[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Friday, August 31, 2007

[An Old Link Revitalised ]
1. I am now on a short bilateral visit to Lisbon. In the historial series called 'The Rise of the Great Powers' produced by China recently, the first episode was on Portugal. Forced to a choice between Spain and the deep blue sea, the Portuguese people chose the ocean. Numbering less than a million people at the end of the 15th century, they sailed forth to conquer the world. Many ships never returned but that did not stop these courageous people from risking their lives for 'God, glory and gold'.

2. In 1511, the Portuguese conquered Malacca. In Malacca and elsewhere, they married local women and fathered the Portuguese Eurasian community that is now spread all over Asia and Australia. Here in Singapore, the old links are still evident. A few years ago, two very determined Eurasian women compiled a dictory of Kristang, the local Portuguese dialect which is now spoken only by older members of the community. I have given copies of the dictionary to ministers and friends in East Timor, Brazil and Portuguese with pride. The Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim was fascinated by it. After I had given him a copy two years ago, he asked for a few more copies for his friends. Here in Lisbon, the reaction is similar. The Foreign Minister Dr Luis Amado mentioned the dictionary at our official meeting today.

3. Yesterday, I visited Fatima, the place where the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children ninety years ago. In the 60's, my father was the treasurer of the Fatima rosary movement in Katong. As a teenager, I used to attend meetings on his behalf. It was because of the Fatima connection that I became close to the Eurasian community in Singapore.

4. The purpose of my visit is twofold. In November this year, Singapore will play host to a summit meeting between European and ASEAN leaders. This year is a special year - 50 years of the EU, 40 years of ASEAN and 30 years of EU-ASEAN partnership. As Portugal is holding the Presidency of the EU while Singapore is in the Chair of ASEAN, I wanted to discuss with Minister Amado the agenda of the meeting and how it should be arranged. The second purpose is to discuss ways to raise our bilateral relationship to a higher level, building on our historical relationship. We had an excellent meeting followed by dinner. I was delighted to be informed of the decision by the Portuguese government to open a Singapore trade office for Portuguese businesses operating in Southeast Asia.

5. It is my first visit to Lisbon which is a charming city. With its steep roads, tram-cars, suspension bridge and a wide river mouth looking like a bay, it bears a resemblance to San Francisco. But Lisbon's history goes much further back to the past, in fact, to the 12th century when that part of the Iberian peninsula was reconquered from the Moors and became one of Europe's oldest nation-states.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

[Jay Chou's Secret]
I've just come back from watching Jay Chou's Secret and it's a pretty interesting story.

Since my usual movie buddies were not able to catch the show, I decided to go watch it alone at the AMK Hub after my classes today. The advantage of doing that is that I can choose to just suddenly walk to the cinema and buy my ticket. Believe me, I've been wanting to watch the movie for weeks now but have been bogged down by schoolwork.

It is somewhat similar to another movie called Dragon Eye Congee starring Singapore's very own Fann Wong. I watched that film during the 1st Asian Film Festival two years ago.

In Secret, the main element would be time travel which is not so evident until the later part of the movie. The flashback scenes and fast cuts were integrated pretty well.

The build up of the story was quite consistant and makes you understand why certain things happened that way in the initial stages. At the most exciting parts at the last few scenes, my heart was thumping as I was eager to know the ending. It kept me riveted to my seat. Initially I had thought that the plot would have a cheesy ending where the main female lead would be a ghost but I was wrong.

This should be Jay's third attempt at acting (I may be wrong though) and he does try to improve. He tries to be serious at times but still draws laughter sometimes when he acts blur or showcases his sillyness. However, he still has not ditched his slurs when he delivers his lines.

Acting aside, I felt that the various tunes in the show were brought out well. Some cuts of the film were quite abrupt though making it feel as though you were listening to a pirated CD.

All in all, Jay's efforts for directing and coming up with the story are commendable. I am looking forward to his next trailblazing piece.

[A Sea of Hearts, An Ocean of PAssion]
Come Sunday, President S R Nathan will launch a mosaic of Lego blocks that were pieced together for the President's Challenge 2007.

Students from several schools had spent their afternoon by working on the individual tiles. The tiles, when pieced together, will eventually form the logo that will be launched by the President himself at the event's finale.

After having more that 150 students and some five hours later, the final product was completed. Altogether 160 tiles with Lego blocks were laid out on the floor.

It is a super-huge logo measuring 2.54m by 3.81m created entirely using Lego blocks.

This will be unveiled by the President during the finale on Sunday at the People's Association Headquarters. There is also a carnival and various engaging activities in store for participants. The highlight will be the family-themed competitions - namely Kite Design, Sandwich Design and Making; and T-Shirt Design.

You too can also do your part by adopting one of the approximately 153,600 Lego studs at $2 each. The Organising Committee hopes to raise $250,000 for the charitable organisations identified by the President's Office and the National Council of Social Service.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

[This is a final post on CCA Day]
CCA Day came and went last Friday.

And true to it's theme of "This is a ..." the materials on the day itself were similar to their publicity stuff. A large banner was the backdrop for the centrestage at the T-junction of SMU's Concourse.

Similarly, the t-shirts that the crew sported had the in-your-face publicity stating the obvious. This is the back view of Kenneth (thanks for offering to pose), one of the guys that I know that are involved in the project.

So I shall continue that trend by saying "This is a bronzed hunk from SMU Dragonboaters". And, no, he was not naked just like what was written on the placard that hung from his neck.

CCA Day is what it is all about - CCA Day. It is where most of the CCA groups in SMU recruit new blood and showcase their wares to the incoming batch of freshmen.

Here are the SMUX people in action. I really want to try inline skating someday.

Game for some adventure?

And at the end of the day, everyone walks home with their hands full. Because they end up having "This is a goodie bag".

There's a chockful of stuff inside from stationery to scents and many, many discount vouchers.

And so this is how CCA Day ended.

Monday, August 27, 2007

[Holiday report card]
I spent my time during the holidays not by going abroad but by lending my hand in some projects - ranging from Arts, Sports, Youths and Community.

I really enjoyed being a youth liason officer for Youth Caucus in conjunction with the Fifth Asean Ministerial Meeting on Youth. During this project, I hosted three Vietnamese delegates. And till today, I still chat with them on MSN.

Dreams in Flight was a performance to celebrate the opening of the Singapore Arts Festival. This was the first time I performed in an arts event. Three nights. The crowd was awesome and so was the friendships forged.

I was a participant in the NorthEast Dragonboat Race. This year marked the first time where I rowed in a ten-member dragonboat. It is a change and takes more effort for the momentum to biuld up. A great learning experience.

SHINE 2007 marked my foray into the National Youth Council (NYC) scene. As one of the 16 youth panellists, I put my marketing skills as well as creative thinking skills into action. I had long wanted to volunteer for NYC, however, my previous job would not allow it as there would be a conflict of interest.

As a Team Singapore volunteer, I was asked to perform at Field of Dreams, the closing ceremony of National Stadium. Apart from being in the 500-strong contingent, I was assigned an usher role to usher guests who attended the event.

I represented the Central Youth Council of the PAYM at the Singapore Dragonboat Festival as a participant. This was the second time I tried rowing a ten-member crew dragonboat. For this, we emerged fourth position out of eight. It was a good effort.

N.E.X.T Challenge is an annual amazing race like event. For this, I had the opportunity to plan and execute a game station.

For the Punggol CC YEC BGM, my role was in logistics. Many items to settle. It was nerve-wrecking but I pulled through with the help of some of my members.

It was by chance that I was involved in Olympic Dream 2007. Initially I was there to collect some information about the event and speak to some participants for a story for The Straits Times. Ended up that I actually became a participant and joined in the run to raise funds for charity.

I did not play a major role in Dominoes of Dreams. This was a SMU event to raise funds for the needy and the disabled. I was mainly involved in the execution of the games and a few sessions of sales.

Planning for the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol Young PAP Coffee Talk with George 2 had started way before my holidays. For this event, I played a key role as one of the two organisers. It was originally scheduled to be held after the announcement of the budget but was pushed back due to some internal delays. The publicity for this event was very positive. It was a job well done.

Since I did not take part in the SMU Social Science Camp last year, I decided to sign up as a facilitator this year. It was an enjoyable two days with my freshmen. I kindof miss sleeping in school now.

Throughout the holidays, I did several ad-hoc reports for Youth.SG. The highlight would be the official writer to cover NDP 2007 for Youth.SG. Since I had a press pass, I could literally go for each and every show and all the press conferences. But I did not due to time constraints.

The Bedok Reservoir-Punggol National Day Observance Ceremony was my baptism of fire. Just like how MPs go through theirs when they are faced with their first elections. I was the organising chairman for this event and it took several months of planning to ensure that this was a success. Of course, the support from the other grassroots organisations in the constituency was vital to make it a success as well.

Similarly, the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol National Day Carnival proved to be another test. I was by chance made the co-chairman and my role for this was to come up with a poster design and source for sponsorship.

Convocation 2007 was my first ever large-scale school project. I was taked to be the visual/video manager and managed creative talent. This meant having to provide inputs to the videos and brainstorm on concepts for the animations. I also had to manage the production of some of the videos. I remember going down for a shoot at East Coast one day. It was fun but tiring.

The most recent project was being a liason office for the Asian Youth Leaders Forum. I did not play a key role in this. This time I was taksed to host four delegates from Yemen. On the last day, I took them on a shopping trip down Orchard Road. I hope they enjoyed it.

Well, so this is how I spent my holidays. Four months passed just like that. Without a break. Without falling sick. Until now.

[Manaus and Singapore]
1. After attending the Forum on East Asian - Latin American Cooperation in Brasilia, I continued on a bilateral visit to Brazil. After good meetings with the Ministers for Energy, Environment and Defence, I flew to Manaus for a two-day visit to the heart of the Amazon.

2. At the end of the 19th century, Manaus boomed because of the global demand for rubber which was collected from wild trees in the jungle. After the British brought rubber seeds through Kew Gardens in London and the Botanic Gardens in Singapore to be grown in rubber estates in Malaya, Manaus declined while Singapore boomed. Even though Manaus is on the opposite side of the globe from Singapore with a time difference of 12 hours, roughly on the Equator as well, we are connected by the global economy. Today Manaus prospers from its free trade zone status and its strategic position.

3. The Amazon basin is the largest river system in the world collecting some 20% of the rain that falls on the planet's land surface. It is navigable by large ships all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the foothills of the Andes. The river and its major tributaries are very wide. Near Manaus, the banks can be almost 10 km apart. After the rainy season, large parts of the jungle are underwater. The Amazon to Brazil is like the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and Africa, the water being the primary mode of transportation.

4. The climate and vegetation are similar to ours in Southeast Asia. But the Amazon forest is much larger than the jungles of Borneo, Sumatra and other parts of Southeast Asia. Considerable efforts are now being made to protect it. It is a major lung for the world and a repository of a quarter of the world's species. A complex system of surveillance from space, in the air, on ground and in the water, ensures that illegal logging and deforestation are kept to a minimum. There is still much to be done but the situation is now much better than in the past. There must be a great deal we in Southeast Asia can learn from the experiences of Brazil. The Brazilian Environment Minister, a dynamic lady who described herself to me as an environmental missionary, is determined to mobilize mass support for conservation and sustainable development. I invited her to visit Singapore and address our environmental groups here.

5. I took the opportunity to visit the Brazilian Army's jungle training school in Manaus. The Commander offered places for the SAF but language may be a problem. The school's mascot is the jaguar. A live jaguar greeted me when I arrived, held in place by two burly soldiers standing on either side holding chains connected to an iron collar around the animal's neck. The mascot was quite friendly, at least to the Commander, who invited me to pat its body, which I did for the camera. I put on a brave front but was feeling a little nervous within.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Friday, August 24, 2007

1. In the last two days, I represented Singapore at the Forum for East Asia - Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC) in Brasilia. There are 33 countries in FEALAC. On the East Asian side, we have 15 countries - ASEAN 10, China, Japan, Korea, Australia and NZ. On the Latin American side, all the Spanish and Portuguese countries of South and Central America are included. FEALAC was first proposed by Singapore and Chile a number of years ago. Ministerial meetings are held every two years, alternating across the Pacific.

2. The agenda is not earth-shaking but useful. It consists mostly of practical items of cooperation - promoting trade flows, tourism, student exchanges, and such. Singapore has been hosting Latin American journalists to our part of the world every year. The greatest benefit of the forum is the opportunity to have bilateral meetings with ministers from many countries and explore opportunities for cooperation. The mood at this year's meeting was particularly good because trade and investment flows between the two regions have been growing nicely.

3. Everytime a bridge is built, the people on both sides benefit, even those who don't use the bridge. There can also be problems of course but, generally speaking, the benefits far outweigh the costs. By building an additional bridge across the Pacific, FEALAC creates opportunities for the people of East Asia and Latin America. What everyone seeks in the end is a better life which trade and investments bring.

4. Our Brazilian host arranged a breakfast meeting between the ministers of ASEAN and MERCOSUR. MERCOSUR, like ASEAN, is a grouping of countries in South America, consisting of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. Venezuela has applied to join. The meeting went rather well with both sides agreeing on the need for greater engagement. Brazil proposed a meeting of ministers next year which I supported.

5. It took me almost 35 hours to fly from Singapore to Brasilia including transit in Frankfurt and Sao Paulo. But it was worth the long journey. Brazil is Singapore's biggest trading partner in South America. The frozen chicken and chicken parts that we consume in Singapore are mostly imported from Brazil. We have significant investments in the country. Between Keppel and Jurong, our shipyards in Brazil employ over 15,000 workers, building over 50% of the platforms used for offshore oil drilling. More Brazilian companies are also coming to do business in Singapore.

6. Brazil is much more than soccer and samba. With a land area of some 8.5 million sq km, it probably has more arable land that any other country on earth. It is already an agricultural superpower and will become even more so in the future. The country has another million sq km of land which can be opened up for cultivation. The growing middle classes in Asia will provide an enormous market for Brazil's production of meats, soy bean, ethanol, steel, pulp and a host of other items.

More on Brasilia here

Thursday, August 23, 2007

[This is a blog post about CCA Day]
This is part two of the SMU CCA Day marketing campaign.

And they have invaded the SMU campus once again.

From the floor...

To the dustbins...

Kenneth passed me one of their publicity kits so I decided to post it here so that you guys can judge if it is really creative or not.

Until tomorrow's CCA Day where there'll be more of This is a...

[If you wanna sing]
Do you think you can string a series of musical notes and serenade with your voice?

If you think you can, this is for you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

[Social Science Camp]
My freshmen have been asking for their photos for their orientation camp so I though I would dedicate a special post to them.

I set out in the wee hours of the morning I set out on my virgin freshman camp facilitator stint. Feeling all charged up nad excited to meet 10 of the freshest of the fourth batch of the SMU School of Social Sciences.

A big change now since the School of Econmics and Social Sciences split to form two schools

They may look unglam here but they are really, nice guys and gals

Teamwork in action

The facilitators from the other groups

Melissa my co-faci trying to act cute. She's the smarty pants. I'm the dumb dumb

Dixi hones his acting skills by playing the old man at Tanjong Pagar. No, he is not a dirty old man.

One group shot for the camera at the Esplanade during the amazing race

Freshies, did you enjoy the camp?

[Long photo story]
There have been too many things going on again meaning that I have less time to blog. Couple that with the start of term, time seems to be so precious.

Welcoming the social science freshies to SMU

After that we headed to Gelare at Plaza Singapura for waffles and ice cream

Then it was onto Convocation 2007.

Setup at Suntec City Convention Centre Hall 602

Awesome and artistic theatrical main show for the freshmen

The performance was about finding yourself and emerging with your own identity. SMU students are different not because they want to be but because they are taught in a different environment.

A shot of my favourite area

This is the place that I spent my time sometimes for 15 hours in one shot. The five screens show live feed of what the cameras in the hall are filming. In the seat is the "studio" director who chooses the best shots that will appear on the screens.

The focus then shifted to the Asian Youth Leaders Forum.

I was give the honour to be the liason officer for the Yemen delegates. And yeah, all the liason officers had hotel rooms at the Grand Copthrone Waterfront Hotel. I stayed on the 22nd floor and as usual, I love to appreciate the view.

On the last day, before the delegates left for Kuala Lumpur to take a flight back to Yemen, I brought them for a little trip along Singapore's most famous road according to them - Orchard Road. We started at Wisma Atria all the way to Plaza Singapura.

Yemen delegates at Nike shop at The Heeren taking a short break

Thereafter, I was off to attend the Prime Minister's National Day Rally at the National University of Singapore's University Cultural Centre (UCC).

There were no evidences of the disconnect of PM with ordinary Singaporeans and most important no mee siam mai harm scenarios. Instead, this year's rally brought a lot of laughter.

Apart from showing that he's technologically savvy with his tools that aided the presentation, PM Lee injected doses of Hokkien, Malay and Cantonese phrases in his rather seemingly long rally speech.

But his approach was careful. Firstly givng out the bad news regarding changes to the CPF withdrawal age and retirement age then by topping it up with the good - HIP news for HDB dwellers and plans for HDB upgrading to transform Singapore.

Special shout outs to the students from Nanyang Polytechnic who came up with the interactive Google earth like maps to show how neighbourhood towns in and around Singapore would be transformed in the next few years. PM Lee also revealed future plans for Punggol 21 + drawing oohs and ahhs from the people present in the UCC.

I was at the edge of my seat often leaning near the balcony to get a better glimpse of the screen on stage.

The last slide was titled "Home for all". Tongue-in-cheek some say. Cause it signalled that everyone in the UCC could go home. But the ultimate meaning was that Singapore is a home for everyone and that no one is left out.

Since there were no major boo boos by the Prime Minister, I wonder what Mr Brown would come up for his podcast on the National Day Rally.