One door closes

After all the challenging months of waking up amid failures during VA, this seems like a walk in the park.

I am of course, disappointed, and partly guilty for all the misplaced faith, but I will try again. For everything beautiful, hard work needs to be invested. And I will continue to remember that 谟事在人, 成事在天.

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三生三世 十里桃花

我将尽量使用中文来发表我的感触,但是尽量至此,我最后一次在博客上打中文可能就是重考高级华文当前的一天吧。如果对自己坦诚,我的语文程度也非当时的了。

“看过《三生三世十里桃花》的人都会明白一个道理:神仙要飞升上神也是要历劫的,何况凡人。只有渡了劫,经历了磨难,人生才会有新的高度。所以,当我们在生活中遇到不顺,也不要退缩放弃,没准这也是在渡劫呢!其实专升本又何尝不是一场上神修炼的过程呢?只有经历磨难,努力坚持的人才会胜利。”

我终于看完这部电视剧了。 这58集每一集我都喜欢读看一下评论,而我对这章可是特有感触吧。男主角夜华,女主角白浅,都没有办法逃过应受的劫。到凡间之前必须喝下忘川水,历劫时失去了自己在天宫有的荣华富贵,经受该经受的人生苦难。我特别喜欢夜华在凡间的造化。他在天上砍了四个继承了父神法力的猛兽,当中也失去了一个手臂。但因为这对父神是个大不敬,尽管他在凡间颇有成就还是要还个前世的债。在凡间他也就如此没了个手臂,必须立志来经得起别人的耻笑与刁难成长,孤独寡人一生才能重复回到天宫。

我米了这电视剧当真并非一段好时期,但看完以后发现追此剧也不如一件坏事。我重新明白了一个重要的人生道理,而就是人生中的造化早已定。在人生中是否要还债,讨债或报恩,我坚信这一切早已命运所安排。我近年来常常受过很多心结,反复地面临自称的失败。别人看似顺利的企业绝不如此简单,而可能这种情形我的家人和最亲的朋友也不会料到。但我必须重重地告诉自己,万事都要退一步看开,可能我就是在为我这几年显得顺利的人生之途路报恩或为我前世犯的错应劫。神仙都需历劫才能踏入下一任仙班,何况是我们凡人。我希望我会记得自己写的这番话,遇到不堪的道路一定要切记。

小六会考之前老师嘱咐了我们向父母要了个“秘密讯息”,而这就该成为我们准备会考的推动力。我的爸爸送了我一句:“谋事在人,成事在天。” 当时我并非完完全全地明白了这句的意思,只是觉得很有趣,独有我的父亲写了这番深奥的讯息。长大后我对这句深以为然,面对任何的挫折我必然会谨记在心。我希望这最后的一年,我继续用尽能力取得好成绩和结果,厉过当前的劫最终变成胜利者。但是如果办不成自己的要求,我不会继续盼望不实际的目标,也不会让自己承担起没有办法负起的负担。这不是我自欺欺人的一个借口,而是过这几年我渐渐相信可能有些愿望达不成就是我的命的造化。尽管命运如何嘲弄或造化游戏,不属于我的东西终究不会是我的。

London for the third time

Third time’s the charm, they say.

Today I arrived in London at 0600hrs, reached home at 0800hrs and tried to make the best out of the day to cure my jetlag as soon as possible. I met Weixuan (obviously), Richard to return him his laptop and Bo Wei for lunch. It was nice to catch up with Wei Xuan and Bo Wei especially, since we hardly met when we were back in Singapore. I think this is one of the things I will miss a lot when I return home back for good too — being so so so close in proximity to my closest friends. Being in London presents a valuable opportunity for us to talk to each other very much, and I am looking forward to exploiting much more of it on my last 8 months here. I did my grocery runs quite a fair bit. I bought a new set of oriental sauces that I will need for cooking this year, heard 933 over the radio when I was in Chinatown and missed Singapore. I bought household supplies, including toilet paper and bathroom cleaners. I bought 5kg of rice that I am going to be cooking with and living on, and bought cereal too. I feel like I am living two entirely separate lives when I am in Singapore and London that even my diet differs. There is no more fancy hokkien mee, mee rebus or seafood fried rice that I can purchase from downstairs my house whenever I am hungry. I am forced to be much more thrifty and independent here because I have to do my own cooking and my own household chores. I make much healthier food choices here too (although not the best), perhaps because of an active choice to eat healthier to keep my weight down.

I have a lot of mixed feelings this time and it confuses me quite a bit. It was, of course, painful to part from HT once again. We shared so many memories these 2 weeks. After he came back from his deployment, he took lots of days off to spend my last week here with me. Frog porridge trips to Geylang, swee choon trips, cable skiing, escape room, arcade screaming at each other on Bishi Bashi, employing him to help out with my dissertation and dragonfly watching, subsequent swims/showers at Temasek Club, Halloween Horror Night at USS, late night bingsu dates, eating at SO MANY places in Jalan Besar… we made so many beautiful memories out of our tiny island. I cried bitterly at departures and I believe it is a lie that people say it gets easier. It does not ever. It felt reminiscent of one whole year ago when I left him at departures too. Choking on tears all the way to the departure gate, crying on the plane with tears streaming down my eyes even with my eye mask on. I get very triggered especially when I see photos of us together, I cannot help it.

But in all the missing him and LDR, I oddly missed London as well. I missed London and the lifestyle I have come to associate with living in this city. I sat on the quarterdeck of Freedom on some days and missed the nights running for Korean lessons at 6pm. I missed heading home in the dark after that, cooking my own dinner and having the whole night to myself. I missed walking through Oxford Street to get to places for meals with my friends, or even HT when he was here for a short 2 weeks last year. In many nights through the last academic year, I sat alone with my own thoughts and I think I missed that. I missed being able to make travelling plans at a whim, and I missed the picturesque scenery that really cannot be replicated anywhere else (Seven Sisters, Norway, Switzerland, skiing). You could only enjoy all these sights through travelling, and living in London allowed so many affordable opportunities for that.

8 last months, and I hope to make it count.

I am really sleepy all of a sudden and this is the perfect opportunity to cure my jetlag since it is arguably time for bed (2230hrs). Good night.

Start of dissertation process

So I just want to quickly document how lucky I got today before I go to sleep!!! I have had met a few logistical issues with my dissertation process without even starting the process proper. Basically my dissertation title is “Assessing the ecological benefits of river restoration: case study of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in Singapore”, and in this project I will document dragonfly diversity and population in the park itself as well as collect water samples. You can message me privately if you are keen about what I am actually doing, but in this blog entry I will write about issues I faced that I had not anticipated ahead of time, what a disgrace.

1. Insect net

I easily wrote it into my dissertation proposal to use an “insect net” to catch insects if they are too far to be identified by close-focus binoculars, and to identify them before releasing them into the park. The problem is, I never knew what a proper insect net was. Until I met Jiawei for her insect collection day, when she had a 1m deep insect net that was provided to her by the NUS lab. Mine was probably 15cm deep, the kind you use to catch fishes in the aquarium. To make it clearer as to why I was holding such a loser net, it was $2 from Daiso…

So I tried looking online for commercial sources. I emailed her lab technician to ask if there are spares that I may buy directly from the lab (too much to ask to borrow it since I was not a NUS student), but I was turned away and instead redirected to a link where the lab bought the net for the students enrolled in the Entomology module.

A month delivery from USA? I would be in London by then…

So I DIY-ed my own net as seen in the picture… joining together two collecting nets that I too, obtained from Daiso for $2. I honestly am not going to know how useful this is until I use it tomorrow, but it definitely is much longer and more effective in theory, follows through my hand movements well and let’s hope the dragonflies won’t escape as easily as they did when I did my first site visit about 4 days ago!

2. Camera

I wrote to photograph the dragonflies for identification after returning from the field, because honestly I am no expert at identification. My digital camera failed so badly when I tried to zoom in on the insects which were perched on the leaves.

Aloysius is the saviour of the day. Thanks for lending me your DSLR, and I will make sure to wipe it well every single day after fieldwork.

3. Dragonfly identification

How? Seriously, how am I going to look at a dragonfly and tell that this is a Gynacantha basiguttata? Or a Raphismia bispina?

I could not find the reference books that were used in Singapore dragonfly studies, particularly Dragonflies of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore by Orr (2005). I tried requesting for the book online via Sciencedirect but I had gotten a reply directly from the author that it was no longer in print, and that they are looking to publish a newer version. Now how do I get around to these dragonfly references?

I have since borrowed two books from Central Public Library, because this was the only place searched online potentially holding something that was of relevance, in particular a book titled “Dragonflies of Singapore” as seen in the picture. It seems promising and I hope it helps me very much with my identification from this point, although I have not started on fieldwork proper yet. I may also have problems differentiating a female and a male…

4. Buffer solution

My pH of all my water samples reflected 6.80, 6.81, 6.81, which seemed like a major booboo to me. My tap water reflected 6.80 too. I decided that there was a huge problem with the calibration and sought to obtain buffer solutions to calibrate the pH meter. Now the problem is, where do I obtain these buffer solutions since I flew the equipment in directly from the UCL Geography lab?

I tried to seek help from RVHS, because I suppose it would have been easier to obtain favours from teachers who taught me directly. Unfortunately RVHS did not stock up on these buffer solutions (see screenshot of conversation below), and it was honestly unsurprising to me because I haven’t seen it when I was in school anyway. Regardless I was really thankful that Ms Lim actually went to find out about it for me, given that it has been 2 years since I last contacted her, maybe during graduation… or on A Levels results day.

I then desperately sought help from my NUS friends, despite getting turned away for the insect net. I asked Yu Jie and Sarah who were most likely in Science modules with lab work, but to my dismay both of them had not seen these buffer solutions before too. Until…




If you look at the time stamp, you can see how coincidental this whole thing was — in the afternoon, she had no idea what I was talking about. In the evening, she happened to have a freshwater lab, where they introduced the buffer solutions for them to measure soil pH!!! It is so crazy coincidental, it’s almost like striking lottery. I ran out of my house, took a cab down and arrived at NUS within 10 minutes. I was so so excited because it represented the one and only opportunity I might ever have to do my calibration for my pH meter. After running around the lab when the lab class was ongoing, I managed to seek permission from the lab technician who allowed me to use their buffer solutions!!!

I was so so so thankful.

Later I find out that I made a very big and stupid mistake when it came to using the pH meter, but nevertheless I got the pH calibration done and I was so so so happy. It really made my day. Please ask me privately if you want to know what embarrassing mistake I did this time. HAHAHAHA.

So tomorrow I will be commencing on Day 1 of fieldwork and I am truly not excited because of the potential cock-ups. I really hope that this will be a good project, and that I will have much to talk about in my 12000 word dissertation after this. I also hope that I will be more hardworking these few weeks and work harder on what I am seeking out to achieve, other than my dissertation. Hehe.

End of VA2 

It’s the last day of two long and stressful months. I have felt a lot through these two months, felt desperation, helplessness and unfairness at many points, and most notably, felt bitter and unhappy.

I remember encouraging my juniors (when I met them) to strive and achieve their COC as much as possible, and I truly meant those words when I stood in a position without so. I would not have the opportunity to even make a choice between summer school and UGPMET back in Singapore, I would have to go back to the  same squadron with an equally taxing routine, or even worse when I’m supposed to be “enjoying” my summer holidays. In my current position and extra experiences from these two additional months, I can see on hindsight why I did not succeed in my previous assessments. It truly takes a lot of moral courage to vocalise that you are not ready because that means you are way behind your peers, but I can say with certainty now that I would not trust that unconfident individual one year ago. One year on and I am far from being perfect. But I am much better and I definitely will be way more confident when dealing with unexpected scenarios in harbour.

I also had a brand new crew this year, much to my surprise when I did not get posted back to the same ship because of their constraints from an exercise. I was initially apprehensive, at the same time  happy, because I was worried that I would be identified as HT’s girlfriend when I’m on board instead of my identity as a YO in the process of learning. I regretted that decision along the way because it was once again a struggle to establish rapport with the crew as well as gain support in your endeavours when they knew nothing about your competency. It eventually paid off, but I cannot deny at many times I regretted not expressing a preference to return to the same ship. It seemed much much easier, and it would also have been easier to return to the same page where I can continue learning instead of restart learning.

This year I couldn’t wait to get out of VA because I was extremely stressed and it was really taking a toll on my mental health with all the tears shed after demoralising debriefs. I thought about the possibility that I may have to restart this journey all over again, and I felt so so so beaten every single time. I am extremely thankful that all this is over, and I am happy to leave on a good note with my last day at FF Training at Mandai. I learnt much much more about fighting fire in a more realistic setting (which was my very weakness since last year), and where I managed to have great conversations with the crew over my farewell lunch. I definitely feel attached to everyone especially after seeing them day in day out for 2.5 months despite the rough start, and am thankful that I had a unique experience despite having stayed put in the same squadron.


In everything, there is a lesson. And I am thankful for the many lessons learnt this year.

COC

I have taken my baby steps for the many many hurdles ahead, and despite an awareness that today’s assessment was an underperformance I truly cannot be happier. In all honesty today’s assessment could have been done a lot better — if I took a step back to observe myself conducting my assessment, I would have realised that I lacked a lot in my technical steps, my reporting procedures and prioritisation. I forgot, once again, to establish boundary cooling as soon as possible until I was prompted. I forgot, once again, to remember the positions of all my manpower allocation. And many other things, many other mistakes that should not have been made by this stage. I was however given an opportunity to proceed, despite knowing myself that my performance for the assessment was sub-par.

But today more than anything I am thankful for the support that was rendered to me. At the start of this VA I set goals for myself and priorities — I thought to myself what was important (to myself) to deem myself fit for the awarding of the COC. Competence, confidence, and rapport. Competence and confidence could slowly be built up during the course of the YO journey as you learn more from experience and cope with new situations each day, but I thought rapport was something I could not neglect in my journey of COC attainment as well. It became increasingly apparent as I witnessed fellow peers struggling because of this very fact attributing to the lack of support from others. Today re-affirmed the importance of rapport for me. It was a non-duty day, and I struggled to obtain manpower for my fire drill because there was honestly no obligation to do a favour for me. Nonetheless most of the crew positively showed their support for me, and this was when I realised I showed at least slight success in achieving the third. Today I also found out who were the people I could depend on when I require any form of assistance on ship, and I am especially thankful to those who set aside prior schedules and postponed their commitments just to provide me support when I was lacking manpower (“ok la, I support you” / “See you tmr” when they were originally not intending to come).

I still have a lot to improve on. And in my message to my CO, I promise to stay humble and to continue working hard to become better.

Edit:

I will remember the moments I sat on board 84’s bridge crying endlessly because I felt so much like a failure. It hit me harder when my then-CO told me that I was nearly there, and then I would only need another VA. Another year?! It triggered my water works immediately. I imagined myself having to start at ground zero once again, re-learn everything like a rookie and once again regain my standing among the crew. I felt so terrible because I stuck out like a sore thumb among everyone else in my batch who had no problems obtaining their COC by that point in time; I felt so, so, so useless when I came to the wharf for the first time again this year. I felt “overdue”, and I also had to face crude comments in my face such as “you’re from the 74th? Even batches should have no problem getting their COC.” I was discouraged again and again when I failed assessment after assessment, and received so, so many debrief pointers from my fire drill training opportunities repeatedly. It was made worse by the knowledge and awareness by myself that I am now on the wharf for the second time, and I had little excuse to continue being mediocre. I started wondering whether I had to come back again for the third time to continue my fight for the COC, and it only made me feel worse knowing that no one takes this many tries. It may be bad luck for rare individuals, but for many (and to me) it signified a lack of aptitude or attitude, or maybe both. “Am I that lousy?” was something that continually occurred to me as I saw myself drifting further away from my goal whenever I failed an assessment, especially as it started tapering to the end of my attachment.

My stress was illogical to many, and I knew that having the label of a “scholar” proved nothing as it only reflected that I must do better than anyone else. I had no one to rant to because it seemed like a “first-world problem” (an appropriate analogy) that would not be well-received by others, and I found myself heavily drowning in my negative thoughts especially in countless debriefs with officers telling me that “time was not the issue, most importantly you must be ready”. I felt beaten by those comments as I felt that these were targeted at me, and was afraid that there was no intention to train me up because I was due to leave in a short while. In my inability to share my “elitist concerns” I ended up writing reflections on my leopard book nearly every fortnightly, and I can only say that looking back they were words riddled with desperation, stress and worry. Right now I am more relieved than anything for having obtained the paper certification, but the true burden of responsibility and stress will now weigh down heavily on me especially as the squadron implements their changes to become better. In my limited time left on board I hope I will put what I have learnt and trained up for all this while to good use, and with this knowledge I seek to have very very safe watches after I close up as a OOD/DPO for real.

In dedication to you

I am not coping very well right now, but I definitely am coping much better than our previous few departures. I will not be seeing you for 6 weeks as you are on deployment, and after these 6 weeks, I will see you for 1 day and 1 night before I am off to London again. I don’t think LDR gets any easier. I struggled to fight my tears when I waved my final goodbye to you earlier, but recalling our times spent together this summer triggered me so badly and sent me straight into the toilet in tears. Why are we always subject to this? I hate LDR so much.

I had a lot of highlights with you this summer. Off the top of my head I will miss these the most:

  1. Seeing you at the airport after arrival, hearing your high-pitched voice again and wondering when your voice was this high because I never got a true sensing over Skype (I have actually forgotten how you sounded in real life after 6 long months). You were holding a bunch of flowers and a cup of Starbucks which was heavily diluted, and you mentioned that you had been waiting for me for a few hours already. We got lost in the carpark… because you forgot which floor you parked at. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were reunited, and here we are separated again 😦
  2. Bringing you around my neighbourhood (namely Clementi Mall), with our bubble tea hunts — Large ice-cream milk tea orders from Koi and large royal milk guan yin orders from LiHo. Large llao llao cup with white chocolate toppings, strawberries and bananas. Who is going to share these things with me to reduce my guilt now? 😦 Thank you for always hanging around Jurong and Clementi simply because it would be easier to send me home from these places 😦
  3. Seeing your car drive into my car park on several occasions and running excitedly straight into the middle of the road to enter. And seeing my small Tsums arranged nicely at the top of your dashboard, remembering that this is my boyfriend and this is how I mark my territory :’)
  4. Meeting past 8pm, 9pm or even 10pm for dinner because it was always time-consuming for us to meet each other given that we were separated between Tuas and Changi, at the extreme ends of the island. Pretending to get angry as I was kept waiting even though I was always touched that you would pick me up/have dinner with me/send me home subsequently despite reaching home much later than I would. Just to honour your word on multiple occasions, and to maximise the limited time we had left together.
  5. You ferrying me out from Tuas to go out after a duty Friday, ferrying me to the hospital when I felt unwell (and waiting for me and even buying something prior to meeting me just so I would have a plastic bag to vomit into), ferrying me out of base for dinner when my fire drill debrief ended late. You often came all the way from Changi or home (which might even be worse), and that meant I took up a lot of your petrol consumption and time all this while. Thanks so much for the sacrifices 😥
  6. All the food dates we had together — Sembawang 白米粉 when I first arrived, Imperial Treasure at Orchard when I was grossly underdressed while you were in No.4, Sushi Bar, another Imperial Treasure at Sentosa, Ramen King, Swee Choon when you were too in No.4, On The Table, The Book Cafe, Wings Zone when I desperately wanted to eat fried chicken after my recovery from stomach flu, Poulet, Thai Express, 海底捞, Na Khon, Prive Cafe, 2am dessert bar, Chomp Chomp, random Hokkien Mee stalls (it was GREAT) and Curry Rice (this was nice too!!!) in Bukit Merah/Tiong Bahru just because I was craving after my recovery, IKEA, the multiple late night bingsu hunts in Tanjong Pagar and Orchard.
  7. All the family days we spent together: Korean food with my siblings for the treat you agreed upon last year, Ban Heng when we met officially for the first time, Prima, Jumbo, and the couple of times you came over because my mom was cooking. I met your family for Din Tai Fung, too.
  8. Ice-skating in Kallang, running around the playgrounds in West Coast Park with kids, Adventure Cove, enough said 😥 Mostly I miss how we got lazy queuing for rides, lied on the beach chairs facing the wave pool and just ~slept~ side by side holding hands for a few hours in the sun because we were so tired from the early morning.

We had very very limited time together because of both our busy schedules, but we made the best of the nights we had together. We barely shared any weekends because my weekends were continually eaten up, and it was only until recently we got to share weekend afternoons together. Unfortunately it is time for you to go and in my position I should be the most understanding of all girlfriends. I will miss you very very much, and I know it will only get more difficult from here when I finally have a free weekend but you are no longer around to spend it with me. I will try to stop being lame at this LDR business, stop crying like a baby and earnestly yearn for the day we can spend time together again.

I will keep all these memories safe in my heart. I wish you very safe watches, very very pleasant sea states because you suck at ship rollings, and to stay safe on all your shore leaves. I will see you very soon.