Regret is Love Unspent

It was two Fridays ago, after the Friday prayers, that my granduncle, whom I call ‘Tok Busu’, was carried out of Masjid Almukminin. It was quite a sight; after the Friday prayers, quite a number of attendees stayed back for the Solat Jenazah. And later, quite a bit of people rushed to carry his coffin into the funeral van. Maybe it’s something about playing a part in sending someone off to the after life. Maybe it’s the beauty (or belief) of someone passing away on ‘Malam Jumaat’, and being able to have his body pray with the Friday congregation. Whatever it was, I thought that scene was slightly magical. And perhaps, unconscisouly, meaningful for me and the people who knew he was the Bilal there in the 80s.

It was around 1am earlier that day that I realised Tok Busu had passed away. My Dad entered my room to tell me of the news. I then checked my phone and saw that an hour earlier, my aunt, whom I call Kak Comel, texted to say she was on her way to the hospital. I did not think much of then, and just made my way to the hospital with my Dad.

“Die tanye kau kat mane Nor..” (He asked where you were Nor..), my Grandaunt said, upon seeing my face in the ward.

How do I respond to that?

That week, when I returned from my Kuala Lumpur trip on Sunday, I think I managed to visit him twice in the hospital. But not that Thursday night.

It was recorded that he passed away on 14 July 12.20am. 20th Syawal. How many times did I visit him during Hari Raya, other than the 1st day of Raya visit? How many times did I have dinner with him during the Puasa month? How many times did I visit him since he fell sick last August?

I lived with Tok Busu, Nek Busu, Kak Comel, and Abang Yan since young. Nek Busu is my paternal grandma’s younger sister. And I was living with them since I was a baby till I was about two. Apparently, when my mother was pregnant with my sister, decided to quit work, and decided to take me back. But it did not stop me from going over regularly, including my emo-angst primary and secondary school days, when I would get angry with my mum over the smallest things, pack my bags, and go over to their house.

That said, I know, as I grew older, the visits became less; over special occasions, and dinners. Even the last few years, when Tok Busu and Nek Busu decided to organise tours to Malaysia and Indonesia, and invited me over, I declined, because I simply did not want to travel with relatives and the older folks they were having. Where was I on Tok Busu’s last day?

We probably brought back his body from the hospital around 3-4am that day. And long story short, things moved on quite fast, for me at least. From the funeral preparation to the burial to the prayers on Day 1, 2, 3, 7 and now Day 20 on 2nd August. (There’s Day 40 and 100 too before we do the annual ones). Accompanying Kak Comel to the cemetery to put fresh flowers there and accompanying Nek Busu at home- since 14 July, I’ve been spending my time 4 nights here, 2 nights home, 6 nights here, 1 night home, 2 nights here. Sometimes I question if my being here is to make up for all the times I wasn’t.

Things moved fast for me, and I ‘blame’ it partly to the fact that I have been through this back in December.

Things are moving slowly for Nek Busu. She still continues with her daily household activities, albeit alone, because Tok Busu is not lying down in the living room anymore. Each day she says “Hari ni dah xx hari Tok Busu tinggalkan kita. Die pergi jauh dari Nek Busu, Kak.” (Today is the xx day Tok Busu left us. He’s getting further.” I sometimes find her seating at the balcony crying. Today I found her eating the ice cream that Tok Busu usually eats- the old school lime and vanilla flavoured one.

Between my Dad and my Mum, they had about 30 years with each other. Between Tok Busu and Nek Busu, it was 40 years. 30, 50, 70 years.. Would the length of one’s relationship affects how much we grief we have when we lose the other person?

Being here with her, and seeing how lonely one can get in their old age, it makes me imagine what my life would be one day. If I get to live that long. Would I also be receiving daily calls from my two sisters, like what my Grandma and the other grandma is doing for Nek Busu, to check on me, asking the most mundane like “Have you eaten?”.

The past two weeks, I’ve been thinking about my relationships more in general. With my Dad, whom I talk to more since Mum’s passing. With my married sister, whom I didn’t speak to for about 10 years, and only recently, especially with the birth of my niece who is now 3, that I acknowledge her existence. With my two other siblings. With friends- those I make the effort to meetup, those I don’t mind cancelling out on, those I don’t reply to. I question my decision to cut contact with my best friend since junior college days (since 2006) whom in my eyes got too emotional after our London trip in Dec 2015. I question my decision to cut contact with someone who loved me unconditionally, just 6 weeks into it, because I felt I had the other person was also emotional and I had to be practical. (Maybe I just cannot handle emotional people).

Time is just too limited to allow hate or regret enter our hearts.

May I always remember to fill it with love and goodness.

Sparrow

Not sure why the title is “Sparrow” (for now). It’s a word which has been on my mind for the past weeks. Tonight I searched for the symbolic meaning behind the word and found this. And I haven’t figured out what to make out of it yet.

And since I’m on this topic of ‘symbolism’, for the record, I had two readings done recently. One was a tarot card reading, and the other was a calculation based on my birth date. I know my religion tells me I am not supposed to believe in such things and predictions and such, but me being me, I did it anyway, and I can’t help thinking how accurate the interpretation was (in relation to what was already going on with my life).

//

I have been a bit too active on Facebook and using it more as a discussion platform, and I’m not sure how I want to continue using Facebook.

//

Last weekend I called out for a meetup to chat about some green collaboration stuff, and that happened earlier today. I realised I forgot Hari Raya was tomorrow and people will either be busy or away for the long weekend. And then I realised I wasn’t thinking about Hari Raya last weekend because it was something I just did not think about. I know my married sister was baking cookies the past week. But that’s about it. I didn’t bother buying new clothes or do anything special. Dad said he was not in the mood to celebrate Raya this year. The other sister and brother got clothes and nada. Nothing else happened. Yesterday while I was texting my paternal uncle I said I didn’t bake anything, and tonight I found myself collecting 2 cakes, 3 bottles of cookies, and 2 packets of crackers from my paternal grandma. She even threw in 8 long dresses for me to choose from, and I ended up picking 2 for my sister and 2 for myself. Earlier in the day my sister found some clothes in my Mum’s wardrobe (for some reason, both of us have not seen the particular items we picked out), and if it goes as planned, we’ll wear that tomorrow. Tomorrow, Dad said he’ll go “ambil Mak” / “pick up Mum” first before proceeding to our regular Raya outings (we usually do 8 houses on the first day). I guess there’s always a first time for everything.

Selamat Hari Raya.

Apr + May 2017

I thought I’d wait till end June and do a 2nd Quarter 2017 wrap-up. But I think lots of things happened since 26 March, that it’s time to record them down.

In the past two months I have:

  • Sort of started a ‘try-to-cook’ days. Think fluffy pancakes, and failed Churros that looked like pieces of poop. I can cook good Nasi Goreng and Telor Masak Kicap though.
  • Went to Jogjakarta, Java, Indonesia, with my youngest sister, 27 Mar to 2 Apr. Photos on Flickr here.
  • SYCA hosted a water-talk.
  • Joined a ‘how to pray as beautiful as the prophet’ class, every Thursdays in April.
  • Went for a music event each weekend
  • Joined a breathing workshop and cried.
  • SYCA had a community brunch meetup.
  • Participated in a social media contest and won 3rd prize. Watch the clip here. As at 31 May 2017,  the clip has received more than 4500 views and 43 shares.
  • Went to Sungai Tohor with People’s Movement to Stop Haze, 10 to 21 May. Photos on Flickr here.
    • Joined as a participant to build the canal-block. Ended up as a photographer most days.  And social-media updates person. Sprained my ankle real bad on the 4th last day. Met the most beautiful community.  Some of my personal posts can be seen on my personal FB page still as they are ‘public’ for now.
  • Came back to Singapore and found myself sitting in at some meeting. Luckily I had things to say.
  • Found my TEDxNUS talk back in March published. View it here.
  • Went on a 3 hour mangrove kayaking trip at Pulau Ubin. Sort of a replacement for the sunset kayak trip I organised but ended up not being able to go because I decided to go for the longer Sungai Tohor trip.

Too much words to describe my experiences.

June awaits.

Wrapping up 1st Quarter 2017

~9 weeks since this blog post, i.e, things that happened between 19 Jan and 26 Mar.

I used translation activities to keep myself mentally busy.

I translated 38 articles between 2 Jan and 15 Feb (44 days) for Berita Harian Panas-Panas, and separately did 7 more between 23 Jan and 16 Mar for other purposes. The act of waking up early just to scan through the BH (I did ask my Dad if he wanted to unsubscribe to it, since technically Mum was the only person in the house who would read it, he said ‘no’ with reason being price was cheap, and if anything we should be unsubscribing to the cable and internet services which was at least 10x more expensive..) gave me some motivation to at least make sure I got out of bed. The reading and translating bit itself was alright, although there were words or phrases I thought was weird to translate just because I did not know how or just because I felt it was something I rarely use myself. It was quite a learning journey to be reading and writing in Bahasa Melayu on a regular basis. The project on the whole was fun while it lasted.

I took lots and lots of pictures for myself and others.

I have this snap and record habit, and then dumping it onto Flickr for personal records. On 18 Feb, I decided to uninstall the Flickr app on my phone, and became more conscious of what I was recording, and if it serves any purpose other than for records. Having that mindset made me more aware of the present and how I wanted to record and share things. My personal favourites from 18 Feb are there 3 pictures below.

Sneak peek. @nadisingapura will be performing later! #WOWourKampung

A post shared by Ground-Up Initiative (GUI) (@groundupinitiative) on

Our guests and visitors at the Gathering Space today. #WOWourKampung

A post shared by Ground-Up Initiative (GUI) (@groundupinitiative) on

Meet the HeartQuarters of Kampung Kampus at the home ground of Ground-Up Initiative #WOWourKampung

A post shared by Ground-Up Initiative (GUI) (@groundupinitiative) on

That said, when I found myself not using Flickr, I was/ am using Facebook to share more picture posts. Some of the posts are public and can be seen on my personal FB. Some photos are not kept on Google Drive instead.

I met friends, one-to-one, more in these 3 months than I have the past year.

In fact, between 14 Feb and 8 March, I was meeting friends over lunches and dinner almost every day. We talked everything from work to personal life, some were 1 hour short, and one even stretched to 8 hours long. Everyone had a story to share and different perspectives to bring. It was fun just eating and catching up, and sometimes learning a totally new thing.

I went back to the Ground-Up Initiative to volunteer and even took up some assignments with WOW Kampung.

The 1st time I went to the Kampung in 2012 was when I thought I needed a change in environment (my internship gave me quite an experience). The Kampung and its community did give me a different environment and experience. And so with all the happenings in Dec 2016/ Jan 2017, in Feb 2017 I think I unconsciously went back to the place and the community which I knew was able to lift me up emotionally and spiritually. I did some cooking (Yay to a working kitchen and people who will eat whatever vegetarian food I came up with) and facilitation work (Secondary school kids were a tough bunch), and talked to a some new people (I even have a favourite one I enjoy talking to each time).

I had 4 talks in March, and one of them was a TEDx talk!

Woohoo! If I remember, I’ll update this post in about 1-2 months time.

In general, talking to secondary, university, members of the public (mostly non-converteds I feel), and the converts, was a good reminder for me to always talk in a language my audience can understand. I have a basic core slide which I edit depending on the audience, and the depth depends on the time I have as well. Although.. I think what scares me more is Q&A sessions- in the last one especially, I found myself ‘floating’. Not even sure what’s the word for this.

Today, I chose to remove a friend from my social media.

I reconnected with an old friend around Aug 2016 ( I had blocked this person out somewhere between  mid 2010 and mid 2016- that’s 7 years) and by Jan 2017 I thought history was repeating itself. I decided to give myself some time before making a clear social-media-cut. I suppose it was a culmination of all the good things happening in life and being aware that I do not need this person in my life.

I still take forever to reply to emails or texts.

Since December, I have just been taking forever to reply to emails or texts. And I realise it’s OK, because if it’s super important, people will call you (or keep emailing and texting). I pretty much enjoy the interactions offline/ in person, or just being by myself.

In my email signature (which one would see if I sent it out using the laptop, and not mobile phone), I have this line “Follow your bliss” by Joseph Campbell. There’s a story behind that- this interview with Bill Moyers may shed some light. And on that related story, Campbell also mentions on this need for a “sacred space”.

[Sacred space] is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.

I’m still figuring out and marking the boundaries of my sacred space.

One thing’s for sure- embracing life’s experiences and rediscovering myself every few months, and the ability to wake up and face a new adventure every single day, is something I am and will always be grateful for.

On 20th March, I uploaded her photo on FB and captioned it “”What kind of guardian are you? Never change my clothes for months. Never bring me out.” #Blythe #BlytheDoll” But I swear it’s so apt over here. She’s saying her thanks 😀

28

a few mins late but it’s ok.

happy birthday me!

you came out from the mothership on thursday 19 jan 1989 at 12:28 and have been rocking it since!

 

punctuation, punctuations adds more excitement!

Life Is Larger Than This

There was a period of time whenever Xiang Tian and I chat, and when I felt overwhelmed, I would use this phrase “life is larger than this” as a way to put things into perspective; that whatever was going on was temporary, that if anything I should be grateful I had the opportunity to be involved in whatever that was, that things will pass and better things will come along.

When I was dealing with my mum’s passing in December, I was also dealing with other personal decisions I made then. I remember when Chris had a stopover in Singapore, I made a passing remark, “I made a stupid choice”. Over the following weeks, up till 3rd January I was thinking, “Yeah you know what, it was a small tiny stupid mistake”. Until yesterday- 17th Jan, where I realise maybe it was not that tiny, and it was a big deal for me because then I realised how everything was orchestrated. And at the same time, I could not really feel anything because I was reminded that it was not the first time this is happening. It happened 7 years ago, and it happened again now.

I find it hard to tell myself “life is larger than this”.

//

This blog was started 5 Apr 2014.

Last week I went to a student production where Anwar was a trainer. I was texting Anwar after that and it occurred to me how I could not really remember how we got to know each other. He mentioned it was through Agnes. I went back to an old public blog (1 Jul 2010 to 23 Jan 2012) and read my review of a play he was acting in and I attended and where the three of us had dinner after in late 2010 , and there I realised I actually know of him early 2010. And then it occurred to me I did have an old public blog that was privatised halfway (31 Dec 2009 to 9 Jul 2010). I only read one blog post from each of those blogs- and I was reminded of how young and immature I was (I was 21 in 2010), and that I wrote freely and emotionally (you have no idea how much screening I do for this blog, or how much screening I do in real life).

Writing on a blog has always been a platform for me to record and self-reflect. I compartmentalise things in general. Even for social media- Facebook mostly for advocacy, Twitter to re-share interesting current news and sometimes rant, Flickr for visual documentations, and Blogs for personal memories, mostly of things I want to remember. Although I have to say, this blog is super sanitised. So, I know what I write or how I write things have changed. And this is how I write now.

//

This January has been difficult for me. From questioning my own character, to being reminded how things were slightly dejavu, to interacting with people and realising some people just don’t change and will always disappoint you in various ways (just when you think “it can’t get worse than this” it actually can! and this is coming from me- a generally calm and patient person who thinks she can handle all sorts of characters and situations), to not being able to sleep because I just can’t, to not being able to get out of bed on some days because I just couldn’t, to cancelling meetup with close friends saying I was busy when it was because I just didn’t want to talk to people, to forcing myself to go out- for cycling, and walks, to CCA yesterday and later this weekend, so that I at least continue doing things that makes me happy, to distracting myself with translation works for BHPP- that is the only time where I know I will be focused for at least 2 hours on some random articles.

After working so hard the past seven years to build myself up, things just happened in 2 months, and I was/am at the lowest point now. At least this is what I think. For now.

//

This morning during the walk, I remember I stopped twice, because I got mentally distracted. It was one of those shittiest moments this week. Then again, I also remember, the first text I got this morning was from Magda: Good morning! How are you? Hope u had good rest of the day. Wishing you a good and full of energy week” (we had lunch together yesterday when I was at CCA and had a small chat) and then there was this uncle who wished me “Good morning” as I walked up the terrace garden, and during lunch later with Kah Hwee we talked about some spiritual stuff,  and late afternoon when I met Farheen where we talked about life in general- and I realised how blessed I am to be surrounded by people with beautiful thoughts all the time.

I’d like to believe that for every 1 unkind person I meet, I will meet 1000 kind persons. And that’s that.

//

I’ve always had this thing where I just don’t know what to answer when someone asks “how are you?”. And the past two months have been especially awkward- I don’t really have creative responses to someone who knew I was dealing with the passing of a family member, to those who didn’t, and just in general when I want to tell them how I was really feeling but I couldn’t because some things are better left unsaid.

I remember this article I read last year.

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

My heart has been hammered a few times the past weeks, and I think I need time to reconcile with myself.

At least I know life is larger than this.

Things can only get better from here.

of january babies

IMG_20170108_124510_HDR.jpg

Mama and I when we were 30 and 2.

Funny how the dates worked out.

She passed away on the night of 7 Dec and was buried in the morning of 8 Dec.

Yesterday (7 Jan)  was her 1 month death anniversary and today (8 Jan) she would have been 56.

My parents got married on 19 Dec (1987) and my mother gave birth to me 19 Jan (1989).

She was a 1.45pm baby and I was past noon baby.

To Have A Love As Strong As Yours

Saturday. 19 December 1987. 6.05pm.

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Today would have been their 29th wedding anniversary.

I think I realised quite late how well my parents brought us up. 4 very different individuals who would stretch their patience differently. They still love us all the same.

I feel my parents also set the benchmark quite high, in terms of their length of relationship, and in terms of the love they have for each other and for us. While father was the main sole breadwinner, mama would be the main caretaker. In the past three years she had cancer, father tried all means to help her. In the last few weeks especially, he stayed up all (if not, most nights) taking care of her. For me, mama even delayed one of her chemo session a day later so she could attend the NEA awards ceremony. She even sent me off to the airport, even when she had difficulties breathing.

I see older female cousins divorcing, friends getting married and divorced. I think it subconsciously made me more choosy or careful the last 7 years, and that is why I was disappointed with myself for the choices I made recently. I had second thoughts and withdrew again- only this time, I couldn’t really feel anything.

“To have a love as strong as yours” – I still have lots more to learn.

 

 

3 weeks in Morocco: Marrakech for COP22, El Jadida, Casablanca, and back to Marrakech

Morocco, Friday 4 to Friday 25 November 2016, (Moroccan time).
In pictures and short write-ups.
I have more things going on in my head, like the other stuff that happened while I was there- the bombings in Aleppo/ Syria, results of the US presidential elections, life in general,  perhaps for conversations in person.

———-

Friday 4 November 2016

(Only 4 and 5 November day-posts are long post. The rest are quite short, just highlights of the day kinda thing).

Flight from Singapore to Marrakech: I was on the same Qatar Airways flight as Sandeep from WWF. I was the first from the Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA) team of 4 to arrive in Marrakech. The rest would arrive later on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Sandeep and I had a Friday 2.05am flight from Singapore, and 18.5 hours later with the connecting flight in Doha (where I also met Kelvin from the Malaysian Youth Delegation team) and all, we would reach Marrakech on Friday 2.50pm. Marrakech is 8 hours behind Singapore.

Mobile in Marrakech: Upon exiting the Menara Aiport immigration, we found people giving out free SIM Cards from the Telco: Inwi (this was because of COP22). I took a card and found myself topping up 20 Dirham (around 2 Euros per week) for data. For some reason, my friends could use their phone as per normal while I could only get Facebook messenger, Whatsapp and Twitter function. Later I also realised other people could topup easily using the ‘call 120′ function but I could not because me using a Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 China version (I know I should have waited and gotten the Singapore version) was brought to an ’emergency call’ feature in China. Note to self to change phones when I can. As it is, this phone blocks out lots of Google apps function and I cannot use things like Google maps easily.

Transportation in Marrakech: For the travel between the airport and my first accommodation, I took a cab which was arranged for by the hostel. For a single trip like that, they charged us (Kelvin and I) 150 Dirham (15 Euros). I honestly thought it was expensive for a 20 minutes ride but went ahead with it because I did not want to waste time finding my way through the alleys later on. Subsequently, whenever I took cabs, it would cost me somewhere between 20 Dirham to 70 Dirham. The small cabs there can only take 3 people, and if you are travelling alone, do not be alarmed to find the taxis picking up other passengers along the way and charging the same amount or even lower from these passengers. There was one night where Lia and I wanted to go from the COP venue to the Climate Concert in El Harti Stadium- the first cab wanted to charge us 500 Dirham (he can f-off seriously), and the second cab which we took with another guy from Canada wanted to charge us 70 Dirham per person, although he already collected some money from the Canadian guy who dropped off like 1 minute earlier from us. This cab driver even locked the door till we paid him off. Lia being the stern person gave him 70 Dirham for 2 persons.  In comparison, when I went to El Jadida, I paid a flat rate of 10 Dirham from the train station to the town centre, and later in my travels I found myself using metred cabs. Likewise in Casablanca, there were metred cabs everywhere. I would later return to Marrakech near the end of my trip and learnt how to take the local bus- regardless of distance, the fare was only 4 Dirham per person.

Accommodation in Marrakech for 4-5 Nov: For my first two nights in Marrakech, I stayed in the same hostel as the Malaysian Youth Delegation; Hotel Aday. 111, Derb Sidi Bouloukat, Riad Zitoune Lakdim – Marrakech 40 000. It is a hostel really. I took a single bed-single room for myself.

Accommodation in Marrakech for 6-19 Nov: The group booking for SYCA would only start on Sunday 6 November; Riad Chennaoui. Riad Zitoune, Jdid Derb Sidi Fares, rue Bahia. We booked a family room for 5 beds but was given a room with 1 queen size bed and 4 single beds. (FYI: We booked  through Airbnb for a family room for 13 nights and split it equally between the 4 of us- so to us we paid for an entire room fully. I brought a friend to stay over one night and was later asked to pay for that friend because the bed was ‘not meant for her.’- Just a note to check and clarify arrangements on Airbnb and actual Riad owner).

The hostel and the Riad was about 20 minutes walking distance from each other. The Riad was about 15 minutes walk to Jemaa El Fna, a market place of sorts in Marrakech’s Old Medina. Lots of hostels and Riads are located in the Old Medina and within a walking distance to Jemaa El Fna. Meanwhile, most hotels are located to the west of the Old Medina- about 10 minutes taxi ride.

Accommodation in Marrakech for 20 Nov: Crashed friend’s hotel room.

Note on accommodation in Marrakech: What I paid for 1 night in that hostel was roughly 60% of the price of what I paid for 1 night in the Riad.  A Riad is a traditional Moroccan house- ours had an indoor courtyard, had 2 sleeping floors (roughly 10 rooms), and a rooftop. Breakfast was provided and the family was very hospitable, as with other Moroccans I met. Meanwhile, I later found out was I paid for the 13 nights at the Riad was equivalent to what a friend staying at a hotel was paying for 1 night, and of course getting the full amenities of a hotel. The point is, there are different types of accommodation and you get what you pay for.

On this note, the SYCA team was self-funded for COP21 held in Paris and COP22 held in Morocco. COP23 will be organised by Fiji and held in Bonn, Germany and COP24 will be hosted by Poland. Sponsors anyone? 😀

Saturday 5 November 2016

Meet Jasmin, Dulanga and Kevin, part of the Malaysian Youth Delegation team. We went to collect our badges on Saturday. Moon Moon and Nacha would join us the next night.

Note the two colours; Pink and Yellow. Pink = Party badges. Yellow = Observer badges. I think it was since last year that the MYD team worked closely with the government team, and this time round supporting their work at COP (like helping to manage the Country Pavilion, and emceeing some of the sessions) and learning about the negotiations (Party Overflow badges still allows one to enter rooms Observer badges cannot). Aside from Malaysia, the only other countries I know who allow youths to come up the Pink badges is Philippines and Brazil, although, I’m sure there’s a few others. Additionally, for Philippines, according to Rodne, 60-70% of their Party team is made up of members from the Civil Society, giving technical advice to the team. I think it’s fair to say I am thankful Singapore’s negotiating team (although I am only aware of 7? .. out of more than 30?) all have a certain academic background/ credential (hello Singapore civil service system) to be able to do their job well.

On this note, on Wednesday 16 November, some members from the Singapore civil society group met with 2 Singapore negotiators, on Friday 18 November, we had a breakfast meetup with Minister Masagos, and on Friday 2 December I had a chat with Emily from MYD 2015 team, and this Pink and Yellow badge/ youths in official delegation team came up. There are various pros and cos and after digesting everything, my personal opinion is a) There should be a distinction between government and civil society, each having a specific role, and free from influence of the other party and b) Both parties could work on better year-long collaboration, and not just towards/ at COP.

On a separate note, I heard some remarks like “Oh Country X spoke up so much last year on ABC but I didn’t hear them speaking up this year.” Chatting with a youth delegate from Country X later I found out it was because the main negotiator was not at COP22 and that the second negotiator was asked to keep quiet. Whatever the reasons, it reminded me of Yeb Sano who was removed from the Philippines team in COP20 after he made that fantastic speech/ cried/ fasted in COP19. Some negotiators can be quite vocal, and I believe for good reasons, and so it disappoints me slightly to know their governments would ask them to keep quiet and even remove them from the team. (Is this a good thing then that Singapore’s negotiating team are all so formal and ‘cold’ :/ … ).

(Special separate note: 5th November was also the day when I heard the azan (call to prayers) for the first time in Marrakech. I would hear this a few times the next 2 weeks, on days when I get back from COP to Jemaa El Fna. I would experience later on my 3rd week this trip to Marrakech became a spiritual journey of sorts for me too.)

Sunday 6 November 2016

Madhu would arrive later at night. COP22 Moroccan hospitality is amazing. They provided free shuttle service from the Casablanca airport into Marrakech (imagine a 3-4 hours drive from Casablanca, as opposed to 20 mins from the Marrakech airport into Jemaa El Fna), and they even provided free transfers to whatever accommodation one is staying at.  And since our Riad is about a 5 mins walk from the nearest carpark, they even called our Riad to make sure someone was there to pick Madhu up!

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Official start date of Week 1 at COP22.

 

Monday 7 November 2016

Breakfast at the Riad is provided. Each morning, we would be served a) Drinks: Orange Juice, Coffee, Fresh Milk (like I can literally smell it was fresh), Verveine Tea. b) Traditional pancakes: Baghrir (made from Semolina flour), Rghaif (imagine the Indian Prata, but more doughy) c) Dips: Honey, Butter, Apricot jam, d) Bread: The type of bread changes each day.

I had always suspected I am lactose-intolerant; drinking Milo for example, makes me go to the toilet within the hour. I also suspected I am gluten-intolerant; the most obvious episode was when I was in Jakarta two weeks before Marrakech, and for the entire week I was there, I was eating pancakes and breads each morning and had bloated stomach the entire time. The point is, basically, a Moroccan traditional breakfast or food for that matter, oh the couscous!,  was not doing my body any good. In fact, I even vomitted out what looked like milk curds on my second day. However, that did not stop me from eating them anyways. As long as it’s not fatal.

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Note on COP22 Space: Blue Zone- only people with badges, Green Zone- open to public. Blue Zone is where I will mention things like Negotiations/ Meetings, Side Events, Country Pavilions, Plenary Halls. Green Zone is where I will mention things like Innovation spaces and Civil Society spaces. There’s tons of things going on at COP. One just has to be clear why one wants to be at COP and want out of it. For me I wanted to follow APA and on ASEAN issues, as well as build the NGO networks for SYCA, so my highlights will be those things.

Below are some pictures inside the COP venue, at the Blue Zone- only people with badges can enter the Blue Zone.

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Green Zone- open to public. I think they tried to control the crowd and imposed a 1 person 2 days entry limit. By the end of week 1 I heard anyone can get badges on the spot to go as and when.

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Picture time! Madhu and I with some friends from Taiwan, Malaysia, and Kai Kim, a Singaporean who hasn’t really been in Singapore for the longest time!

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Tuesday 8 November 2016

Thai country pavilion “cup noodle diplomacy” (term courtesy of Melissa Low).

I have no idea why food inside COP has to be so expensive. On Monday we realised very quickly food was tagged to European prices- cold sandwiches and cold salads was going for 50 and 60 Dirhams, and hot food was going for around 130 Dirham. I had been in Marrakech since Friday and I can easily get a hot panini at a restaurant at 20 Dirham and in the alleys for 10 Dirhams. I had been eating local food, tagines, grilled meats, pizzas and paninis, and everything at Jemaa El Fna was about 1/3 the price at COP.  So on Tuesday, when Madhu and I saw this lady at the Thailand country pavilion with her cup noodles, we knew we had to ask cos a) Singaporeans and cheap food b) ASEAN diplomacy.

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Indonesia country pavilion Interfaith dialogue

I have more heart for ASEAN issues and ASEAN country pavilions. I hanged out more at the Malaysian and Indonesia pavilions. COP Blue Zone has their own Side Events yes. Also, Madhu and I realised each Country Pavilions also have their own events which may not be necessarily published online and thus each day we have fun exploring the Country Pavilion areas too.

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Tuesday was also the ‘urgh’ day for me at COP22. Long story short, at COP, in terms of negotiations/ meetings, there’s CMP, CMA, SBI, SBSTA and APA. The APA is something that was established when the world adopted the Paris Agreement on Dec 2015. I’m coming from this background where I went for pre Paris, Paris and post-Paris, and so, I was looking out for APA. So,  to know access to APA was restricted was ‘urgh’. Also there’s 9 NGO Constituencies under UNFCCC, and this year for COP22, a total of 8500 Observer Participants were admitted for the entire two weeks. I personally feel 2 representatives per constituency was ridiculous.

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Wednesday 9 November 2016

After finding out access to APA was restricted, I decided focus on Side Events. This was one of the Side Events sessions I went for.

Definition of a Farmer. I’ve not seen in explained this way before.

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Thursday 10 November 2016

COP has thematic days. Week 1 Thursdays at COP is always the Young and Future Generations Day. This was at the Arabian room for “How engaging youth actions are integral to implementing the Paris Agreement and Climate Justice.” Supporting Kristina from Japan and Zhinan from China.

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Asian Youth at COP22 impromptu lunch meetup at Restaurant 3! Philippines, Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese, Singapore youth here.

Prior to COP, I had started an excel sheet of Asian youths at COP. Bea from the Philippines initiated this first meetup.

My Baju Melayu (traditional Malay wear) moment with Jasmin from Malaysia.

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Kevin and Fossil of the Day awards. I knew of his existence in 2013  at Global Power Shift in Istanbul, Turkey when he was still with 350.org, and have since enjoyed watching him perform.

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Friday 11 November 2016

I decided to not go to COP and instead go to the Art Space hosted by 350.org. Being a volunteer Team Manager for 350 Singapore from 2012 to 2015 made me a bit more keen to do this.

So. Technically, I can do a 40 minutes walk (or something like that) from our Riad to the Art Space. But. Because I lost my sense of direction, I decided to take a cab from Jemaa El Fna. I asked the security guards at the bank there and one of them said it was some distance away and I have to take a cab, so I did. That driver then confidently took me to a park next to the COP venue, and that turned out to be an orange plantation.

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I then took another cab and this time round the driver brought me back to Jemaa El Fna and pointed me to a small alley and asked me to walk and continue asking people. So I did. For about 30 minutes.

It was only on the day before my flight back to Singapore that I would find out from a local friend that the country had brought in policemen from other parts of Morocco into Marrakech to guard some of these COP-busy areas. She was saying maybe that’s why the guard I asked did not really know where to direct me to. In addition, she was also saying they closed down some routes to make it convenient for COP shuttle buses and thus it was difficult for locals to get local buses at times. Logistic hassles of organising COP.

Back to the Art Space which was where I was meant to be at.. 

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One of my contribution for the day
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Getting the neighbourhood kids to join in30675645790_e79a3e3e62_o

Some youths from Scouts Association dropped by. They also came on Saturday for prep work, and then on Sunday for the Climate March.30941758376_46e863ba50_o

Other things happening at the park
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Pop-up permaculture workshop30888823961_3063510307_o

Street theatre that involved everyone. Not sure how regular this is.30888822771_dba3bf60e4_o

“we are on strike until our dignity and rights come back”

I didn’t have any background to this. What I could pick out was: Teacher Trainee Graduates are on strike because they are unemployed.

A few things came to mind: Why would a government train thousands of teachers only to not give them jobs? Why would anyone participate in strike and not choose to find alternative jobs? What is the freedom of expression like in Morocco (this strike is one thing, I’ve also seen people chanting and forming lines)? What would Singaporeans be fighting for, if we had a space like Jemaa El Fna, a square bustling with activities and thousands of people in one night, and if there were no restrictions as we have now?

The Jemaa El Fna square has been an interesting place, filled with food hawkers, goods, musicians, snake charmers with their cobras, adult monkeys (I have no idea what species) and just lots and lots of people, especially on a Friday night.

Sat 12 November 2016

I was at the Art Space again the whole day.

At night, I joined in the Asian Youth at COP22 dinner at Cafe Argana. Liu Jing from China- China Youth for Climate Action Network, studying in the States picked up the bill for everyone. This was like.. Asian diplomacy to the max.

Anyways, this was only half of the group. The other half.. were Chinese youth from Youthink Centre who was studying outside. Some of them were not even 18 years old (from my understanding you have to be at least 18 to go to COP).. so.. hmm they were probably spending time at the Green Zone.

After dinner, some of us went to the annual NGO party organised by Climate Action Network International. This year it was held at Sofitel. As with the last two parties I went to, it was crowded and fun.

Side note: A tall glass of fresh orange juice at Jemaa El Fna cost 4 Dirham. A glass of Minute Maid at Sofitel cost 100 Dirham. I honestly have not experienced such an extreme price difference in Singapore, so this was a shocker to me.

Side side note: I was with the Malaysian team the whole night and it was fun dancing for hours. In the last hour, we ended up at a spot near the exit. I saw some of the Singapore team leaving and shamelessly waved to them.
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Sun 13 November 2016

Some photos from the Climate March!

Sandeep and the WWF gang. I saw Manuel Pulgar Vidal whom I knew at COP20 President/ Peru’s former environment minister with WWF. It hit me then he is now WWF’s head of climate and energy.25341690489_22c166e79f_o

Idris and his Scouts Association friends.30977265995_4e4d8c3154_o

I took this pic. Cos. Palm Oil.30860701022_1e79a25a0e_o

Seen at COP22 Climate Justice March: “Women against climate change”. Emilia & Martha, part of crew of 50, cycled 1 month from Valentia.

At night. My favourite thing arrived. So.. on Monday when I saw how expensive COP food was, I asked Lia from Indonesia (she was only coming for Week 2 of COP) to bring in cup noodles for us. And she did. I don’t know who she stuffed all this + a few other items in her luggage,  but she did. This was another ASEAN cup noodle diplomacy moment.
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Ok. So now that I am done with Week 1 of COP.. and moving to Week 2 of COP.. this is me getting overwhelmed, so I’m picking out lots of tweets and embedding them here.

 

Mon 14 November 2016

Tuesday November 15

Asian Youth at COP22 Dinner at Cafe Dabachi. Thank you Wei-Hsiang from Taiwan for organising!

Wednesday 16 November 2016

First at the Indonesian Pavilion.. apparently Jeff Sachs is a good friend there and has a session every year.

Then, to the High-Level Segment.

In the late afternoon, we met up with Wei Min from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Santosh from the National Climate Change Secretariat.

Thursday 17 November 2016

Friday 18 November 2016

I have an entire thread on Palestine here.

The proceeding was a tad hilarous. Check out Climate Tracker’s tweets on Friday 18 November (may be seen 19 November if you are reading from Singapore here.

Now that COP has ended, here’s the start to the start of travelling and exploring Marrakech a bit more. I also went to El Jadida and Casablanca before coming back to Marrakech for my flight back to Singapore.

 

Saturday 19 November 2016

The SYCA team checked out of our Riad. Madhu, Cuifen and I went over to Mel’s place before heading out to Saadian tomb. After that Madhu had to leave and go back to Mumbai where she has been seconded to past few weeks, and Cuifen went back to the hotel to do some work. Mel and I continued with lunch with Theresa and the three of us then visited Bahia Place.. which is apparently 5 minutes away from our Riad, and for some reason I just did not have time visit past two weeks.

Saadian Tomb is a place which houses the graves of about 60 members of the 16th century Ahmad Al-Mansur royal family, and was only discovered in 1917. Meanwhile, Bahia Place is a palace built in the 19th century with large courtyard and garden spaces. I think if anything, the intricacy of the Moroccan architecture is something to be amazed by. Sadly, most of the information panels are in Arabic and French, and I could not read and appreciate the history behind the places there and there. (And I accidentally deleted pictures from 19 November..)

Side note on ATMs in Morocco: The previous night, I tried withdrawing money from the ATM at COP. It did not dispense any cash, and I received a notification from DBS to say there’s a withdrawal. I called DBS and they said the Moroccan bank made an instant refund. OK. Lesson learnt: Do not withdraw money at the end of an event.

The next night I was at Casablanca airport and tried to withdraw money too. Again, it did not dispense any cash, and I received a notification from DBS to say there’s a withdrawal. I called DBS and they said this time there’s no instant refund- they will help put up a request and this may take up to 50 days. Lesson learnt: Do not withdraw money at an airport on a Sunday night.

This also meant I only had cash from Week 1 and 2 leftover and had to be creative for Week 3.

Sunday 20 November 2016

It was a 10 minutes walk from Mel’s hotel to the Marrakech bus station. So.. at the bus station where I arrived around 11.30am, I saw there was a COP22 booth- the one where they provide free shuttle bus from Marrakech to Casablanca airport, but it was empty. I assumed the free shuttle service ended on Saturday. I got myself a train ticket from Marrakech to Casablanca airport for 85 Dirham I think, and had to wait for the 3.30pm bus. I hunged out at the cafe and got out at 3pm to check in my backpack, and luckily saw the COP22 booth open! They helped me get refund for the bus ticket and put me up in a shuttle bus that was a headed out to Casablanca airport at 4pm.

It was about a 3.5 hours bus ride, and I feel so bad right now, but I had a good chat with a delegate from a country I forgot. The point is, he was a student who just finished his Masters, and came to COP under a Party badge (not just Party Overflow), and I was like ‘huh, how is that even possible’.. but that’s how things are in some other countries.. they’re not that.. stringent. I mean, that’s a domestic guideline each country would have, sure, just that it made me think more about this differentiation between the Pink badge and the Yellow badge, and the role of individuals at COP.

At Casablanca airport, I got a train ticket to El Jadida, through Casa Voyageurs for 37 Dirham. It was about an hour’s journey.

In El Jadida, I stayed with Amina for two nights. This was my first meal at her house.

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Monday 21 November 2016

The next day I did some sight-seeing.

El Jadida is a port city. This cistern was built in the 16th century, is 34 metres by 34 metres and is made up of 5 rows of 5 columns. I have no idea why but I spent quite some time down there.

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I also walked across the Fort of Magazan. It’s this 8 metre high structure, with thick walls and 2 metre wide walkways, along the coast.
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Walking along the beach, I saw this church like building “Espace de la Memoire Historique de la Resistance et de la Liberation”. I recognised Memorial, History,  Resistance and Liberation. The entire first floor had photographs and artifacts I can only admire.

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I had lunch outside and was back home by afternoon. The entire time I was in Marrakech and eating out, I would always see men sitting at the cafes, drinking tea and looking out to the passerby, and I would always wonder- where are the women? At Amina’s house, I had my first ‘women congregation experience’ which would also become part of my unexpected spiritual journey in Morocco.

So, Amina’s house is huge, and basically when I was there I had the entire 2nd floor to myself. When I got back, there were more than 10 women in the 2nd floor living room. By the end of the afternoon it became to about 20 women. The women were gathered there for a weekly ‘majlis’. In Singapore/ Malay culture context, I associate the word with ‘majlis persandingan’ – wedding / celebration. I didn’t understand her when she said this. Then she pointed out it’s an Arabic term, and in that culture/ religious context, it means a special gathering with a purpose. And for them, they were using her family’s house as a gathering to share religious teachings- each week is different, and for that Monday, a lady would share stories from the Prophet, and the rest would ‘zikir’ – short prayers where you recite repeatedly, sometimes silently, sometimes allowed. I joined them for about an hour- Amina would help translate the Arabic sharings to English.

I also wondered why they have to do this in the house and not at the mosque. Amina shared that in Morocco, access to mosque has been restricted for some years now- it is only open during prayer times. It was a way to prevent people from using the mosque to spread extreme ideas about Islam. Thus, people who genuinely wanted to share the teachings of Islam got creative and for those who can, opened up their houses to such majlis.

Two thoughts went in my head then; a) The two weeks in Marrakech before coming to El Jadida, I have seen so many kinds of Moroccans, for women specifically, those who are dressed in abayas, hijabs, and those in tight revealing clothes. I also met someone whom I later found out organised the first kissing event in Morocco. To see such a diverse people profile in Morocco was amazing, and it felt like at the end of the day, people are respectful of each other. b) To realise access to mosques in Morocco is restricted, and here I am in Singapore not even remembering when was the last time I entered my neighbourhood mosque, when the mosques are there for use, was me mind-boggling myself.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

I left El Jadida in the afternoon and took the train out to Casa Voyageurs, reaching Casablanca in the evening. It was a case of bad timing, but I could only meet Miguel around 11pm.

While waiting for Miguel for about 4 hours, I hanged out at Extrablatt Bistro- I had sandwich, fries, two pots of tea, and creme brulee the size of my face for about 137 Dirham. That’s when I realised I was probably spending too much on food, and that’s why I’m getting fat now, but that’s another story. I think halfway I became conscious there were more men in that place because they were watching a football match.. and most of them were only drinking tea. I also left my 13 Dirham change for the waiter who tended to me those 4 hours- Miguel mentioned later 2-3 Dirham would have sufficed. For me back then, it was more of a ‘pay what I think I should pay’ kind of mentality. On hindsight, it may have seen extravagant. Chatting with Jie Hui back in Singapore on Friday 2 December, it just feels like one of those things where as much as I complain how I cannot keep up with the standard of living in Singapore, I still count myself lucky for being born here (lottery or destiny), and being able to travel out and still survive in other places. And I probably should be more conscious of myself when I’m outside.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

In Casablanca, I visited the Hassan II Mosque and the Old Medina.

Funny stuff, but things happened to me the weeks leading up to this Morocco trip. I even met up with Ibnur’s mum days before leaving for Morocco, and she passed me a ‘How to Pray’ book and a mini Quran with English translation.. which I did not touch until that Monday I was at Amina’s house. Anyhow, the last time I prayed was probably when I was 12 years old.  At my 27 years of age, I did my Zohor at Hassan II Mosque. And this is me being me and still counting sins in my head.

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The walls in the Old Medina in Casablanca is painted, some in dual colours, some with murals.31057714692_8cd0b220dc_o

Thursday 24 November 2016

Thursday morning I left Casablanca to go back to Marrakech. I was texting Idris and he linked me up with Maryam and Fatima Zahra- the two girls were also at the Art Space on 11 and 12 November.. but I did not remember them.. yikes!

Anyhow, it was lunchtime when I arrived. We went over to Maryam’s aunt’s place first. This was where I had my second ‘women congregation experience’. Maryam’s aunts and aunties were there. Apparently they have this weekly thing where they get together to have lunch.. I joined in at the right time. Heh -_-”

We had about 10 women sharing couscous from this humongous plate.. and the older ones tried teaching me how to eat with my hands, only to have me share we do the same in the Malay culture! (Oops. #EatWithHandsInSG is now sort of dormant). What was interesting was how they balled up the couscous to they do not fall down easily in between our fingers. I also liked how one person would go around with the water jug before and after the meal for us to wash our hands, and the fact that there was only 1 glass going around for everyone to drink from. So.. minimalist, and makes sense- there is not much to wash after that. Also, I noticed that the food table was covered with plastic, so it was easy to scrape off food from there later. Similarly at Fatima Zahra’s house the next day, we had breakfast straight from the table. Just so practical.

In Morocco, most people speak Arabic and French, and chances are for the younger generation who goes to University, they speak English fluently. Maryam, Fatima Zahra and I had a bit too much fun talking about random stuff in English when the older ones asked us questions in Arabic. Whoops. On this note, I am reminded of the 6 official UN languages- Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Whenever one of the Moroccan youth apologised to me for not speaking good English, I apologise back to say I cannot speak Arabic and French, and if anything they should use that to their advantage to work for UN.

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At Fatima Zahra’s house.. the Moroccans somehow build their houses with communal use or guest space in mind.. I was staying on the 1st floor. I have a few nice clear pictures, but I thought I select this and show how useful their sofas are. So, I’ve been to Amina’s, Maryam’s and now Fatima Zahra’s house (not counting Miguel because he is a Portugese living in a rented modern apartment), and I see this same thing- sofas as long as the living room walls, with thick pads and fat pillows. I was amazed when I first saw it at Amina’s house- they can even take off the seating blanket layer and put it on the floor so the women group can use it as protection from the cold marble tiles. And now at Fatima Zahra’s house I saw how it can be transformed to a bed. I’m just taken in by the Moroccan hospitality and now easily awed with the whole Moroccan culture, I count myself lucky to be let into their private homes to join in some of their activities and live like them too.

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Friday 25 November 2016

The morning I left Marrakech, Maryam (left of picture) and Fatima Zahra (right of picture) let me try some of the traditional Moroccan wear!

The brown one is a traditional robe called the Djellaba, while the blue one is a Moroccan Keftan (their traditional dress). Also, because Fatima Zahra is ethnically a Berber, she has this head piece to go with it too. We had some photoshoot moments too. (We look so similar, I would not have guessed they’re Moroccans and would probably think they are Malays too if I did not know them.)

Blessed to have met everyone I met in Morocco.

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So there, my three weeks in Morocco.

It has been a week since I got back to Singapore. I think I’m a bit more settled down now, and will be back on track tomorrow.

For more photos, that may seem random, view them on Flickr.