts for the past 30 years which raised issues on the disbursement of the Education Trust Fund and the Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy. There were also questions and comments raised on the effective translation of policies down to the ground.

However, there were also more positive comments from the floor with several agreeing that it was important for Malay-Muslims to move ahead regardless of what the past was and also called for a different look into the perspective in relation to the statistical demographics data – rather than calling Malays a minority, Malays should consider themselves as the 2nd biggest majority next to the Chinese.

With so many questions directed towards Mendaki’s efforts, Mendaki’s CEO Moliah Hashim decided to enlighten the floor on the efforts that the Malay-Muslim Community were given and the achievements (17% improvement in academics for the Malays compared to 14% improvement in academics for national average) attained. Mendaki’s Rafiz also clarified to the floor that the TTFS was revised because there was a review conducted 3 years before and there was a significant difference in the household income. The change was effected because of this and not because of a conspiracy theory as a result of People’s Action Party loss in the recent General Elections.

The entire session lasted an additional hour, ending at 11pm instead of 10pm but I’m sure that, for the participants who remained behind to the end, it was definitely a fruitful one.

Whilst I didn’t ask or made any comments, I’d like to perhaps challenge our future and current Malay-Muslims with a few things:

  1. Stop the talks at coffeeshops and start getting involved in the areas that you’re passionate to rant about. If you have time to rant at the coffeeshop or online, surely you have time to volunteer. If not, shut up. Get involved or Shut Up.
  2. Learn to direct your focus on the more positive efforts and learn how to stay focused. As what my dad loved to say to me, “Semangat Dua Minit” or “Hangat-hangat Tahi Ayam”. Don’t get trapped into that idiom.
  3. Be daring to take positive risks. Try to start businesses and take on the unconventional route other than going through the educational route. Malays are probably not gifted in academics but Malays surely are gifted in a lot of other areas.
  4. Have a change of perspective in viewing the Malay community and start using the term 2nd Biggest Majority rather than minority. Use them daily, blog about it, tweet about it until the Mainstream Media uses it to influence the rest of the Malays.
  5. The world of tomorrow will be determined by a measure of wealth, not education. If you’re not investing well in your education to reap monetary benefits, start rethinking/ re-evaluating your options.

SICK Games 2011

The SEA Games in Indonesia has attracted a lot of criticism and along with it, media attention even before it began.

The construction of the stadium in Palembang, Sumatra, Indonesia was one of the major concerns everyone had as it wasn’t ready even days before the games began. Doubts and criticisms had built up over the months as delays mounted. This isn’t typical of Indonesia, given the rampant culture of corruption between government and state officials.

Whilst I’m not accusing the government or state official of corruption, I am also not able to exclude the possibility that there was indeed corruption. Another possibility could also be the fact that Indonesians in the construction industry have a tendency to leave work the moment they receive their paycheck. THIS IS A FACT, especially in the construction industry whereby there is a high turnover of employees and employers are forced to continuously hire or re-hire those who leave to replace those that leave having received their paycheck. (I’m saying this confidently because my dad has been overseeing a construction project in Indonesia for the past year)

Moving forward, the Indonesians have managed to complete the construction in time for the SEA Games opening ceremony which not only impressed but also showed that it wasn’t sufficiently prepared for certain occurences. YES, I was impressed with the artistic performances put up by the Indonesians. I have never had a doubt in the artistic talents of Indonesians.  But the rain also showed the lack of preparation in terms of technical ability. The microphone was disconnected several times during the Athletes Pledge Taking Ceremony which was embarassing to me, because the country’s president, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was in attendance.

Further to that, I was having a hilarious laugh when the flame was extinguished not once but twice when the athletes were passing the torch. The pinnacle had to be when Susi Susanti, the legendary badminton champion, was airborne and being transported to the cauldron when the flame on her torch extinguished and despite her missing her throw into the cauldron, the cauldron actually lighted up before the extinguished torch even reached anywhere near it!

Okay, but that’s about what I find of the Indonesians but this SEA Games has also seen athletes slain by food poisoning. The Singapore contingent has been hit by bouts of diarrhoea caused by food poisoning and so have the Malaysians. This isn’t a new phenomenon of course because anyone who visits Indonesia and doesn’t have a strong tummy WILL END UP with food poisoning. I know this because I have personally experienced this myself in my trip to Jakarta, Indonesia, 2 years ago and this despite the fact that I visit Indonesia at least twice a year.

I was quite worried when I heard that the Singapore swimmers were affected by this. I mean, what if they got into the pool and then they suddenly had their diarrhoea? We’d have a pool of shit, like literally!

But seriously, if you are hit by Food Poisoning, you should be suffering from diarrhoea and vomitting. One best remedy to resolve it would be to pop a garlic pill which would instantly get your to puke. We don’t have it available in Singapore though so perhaps buying garlic drink would be the next best option. That aside, a foot massage would also help you to regulate the flow of your blood and definitely lots and lots of rest.

Oh well, Singapore team is doing well at the moment.

I’ll be experiencing Jakarta for myself when I visit it next week. Can’t wait for that now, can we?

Roach Infestation at Ayam Bakar Ojolali

I’m not a big critic when it comes to food simply because I’m easily satisfied with food but there are certain issues I take on when it comes to food – FOOD HYGIENE.

The cleanliness of the kitchen and how the food is prepared plays is of great importance to me because I used to work in the Food & Beverage industry (Hyatt Banquet and Starbucks Barista). I’d never report for work if I wasn’t feeling well and anytime I touched my face or wiped my hands onto my clothes or pants, I’d ensure that I wash it. It’s basic hygiene and but it’s extremely important as well because our hands are where the most bacteria resides.

My two other friends

My two other friends

Yesterday, I dined at Ayam Bakar Ojolali located at Lucky Plaza. For those of you who love Indonesian food, I’m sure you must have been there at least once because the food there is really tasty.

Fried Chicken Rice

Fried Chicken Rice

I’m not sure if it was my bad luck or good luck as it is because for the second time in my life, I had a cockroach in my meal.

This time, I was enjoying my Fried Chicken Rice when I discovered the FRIED BABY COCKROACH amidst my delicious fried chicken. Immediately, I flipped the roach aside and just calmed myself down as I slowly munched the rest of the food already in my mouth, hoping that there wasn’t any roaches in there but refusing to puke it out as it wasn’t my style to create a scene for others to watch.

The Cockroach

The Cockroach

Having swallowed whatever was already in my mouth with a little bit of imagination running wild, I drank my favourite avocado juice with much hesitant as I figured what to do next.

There wasn’t much in my mind as I was traumatized and had absolutely lost all appetite as how my two friends would vouch.

Finally, I decided to put the cockroach back onto the plate where it belonged, take a photo of it as evidence before finally calling on the staff to speak with him in private about my traumatizing encounter.

Of course, the staff was shocked but kindly took my plate away behind me and came back moments later offering a new plate. Errr… NO THANK YOU.

Fast forward, I lodged a complain to National Environment Agency through it’s website and was informed that they have proceeded to the location to conduct an investigation and discovered an infestation of cockroaches. The outlet will no doubt be closed for a few days now as it has to bring in the pest busters to clean out the roaches.

The Cockroach Upclose and Personal

The Cockroach Upclose and Personal

Whatever it is, I just want to ensure that no one else has to suffer the same traumatizing fate.