100+ hours before my flight, 1+ week before university life officially starts, paralysed by fear about the unknown. Time to take stock of what happened during my gap year (which was to be exact, 1 year and 10 months).
Travelling with Old Friends
22 Day China Trip with VP! We visited Xiaoyan in Wuxi, and got to meet her super nice and sassy grandma. Did some crazy stuff like staying at a dodgy hostel and buying black market tickets to watch 831 and Magic Power concerts.
After that we took a 36 hour train to find Tingnan! And her super adorbz grandparents. And lots of delicious Sichuan food. And scenic 九寨沟 and 都江堰, latter of which is like mecca for the geog geek in me.
Trip to Ho Chi Minh City with Ewe and Tingnan! Visited cool places like Cu Chi, and the Mekong River Delta.
Trip to Perth with VP! Which was basically eating fast food because food is so expensive in Perth LOL. And taking random photos at pretty beaches. And chilling at our Airbnb with our cat. Very very chillax trip hehe.
Exploring Yangon and Bagan with Jingwen!
Another chill trip. Most of my trips with friends are really to chill lah.
Backpacking with Dawn
Which you can read the brief story of it here.
It was a long 24 days though, of reflection and of adventure. Filled with interesting experiences whether with Dawn or wandering around by myself. Definitely warrants another post HAHA. I have too many backlog posts lah.
First Solo Hong Kong trip. I remember wanting to slap myself for being so stupid to even think travelling alone was a good idea. But it was :’)
Went hiking, egg tart finding, museum hopping and night street walking alone. Fun fun.
Hiking at Tung Ping Chau!
Then I spent some time in Nepal by myself. Like, just a bit but ULTRA nerve wrecking because you hear stories lol. But Nepalese are so nice they don’t need streetlamps at night HAHA.
Left: Buses are packed AF I even had to carry stuff for other people LOL.
Right: Favourite town: Bhaktapur. Best yogurt in the WORLD. And just so ancient feels.
Went to Jakarta and solo-ed when I could escape the protective clutches of my relatives hehe. Mostly went Museum and to this cafe I loved which were ~safer~ I guess.
And another 2 week trip to Cambodia for some solo travel time.
Where I also got food poisoning FML haha because I have too much balls for my own good and ate street food all the time. Having diarrhoea in the dorm toilet with 5 cockroaches crawling around me ar 4am before I was due to fly in 3 hours was not fun but it was an experience. OH and it was also in Cambodia where I kena stung by bee. HAHA.
Extended my Japan trip to travel alone, where I went to Crayon Shinchan Land! See my fangirl post on it here.
Travelling with Family
Probably wouldn’t have as much chances to travel and spend time with my family without this gap year.
We went to Taiwan, and then to Japan.
(Don’t my ahma look like a korean granny LOL)
Also went to Bandung for an extended family trip! Also visited Tanjung Pinang a couple of times and got in touch with my grandma and other aspects of my Indonesian heritage HAHA. You can read about my favourite kampung here.
Travelling and Making New Friends
Whenever I travel alone, I always end up making new friends!
Friends in HK, from all over the world hehe.
Friends in Phnom Penh! We went to Angkor Wat together.
And my students from the dorm I volunteered at. Haha nobody came for my lessons LOL.
Made two friends in Nepal, one hiking buddy from London I found online and proceeded to hike with for one day, and a local tour guide who guided me around Bhaktapur.
Corsica from Perth.
And most recently, friends in Bagan and Yangon! (One dude was really creepy though)
SEALNet Projects and Making MORE friends
Beginning my journey as a SEALNutter haha.
Worked with so many amazing people, and my first experience in a rural village where there is no electricity or piping. Listened to first hand experiences of extreme poverty, in one of the most beautiful places ever.
You can read more about my time there here! It really shaped some of my values when it comes to development, community problem solving, nature vs urban etc.
It was also the beginning of my star-crossed lovers story with daal bhat. Love it so much but can’t find good ones out of Nepal ;(
Another project that really shaped me in terms of being a change maker!
I guess the power of cross-cultural interaction is this. You are out of your comfort zone and you get inspired by what can be done in other places, how people are like over there.
Made friends to keep here!!
❤ ❤ ❤
Interacting with Old People
Volunteered for two main projects: JiakSimi and Cassia Resettlement. For the former it gave me a chance to interact with elderly who reside in nursing homes, most of whom have great difficulties taking care of themselves.
As for Cassia Resettlement, I got a chance to really understand the lives of the elderly who stay there, their stories and their concerns.
I think in school, the kind of CIP we did just tried to “make them happy” within the amount of time we had with them, or the activity we had to carry out.
Responsibilities and Ground Realities
Especially for CRT – it gave me more insight into the realities of taking care of the elderly’s needs. It was the first time I had to bring the elderly to the hospital, wait for beds, collect medicine, try to make sure the elderly know what medicine to take in how much dosage, all very adult-ish stuff they don’t teach you in school.
Friends and Family
And of course, they are not just the elderly, they are also my friends. Was really happy when Mdm Yee and I found a nice clock at Sungei Road which actually worked! And our cooking sessions. And her ranting sessions. Playing Rummyo with the aunties. Gardening class.
At the end of the day, it’s not the events we plan, the goals and objectives we have that define our work. It’s the keeping in touch with the lives of the elderly, living alongside them as they live and age.
Teaching Young Children
Pure joy! Even though I’ve gotten so angry so many times, what I really remember is how children are just hi-la-rious.
“My daddy also called daddy, mommy also called mommy”
“What about your brother?”
“Oh he is called Brandon”
Teaching them using phonics and reading also led me to think about language acquisition, how it can be nurtured, depending on each child’s learning style, but also how it reflects learning abilities. And learning is also not just done in the classroom, but outside of school, so the environment children grow up in really can shape them.
And being a teacher was fun. The authority of being able to give stickers, manage classroom dynamics, being adored by kids who are so liberal and generous with their love (“Teacher you very pretty”) and being pekcek at the kind of things they say (“Teacher you very ugly”)
Interacting with Young Kids
And also did more light hearted activities on Monday night reading sessions at the CC. Tended to read with younger kids, and they are just so cute lah.
And volunteered with Creasionaid for two days. Made me think about creativity, and the idea of creating, doing things with my hands.
Working at a Cafe
Did this mostly for the experience, and definitely found it somewhat meaningful. Lots of dishes to wash, realised the horrors of cafe food preparation and eavesdropped on patrons. Learning how to multi-task and deal with the boss’s expectations. Haha. Working till 3am.
Also experimented with rainbow waffles so I’m technically a chef HAHA. (In fact I cooked most of the food on top of waitressing LUH.)
Working as a Home Tutor
Did this mostly for the money, and yes it was pretty profitable haha. But also became good buddies with my primary 4 kid Clariece – kids nowadays really need people to not just teach them, but understand them I guess.
Working with a kid one year younger than me who faced a lot of pressure and expectations from the mother was pretty stressful. Really made me think about how doing well in school takes a certain combination of nurture vs. nature LOL.
Engaging in Environmental Issues
So I began my journey by volunteering for ECO Singapore with the For and Against debates, where I got to meet some of the best people.
Continued to volunteer for various organisations/ events, including PMHaze, Up2Degrees.
Was most active as part of Plastic-Lite, where I did a lot of infographic and slides designing, all of which culminated in our numerous school talks and outreach booths. I am really proud to have been part of the early development of PLSG. Now it has a lot more support/ recognition, which is awesome!!!
While volunteering I also had to learn new skills like interacting with people. Really hate approaching strangers FML haha but it’s important I guess!
My entire gap year kind of culminated in/ crystallised into this.
Organising visits to Sungei Road, Kranji farms with the two Accommodate sessions where we had speakers to share about issues like relocation of Dakota residents, activism to save places like Sungei Road and food security issues in Singapore.
Just think that people can 1) Be more mindful of how the space around them is like, by exploring it and thinking more about what they mean to them, and how it affects them in terms of their lifestyles, values and beliefs and 2) Which can then lead to deeper thoughts about the kind of issues that are important in society like heritage preservation, quality of life, social inequality, food security etc.
Accommodate is really about everything and anything haha. So long as a space is defined as a place, and issues facing its people are explored. So it is very inclusive because anyone can provide a valuable perspective I guess!!! Met a lot of cool people through it, and hoping to continue and grow it through more collabs.
In fact, my entire gap year is really about places and people, right?!
Also my first experience starting something from scratch. So, I am really proud of it lah. It’s nothing big, but I’ve always thought of myself as a follower, less of a leader. So being able to create this was pretty satisfying as a personal achievement unlocked kind of way.
So there you go!!!
It’s hard to include everything, but roughly that’s what happened. Thankful for everyone who I’ve met throughout this journey. New friends, old friends. Family.
Looking back it’s just been a crazy 1 year and 8 months, but I am really grateful for all these experiences, which would have been quite different if I’ve decided to go straight to uni. Did I plan for all of this to happen? Not at all! Guess that’s life!!!
But alas, it’s time to go back to school. Graduated from a year of having to decide how best to spend my time, and this is my score card hehe. Definitely memorable, no regrets at least 😀
(Also I promise to write more on some of the above mentioned trips/ experiences – SO.MUCH.BACKLOG)