Saturday, April 15, 2006


(Source of pic: Herttoniemi Manor)

I had started writing up this post way back in January. I've been editing and adding to it ever so frequently, I've lost count. It's because everytime I touch this post, the emotions will start to build, forcing me to stop soon after. Good thing I started it early. Here goes...

...but let's pop some champagne first (Thanks, Jade, for these pics)...
And so, we've come to the end. In a couple of hours' time, I will be on a plane jetting home. My blog address is already in Dan, Stef and Jim's mailbox. It's part of my farewell present to them.

Before I say my farewells to you guys as well, allow me to self-indulge a bit more...

Ladies and gentlemen, this is where it all happens. Note the two phone books propping up my laptop to a more comfortable level for me (because I am very tall) and the Peanuts mousepad. If you look carefully, you might spot my Papermate Silhouette mechanical pencil. Note also on the left, the wireless broadband modem and the corner of my bed.

The past three years have been quite a trip of self-discovery. Here is a non-exhaustive list:

i) 我不怕孤單,但蠻害怕寂寞的。

ii) 我好奇心雖然有,但不夠“雄厚”,倒置我對研究的熱忱忽冷忽熱。這行不適合我。

iii) 但肯定的是,精算是我要走的路。這個,我從十八嵗時就曉得了。

iv) 我的寫作天份實在有限。我不是假謙虛。

v) 我比想象中還疼愛我的外甥女。

vi) 難然想家,但我不後悔走了這趟三年的悉尼路程。

...and let's enjoy some fried chicken too (Thanks, CM)...

And of course, some words to the main protagonists of this blog:

To Dan and Stef:

Thank you for all the weekends (and some weekdays too!) we've spent together. What I've enjoyed most about your company is not the movies. Not the "Xbox-ing". Not the field trips. Not the food. But rather, it's the ongoing bantering with the two of you and sometimes, between the two of you.

You guys know that I hate travelling, but if the opportunity ever arises, I will pay you guys a visit in Shanghai. But better if you guys can come over to Singapore lah.

To Jim:

Thank you for all the little bits and pieces of kindness and care you've shown me in the 2 years 10 months that I've stayed with you. Thursday is my most looked forward to day of the week, simply because it is the day you drop by to clean the apartment. I will miss our weekly chats. At times, you've felt like half a father to me.

I wish you and your family all the very best, especially your grandson. And yes, if ever I do get married, you'll be one of the first to be informed! If you ever find time to read through this blog, you'll probably need to enlist the help of your wife to sieve through the posts that are written in chinese. You have my permission to letting her read it.

To my boss:

Who unfortunately will not get to read this because I am not sending you the address (but to whom I've said basically the same things when I had bade you farewell yesterday). You've been more of a friend than a boss at times. I value all the advice you've given me, which has brought about the fruits of a publication (already at the publishers) and another two working papers.

To Le Tissier, 秋 and Ah Gee:

Just welcome me home when I'm back. *Grin* All the catching up will happen then. See you guys this evening at the airport.

To :

I'm glad we've come full circle. Most of all, I'm glad to hear you're doing fine.

To :

You've had a most paradoxical and profound effect on my perspective of life. Despite that, I hope you will never ever find this blog. 衷心地祝福妳生活美滿。

To my family, especially 慧:

Gu gu快到家了!來臨的星期一就配妳玩shape shape畫畫,gai gai,搭MRT,接妳下課跟ma ma去海邊吃mum mum。。。 或許有一天,等妳長大后,gu gu會把這個網址送給妳當生日禮物,讓妳回味回味一下童年時光。

Special thanks to UFM100.3. Without an almost constant link to home, I would probably have gone crazy already.

And finally, to my readers:

To my three pioneer readers, namely Ginger_ale,
Chronicles of Chaos and Little Miss Drinkalot:

妳們帶給我的安慰是我無法形容的。But I'll still try...

Ginger_ale, you allowed me to move from an apparent soliloquy to a two-way exchange. That gave me immense satisfaction. For that, thank you.

Chronicles of Chaos, I never expected to become such close friends with a fellow blogger. But I did. 希望妳儘快走出黑暗吧,朋友。I'm saving up for your wedding ang pow liao. *Grin*

Little Miss Drinkalot, heh... this is a little embarrassing to say. But to have a blogger whom I really enjoy reading read my own blog feels rather flattering. I hoped you've enjoyed what you've read here as much as I've enjoyed reading yours. My little half-promised farewell gift to you is in your mailbox. Also, 希望妳早日找到屬於妳自己的幸福!

Special mentions too for two "late-comer" readers, CM and Jade. I didn't expect to know anyone from the actuarial profession via my blog, so your first e-mails and comments took me totally by surprise. Despite the end of my blogging days, we will keep in touch via e-mail. Heh, maybe we'll even get the chance to fly to UK together should we qualify at the same time!

...and we finish off with some cookie burgers and more champagne (Thanks, Ginger_ale)...

Lastly, some things I want to do immediately upon reaching home:

i) If you happen to be at Changi Airport this evening and notice a crazy scrawny-looking guy kissing the tarmac, that'll be me.

ii) Food. Food. Food.

iii) Catch up on my sleep.

Ok, that's all I have to say. Now pardon me whilst I do my own version of "Cantona".

Who Acey Deucey is

In no particular order, and some of them may seem to contradict one another, I am

Trustworthy - that I inspire trust in people so much so that they trust their secrets with me.

Trusting - that I place my trust in others rather easily too.

Consistent - that after a while, it is pretty easy to predict how I react to certain circumstances.

Boring - that I do not dare or do not like to try new things.

Loyal - that they can count on me when the need arises and my tastes do not change easily.

Sagacious - that I have a knack for taking apart problems and getting right into the core of it.

Articulate - that I can explain and teach pretty well.

Forthright - that I say things as it is.

Politically correct - that I think carefully of the way to phrasing things before actually saying it.

Principled - that I stick to my principles staunchly.

Rigid - that I do not change my ways easily.

Perfectionistic - that I aim for perfection in everything I do.

Efficient - that I just seem to get things done quickly.

Meticulous - that I plan carefully. Very very carefully.

Patient - that I possess great patience and tedious tasks do not deter me.

Sensitive - that I am sensitive to the feelings of others.

Tolerant - that I do not get flustered easily.

Snobbish - that indirectly, I look down on certain groups of people.

Cynical - that I tend to suspect or weigh up the bad possibilities first before considering the positives.

Lucky - that I've been enjoying good luck in my life thus far.

Independent - that as far as possible, I try to manage things on my own and not trouble others for help.

Content - that I have few material wants and am contented with whatever I already have.

Some of these are gleaned from what friends and family tell me. Others are based on self-observation. Whether they are true or not is another matter. :P

Duck tales

Ma ma has been naughty. Very very naughty. And almost inevitably, this following story also involves Mr. Beanie Duck. Enjoy this final published tale of my niece.

Despite repeated warnings, 慧 had left some of her toys, including
Mr. Beanie Duck, on the living room floor again. Gong gong had wanted to wash the floor, so he picked up her "mah sah" and threw them all back into the huge "mah sah" container.

Shortly after, 慧 came back and couldn't find
her best buddy on the floor. She searched her table and other areas (but somehow excluded her mah sah container) but he was nowhere to be found. That naturally got her anxious,

“鴨鴨在哪裏?鴨鴨在哪裏?Ma ma,鴨鴨不見了!” (Translation: Where is duck duck? Where is duck duck? Grandma, duck duck is gone!)

Hawk-eyed ma ma spotted
Mr. Beanie Duck the moment she stepped back into the living room. She distracted 慧 into searching for him in the room whilst "pocketing" Mr. Beanie Duck secretly. Ma ma had thought of an idea to teach 慧 a lesson in keeping her toys.

“慧慧naughty。玩具亂亂丟。鴨鴨被bird bird抓走了!抓去temple了!” (Translation: You have been naughty, leaving your toys on the floor. Duck duck has been captured by bird bird! He is now locked up in the temple!)
(Some background info: There is a chinese temple near my flat and 慧 liked to visit it when she was smaller. There is a pond there full of koi and we would bring some fish food there to feed them. The above pic is taken at the koi pond, about one and a half years back.)

慧 looked despondent.

“走!跟ma ma去temple喂魚,去找鴨鴨。” (Translation: Let's go to the temple to feed the fish and look for duck duck.)

“好!” (Translation: OK!)

At the temple, whilst 慧 was busy looking at the koi, ma ma took
Mr. Beanie Duck out from her pocket and exclaimed,

“慧慧!Ma ma找到鴨鴨了!” (Translation: Look! Grandma has found Mr. Beanie Duck!)

慧 was understandably overjoyed to find back
her best buddy and grinned widely. For the rest of the day, she clutched tightly onto him and did not let him once out of her sight.

At this point in time, I chided ma ma for
undoing our good work thus far of reducing her reliance on Mr. Beanie Duck. But wait, there is more to the tale, she tells me.

That night, 慧 went to bed with
Mr. Beanie Duck in hand. In the course of tossing and turning whilst asleep, Mr. Beanie Duck ended up at the edge of the mattress.

Midnight. *Sounds of rustling*

Ma ma awakes to find 慧 feeling around the mattress. Spotting
Mr. Beanie Duck at the other end of the mattress, she returns it to 慧's hands,

“在這裡,鴨鴨在這裡啦!睡覺!睡覺!” (Translation: It's here, duck duck is here! Now go back to sleep!)

“嘻嘻。。。” (Self-conscious laughter from 慧.)

I asked ma ma if 慧 was still hanging onto
Mr. Beanie Duck the next day. Her reply was no.

I couldn't decide if that was a good thing or not.

Turning points

It is inevitable, I suppose, with the current permeating climate of change, for me to be taking stock of my life and to start planning ahead. For the past few days, I find that I've been dwelling a lot on the turning points of my life...

...Months before the PSLE, I had made my choices of which secondary schools I would like to attend. That was probably the first major decision of my life. My parents and elder sis had given me some advice but left the final decision to me. In the end, my choices were pretty prudent (read not overly ambitious). I had also intentionally chosen NOT to put down any of those so-called top all-boys schools.

After the results were released, my form teacher asked me if I wanted to transfer from the secondary school I was posted to a "better" one, for I had done well enough to enroll in any of those. She added she would appeal on my behalf if I wanted to. I gave it a minute's thought and declined her offer. I was happy with my first choice of secondary school.

And you know what, that turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

I most thoroughly enjoyed myself in the secondary school I had stuck to. I was also to go on to learn many valuable lessons about life in that school, many of which I doubt I would have learnt in a top school. I've written about some of my experiences in that school whilst
guestblogging for my second regular reader, so I won't be repeating them here. Suffice it to say that I still hold fond memories of my time there.

Of all the schools and institutions I've attended so far, it still lists as my undisputed number one. If any parent were to ask me to recommend a secondary school for their child, the choice cannot be more obvious for me...

...When I was 18, after the 'A's, I was one of the first to be enlisted for NS. In fact, I went from student to civilian to soldier in the space of a fortnight. During BMT, right up till the release of the 'A' level results in March, I was still undecided about the university course to sign up for.

That was until a JC classmate brought to my notice the actuarial course. The funny bit of this was, she had intended to sign up for the engineering course. The actuarial course was not well-known then, because it was (and still is) hidden under the guise of Business. Not only that, Business was as far from Engineering as chalk from cheese. So how she found out about it, I don't know. Why she told me about it, I also do not know. Indeed, years later, I was to ask her these same questions. She told me she had clean forgotten!

In any case, after she had told me, I did some research on my own about the course during the months leading to the application deadline. The rest, as they say, is history

I sometimes wonder what course I would have ended up in had she not told me what she told me...

...At 25, I was standing at another crossroads in my life. I was largely happy with my work and work environment but the long hours were hurting my actuarial examinations preparations. I knew if I kept up the pace, I would either start failing those exams or get burnt out. Something had to give.

So I made that fateful decision. I quit my job.

What initially was a two year hiatus from work became two and a half, became five and finally (and hopefully) five and a half. Again, with the benefit of hindsight, it turned out to be the right decision. I might have lost out on financial rewards and career progression, but what I've gained in the past five and a half years is invaluable. For one, I've progressed in my actuarial examinations. And I've made a few vital self-discoveries that will serve me well in my life...

...Backtracking a little, at 27, just after my two and a half year hiatus, I was deciding between returning to the workforce or coming over to Sydney.

I had spotted then, a really interesting job in the papers. It was from the Singapore Pools. They were looking for a game analyst for the Italian Football League, Serie A. Now, you would know by now that I enjoy my football and I certainly enjoy my probability. I applied for the post with much expectation. Given my actuarial background, I thought I might have an edge over other candidates.

At the same time, I had already applied for a few universities in Australia. But nothing had been heard of them yet.

This time, the decision was (sort of) made for me. Singapore Pools never got back to me for my job application, whereas I got my approval for the Australian university soon after. And that was how I came over to Sydney.

If it had been the other way round or if a job offer had been made before the approval from the university arrived, I would have taken up the job and stayed put in Singapore. As things turned out, that didn't happen.

Which is why you're reading this post...

...Now I wonder what's next.

Sick chicken

Mid-autumn. Now is the time when a great variety of clothing thickness can be observed on the streets.

I have always been one of the early birds to dig out my winter clothing and putting them to good use. 今年也不例外。Since the
return from the Blue Mountains, I have been in three layers of clothing, two t-shirts (or equivalent) and one coat, whenever I am out and about.

Therein lies a little awkwardness for me.

You see, there is quite a number of Australians still hanging onto their summer inclinations. It is not uncommon to see Aussies in sleeveless t-shirts or singlets, shorts and slippers (they're called thongs here) on the streets. And they are NOT exercising, just going about their daily routine. This happens even in the evenings when the temperature takes a further dip.

And then, here I am, in full winter battle order, walking past them with my hands deeply buried in my coat pockets. The contrast is so big, I get self-conscious about it. Of course, there are other people like me, all togged in winter wear. Some even have their beenies and scarves out.

Still, I can't help but wonder what makes those "summerly" people so "healthy". We used to joke amongst ourselves that it makes us seem like some weakling or sick chicken.