Friday, July 22, 2005

A Time Bomb?

The raindrops can be heard loud and clear, from the zinc roof. It is raining today and it is another day of losses for Chans, as the latex from their small plot of land nearby flows onto the ground with the raindrops. The wooden home they live in damp, and cold. Old Chan is occupied with wood chopping while his wife fixes the hems of their youngest daughter's 3 year old pinafore.

Yin Yee is busy reading the pieces of newspaper with the kerosene lamp by her side, voraciously looking for worthy things to read. Pieces of newspaper her mother brought home, wrapping slabs of pork and other sundry items such as onions, ginger and spices from the sundry shop.

The papers may be old, and only in bits and pieces. But to Yin Yee, it is still a window to the world, no matter how small it may be. Newspaper is too pricey, at MYR 1.40 each day. It is a luxury she has to do without. No one reads at home except for her anyway. Her parents didn't attend school and her 3 siblings all eking a living in the big city.

She didn't go to school today. The dirt road leading out of her village would be too muddy to trudge on today, and the stream running underneath the creaking wooden bridge too volatile. And she wouldn't want to ruin one of her two pinafores, which she intends to use for another 2 years.

She can't go to the school library today and dive into the bookshelves as she does everyday after school. She would read the newspapers first before looking for a book she fancies. The reading materials are all in languages that are new to her, having come from a primary school that taught in her mother tongue. She struggles to understand the many idiosyncracies in the languages, but she knows she must master it. She wonders why there are no newspaper in her mother tongue in the library although one can easily purchase it from a shop.

With a book or magazine in hand, she would rush home to help her parents with the manual work of processing latex over fire stoke by wood to sheets of raw rubber.

She is not doing that today. When will the rain stop?

Post-script :
A far-fetched tale? My experience tells me it isn't. We may have come a long way as a nation. But we still have much to do, much to learn. Poverty does not discriminate by race or creed. It discriminates when given the opportunity to, when there are dishonest people taking resources not meant for them. Take some time, and look around you. How many of us drive past low cost flats daily and ponder about the lives of the people living in those squalid blocks? Do you stop and think why there are youngsters fooling around on motorbikes aimlessly when they should be in school or partaking in meaningful youthful activities? Are there facilities and commitment to undertake the education of our young, for all? The danger is, the marginalised ones become even more separated, a larger growing chasm is forming. Are we doing anything about it, really? But what can we do, when we need to eke out a living too?

When someone prominent said that the rural schools are not well-equipped to deal with a meritocratic (read competitive) environment, he hit bullseye. The crux of the matter is, urban or rural, our national schools are by large not up to mark, regardless of what we say about the growing number of straightAs students. He forgets however that these schools serve everyone's needs regardless of race, so he is kind of myopic in his 'analysis'. It's not merely building schools and having (underpaid)teachers in school, it's about spirit and motivation. There is little or no room for expression and creativity. Sweeping statements you say? Try asking the students. We seem to be getting our priorities all wrong, rushing to file reports and to finish the syllabus (if lucky) and not paying enough attention to personal development. What are the teachers to do with such poor student-teacher ratios and limited training/abilities?

Are we going to do something to stem the rot? I fear for us.

Running Out of Time

I am awake and feel as if time is slipping through my hands. I think I may have not utilised the past 2 months as well as I should have. Well, no time for regrets, time to move on instead.

Still in a state of limboland. Working out a plan today to get some semblance of order. Ah yes, I still like an orderly life, with a dash of chaos here and there. Need to decide quick, else I may end up being in deep trouble. Decisiveness, I want it back, damn it.

At least one thing is for sure though ;)

Good News?

I am happy about this. I am a believer of the free(r) market as a good way of creating equitable economies.

Fundamentally, we have been artificially protecting our exports via the currency peg. But we aren't merely an export-based economy. Many inputs into our products, services and infrastructure are imported. This artificial protection causes some problems. This may be a sweeping statement, but I suspect it causes complacency in terms of cost control and process/product improvement. It really acts as a hindrance to move away from price intensive strategies rather than move on to higher end, differentiated products (which generally means better margins). Further to that, the weakening US Dollar has been causing hardship for many manufacturers who need to upgrade their machines, expand production base and import materials as the pegged MYR goes down against Euro and Yen. I should know, having been involved in budgets for capital expenditure and product costing. Really, it isn't just as simple as a stable MYR-US$ exchange that matters. We should learn to respond accordingly to market fluctuations.

On a personal note, I think it may make my trip to UK cheaper :P (keeping fingers crossed and hoping MYR appreciates). But I hope my Sing Dollars won't lose too much of it's value, I should have changed it back to MYR earlier.


I am waiting for a call/email for an interview, from the Dark Side. It will solve my financial woes when I get the grant. Waiting to book plane ticket for the interview. Oh the wait is killing me. Pray for me? :)

In A Faraway Place

If say Amidala did not die. And Anakin (now Darth Vader in that uber cool black suit) tries to get fresh with her. What would happen?

Darth Vader : Oh Padme, I want you so.
Amidala : Oh Annie. I still do love you.

They proceed to erm, get passionate and strip.

Amidala : Eeeeks! There is nothing down there! Oh how are we going to do it Annie?

Darth Vader screams in shame.

What then? Use the light saber? The other end of the light saber. Hmm, does the light saber have a deactivation button that ensures it doesn't get switched on while in the heat of the moment? Else there may be a painful death. :D

Monday, July 18, 2005

Of Love and Passion


This is real

Rainy Sundays

Rainy days, especially rainy Sundays thrill me somewhat. Ah yes, I look forward to the cool days, as I laze around with the Sunday papers (filled with information we won't use much) and good books, and a mug of warm cocoa. Dreamy. Especially when shared.

It has been a whirlwind, an amazingly fulfilling period of time. Yes, I still feel I have much to do. My to-do-list before flying off isn't getting shorter, but it is growing slowly, and I am having a tough time motivating myself and keeping myself in check. The holiday has gotten a bit too long for comfort.

But really, what matters now is I am doing something very important. Perhaps it strikes you when you least expect it. Thrilling it is, warm and comforting at the same time. Colpo di tuono. Thunderstruck.

To think that I thought my life was hurtling into a dangerous direction. I find it funny somehow. Yes, for a while I thought it had potential. Then it died, from disinterest and the waves and waves of what life brings. Rekindled, and it burnt slowly. Now the flames are warm, like a fireplace we seek warmth on cold wintry days. I guess you can never plan when you find what you want, desire, need and love. All at the same time.

A month? Two months? Rollercoaster this has been. Uncertain it was. Now so sure, so strong.

My rainy Sunday mornings dream is coming true.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Remembering You

What would you say now?

I remember that you were the only adult voice in the family that stood up for me when I said I wanted to do something quite out of the ordinary. Ah yes, I was young and full of fanciful ideas. For a while it was the tallest building in the world, with a pyramid roof and a mega shopping mall attached, with a world class hotel (yes, Petronas beat me to it :P). Ah then it was to be a clinical psychologist. Later, a journalist, round the world, reporting from the latest hotspots, bringing stories of humanity in crisis to the pages and screens. Would it have suprised you that now I am a young fledgling in the corporate world, trying to have ideals and fighting my way through the myriad of numbers and models and flawed humans? What would you have told me? Is this my path? You told me I should be allowed to pursue my dreams. Dreams, mere dreams now. No, I have no regrets, that I can assure you. I am just trying to remember that I am who I make this life to be.

You left us 11 years ago on this day. I remember how the news I dreaded most came. Dad was at the school gate, in the afternoon right after school. Abnormal, no one picked me up after school then. I knew it was over. Just over a week before that, I made a trip to see you. You were not conscious. Helpless, laboured breathing. I spoke to you, hoping for miracles. Did you hear what I told you? Was I selfish to want you to live? Tears rolled down my cheek.

Your two girls are doing great. They are wonderful individuals, growing slowly but surely. The lady of the house is getting along fine, her career is moving smoothly.

I looked across the road from the venue of my recent interview. It was the place you designed, your hardwork, now a landmark of a vibrant city. I passed another structure you showed me, still in infancy then, now a reality, as I eased in and out of the city.

I am doing well, standing firm, slipped a few times but got back up real quick. I now know what is happiness like, and understand new things.

But I am at a major crossroad. Both left and right turns look feasible, one riskier than the other though. I can't make up my mind. Life changing, both will be, definitely. One will cause major changes actually with a large financial cloud over my head, for a short while hopefully. Indecisive me. I can't stand it when I am like this.

What would you tell me now?

Monday, July 04, 2005

A Year On

I didn't realise that till late afternoon, while chatting with a fellow blogger (*waves* hi! do lunch one of these days ok?) that it has been exactly a year since I started blogging.

My first entry was a song that was my theme song for a while. That trapped feeling, yet the world knows nothing of it. It's really hard sometimes, to be strong. This blog started as a therapy sessions, and for ranting as well as a 'keep in touch' tool. And sometimes for a place for my so-called poetry and streaks of semi-fictional and fictional writing. I have met some interesting and nice people here too. Thanks for reading anc commenting occasionally :) Input very much appreciated.

Fundamentally, I haven't changed I think. But I have learned a lot. I have learnt to live with more uncertainty, in fact, I accept it now. I now know some ideals can be achieved. I have grown and that is a good thing for sure.

As I re-read my posts tonight, I can't help but smile. I have come a full circle. From being stuck in a moment, to my previous full of possibilities and exciting uncertainties. What a year it has been.

There Is No Turning Back

There is really no turning back once I pay the the 10% deposit to start my MBA at Cambridge. The loan has been approved with conditions, while the results for grants/scholarships will be out soon (keeping fingers crossed, hoping to get a good amount, if not full scholarship). I will also delay my professional exams by a year and maybe more. And I will be having a large liability to service for the next few years (so no big purchases for a while, yup bye bye to that nice looking SUV) and maybe would have to work elsewhere (the Ringgit's weak position may make it impossible for me to stay here).

This path, is a risky one, if without the grants/scholarships. It's almost like betting everything, and putting myself up for a big fight.

And like everything in life, there are no guarantees. And the Cambridge MBA will not guarantee me the career of my choice. I am fully aware that it is just a nice passport to have in the job market, but at the end of the day, it all depends on what I have to offer and what I can give.

I have more or less decided on my career top career choices (yes I want change and put whatever brains I have to better use) I will whittle this down to only 2 sectors by December this year :
1. Management consulting
2. Corporate finance/investment banking
3. Financial services/accounting advisory
4. Non-profit (think World Bank, IMF, etc)

Which is why I am firmer on my choice now. Not too sure, a bit shaky still, but firmer. The reasons are as follows :
1. The sectors recruiting from Cambridge is wider. There are MNCs, industries, consultancies, investment banks, non-profit, financial services, et cetera. What makes it more attractive is, it attracts top consulting firms and investment banks while no such firms (expect for Fidelity) recruit from Thunderbird.
2. ROI is good, expected payback discounted is 3-5 years based on reasonably reliable statistics and personal contacts.
3. Opportunity to work abroad (change of environment) while the Thunderbird option requires a 2 years residency in Malaysia upon graduation, which leaves me with no choice
4. Someone may flame me for this, but the quality of students seem much better in Cambridge compared to Thunderbird. Higher GMAT, more work experience.
5. Access to Cambridge : leadership seminars (world class speakers), resources, debating (yes I want to try, again :P)
6. Smaller classes : only about 100 students per intake compared to 350-400 per intake at Thunderbird (3 intakes a year).
7. The discussion board for Cambridge MBA is lively. And there is continuity from current student to future students via handover of Special Interest Groups, etc. The Thunderbird discussion board has been disappointing, with only things for sale and room for rent mostly.
8. Both schools have an international flavour, so this is even.
9. I think the consulting projects approach in Cambridge is more value-added as I have no prior experience in such things.
10. Cambridge versus Arizona

I know Cambridge isn't a top school, but at the moment, it looks like the better choice. It may seem silly, throwing away a full tuition fee waiver and a prestigious grant (only need to cough up 20-30% of cost) though. Yes, the grant is a world reknowned name, well-known for fostering cultural and academic exchange with many accomplished men and women in its alumni. And Thunderbird is not too bad a school too, and is considered premier for it's international management expertise.

So yes, my current leaning is both ideal and practical. And yes, it seems like it will lead me to the career path I want for the next half decade or so. It comes with financial risk, and some uncertainty and having to move away for a while.

I am close to making a decision. But not yet. There is still some breathing space while I iron out the loan's conditions and agreement. I hope I will do what is right, if there is such a thing.