Singapore National Day 2016


HAPPY NATIONAL DAY SINGAPORE!

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Another eventful year for Singapore as we cross into 51 years of statehood independence and what a journey it has been for Singapore. Our forefathers have toiled this land to make this country a safe and prosperous one – a place where everyone can live, work and play (Pokemon GO) safely.

I am no doubt happy to be a Singaporean, as much as Singaporeans continue to remain in search for our unique identity. The debate between Singlish and English continues, and what do we make out of the strict ethnicity quota that hasn’t changed much as well as battling the evils of what globalisation has led us to (indiscriminate racism on social media and acts of terrorism through proxy funders).

But beyond the constant search for our Singaporean identity and mine (being of mixed ethnicity can get extremely confusing), the safety and security that this country has provided us all remains at the forefront of envy among others in the world. That is something that we cannot take for granted. We continue to be a place that is safe for our young and old to walk the streets at night compared to most countries regionally, our education system continues to be extremely rigorous in producing scholars and we continue to be a place where everyone can have freedom of worship.

True that there is a lot more that we could work on to become better than what we are today – a better pace of living, better work-life balance and to be a more affordable place to live in with better living wages to enjoy some of the best things in life when we choose to retire.

But as the National Day Parade yesterday has shown, we frequently still do travel back in time to revisit our historical past. We are a country of people that remains sentimental at heart, fillial to our ancestors and elders, and that helps to keep us grounded to who we really are.

Of course, while there were comments about the Badang narrative that was potrayed, I felt that what was more important is that there were those of us who knew the story and were trying to put things right to it. We believe in the right to potray what is truthful. There were contentions about Badang having tattoos, being a bit too muscular and flying at that but none of us were arguing about the legitimacy of his story because we know and we understand that Badang did exist.

So, I am proud and I am happy that Singaporeans were stepping up to defend Badang’s authenticity (looks, storyline, etc) and I wish that more people would step up to talk more about the other stories that we have in Singapore because the Singapore narrative is so much more beyond Sang Nila Utama and Sir Stamford Raffles, Singapore holds stories to so much more history that if one decides to venture out in search for it, you will be amazed at how much history there is (if you’re really keen on venturing out to these places and learning about them, give this a try Lumba Bahasa & Budaya Gerek).

More than just stories about Singapore, the stories that one can discover will make you realize how connected we are to our closest neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia, and how much we actually share our history with theirs. It’s a lot like the prequel begins in Indonesia, then the plot thickens in Singapore, with the sequels in Malaysia.

But moving beyond our history and shared history, we need to create new stories, we need to create new heroes or have people stepping forward, we need to create new figures or have figures that we can all stand together behind and support. And I’m not talking about politicians or figures of state, but it’s the story of the everyday Ali, Muthu, Ah Tan or John that we can all connect with – the story of how a young Singaporean saves his country like the story of Hang Nadim, or the story of an immigrant who roots himself in Singapore and puts Singapore on the map like Badang.

We need this to move forward and to do that, we need to stop arguing endlessly over the small things, agree to disagree and start looking at the big picture, of how we are positioned in relation to the world and work together hand in hand, locals and foreigners, putting aside our differences but align our commonalities for what is most important to us all – and if you ask me what that could be, I’m guessing it’s HAPPINESS.

True to the words of Pak Zubir Said when he composed our National Anthem,

‘Mari Kita Rakyat Singapura Sama-sama Menuju Bahagia’

Let us all, Singaporeans head towards happiness

because if we aren’t happy, then really, what do we want?

MY UMRAH – My Reflections


It’s been a few days since I returned and now that I’ve had time to rest and do my cleaning up, the experience has begun to settle in me. There’s so much to talk about so I’m going to try to arrange my reflections as best as I can in chronological order – Pre-Umrah, Umrah and Post-Umrah.

PRE-UMRAH

I mentioned this in my first post (MY UMRAH – The Beginnings) that I started talking about going for an umrah about 2 years ago. Some might consider this as being given ‘hidayah’ or guidance but really, I think this whole journey began much earlier than that, probably as young as when I started learning about Islam.

As a Muslim, we abide by the 5 pillars of Islam followed by the articles of faith.

The 5 pillars of Islam are:
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Further to that, the articles of faith are:
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So, if we look at the pillars of Islam and articles of Faith, I believe that ever since I began learning about Islam, I must have expressed my intention to go on a pilgrimage at an early age and perhaps, God must predestined me to visit his home. The question would have been, WHEN?

Fast forward to about several years ago, something happened to me in the mosque. I remember I was performing the ‘iktikaf’ early before Friday prayers and was all alone in the mosque. My eyes were closed when suddenly a loud deep voice called my name out asking me to repent before it was too late.

I was jolted out of my rest and searched around me but there was no one around. I knew I had heard a voice and it wasn’t my imagination because the voice left my heart beating profusely. I wasn’t sure what that was but I was sure that it had to be a sign from God.

So, to say that I perhaps only made plans to go on this umrah 2 years ago would perhaps have been unfair but 2 years ago, I made a resolve that I had to go would be more apt. I made my bookings quite late actually, on Deepavali (what a way right? Festival of Lights) and immediately after I made my bookings, I began to physically and mentally prepare myself which was why if you had been following me on Instagram, you’d have noticed me going on runs.

Not that it was necessary but I really wanted to prepare myself well. I knew that there was going to be a lot of walking involved with the circumambulating the Kaabah plus walking/jogging/running during the Sa’i. Hence, I really wanted to be physically ready and began my runs with my intention focused on God. I suppose in doing so, I was also mentally preparing myself for this journey.

Besides my own preparation, I also had to attend two classes to learn about performing the umrah organised by the travel agency. This was essential towards preparing all pilgrims for the DO’s and DONT’s especially when one is in ihraam.
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Once classes are complete, all that’s left is to pack your bags.

UMRAH

The umrah itself only takes a few hours, 2-3 hours and it can be done as many times as you want. In performing the umrah, there are 5 rules to follow:
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The 5th rule not mentioned in the photo above is ‘Proper Procedures’ – One needs to perform all of the above in accordance to proper procedures which have all been listed out in the photo.

One of the most important things to take note of when you’re in ihraam, is that there are DO’s and DONT’s as well. If you break the rule, you have to pay ‘DAM’, which is a penalty. There is the small penalty and the big penalty depending on the seriousness of which rule was contravened.

It all sounds like a lot to do but really if you think about it, it’s really about exercising one’s self control at a higher level, above and beyond what Muslims usually do which is why I think God made performing the Hajj the last one on the pillar for Muslims.

I haven’t been on the Hajj yet but the Umrah is a smaller version of the Hajj. It is perhaps half of what Hajj pilgrims have to go through, which means that the challenge, is only half as well. When I have the opportunity and should I be invited, then of course, the next phase will be to perform the Hajj.

POST-UMRAH

Having gone through the umrah, like all who have been there, I definitely want to go there again. I haven’t had the opportunity to do several things yet like praying in the Kaabah at Hijr Ismail and Multazam.

Do I feel different now that I’ve been on an umrah?
I certainly learnt a lot more about my religion and because of a higher appreciation for Islam, that’s probably why I feel different.

Have I changed?
That’s perhaps too soon to answer and is best not answered by me. I have to let others who interact with me be the judge. I’m not sure if change is a good word too, I’d rather use improvement.

What are my future plans?
I definitely want to go for my Hajj and perform another umrah again, where possible, once a year for my spiritual retreat. I don’t think there is a better way for a spiritual retreat than to go for an umrah. Only this time, I’d like to also visit Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, Israel which is another revered mosque in Islam. It being the mosque where Prophet Muhammad had ascended to the Heavens.

But besides that, I’m probably gonna take up Arabic classes and attend religious classes once again. I’m also considering pursuing a proper studies in Islam to fulfill a wish my dad once had of me. While I wasn’t prepared in the past because I was too young and rebellious, I think I’m a bit more open to the idea now.

How things will change or evolve over the coming year or the future, that is something for me to work on. But for now, I’ll need time to come out with my list of things to achieve by the end of 2016 and also to reflect on my 2015. 

MY UMRAH – MAKKAH 


From Madinah, we travelled between 5-6 hours through the desert before we reached Makkah. Throughout the bus journey that I was awake, I thought about how arduous the journey must have been for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the small group of Muslims who had to leave their home, properties and for some, family members to make the migration through the desert where the days could be extremely hot and the nights, extremely cold either on foot or/and on camels.

As we approached to enter the city of Makkah, I was reminded of how excited I was to see buildings after a long drive from Los Angeles through the desert to Las Vegas. What an irony indeed, from Sin City in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2013 to the Holy City of Makkah, Saudi Arabia in 2015. Both located in the desert with contrasting differences.

Throughout the entire journey, we were all in ihraam and within the hour of our arrival in Makkah, we performed our first umrah close to 0100hrs, setting us up for a meeting with the Kaabah. This would be my first meeting with the Kaabah, also known as Baitullah or God’s house.

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In Ihraam

Walking towards the Kaabah, I had many things running through my mind – what might happen to me being one of the biggest question.

And then there it was, the Kaabah. Nothing happened. I didn’t get emotional as how I’ve heard others tell me before. I felt weird. And soon, I was circumambulating the Kaabah. This is WHEN IT HAPPENED.

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Pilgrims circumambulate the Kaabah

I didn’t cry but I was told that the devil will whisper in your ears to distract you and it truly did. I swear that I have never been more distracted in my mind and heart at the same time about my faith. I was close enough to just stop circumambulating and leave by the second round because of thoughts that out of nowhere, entered my mind but I somehow managed to find myself back through continuous recitations of ‘Astaghfirullah’ which means I seek forgiveness from Allah and complete all 7 rounds.

This was then followed by the Sa’i or running/walking/jogging between two hills, Safa and Marwa, 7 times. This process of Sa’i was a different challenge from the circumambulation. This time, I found myself questioning about my abilities as a person because as history has it, pilgrims perform the Sa’i to remember and reflect on Hajar (Hagar), Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) wife, who was left near the Kaabah with young Prophet Ismail (Isaac) with one bag of water left by Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) as commanded by God.

Hajar then ran between the two hills 7 seven times in search of assistance before God sent down an angel to dig out ‘Zam Zam’ water from underground to provide sustenance for Hajar and Prophet Ismail (PBUH). Once this was done, cutting of at least 3 strands of hair is required before one has completed the umrah.

The whole entire process takes between 2-3 hours.

This is where I finally understood why plenty of adults have told me that it is better to perform one’s umrah or haj when younger. Why? Because you need to be physically and mentally healthy and strong.

Each time we need to perform our umrah, we need to leave Makkah to enter an area where the meeqat is located for us to make our intention. This area is also referred to as ‘Halal land’ whereas Makkah and Madinah is considered ‘Haram land’. In this particular trip, I performed a total of 4 umrah, the first and compulsory umrah is the arrival or welcome umrah. Subsequently, it was umrah Jiranah, umrah Tanaheim and finally, umrah Hudaibiya.

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On our way for our final umrah when the bus broke down

Besides performing umrahs, we were also brought sightseeing or in this case, visiting of historical places that have been mentioned in the Quran. Visiting places of importance to understand where the Prophets before us have been.

These places include:
– Location where Prophet Adam and Hawa (Eve) had met or were reunited on earth

– Location where Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) had gone to sacrifice his son, Prophet Ismail (Isaac)

– Location where Prophet Muhammad had hid at when he was escaping from his Quraysh tribe 

– Location where Prophet Muhammad had received his first revelation as God’s Messenger

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Jabal Rahmah in Arafah

These visits gave a lot of context and insight into how life was like, especially how the Prophets had climbed mountains in the middle of night, in complete darkness to seek solace or fulfill God’s requests. With a better understanding, then there is more appreciation for the sacrifices and challenges they made.

Being in Makkah though, is a totally different lifestyle from Madinah. I can’t speak for everyone but I found myself sleeping between 3-5 hours per night and really walking a lot more than I was in Madinah. Schedule seemed to be a bit more tight as well as between each call for prayer to the next with the exception of Subuh, is only about 1-2 hours each time.

But I suppose, it is okay to have a lack of sleep when you’re in Makkah because you never know when you’ll be ‘invited’ by God again and you want to maximise your time in prayer or in trying to gather as many good deeds as possible.

There is a believe that one prayer in Makkah is 100,000 times better than one prayer in any other mosque in the world. This benefit also applies to circumambulating the Kaabah, performing the umrah and even, just looking at the Kaabah. With such a carrot being dangled at you, why won’t anyone want to maximise that opportunity.

But that’s not all, there are special areas within Makkah and Kaabah itself that God has given his guarantee to fulfill anyone’s prayers. Those areas, like Raudah in Madinah, has people hustling over it day and night.

However, the most important benefit of Makkah is perhaps God’s word that when anti-Christ or Dajjal comes to earth, it will not be able to enter Makkah and Madinah. Therefore, all who remain within these two cities will be protected and safeguarded by an army of angels.

MY UMRAH – MADINAH


The first stop for my umrah was Madinah, the city Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had migrated to due to extreme torture and hatred towards Muslims in Makkah.

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King Abdul Aziz International Airport (Hajj Terminal)

The journey took approximately 5 hours by bus from Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz International Airport, a special airport which is used specially for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims. All praise to God, immigration clearance didn’t take long compared to a friend of mine who had to wait 5.5 hours to clear. We took about 1.5 hours.

The scene at the airport itself gave us an indication of how packed this umrah was going to be. Our flight from Singapore which had a stopover in Dubai, mostly consisted of pilgrims from Indonesia.

As we arrived in Madinah, I continue to have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was appreciative and excited at the opportunity to be here, to be able to be in the presence of God’s Prophet to mankind, Muhammad (PBUH) and on the other, I worried about unpleasant experiences.

But all that changed the moment I laid my eyes on Masjid Nabawi, one of the most majestic and one of the three highly revered mosque in the world (Masjidil Haram in Makkah and Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem are the other two).

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Masjid Nabawi

I did not let slip the opportunity to perform my isyak prayers there when my roommate asked if I wanted to join him and his brother there before the group had a proper tour. Walking to the masjid, I was beaming with excitement and immediately, I fell in love with the mosque the moment I stepped into its compound.

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The intricate architecture was breathtaking, the marble floor was cool to walk on and I looked forward to pray at Masjid Nabawi at every prayer because the entire atmosphere was unlike any other I’ve been to. There were areas within the mosque where one could sit to read and be corrected on your Quranic readings by a tahfiz al-quran (expert at Quranic recitations) but the highlight of the mosque is the resting place of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his two closest companions who later became the Caliphs after his passing, Sayidina Abu Bakr and Sayidina Umar as well as a small area within the mosque referred to as Raudah.

It is an obligation for every Muslim to greet Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his two companions when you are in Masjid Nabawi, and so that’s what we did after our prayers. Immediately, you realise that your faith is being tested as large groups of people would start moving in the same direction.

Some at slower speeds and some at faster speeds, either hustling their way through the crowd or following the flow of the crowd. If you’ve ever been to a sell-out concert, that’s how it’s like, except that instead of hearing people hurling vulgarities at people who push and shove, you hear people reciting verses from the Quran or ‘Sabr!’ (Patience).

And this scene is how it’s like on a daily basis. Besides paying your respects to the Prophet and his two companions, everyone also wants to pray in the Raudah area. The many columns in this area represented many different things that have happened during the period of God’s final messenger, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), stay in Madinah and is also one of the reasons why his companions wanted to pray at those areas.

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Masjid Nabawi open area

Besides that, it has also been mentioned that Raudah will be one of the gardens in paradise and prayers or supplications made in Raudah will be granted. Therefore, it is no wonder why everyone wants to have the opportunity to pray and supplicate there. And all praise to God, I was given 3 opportunities to pray and supplicate in Raudah. I hope my prayers and supplications are accepted as much as I hope everyone else’s is.

Aside from Masjid Nabawi being the centre of attraction in Madinah, there is also another special mosque, one which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had built himself when he first came to Madinah, Masjid Quba. This Masjid is a little further from Masjid Nabawi and is also the first mosque you’ll see when you enter Madinah.

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Masjid Quba

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Masjid Quba main prayer hall

Life is Madinah was slow paced and I enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t feel the need to rush to pray as I always had more than enough time to find a comfortable spot in the masjid, to read the Quran or to just perform the ‘iktikaf’ by either resting or reflecting on my life or to pray. In fact, I actually realised that I didn’t even visit the malls or restaurants in the area until I was asked along because otherwise, I would have just sat in the masjid.

So, when people tell me they love Madinah, I understand why now because I love Madinah too. I love it because of the slow pace and also because it is where I get to be close to the Prophet. I truly hope that perhaps, you’d have the opportunity to one day be ‘invited’ and be able to visit and pray in Masjid Nabawi.

My UMRAH – The Beginnings


The day finally arrived. It has been a lifetime, literally, since I began learning and listening to stories about the prophets (peace be upon them) and my opportunity finally arrived when I was ‘invited’ (Muslims believe that God needs to invite you to visit his home in Makkah) to visit God’s home this year.

I began talking about going on my pilgrimage about 2 years ago, jealous at my friends who have been ‘invited’, but also motivated to visit as age was catching up and I feared of dying carrying too much sins. 

So, I began looking through my options a few months ago, stuck between my conventional backpacking vs following a tour group before finally settling on the latter as the former might be overstepping my boundaries, not in terms of travel but in terms of my understanding of the rites required to perform a proper umrah. 

So, I made my booking online with Shahidah Travels on Deepavali, the second agency I approached after the first seemed to have a full flight to and fro, and attended 2 classes that they organised to orientate all pilgrims on the rites to be done as well as to mentally prepare us for the challenges that lie ahead.

During the classes itself, I had a mix of emotions. Unsure of what to feel; excited, nervous, scared, especially when we were reminded that, “We have been invited to God’s home. It is a privilege.” I almost teared at that point thinking about how much disappointment I have caused God for all the things I have done in my life and yet, still be receiving his grace and love to repent and to visit his home before it is too late.

The few weeks leading up to the trip, the same emotions kept running through me. I have been told of stories of people arriving in Makkah but not being able to see the Kaabah or people being lost for days because they had spoken in arrogance or people suddenly turning crippled, unable to walk because they had commented on someone else. 

I wasn’t sure if I would be ready to face my creator in his home, to ask for his grace to grant me a place in the heavens. But this is something that I had to do before my days on earth come to an end. I don’t think anyone else would be.

So, when I began planning on what to pack along, I decided, that if I was going to go for my umrah, I wanted to share it with as many people as I could. And the best way I knew how to, was to pack in items that has been given to me and to pray that hopefully, the people who lent me or gave me these items that I’ll be using, will be given a share of the deeds. 
This would also be more meaningful for me. 

And for those of you who are already following me on my Instagram, I’ve also began sharing some photos of the places that I’ve visited. It is my hope that through sharing my journey, you may also be inspired and motivated to want to visit or to learn more about my journey itself. The hashtag for this journey is #ABD2UMRAH.

And as for this blog, I’ll update my journey and experiences from time to time, to share with my non-Muslim friends who may wonder about what umrah is all about. 

For now, I hope you can keep me and the group I’m with here in your prayers as much as I am keeping you in mine. 

Rags to Riches – You could be one


We all love to hear rags to riches stories and we never get bored of them. They inspire and motivate us on the large possibilities in life, on overcoming adversities and on how it’s never just about luck, but about how to create that luck and opportunity for yourself.

I’ve got my own story to share.

It’s not mine, it’s my family’s and I wasn’t aware of the structure of the story until recently when my mom visited Singapore, on her regular visa extension stay.

It’s common for me and my mom to discuss on issues related to money, religion and society. She loves to save, she’s frugal, she’s a devout Muslim and while she doesn’t champion for causes for the society, she is very much aware of what happens and has had her own personal encounters through her network of friends and it was during one of our conversations on money that she shared with me this.

She told me that I must never forget where and how our family was in the past. At this juncture, the only memory I had when I was a kid was living in a 3-room HDB flat in Yishun, that was it. I knew we lived in Ang Mo Kio when I was too young to have any recollection of memories and that my parents used to rent a room when they were a newly married couple with my sister when she was a baby.

Little did I know that this is how the structure looked like.

Rented a Room > 1 Room Flat > 3 Room Flat > 4 Room Flat > 4 Room Flat > 3 Room Flat > 7ha of Land

Total time taken?

30 years

Yes, I know it took 30 years because when they got married, it had to be 5 years before I was born (1 Room Flat) and at the time when they moved back to my dad’s homeland, I was 25.

But this progression was equally tiring and painful as well for both my mom and dad.

My dad’s career progression:

Construction Worker > Diver > Sailor > Captain > Tug Master > Self declared retirement cum Property developer cum Entrepreneur

He came to Singapore as a 13 year old and began working as a construction worker with barely a P6 education. One of the few lessons my dad always taught me was to study hard and he would be there to study with me, especially in mathematics. He would make me memorize the multiplication table almost every night, after dinner when I was 8. 

If I got it wrong, I had to go memorize it again. He was good in maths and physics despite. That’s one thing I can’t deny and for someone with only a P6 education, he writes in manuscript. I always thought it was horrible handwriting because I could never read them. Little did I know, he was much better than me in handwriting.

He’s an inspiration for me and gives me hope knowing that if you work hard and continuously improve yourself and work towards your goal, you can get there. 

I mean, he would always tell me that growing up, the only clothes he had were the ones he was wearing. He’d wash them at night before he slept and wear them again in the morning, EVERY SINGLE DAY. If that’s not poor, I’m not sure what that is.

Mom on the other hand, had a totally different experience in her working life:

Clerk at ROMM > Homemaker cum Seamstress cum Entrepreneur

I don’t think she ever knew she was running a business from her own kitchen, taking in orders from people to sew clothes for them. She always had an eye for detail and focused a lot on building customer relationships, ensuring quality of clothes sewn exceeded expectations, always improving her designs through taking up challenging tasks and keeping the price affordable for customers yet enough to make profits to sustain the family.

She was, however, never enterprising enough for the bigger business because she is risk-adverse. 

Through my mom, I picked up everything I observed she did and applied it to myself and to my business, in how I decide to deal with people. An inspiration for me as well.

Two very different individuals, providing me with different sources of learning and inspiration.

Today, they live comfortably in the 7ha piece of land that my dad bought in his hometown where he grew up and he’s still working hard, for himself at least and now, I’m making him do a bit of work for me since he’s got so much free time on his hands. And my mom, she’s still taking in orders to sew and word of mouth just keeps getting better even at this age for her. 

I’m not sure if I could ever learn her nifty sewing skills but perhaps I should and put that into good use for my business as well since I’m doing handicraft work as well. 

Regardless, one thing remains.

What’s the story of your family?

Perhaps, if you dig deep enough and spend enough time talking to your parents, you might just discover some interesting things about your family’s history and have a better appreciation for your parents journey in life.

One thing I hope for now, is to be able to spend Hari Raya as a family again. We haven’t been able to do that for the past 4 years, ever since they moved overseas.

‘3 Factors To Living’ Not Tired Lives


Two nights ago, I completed my first milestone in 2014. I completed a course in Social Media Journalism. Not that I’m a journalist, but I blog about social issues like many others and I use social media and so I decided to sign up for the course and completed it.

But this post is not about the course that I sat for, this post is about sharing with you some of the very interesting things that many of my peers and family members have said to me, “Don’t you ever get tired?” or “Aren’t you tired?”.

When I was much younger, I remember I could play soccer for hours with my friends, to stop only because my mom had called out for me to come home for lunch or to shower because the sun was setting, otherwise, I would be playing soccer from 1000hrs – 1800hrs. 6 hours of soccer a day, almost everyday of the week, surely I’d be bound to get tired.

NO, I wasn’t.

When I grew a little bit older, in Secondary School, I was involved in several activities; Athletics and NCC Air officially for school as well as Soccer for weekend activities with schoolmates. I’d be out of my house by 0630hrs every morning and be back home by about 1900hrs, on some special occassions, probably be home by about 2200hrs. This was a schedule I lived with 6 days a week for about 4 years and I never got tired, and I never repeated or failed my examinations, maintained my grades and graduated with pretty good grades to enrol myself in business school.

When I began to grew a goatee in Polytechnic, I continued with my active lifestyle; Theater, Drama, Malay Language Society, Club Soccer, Rugby and Part-time work. On weekdays, I’d be out of the house by about 0700hrs and be back home by about 2300hrs, on weekends I’d be out by about 0630hrs and home probably 0200hrs, depending on what kind of working shift I wanted and got, as well as what kind of activities I had. This was the schedule I lived with for 3 years.

Never got tired, never repeated any examinations and graduated. Of course, results weren’t sterling since I really wasn’t aiming for grades.

Today, as I hit 30 years old by the end of the year, I still don’t feel tired and I still feel like as if I am 18 years old (minus the speed of my running and game stamina). Living an active lifestyle has definitely been something I enjoy but still, the question remains.

I put it down to 3 Factors To Living:

  1. ENJOYMENT
    If you don’t enjoy what you do, you can’t sustain what you do.

    At Sequoia National Park

    At Sequoia National Park

  2. DISCIPLINE
    I keep a schedule of what I have to do daily and keep up with my 5 Steps To Get Things Done and Feeling Great! Of course, this was inspired and encouraged by my parents when I was younger. My mom would often say, “Finish your homework first before you play, the faster you finish, the more time you’ll have to play”.That was all the motivation I needed, so I grew to became task oriented – focused on the task so I can reap my enjoyment.

    Where there’s a time to play, there’s also a time to learn and rest.

    Schedule it all in!

  3. LIVING IN THE MOMENT
    Many times in the various relationships that I’ve been involved in, I’ve been told that when I’m physically with my partner, they feel loved but when I’m not with them, they feel distant.That’s simply because I’m the kind of person who lives in the moment, being exactly where I need to be at that moment. I immerse myself in the atmosphere wherever I go and prefer not to allow myself to be distracted.

    Basically, giving the best out of myself in order to get the best out of others – giving my heart and soul to the moment.

    Sunset at Santa Monica Pier

    Sunset at Santa Monica Pier

So, with these 3 FACTORS TO LIVING, how could I ever feel tired?

You ought to try it to!

Sincerely Yours,

The Edupreneur

Beliefs and Values in Decisions/Choices


Life hands us different cards when we were born, one which we have no control over and if you are a Muslim like me, you’d also believe that your entire life has already been chartered – Qada’ and ‘Qadar, but this does not mean that we are limited by what we can pursue in life because we still have the freedom to choose and this is where the challenge lies for each and every single one of us given the circumstances that we begin with.

Some of us were born with the best of cards and some of us were born with the least of the good cards and these are the cards that we can never change and will remain with us throughout our entire life. It forms part of who we are, our history and are the building blocks of our foundation and life story. 

Through the choices that our family make for us when we were younger, we were handed some tools in life. These are the tools that would essentially be one of the many guiding tools that we would use throughout our life – our beliefs and values. 

For some of us, our beliefs and values are guided by religion and for some of us, by the cultures that we were born into, but for most of us, our beliefs and values are a combination of religion and our cultural heritage. These tools, they continue to grow as we learn more about our religion, culture as well as information that we read and experience through different sources that we come across either by our own choice or coincidence (though if you are Muslim, nothing is ever coincidental since it’s already been pre-determined).

With such growing tools that we have in our repertoire, we begin to use them in our decision making skills, each and every single time we are dealt with options. We begin to dig deep into our repertoire of knowledge and understanding, analyze the options, weigh the emotions and then we make our choice.

At times, the options or decisions or choices that we have to make in life questions or goes against our beliefs and values that we have learnt from our religion and the cultures that we were raised in but the information and additional knowledge that we come across over the years provides us with an alternative option that would perhaps seem to be something new that we could carve out, a new path that we could take as opposed to the traditional paths and for those courageous enough, they take this new path.

And whilst there is no study on understanding of the psychology of how people make their decisions on, it could be due to how strong the individual feels grounded by it’s religious and cultural beliefs and values. Religion as we know it, not only provide guidance on beliefs and values, but also on the type of decisions or choices to take. Culture on the other hand, is decided by a group of people living together.

With each decision or choice to be taken, there is always a consequence that comes with it – a sin or a good deed and frowned or liked upon. Some sins are considered small sins, which could be easily forgiven and some are big sins, whose consequence is so huge, the type of punishment meted out could even mean death. That said, even some small sins though easily forgiven, may never be forgiven because when it is a sin committed on a person, forgiveness can only come from the one who had been sinned. 

Regardless of the degree of the sin, all sins can be forgiven, provided there is repentance and sincere effort made to never again repeat those sins – making a different choice when faced with the same decision making process. 

Of course, some choices made as a result of our strong religious and cultural beliefs and values, leaves us feeling dissatisfied and unhappy, and that is perhaps the challenge for every human being – to be able to resist making choices that makes us happy all the time for the ‘greater good’ of the larger society and for some of us, for the afterlife.

Surely, the struggles we face in our decision making process because of how strongly we feel or are grounded by our beliefs and values is not one that is easy for anyone to make but the choices made must be respected, because it is the choice of the individual making it, not the onlooker.

Letting Go As A Responsibility


Letting Go is not something easy to do for me simply because I find myself greatly attached to many of the things that I love and enjoy doing but in this experience of letting go, I also understand it is extremely important to ensure that things can continue to grow to exponential levels.

Growth for me, for my company and for the people around me.

But letting go doesn’t mean letting go of responsibility, and it shouldn’t.

Letting go means delegating responsibilities that I used to do, to others; to give others the opportunity to have an experience for themselves to grow into a new capacity and by that statement, that also means that letting go is also a form of responsibility.

Just like the feline of an animal letting go of its young, it would first teach its young how to survive through teaching it the skills necessary to survive:

  • Hunt for Food
  • Defend for its Life

In that similar context, for me, letting go means that I need to do impart knowledge and skills necessary for my Business and Trainers/Colleagues to survive and remain relevant and competitive.

Not that I’m an expert or a wizard of sorts, but whatever Knowledge and Skills that I know that I have passed down/transferred to anyone, it is then left up to them to learn how to develop the Experience for themselves. But one thing will and should remain constant is their Positive Attitude towards life because as long as you remain and maintain a Positive Attitude towards life, the Experience gained will always be something positive.

Just like the analogy that I always hear of, “The teacher always teaches you 9 out of 10. The other 1 you need to seek for yourself.”

This analogy does not mean that the teacher is holding back, but what it simply means, is that to complete the training, the student must seek and develop a personal understanding of the experience for him/herself because the teacher is unable to transfer experience but is only able to share the Knowledge, Skills and Stories of his/her Experiences.

So, aside from helping to develop something phenomenal here in the US with a group of Peacebuilders, I also need to develop a system’s process on when and how to let go. Because over the course of time, I will have to continue to let go of many other things which I hold close and dear to my heart and I want to have the assurance that I have been responsible when I decide to let go.

Singaporean Muslim in Orange County


The first thing that comes to your mind when you hear Orange County is the show, The OC, and the most prominent thing about the show is the song from the show!

Moving past the song, you soon start to realize that Orange County is everything and nothing like what you watch on The OC, as is with everything, and here’s why.

  • Public Transportation

For a Singaporean, this would be your biggest bane. Travelling around means you’ll need to check the Bus Schedule in advanced and you better be there early too cause the bus may just pass you by otherwise and won’t arrive till another hour.

Bus Intervals

Bus Intervals

Bus stops aren’t clearly indicated on the Bus Map, it only shows and announcements are only for the Major Intersections. Trust me, travelling around Jambi is so much easier than this.

Buses, depending on the routes cost between $1.50 – $2 per trip. So, if you’re only taking it for one stop and getting off at the next, that’s pretty costly. If you’re moving around a lot of the bus, would make more sense to get the Day Pass at $5. Let’s you move bus hop unlimited till 11:59pm.

Oh speaking of which, buses don’t operate till that late anyway.

  • Beaches

Great beautiful beaches as how you’d see them on TV. They’re also very far to travel to!

From where I’m staying at, it takes me 1.5 hours. An hour to get to the Bus Interchange and another half hour to get to the beach. Mind you, I haven’t included the waiting time for the bus.

And I’ve only visited the nearest beach, Corona Del Mar, which is the main beach.

  • Food

If you’re a Muslim and you’re living here, it’s not easy to locate a Halal grocery store. Thankfully, I found one online and managed to go over there earlier to get some Halal meat! Yay!! What’s even more awesome about it, is that I found Indomie and Indocafe!

WOOHOO!!

Irvine Halal Meat – reviews on Zabihah.com weren’t that good but the lady was definitely friendly and nice to me. I will definitely be coming back since I saw INSTANT PRATA!

Otherwise, food in the restaurants are quite costly too. You don’t get your favourite bowl of Wanton Noodle anywhere here for SGD$3.00, you probably find them here for US$6.00.

I just had my 1/2 Rotisserie Chicken with Potatoes for close to $10 which comes inclusive of a free refill of drinks. It was also during the lunch promotion. So, I do suppose food can be quite costly here.

  • Mosque

It’s Friday and that means, Friday prayers!

It’s quite off the beaten track and doesn’t look like a Mosque, so locating it earlier on was quite a challenge. I simply followed or tried to locate where I see Muslim men and women were walking towards and followed.

Irvine Islamic Center, as they call it, does not have the typical minaret that we often see in Singapore. Nonetheless, it is a very small mosque, much akin to Masjid Holland Village, only slightly bigger and two-storeys in height and comes fully air-conditioned.

Irvine Islamic Center

Irvine Islamic Center

The one giving the sermon was also a different person from the one who was the Imam. What was interesting about it was that kids were praying in bermudas or shorts, which was above the knee and an adult was praying in sleeveless top.

What was even more interesting was that someone wasn’t pleased with the content of the sermon and decided to air his views during the sermon.

Hmmm… the context of it was about Time as a gift and why are taxpayers money spent on equipping the Egyptian regime rather than helping out those in need in USA. Not short of assistance being requested for in the US I suppose.

Oh well, talk about freedom of speech huh?