Camping June 2022

Camping June 2022

Dear Boys,

We decided to spice up our lives for the June 2022 holidays by going camping. On our own. Woohoo.

With the limited space campsite available, we picked an offshore one, at Pulau Ubin, Jelutong Campsite, and one of the challenges will be getting ourselves cleaned. Unlike the campsites on Singapore, we are very much on our own at Pulau Ubin, and we have to lug our own drinking water there. So yeah, no bathing for the night.

Enter the Beast

So with the enhanced logistics, encumbered by water, we decided to buy The Beast, which is essentially a 4 wheeled cart that allows me to load the camping stuff and pull it there.

This is certainly very helpful as we don’t need to walk our supplies there on our back, and it helped us bring more stuff that which gives us greater comforts. This trip do gives us feedback on how to improve our next camping trip.

Setting up

We got there early and found a hut where we can use as a additional shelter and we got to work. Now that you boys are older, it is certainly more helpful with 2 extra pair of hands.

For our ‘bed’ we tried to use airmocks, and it looked something like this, we brought 2 along and unfortunately it didn’t work out as it was hot to sleep on, and we cannot hold the air in it and it deflates itself.

Our dinner, barbeque!

Setting up the fire isn’t a big deal and we learned to us a portable battery operated fan to help speed things up. This is also another learning point for us which we will talk about later.

Played with fire, knives and sticks

It was after all the great outdoors and I brought along my SOG Seal Pup and SOG Force knives for play, and thankfully you boys handled the sharp items well and got to have fun shaping branches into ‘spears’ and other sticks for fun and play.

Jeluntong Campsite has a designated spot for us to start campfires, but we didn’t have anything large enough to burn and it was harder than it looks trying to start a fire on our own.

Things we learned

Bring a fan, a big one.

The small little USB fan was really heaven, but it had to be held by hand, and the wind wasn’t strong enough to bring enough ventilation for our hot, humid night there, we barely catch any sleep, and you mum certainly didn’t as she held the fan up throughout the night.

So now we got this bad boy which has it’s own internal battery to last a lot longer, it has it’s own legs, or we can hang it, it also come with LED lights so it is the perfect tool for our next camping trip!

Inflatable mattress

Yoga mats won’t cut it, ground sheet is a no, no. we are going to sleep with some comfort, and we are definitely getting one of these. It will be softer and keeps us off the ground, so the next time we do this, we are all going to get some sleep!

Make sure you have camping permits

Our expereince in ubin showed us how safe Singapore is, the Police still did their rounds, twice checking in on us and our permits. They were friendly enough to warned us on some of the wildlife we might encounter, such as pythons and monkeys. We did come across some hogs which are residents to Pulau Ubin.

Great fun

This was certainly a very different experience from the one we had back in 2017, as back then we camping in a larger group, and had activities set up for us to enjoy, there was also food provided, but this one we really lived on our own, having our own freedom to just enjoy the wilderness and being responsible for our own stuffs.

Camping 2017

Camping 2017

Dear Boys,

Taking us back to memory lane where we did not just one, but 2 camping trips back in 2017

Camping #1

It was also at this camping event that we got our outdoor tent and also Wayne’s very first abseiling experience, (Ian chickened out, fear of heights)

I can never forget how for day one, the weather came out to play and it poured. Thankfully this also puts our new tents to the test and it held up, our contents was dry, even though everywhere was wet.

Despite of all that, we still had fun and after the rain receded, we managed to do a few rounds of abseiling which Wayne love and Ian didn’t. For that camp, Wayne had the honor of being the youngest to try to abseiling course.

We also had good fun knowing that a few of our neighbors/ classmates went along, and that build on the familiarity and bonding we have.

December 2017 Camping #2

Coincidentally we also had a camping event in December with another group from the community club, and the campsite brought us to another part of Singapore we seldom get a chance to explore, PAssion WaVe @ Sembawang.

This puts us in a very out of the way spot but it does give us a very rustic feel, and unlike the one in Pasir Ris, where we get to pitch on grass, we had to pitch our tents on concrete floor, not the best place to sleep on but we have to make do.

Stand-up Paddling, Star Gazing and Morning Tidal walk

It was at this place where I get to experience Stand-up Paddling, didn’t like it. The rest of the campsite staff also brought us out to do a bit of star-gazing but it was a valiant effort, since the Singapore night sky is usually brightly lite and polluted with artificial light. Not to mention the amount of clouds covering the night sky, we didn’t see much stars but we did appreciate the effort as well as the night walk.

We went out at low tide to look at some of the sea creatures and fishes that is trapped in some of the shallows.

Overall I think it was good fun back then and we were glad to have this experience, it certainly made our highlights and helps cement the reality that Wayne is adventurous go-getter!

Explore more on the Ground

Explore more on the Ground

Dear Boys,

Sometimes, everyday chore can expose us to a better way of doing things, even when we have been doing the same thing everyday.

This happens to me when I was cycling to work. Yes, since your dad’s office is a scant 11km away, I will try to cycle to work, as much as practicable and the weather allows.

The Beauty of Google Maps

Of course, there is a plethora of mapping technologies on the web these days, we can plot till we foam in the mouth before we embark on our journey. While this level of planning is great, this is also why we have an entire generation of armchair critics. Knowledge you get from mapping helps you plan, knowing if your plan will work or not, depends on the people who have actually been there, and walked the ground.

Nothing beats putting your foot on the ground

In my context, put the pedal to the ground.

Looking at these 2 maps, they look discernably indifferent, with only a 30m between the 2, while on the ground, the experience is another story altogether. If you look between the 5km and 7km part between the 2 maps, lies the difference.

My default route is the 11.246km one, and while I have used it many many times, there is more complexities to overcome, not a big deal, but more.

There is 2 T-junctions (uncontrolled) I have to look out for, many bus stops with pedestrian traffic as Hougang Ave 3 is a major road with many bus plying this route. As this is the official park connector route, there are also more cyclists, like me, using it. Oh not to mention a petrol station along this road, which vehicles I have to be careful of.

My new route the 11.213km, however, is a unused gem. Defu Ave 1 is not as crowded, there are 2 T Junctions, one which has a traffic light. Less pedestrian traffic, since less bus ply this road. It has a clean gentle uphill (towards work) and the ride is generally more pleasant. the incline is reversed when I head home and it does help makes the ride faster, and I don’t have a petrol station to contend with.

It is even more defined when I am using the left side of the pavement, and not the right side, which will put you in the path of 6 T junctions, one of them is the main gate of SBST Hougang Bus depot, with buses turning in and out. Gnarly.

Not many people can tell you the difference in using these few choices and pick the best one out any given day.

Walk the walk, the talk the walk

You really need to walk the ground in whatever you do, this level of knowledge and detail beats any kind of hypothesis hands down. So while you boys go on to attain knowledge in your respective field, nothing beats hands-on, hard work. This level of experience cannot be attained the easy way.

No Augmented Reality, simulation, reading up, map plotting can get you there by actually walking, and for my case, pedaling. The Direct Feedback you get being there gives you the first hand knowledge which you can rely on, and others can count on, instead of just depending on Google map.

Where do we go from here?

Where do we go from here?

I never had such a problem keeping me up at night. All I have to do is to go to the dojo, follow a certain respectable old man do Aikido and go home. Simple.

Now that I am in that shoes and people are following me, there is a certain standards, quality, direction, style, ethos, pedagogy, sub-culture, teaching, curriculum that I have to dish out, someway, somehow, one way or the other.

As my friend Steven always says it “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” Ain’t that the truth.

It’s never far from my mind that this position I held is an extremely privileged one, I didn’t put myself there, someone I respect a lot asked me to be there, and now that I am here, the weight is on me to do something, moving forward. My friends in the dojo put their trust in me to take this place forward and I’m burdened constantly not to let them down. The weight of that responsibility is serious shit.

No Easy Day, No Easy Answer

Such is the cruel reality of change, we are all forced to change. Legacy held us in good stead, knowing we came from a respectable past, but how we move forward will determine how we continue to keep that past respectable.

Deep down inside I do still feel like a phony, Harry sensei’s spot is too big to fill, I know that I have no plans to fill it, faintly even trying to do that is will be preposterous. Then the next question begs to be answered, how do I write my own story? Do I even want to see myself 80 years old 7th dan, dedicated to Aikido? Or can I be who I am, 3rd dan, 80 years old, dedicated to Aikido?

In the world of pecking order and sexy new martial arts, I don’t think I can compel many people to follow an old 3rd dan, still running a dojo 10-15 years from now. It’s not a great selling point, I will age (am aging) and will falter, like Harry sensei did, will people still turn up at the dojo out of respect, sympathy or a little bit of both?

So what?

Even if I were to advance in grade, so what? So freaking what?

I still cannot see myself at the epitome of Aikido, like the shoulder of the giant I’m standing on. So should I avoid the risk of desecrating Harry sensei’s legacy by running a sub-par class? Or should I chart my own way, and risk desecrating Harry sensei’s legacy the same? Damn it if you do and Damn it if you don’t.

No help in finding the answer either

Sorry no sorry, I don’t think there is anyone out there who can help me solve this. That’s the other thing that has always been a me problem, the solutions lies only in me, myself and I. Once I found the solution (which will come to me eventually, I just got to be patient) then I can move. Until then I can only hobble along haphazardly, be the stand-in until the stand-in, stood out permanently.

Right now all I can do is to use my imagination and think about how Harry sensei could have done it under the circumstances when he took over Teddy Lee sensei back then more than 50 years ago; the challenges he faced, the acceptance and rejection he has to face, building up Aikido the way he did. The problem is that there are no cookie crumbs, he left no ‘how-to’ guide on how to run a dojo and take the dojo forward; all I got from him was his teaching, as fleeting, unreliable memory in my head, and that’s all. I constantly ask myself how do I go on when all of our interpretations of his teachings differs widely dependent on people’s perceptions.

Not exciting at all

I can’t build any excitement out of this heaviness at all, perhaps I took this role with a very serious responsibility, and maybe I do want to make Harry sensei proud and when people comes to his dojo, they can say that Harry sensei did a good job, his bunch of Aikidokas are a skillful lot. That’s perhaps my lofty goal and I’m not sure if I am up to it to see it happen.

Until I find a way, I think I’m gonna be kept awake more often than I like to.

Finders, Keeper

Finders, Keeper

“Mummy! Papa found a two dollar!”

“Mummy! Papa found a two dollar!”

Ian bellowed across the supermarket aisle at the frozen section.

Dear Ian,

Sometimes it is not the best way to tell people about your serendipitous wealth.

The Law of Finder’s Keepers.

Your mum told me about something like this when she was about 5, your little brother’s age. She was with her mum, on a Sunday going to the market, her mum was walking in front, when your mum was blocked by a $50 note lying on the ground in front of her.

She too shouted for her mum. This time she said: “There’s a $50 on the ground!” repeatedly, whilst her mum was gesturing repeatedly at her to pick it up and shut her gap.

She did, pick up the wet note and her mum took it away from her.

That was her.

For us, I saw the lonely $2 on the floor, unbelievably, no one saw it, and it is not as if the aisle is vacated. I walked a pick it up and kept it, of course. But not without Ian telling the whole world your dad’s keeps.

Well, boys, it isn’t the easiest thing to do as to explain the law of such finds. I mean, what is someone walks up and say, hey that is my $2! What can I say? What can you say?

This is one of life’s grey area, there is no right no wrong to it, but you cannot simply just leave the $2 buck on the floor! If you don’t pick it up, someone else would and guess what, finders, keepers!

Published: October 7, 2014

Atrophy, Homeostasis and Growth

Dear Boys,

Netflix is fine, as long as it is the last thing on your task.

As we draw closer to the end of 2022, there are still a few things on our plate to complete, for Wayne, it will be his final year exams. For you Ian, well, you have an uphill task ahead as well.

Despite of these big hurdles looming, I come home one day to see both of you on Netflix.

Since the both of you are already of age, I cannot kick anymore sense into the both of you, except to urge action.

What did Newton says about action? Or was it motion?

An object at rest remains at rest, and an object in motion remains in motion at constant speed and in a straight line unless acted on by an unbalanced force.

That leads us into this interesting thing about human dynamics

Atrophy

Humans or anything organic for that matter, does not stay still. Everything in this world is constantly in a flux, whether you see if or you don’t. Things are constantly moving, changing, evolving, and growing. There is always action, somewhere, somehow. Nothing is fully ‘at rest’.

What happens when you don’t move? You decline. You wilt.

That’s why your dad is constantly exercising, moving and getting some activity, any opportunity given. If I can sneak a 20-lap swim during my lunch time, I would; if the distance is not too big, I’d cycle to work, and I’m doing that twice a week. Aikido every Monday. Anything just to move, because if I don’t I know my bodily woes will catch up. I will fall ill, I get hurt and won’t heal so quickly. Mentally I won’t be ship shape, its a gradual downhill that will lead to an uncontrolled free fall.

Atrophy happens if you do not stay active and stay in motion.

Homeostasis

Even if we constantly stay in motion, we stay constant, and consistent, then we are doing the bare minimum, keeping our lives happily humming along. Everything is find and dandy, watch Netflix all day and nothing will happen, sun rise, sun set. Things stays in equilibrium.

That’s where we plateau, on this large flat featureless surface, where nothing is challenging and nothing is challenged. It’s a pleasant plain vanilla where you just watch the clouds go by. You won’t degrade, but you won’t progress as well.

Just a word of caution, life eventually catches up and one fine day your homeostasis might lead to atrophy even before you can say Oops!

Growth

This is where fear, unknown, trepidation, round-the-corner monster, resides. If you can constantly challenge yourself and find a higher calling, you will look up and you will climb. Hopefully you have seen what your better self can achieve and aim for it.

Growth is not about ‘constant motion’, it is about deliberate, activated additional actions, decisions, planning and go-getting. It is tiring, takes effort and sometimes, you fail, plans goes south. Murphy’s Law comes to play.

You boys have strived and achieved goals before, not big goals but goals you both can be personally proud of, you own personal bragging rights. Use these achievements to build your confidence on, and climb. Small wins leads to big wins.

That’s life’s non-negotiable fact, you don’t climb, you’ll stay still, and if you stay still long enough, you’ll slide back, and once that happens un-arrested, then good luck, you’ll hit the infinite bottom and the climb back up is going to be another hell of a story to tell. I hope we don’t have to tell that kind of story.

Life’s like riding a bicycle

This is very much a cliché but it is true, you stop cycling, you fall off your bicycle, it is, really as simple as that, so please, for your own excellence and growth, never stop hustling, pedaling, grinding and striving.

An Instructor’s Failure

Last week, we did a technique, Ryo Katatedori Kokyunage. It started out as a simple technique and to add in some difficulty, I decided to apply the ‘unbendable’ arm as an uke so that the nage can have an increased level of challenge.

Mingjie, as the nage, couldn’t do it, so I switched role and be the nage, and he did what I did, using the ‘unbendable’ arm, and I couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I try, Turns out, that method of kokyunage, is ineffective.

It does bugs me a bit, but I have long said, I am not perfect, and some of techniques I do will fail, as it has many times, but this time it makes me think deeper. Perhaps the label as a ‘sensei’ comes with the expectations for me to be able to do every technique, or teach, overcome roadblock or barrier. I couldn’t.

That is a reality check for everyone, particularly myself, of course my ego was bruised.

More than that, this inability exposes my learning path, which I must overcome.

There is 2 ways to look at this inability.

1- I have not attain the level of proficiency to do this technique, hence this technique is more advanced and beyond my current abilities. Harry sensei can do it, and of course, he comes with many more decades of experience.

2- This technique is ineffective. Try as hard as I could, I cannot make it work, Mingjie couldn’t make it work, Choi tried and couldn’t make it work, and checking YouTube, nobody does it the way we did it on the mat that evening.

That is of course not a exhaustive list and perhaps Harry sensei could because this was within his technical ability, or we have been charitable as ukes. Or it is really not an effective way to do it.

Scrap it?

It bugs me because, I have seen this level of incompetence before, in me. There were some technique I couldn’t do in the past, I could now. There are things I didn’t understand in the past, I made an effort to learn and now I possess the knowledge to certain subject matter to hold a conversation.

While I was compelled to write this off as an ineffective technique, the stronger compulsion was to dig deeper and…

Investigate, Probe, Learn, Explore, Discover

It can be so disappointing to those on the mat to see me fail, well, I did. and I explained to the rest that hey, I do fail. and we need to learn from it. the Dojo is a place to learn, and we will fumble, and have our incompetency exposed. It is fine for me, as taking a class is not a performance, I do not expect myself to conduct a ‘perfect’ class. There is no such thing.

Every time we come for class, even as an ‘instructor’ I also learn and at a very different level. While I want to instruct, there are times I couldn’t. Of course the students pay money to have the best possible instructorship, I hope they can also lean something when this instructor fails. I have no intentions to hide my failures, using excuses or some lame justifications. I’m not competent about it, and I am not shy about it either, the only way to overcome it is to train harder, investigate into the whys.

The good thing is Mingjie is on the mat every Monday, and I have to opportunity to work this with him, until we both learn to overcome this, together.

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Dear Ian,

One thing we learned in our planning is that we need a lot of communication, constant talk, and making sure that we communicate our expectations, goals, obstacles, challenges, adversaries and friends. This kind of communication is important all round, because it helps you keep close, tactical, on the ground tab on what is happening and if you would be able to meet your goals as planned.

This communication is starts with yourself!

Self talk has a lot of taboo. People thinks that people who talks to themselves, sometimes a bit too loudly, are crazy people. Well, your dad is one of those crazy people. When I was younger, I would break out into a crazy dance when I’m in the mood with a song.

Then again, I learned that self talk can bring out a different creature in you!

I used to scold myself, and belittle myself, with a lot of profanities and vulgarities. Constantly playing the role of a ‘Drill Sergeant’ to myself, nothing I did for myself was good enough, and everything I did was bad enough for a string of profanities, all aimed at myself.

Then as I grew older, I learned to love myself more, accept me for who I am and the things I can do and cannot do. Well you call that maturity, I call that meeting reality once too many times!

The bottom line is this, you have to have constant objective feedback to yourself, is your plans working, is your goals achievable and is what you are currently doing helping you work your ways towards your goals? you have a chance to learn and get exposed to many things I only learned in my twenties. You have a head start, and you need to tell yourself that you have an advantage over your dad’s generation and you need to work hard to make sure that you use that edge!

Please talk to yourself more, make yourself your own best friend, and learn to negotiate with your own expectations. And make sure that you talk to yourself in the best possible language.

Published: December 30, 2014

Perspective Taking

Perspective Taking

Dear boys,

You get what you focus on, period.

I wanted to write about this because one evening, we were talking, and Wayne said ‘Tomorrow is going to be a good day.’ Yet, knowing him, there is always a caveat.

Of course during the day, somethings might turn up, screw up our ‘good day’. We might meet an obnoxious person who piss us off, and mess up our ‘good day’. We might get our results back to find out that it is a ‘fail’, that is not going to be a good day.

It is all in the perspective, boys. What we focus on gets magnified. even things we ‘don’t want’. This is the classic law of attraction, and it has happened to me so many times. especially when I’m riding trails, the more you tell yourself, ‘don’t slam into that tree, don’t slam into that tree, don’t slam into that tree,’ what happens, you end up slamming into the tree!

don’t slam into that tree!

So I will train myself to look ahead and plan the route to take, usually it is quite a successful endeavor but being on a mountain biking trail is anything but predictable neither ‘successful’.

Law of attraction

Which is why we need to be very conscious about what we think about. It’s fine to say ‘Tomorrow is going to be a good day.’ and leave it as that. BUT, adding, ‘I hope nothing bad is going to happen!’, and you can be sure something ‘bad’ will happen and you will be fixated over it instead of what other good stuff that has happened.

It will happen especially when we don’t want something. The more we don’t want, the more we select reasons to justify our don’t want-ness, and we look around for more situations to put ourselves in, just to say: ‘You see lah, everytime like this one! I always get what I don’t want!” Just truly and earnestly think about what you want then, and let the magic happens!

Boxing yourself in thinking about dying.

Wayne, there was a period of time when the argument or scolding isn’t going your way, you will think of dying. or killing yourself.

So during one of those heated scolding, you brought this up again, as you sense that you are cornered, boxed in and everything is your fault. So you say that you might as well kill yourself. And I gladly entertained that thought, let go into killing ourselves. We imagined a few scenarios, how sad we will feel if you die, and how people needs tremendous amount of energy, focus and will power just to kill themselves, or throw themselves off a building. Why not, focus all that energy, on being good? Save yourself and not kill yourself?

We explored focusing on living, the wonderful gift of having a chance to better ourselves, despite of making mistakes, despite of losing, despite of looking stupid, we have life and another chance to try again. By focusing on death, once you are dead, you are dead, there is no more chance to try again, make a better day, or simply enjoy being loved by your brother, mom and dad. No more mummy tiger to hug, or smell patchie boy again.

The elephant in the room

It is a taboo, I want to address it with you boys, while we grow up, we need to be very careful what thoughts we bring into our mind. Some of these thoughts, we brought them in, some others, people planted it there. So by talking about death and suicide, we properly addressed the matter instead of treating it like a taboo, because the more we don’t want to talk about it, the more it will surface and the larger it will become, so much so that it will be too powerless for us to talk about it. So now we got such zero sum game out of our mind, we can focus on growth, focus on the good day, magnify the awesome, and build on the phenomenal.

Our negativities will not go away, being upbeat and cheery isn’t a façade, thinking and focusing on good stuffs means when we are hit with bad stuff, we know how go to a resourceful and open state to handle a rough patch well and emerge from such episodes no worse for wear.