Saturday, December 15, 2007

Leaving On A Jet Plane

Yes, ‘tis true.

I have resurrected my blog after more than a year of stagnation, and the reason is to make an announcement about a life-changing decision I have made…and the leap of faith I’m about to take.

*pause for effect*

OK, so I’m being overly dramatic, but to be honest this really is the most important and significant thing to happen in my otherwise boring life to date.

As most of you know, I’m studying in the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC). I’ve always wanted to write about life in UNMC, but never got around to it. There’s just so much to tell that the post would probably look more like a dissertation. Maybe, someday, I’ll blog about it. In the meantime, for those of you who want an idea of what goes on in my uni, take a look at the blogs listed on the left. About a third of them are by Notti guys and girls ;)

Anyway, one of the main reasons why I enrolled in Nottingham was the mobility programme, which offered the opportunity for students here to go to the UK campus for a year while paying local fees. This brings me to the point of this post. Shortly after the first year results were released, I was given an unconditional offer to go on this programme for one semester. I had mixed emotions about the offer; on one hand I was glad to get it, but at the same time one semester was significantly shorter than the full academic year I was hoping for.

And so the past few months have been spent agonising over the decision of whether to go or not. Up till a few weeks ago I was still yo-yoing back and forth, which is why I didn’t make my decision public until now. I have decided to accept the offer, and will be in Nottingham UK from January 20th to late June/early July 2008. I will take-off from KLIA at 0210 hours on January 20th, transit in Dubai and touchdown at Heathrow at 1135 hours London time on the same day.

As some friends of mine know, I faced such difficulty in making the choice because I was heavily influenced by the opinions of friends and family. Many people felt it wasn’t worth the expenditure going to the UK for a mere 5 months. I also worried about culture shock, homesickness, and everything else that comes with living independently in a foreign country. However, I ultimately decided that in the future I didn’t want to look back and regret not seizing this opportunity. No doubt it will be a challenging experience, with obstacles I’ve never faced before…but what doesn’t break you makes you a stronger person.

Now here comes the hard part: the goodbyes. I wish to say, with utmost sincerity, that I love my friends =) Over the years, I have built many great friendships which I hope will last a lifetime. Friends are what make life fun, and at the same time they provide a powerful support system that keeps me sane when all else seems to be going to hell. So to all my pals here in Malaysia, I’ll really miss you guys, even though 5 months isn’t a long time. The physical distance and 8-hour time difference will make it understandably difficult for us to communicate as much as before…but then again that’s what Facebook is for ;) I just hope it won’t be a case of 'out of sight, out of mind' but rather 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' =) For those of you asking to meet up before I go, I want to, but no promises since exams are coming and I still have lots to prepare before I leave. Worse still, I won’t be able to go out after exams because my last paper ends 31 hours before I fly T_T

To my buddies currently studying in the UK, I know I have not kept in close contact with many of you…for this I apologise. A big ‘thank you’ to those I’ve been interrogating the past few weeks for being so patient and helpful; the info you volunteered has been invaluable. Now, I will need your support and help more than ever before. You guys have been there long enough to know plenty about life in the UK, and will therefore be my primary points of reference on everything from studies to travelling and, of course, cooking. More importantly, you all will be the only familiar faces in the same time zone as me, and I’d really appreciate having your company and moral support while I’m juggling assignments, battling freezing cold and consuming my own bad cooking ;) I also hope to visit you guys at your respective unis, so do keep some time free to show me around.

Alright, that’s all for my big announcement. I think it’s long enough =P

I wish you all a very merry and blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with joy, love, hope, success and all that is good. To those who have exams coming up (especially my fellow Nottinghamers), all the best in your papers and may your results exceed your expectations =)

P/s: I can’t promise this blog will stay active, but I do hope to find some free time to chronicle my adventures in the UK here =)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Time Of Your Life

Warning: This is a ridiculously long post and meant more for people who didn't go for the trip. Don't proceed unless you have lots of time to spare. I'm considering the trip as 3 days, starting from 9pm on 8th Aug to 9pm on 11th Aug.

The first 24 hours

Li Xia and I agreed to rendezvous at Anusha’s house after her dad kindly offered to drive us to the Hentian Putra bus station. I arrived nearing 9pm to find that (surprise, surprise) Anusha couldn’t close her bag. Luckily, Li Xia had gotten there earlier and helped eliminate some unnecessary items, and after some major shoving we managed to zip up her luggage. Anusha’s sisters were practically throwing her out the door, so eager were they that she leave. We compared notes in the car and came to the conclusion that most of our family members were as glad to get rid of us as we were to go, even if it was only for three days.

After some trouble finding the bus station, we entered with Anusha’s parents, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that all the guys were already there and no one was late. The station itself was bustling and noisy, but still much better than the infamous Pudu station. After some banter and teasing that is typical of our group, we boarded the Sani Express bus that would take us to Kuala Terengganu. Our seats were slightly scattered, but thanks to several nice strangers and a few empty seats we were able to relocate ourselves several times during the journey to more strategic positions that allowed us to create the most noise and havoc. The chairs in the bus were notably larger and more cushy and comfortable than if we had taken a regular coach. The recliners were particularly useful for squashing legs and pinning people in their seat behind.

We left at 10pm and made two stops along the way, one at a gas station and the other a half-hour break at a large lay-by in Terengganu. The overnight journey was enjoyable but rather uneventful. Some people were constantly making noise and talking nonsense and bugging others, a few were riveted to handheld gaming devices, and some had headphones pumping music in their ears. All of us dozed off at some point or another during the night, but for most of us it wasn’t for very long. Some of us were wide awake till past 3am, no thanks to all the late-night chatting and gaming that totally messed up our sleep cycles. I found watching people sleep to be quite interesting. For all their displays of macho-ness, it was three guys who slept curled up like foetuses in the womb.

Another amusing thing during the ride was the type of music that the driver chose to listen to. It was mostly Hindi and Malay music with a couple of English songs thrown in. Thankfully, nearer the end of the journey he settled for some relaxing Kenny G. Also, I have come to the conclusion that Transnasional employs all its bus drivers from hell and the underworld. Our driver was going pretty fast, yet we were still passed by at least half a dozen Transnasionals. But my fondest memory of that bus ride was lying awake in the darkness, with only the rumble of the engine breaking the silence, watching the full moon cast its rays onto the sleeping passengers. It was incredibly peaceful.

We pulled into the KT station at 5.40am, where we sat down for hot drinks while waiting for our transport to Merang jetty. I didn’t realise how close we were to the sea, until Jhin took a walk down the road and disappeared. When going to look for him we saw that just 100 metres away from the bus station was an esplanade overlooking the bay, where we could see fishing boats heading out for the day. The sea breeze was lovely and I got some nice shots of the sunrise.

At 6am after a sleepless night, the guys look stoned but the sisterhood still can pose =P

Sunrise off the Kuala Terengganu coast

Our transport – a van – picked us up at about 8am and headed to the jetty. During the 40-minute journey, most were stoned or nodding off due to the lack of sleep, while me and a few others kept ourselves occupied with Anusha’s giant book of crossword puzzles. When we arrived I was totally wiped out. Some of the guys played football, and I have no idea how they had the energy.

We boarded our speedboat at 9.30am. I was initially apprehensive about the boat, which was small, emitting clouds of smoke and noxious fumes and looked a lot less impressive than the big and shiny vessels headed for Redang. But any reservations I had about our boat disappeared the moment we hit open water. Picture this: no rules, no stoplights, no speed limits, and best of all, no traffic. Just miles of deep blue sea as far as the eye can see. Can you blame our driver for going full throttle? He was going so fast, we actually overtook another speedboat that was carrying fewer passengers. The ride was AWESOME. We had the boat to ourselves except for a young couple, and we made so much noise even the driver was grinning. The sea was choppy, and that only added to the fun. Every time we went over a particularly large wave, the resultant crash back onto the water rearranged my internal organs. Early on I went to the front row in an attempt to take photos, but soon realised that the ride was so bumpy no amount of camera anti-shake could help, and if I didn’t sit down and hang on for dear life me or my camera would’ve ended up on the floor of the boat. So we bumped and bounced our way to Lang Tengah, and boy did we have a blast!

The only decent shot captured during the speedboat ride =P

Just after 10am we set foot on the shores of the island that we would call home for the next 48 hours. I had seen some pictures of Lang Tengah and our resort, Lang Sari, but I was still blown away by the beauty of it all. White sands, aquamarine waters and lush greenery are what this tiny island is all about. None of that Berjaya Hotel nonsense either; just small wooden buildings tucked away among the trees.

Our resort, Lang Sari

Redang can be seen in the distance

After checking into our rooms, which were sparsely furnished but comfortable enough, the girls and some of the guys changed and headed straight for the beach, less than 100 metres away. The cool waters provided welcome relief from the heat, but the plenitude of dead corals and rocks on the seabed weren’t so kind on our feet. Later, we were joined by the rest of the guys, and it was revealed that they were actually napping when the discovery of a giant lizard in their room caused a panic and sent them fleeing to the beach. Only Andrew, brandishing a broom, had the guts to try and evict the creature from its hiding place in the cupboard, but his attempts were futile. (For a cool photo of the lizard, go to Khai Ven’s blog link on the left =P) Anyway, after two hours of splashing around and trying to drown each other, we headed for lunch. The food wasn’t too bad, rice with Chinese style dishes.

What happened when Jhin asked the sisterhood to apply sunblock on him =D

That afternoon was the first major activity on our itinerary, snorkelling off the island. After renting our gear, we took a speedboat out to a larger vessel which then brought us round the island. Lang Tengah is mostly jungle bordered by rocks. Three other resorts similar to ours occupy the small, isolated stretches of beach around the island. We also saw several eagles circling, which is probably how the island got its name.

Some shots taken during our round island snorkeling trip. Note the amazing different shades of blue of the water.

Our snorkelling spot was just beside a bunch of boulders jutting out from the island. When our boatman dropped anchor and asked us to jump in, I felt a knot of nervousness in my stomach. Unlike most of my friends, I hadn’t done snorkelling before, and there was something slightly nerve-wracking about jumping into deep water, even though we had lifejackets on. But I eventually went in, and the water turned out to be not so deep, about 12 feet. There were a beautiful variety of corals on the sea floor, including the fan and brain corals you always see on TV, though I couldn’t see them as clearly or as close as I’d have liked. The fish were just lovely, these little flashes of colour darting around us. Our boatman gave us a bag of bread, and feeding them was a delightful experience. I’d release a piece of bread in front of my face and watch with wonder as a feeding frenzy happened inches from my nose.

The only thing we weren’t prepared for when we were in the water was the powerful current. One moment we were beside the boat, the next we had drifted off and the boat seemed ridiculously far away. I remember just a couple of minutes after jumping in, I looked up and the boat was 50 metres away. It was pretty scary, especially when it was time for us to leave. None of us could seem to move in the direction of the boat, no matter how hard we kicked and swam. Jhin thought the lifejacket was hampering his movement and took it off, but then thought the better of it and put it back on. Anusha and Li Xia were so tired they had to be towed back by RC. Khai Ven got a cramp and couldn’t swim so he had to be helped by one of the boatmen. I managed to get near enough to the boat to haul myself in using the anchor line. I think the only people who were truly comfortable and relaxed in the water were David and Andrew, thanks to their scuba diving experience. They didn’t use lifejackets and Andrew even dove down to the seabed to retrieve Voon Chee’s mask which he accidentally dropped.

When we (finally) got back onboard the boat, we were all exhausted. We were slightly worried the boatman would take us to another spot and ask us to go in again, but in the end we just headed back round the other side of the island and returned to the beach. Voon Chee gave us a scare when he went flat out on his back in the boat and didn’t move, and again on the beach. Turns out the whole experience left him feeling queasy, but luckily he felt better after awhile.

After resting some, we started playing beach volleyball which, ironically, wasn’t on the beach but on a sand-filled court just in front of our rooms. It was pure torture on our wrists and forearms, and we had to stop after one game. Then Jhin broke out his Frisbee, and hurling that plastic disc back and forth proved very addictive and a lot less painful than the volleyball. We stopped for a quick tea then resumed play.

The guys playing Frisbee on the volleyball court. Our rooms are in the background.

Afterward, we decided to go kayaking. It was RM15 per session for two people, but we cheated and used the kayak twice with two different pairs. Li Xia and Jhin went first, and they very kindly filled the kayak with a few inches of water. When it was my turn to go with RC, we didn’t empty it out because it was too heavy to flip over and we to nothing to bail with. Bad move, because 5 minutes into our session a wave promptly capsized us. Luckily we didn’t go out too far so we could stand, but I got a few scratches from trudging on coral while trying to drag the kayak back to shore. Once there, we still had the problem of emptying the kayak, which was now filled to the brim. But a stocky Caucasian lady with her head shaved like Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta helped us out, and together with Tah Lun the four of us managed to flip the kayak and empty it. RC and I then got back in and rowed off to the other end of the coast.

By the time we got back it was evening and most of our friends had showered and retired to their rooms to rest. Li Xia and Jhin, however, had walked off down the beach to the neighbouring resorts, and being environmentally friendly people they picked up rubbish as they went. I, wanting to make the most of my time on the island, took a walk along the beach and snapped some photos as the sun was setting. It was a real pity that our resort was facing a direction such that neither sunrise nor sunset was clearly visible. Nevertheless, the view was still beautiful.

The beach at dusk

The next 24 hours

After dinner our group of people was more fragmented. Anusha was asleep; she had barely slept during the bus ride and was so tired she retired around 6pm that evening and didn’t get out of bed till the next morning. She even skipped dinner, much to the chagrin of the guys, especially Andrew. Voon Chee was relaxing on the beachfront deck, where there was a wonderful breeze constantly blowing in from the sea. I sat there awhile too, and it would’ve been the perfect atmosphere if not for the loud and horrific singing that was coming from the karaoke bar nearby. Li Xia and Jhin were also on the beachfront, talking and amusing themselves by catching and torturing hermit crabs. I also hung out with a bunch of the guys and Tah Lun wowed us with his latest card tricks. Later I decided it was as good a time as any to try out my tripod and take some night shots.

It was around midnight and I was ready to turn in when Jhin rounded up the people who were still awake, six in all, and dragged us to the dining hall to have instant noodles. He had been rather overambitious while grocery shopping for the trip and ended up bringing 22 packets of the stuff along. He didn’t want to bring it all back so he made us help eat it. Anyway, the guys ended up watching wrestling on TV and since Li Xia and I weren’t interested we hit the sack at around 1.30am.

The following morning us girls were the first ones up at 8am, with RC being the only one awake before us. We had a fun time invading the guys’ rooms and giving them “pleasant” wake up calls by sprinkling water on their faces. Handre’s reaction was particularly funny as he simply wiped his face with his blanket, turned over and fell back asleep. But everyone eventually got out of bed and had breakfast together, where we discovered a certain someone doesn’t know how to make herself a cup of coffee. Breakfast ended on a funny note with Andrew chasing Li Xia and Anusha around the resort and dousing them with orange cordial and water after they pranked him.

At around 11am everyone except Voon Chee headed off to Redang Marine Park for more snorkelling. It was a 40-minute boat ride to Redang, and Li Xia and I had a blast sitting on the prow of the boat during the journey. It was the most amazing feeling, like flying, as the wind whips through your hair and the sea stretches before you in an endless expanse of blue.

Jhin pulling a Jack Sparrow =P

When we arrived we saw a very different kind of atmosphere compared to Lang Tengah. Redang is so large, it’s several times the size of our tiny island. The jetty was packed with people waiting for their boat and the bay was full of snorkellers. There were several boats moving around near the dock, including a couple of police boats. A cruise ship lay harboured in the distance. It was so crowded, and I was secretly glad I had chosen our island over Redang. All the while people had been questioning me on my decision to go to a smaller, lesser-known island when Redang was literally next door, but I knew I’d appreciate the tranquillity of Lang Tengah, and I was right.

However, I must admit, snorkelling was a lot more enjoyable in Redang. There was barely any current, and the bay had a string of floats that clearly showed the boundary up to where you could snorkel. The area was very wide; we had a stretch of over a 100 metres of water to move around in. The fish were a lot more varied and colourful as well. There was one type we nicknamed the “paddle pop” fish, because it looked exactly like the ice cream. The fish are pretty bold too; you could hold the bread half an inch above the water and they’d actually jump to snatch it. Jhin engaged in a bread tug-of-war with them, and when he refused to let go they bit him. One of those crazy “paddle pop” fellas bit my finger, and I wasn’t even holding any bread! I kept my hands out of the water as much as possible after that. Something similar must have happened to RC, because once or twice an exclamation of “Oh, shit!” would come out the top of his air tube, much to our amusement.

The highlight of the snorkelling trip was when we managed to spot the famous but elusive moray eel. We got more than we bargained for when we saw not one but two of them. We had been hunting for a while but it was difficult because morays live in holes in rocks on the seabed so they’re hard to see from the surface. We’d about given up when Jhin gave a shout that told us he’d found it. They were dark coloured and they kind of swam halfway out of their holes for a moment. Unfortunately, Andrew and David weren’t near us so they didn’t get to see them.

Soon after we headed back to our island and reached after 2pm. After lunch we went back to the beach where I joined the guys to play Frisbee again. Anusha and Li Xia wanted to make sandcastles but they had no buckets so they swiped a soup bowl from lunch and started building. However, what started out as child’s play soon turned into something a lot more, well, adult. The guys responded by building…things (think human reproductive organs), the photos of which are in Jhin’s camera. I refused to photograph such obscenities with my own. Anyway, soon after the guys buried Li Xia in the sand (at her own wishes), they dug a hole, threw Anusha in and buried her too (against her wishes). The sight of only Anusha’s head visible above the sand reminded me of the scene with Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon. I took a video of the whole ‘burying Anusha’ incident, again with Jhin’s camera, so you know who to ask if you want to have a good laugh.

After extricating the two girls from the sand, we played more Frisbee then eventually dwindled to just throwing coral into the sea. The guys were having a competition to see who could throw the farthest. I simply skipped corals across the surface of the sea, something I’ve never been able to do before. The flat pieces of coral made it easier, and I just found something therapeutic about the action.

During tea we had to decide if we were going to go jungle trekking. It was part of the programme, but not a must to go. Eventually Anusha and David opted to stay behind while the rest of us went. We clambered over rocks and through trees and up and down steep slopes, which proved to be a bit of a struggle for me since I was wearing slippers. We passed two of the more pricey resorts that had swimming pools, but I still felt we had the best beach. After some more climbing and me wondering where we’d end up and whether it was worth it, we arrived at our destination, and what I saw took my breath away.

We popped out of the jungle onto this rocky cliff high above the sea. It was just bare rock going all the way down to the sea where the waves crashed into them. Redang could be seen on the horizon. The view was simply magnificent. We stayed there about 20 minutes, climbing all over the rocks and taking photos. Our guide was great too; when I gave him my camera to take a group picture, he ended up taking half a dozen shots of us from different angles. It was also up on those rocks that Handre’s aspirations to become Malaysia’s next top male model became apparent, as his inner poser showed himself. It was so beautiful up there I wanted to stay longer, but it was getting late so we had to go.

My favourite shot. Isn't the background gorgeous?

Another group shot

Two Gollum-like creatures engaged in a strange mating ritual...oh wait, that's just Jhin and RC =D

Gangster / model wannabe. Too bad he doesn't have the height for it =P

When we got back to our beach, we joined RC for a jog. We ended up staying on the beach till dusk fell, then went for a BBQ dinner. It wasn’t much of a BBQ though; the lamb was inedible so all that was left was sausages, potatoes, salad and fried rice. But dinner was pleasant as everyone sat and ate together, talking and laughing, unlike the previous night.

Jhin and Khai Ven on the deck watching the resident squirrel go about its business =)

The final 24 hours

After dinner everyone went to the beach, originally wanting to catch crabs. When that proved impossible, we just sat on the jetty while Tah Lun showed off more magic tricks. Andrew tried to create a real life “walk the plank” scenario by dragging a kicking and screaming Li Xia to the end of the jetty, intending to throw her off. Later, we wandered a short distance down the beach to where the bar and karaoke was located. We persuaded RC to sing to save our ears from the torture of the previous night, and were pleasantly surprised to find that RC has a pretty decent voice.

Suddenly our guide from the trek earlier (who also turned out to be the dreadful karaoke-er) asked if we want to see turtles nesting. Obviously we said yes, so he took us back along the earlier jungle path (in pitch darkness, mind you) to a small deserted beach where we sat on the sand beneath a tree and waited. We stayed about an hour before we decided to head back. Some people complained that going was a waste of time because we didn’t see anything, but I liked the experience of just laying back and looking up at the night sky whilst listening to the swish of waves on the shore.

Back on our own beach, we decided out of the blue to play "Pepsi Cola", a game we all used to play in primary school which is basically about stomping on others’ feet. It was funny and fun and brought back childhood memories. Then, like the previous night, Jhin made us get the rest of the snacks and vowed that by hook or by crook we’d finish the remaining 16 packs of instant noodles. So he and RC started devising various bets and games to finish the noodles while Khai Ven showed everyone his cookie monster nature by devouring almost an entire packet of Chipsmore by himself.

"Pepsi Cola" or Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? =P

At 1am I excused myself and went to have my shower. I was supposed to rejoin the rest after that but never did because I was just too tired and not feeling very well. Instead I spent some alone time lying in a hammock by the beach, watching lightning flash off in the distance. Soon after I went to bed, and I know I missed quite a bit of fun. The rest stayed up till morning, playing cards and pulling pranks on those asleep. Khai Ven let the gang into his room where Jhin put ketchup on the face of the unfortunate victim David. They were too afraid to do anything to Andrew and Handre was protected by his blanket, so those two escaped a similar fate. Then Li Xia turned traitor on Anusha and I by unlocking the door for the guys. First, they stuck a camera in and snapped away. Then Voon Chee put a cat on our bed by Anusha’s feet and quickly shut the door. It was dark so she didn’t know what the heck was walking around on her feet and she freaked out like crazy! But before she could scream the place down the door opened and they took it away. She mumbled something about killing them in the morning then fell back asleep. I couldn’t be bothered because I like cats. I was just thankful there wasn’t any ketchup.

My story from this point on is very brief, because when I woke up in the morning I was full-blown sick. I wasn’t seasick as some people thought, because if I were I’d have fallen ill from the start of the trip. I guess the bad combination of too much sun, lack of sleep and insufficient fluid intake just got to me. So the rest of the day went by in a bit of a blur, though I do recall most of what happened. We checked out at 9.30am and sat on the beachfront deck to wait for the boat, which was supposed to arrive at 10.30. The boat didn’t show till 11.15, and while waiting nearly everyone was engrossed in card games.

Once back on the mainland, we took the van back to the bus station during which my friends were playing word games and doing what they do best, bashing Anusha. We arrived at the station just in time to board our 1pm bus back to KL. It was pretty rushed and no one got to eat lunch. However, they ate their fill at the same lay by we stopped at on our journey to Kuala Terengganu two days earlier. The bus didn’t stop any more after that, and I slept most of the way. I know my friends were talking non-stop and up to their usual antics as well as bingeing on the remaining junkfood. It was a pity I couldn’t join in, but I’m very thankful to everyone for helping carry my stuff and Jhin especially for checking on me to make sure I was OK. Anyway, we arrived back in KL at 8.30pm, and parted ways after an incredible 3 days together.


I was feeling better by Saturday, but due to some bad luck and sheer carelessness on my part, I realised I’d lost my wallet sometime between the stop at the lay by and reaching KL. Life’s a bitch sometimes. But on a lighter note, I feel like a French fry that’s been deep-fried to crispy golden brown perfection. The first thing my dad said when I walked in the door was “What’s an African doing in my house?” Really! He shouldn’t have expected anything less from someone who’d spent 48 hours on an island near the equator. With a sore throat giving me a raspy growl for a voice and my skin peeling so bad it looked like my face was falling off, I was a monster for a few days. But after trying all manner of cooling substances on my skin, including watermelon, cucumber and several types of moisturiser, I look decidedly more human now, though still chocolate-coloured.

I want to thank all who went on this trip for making it such an amazing and memorable experience. I got to spend valuable time with each and every one of you, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I feel this is a truly fitting conclusion to our journey as a class. Even though we’ll be heading in different directions soon, I hope the friendships I’ve formed within this group will last a good long time. I truly had the time of my life, and I hope you all did too.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Because We Can

When I started A-Levels, I thought life in college would only consist of lectures and exams. But that changed when I became a member of the A-Levels Student Council. Some of my fondest memories and most valuable experiences in college come from my time on the SC, and I'll really miss it. I was truly lucky to have as colleagues a wonderful and talented group of people whose dedication and diligence made our year a fulfilling one. Most importantly, I'm very grateful that everyone got along great and that by working together I have formed friendships which hopefully will stand the test of time. What I've written below isn't flattery or empty praise, but what I genuinely feel about these people, so they know how much I cherish their friendship.

The President
He was the last person anyone expected to become President. An unknown dude from Ipoh, his lack of campaigning and self-professed unimpressive résumé made him the clear underdog in the presidential race. Yet, his charm, charisma and good humour that shone through his speech won over the crowd and the votes. In hindsight, I can honestly say I’m glad he became president instead of me, because I wouldn’t have been able to do the job and lead the SC as well as he did. He worked tirelessly, sacrificing time, energy and money to ensure every project the SC took on met with success. His affinity for impromptu speeches ensured he was always comfortable onstage and at the rostrum. His friendliness, especially with the management, was a great advantage to the SC as all our activities were quickly and easily given the green light. His stubbornness sometimes grated on our nerves, but it also made him the tough, decisive individual we all know and respect. Overall, I’m truly glad to have served as his vice.

The Secretary
She is the first person I got to know among all the SC members, partly because we started talking while waiting to go for our interviews with the previous SC. As the youngest member of the SC, she often used her age as a defence against bullying by the guys of the SC. This pretty gal did a fantastic job in a post that I know from prior experience is as thankless as it is difficult. She never complained about the workload and kept everything organised. Her efficiency was the reason why paperwork was not a problem for the SC. I’m also indebted to her for being so patient and entertaining my calls and questions whenever I missed a meeting or was unsure about something.

The Assistant Secretary
To be honest, I don’t know this guy as well as some of the other SC members. However, I do know that he dared to be different and was brave enough to break the mould by being the only guy to run for the post of Secretary. He adores foosball, and sometimes we had to physically pry him away from the foosball table to come for SC meetings. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a hard worker. He didn’t speak much during meetings but he cooperated well with the Secretary and always did the work allocated to him with not so much as a grumble. I only wish I had made more of an effort to know him as a person.

The Treasurer
This soft-spoken young man is a closet poet who put his skills to good use when preparing his election speech. His poem delighted the crowd so much that he eventually won. He takes awhile to open up to people but once he does you’ll find his shy, introverted demeanour belies the fact that he’s as fun and talkative as everyone else. He’s also an opinionated individual who’ll speak up whenever he feels strongly about something. His meticulous way of working ensured that our accounts were always handled properly and the SC money was in good, trustworthy hands. He’s a really nice guy and I’m glad I have him as a friend.

The General Exco
This fellow is one of the greatest posers I’ve ever met, and I mean that in a good way. He photographs well and is great at camwhoring. His job description was never really clear-cut, but he always worked hard at every task and helped out in all aspects of SC work. Things were never too serious with him around and his humorous, fun-loving nature made for good company. Together with the Sports Exco they’d kick up a riot and provide the fun element of our meetings. I’ll probably remember him best for his love for computer gaming, especially Defence of the Ancients. He is truly a likeable chap.

The Social Exco
Tall and hot. These are the words that come to mind when one first looks at this girl. If it weren’t for the SC I probably would never have gotten to know her, especially since she keeps a lot to herself and we didn’t have any common classes until the third semester. But the phrase “Still waters run deep” holds true for her, as she is one intelligent gal. Her perseverance and hardworking nature was an asset to the SC, and was the main reason why the treasure hunt she planned went off without a hitch. She is also a really sweet girl. We get along well and I’m very glad being on the SC gave me the chance to get to know her.

I chose to separate these next two people from the above six because they have a lot in common. They both intended to run for president but never got the chance, one because of a trip to Spain that coincided with the elections, and the other because for some unfathomable reason the previous SC felt she wasn’t a suitable candidate. They got a second chance when our SC was looking to fill two empty posts, and joined our team in February this year. Despite being the last two people to come on board, they were the “glue” that made the SC members bond. In my opinion the seven initial members hadn’t really clicked before, but once these two came along we became a strong, unified group that enabled us to pull off events with success. These two people are also the SC members closest to me, as you may have gathered from my Annual Ball post.

The Sports Exco
He was in the same Chemistry class as me for all 3 semesters of A-Levels but I only really got to know him when he joined the SC. Famed for his oversized ego and smart-ass remarks, he made SC gatherings highly entertaining. His funny antics and affable, easygoing character made him get along easily with not only students and staff at HELP but also people we met during our dealings with the outside world. Without a doubt, if this guy ran for president I wouldn’t have stood a chance, so popular and well liked is he. However, it’s not all fun and games with him. He’s a diligent worker, as shown during the successful dodgeball tournament he organised that was mostly a one-man show. During meetings he’d always participate fully, contributing opinions and ideas. He’s very generous and easy to work with. Now that I know him, I know beneath that sarcastic exterior he’s a genuinely sweet guy.

The Marketing Exco
When I think back on all the time we spent together and the crazy and wonderful experiences we shared, I find it very hard to believe I’ve known her for only 6 months. Our introduction was rather abrupt, as unlike the Sports Exco I totally didn’t know her yet we had to work together. Luckily we clicked, and the rest is history. We get along famously and she helped and supported me a great deal, in SC work as well as other aspects of college life. A true shutterbug and queen camwhore, she spread her camwhoring “virus” to the rest of the SC. She contributed a lot to all our projects, helping out wherever she could and doing things that weren’t part of her job. One of her best traits is that she takes the time and trouble to show appreciation to her friends by writing thank-you notes and personal messages and printing photos for them. She’s creative and fun and an incredible person, and I’m really thankful to have found a friend like her.

The SC (minus Bryan) with the kids of Precious Children and Youth Home

The SC during our Charity Auction which benefited Precious Children and Youth Home (courtesy of Sher)

What happened when the President auctioned off his the SC! =P

The SC (minus Ivan) and Anusha during our visit to PAWS animal shelter (courtesy of Sher)

The SC with the founder of Phyllis Old Folks' Home. By sheer coincidence everyone wore either blue or white that day =P (courtesy of Sher)

The SC with the A-Levels Department staff members during our farewell lunch at Pizza Hut

The girls of the SC =)

The following images are visually disturbing. The photographer will not be held responsible for psychological problems or nightmares that may result from the viewing of these images. Scroll down at your own risk =P

Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil no evil! =D

The dirrty guys of the SC. Oh, the horror =P