Dive trip: Moalboal Philippines

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Have I mentioned how much I love diving?

This is surprising to those who know me for two reasons: I’m claustrophobic and an intense, compulsive worrier. Then again, it’s also the perfect hobby because I live to challenge myself (I don’t want to grow old and become even more of a hypochondriac), I absolutely adore the water and I’ve made peace with prospect of death.

In 2011, G and I took our PADI Open Water certification in Thailand. Granted, I almost had a few heart attacks during the training sessions when the instructor decided it would be fun to stop my oxygen flow, but once I was in the deep blue, I was completely sold. The reef was teaming with life in all shapes, sizes and colors. I swam around mentally slack-jawed for most of our time underwater because I had not seen anything like it. Nature on land is beautiful, but nature underwater is something else altogether. Perhaps it’s because underwater sights are more inaccessible, or require effort to get to (like squeezing into a wetsuit or carting an oxygen tank around), but whatever the case, I decided I’d never pick up another hobby for as long as I lived, because it just didn’t get any better than this. The exception is globetrotting but I’m not sure if that’s counted as a hobby.

Last year, G, myself and two friends jetted it to Maolboal, Philippines, to get our Advanced Open Water certification, which was equally (if not more) frightening, but incredibly worthwhile. We dove up to 30 meters or more and saw pygmy seahorses, electric clams (!!!), giant turtles and barracudas. I wasn’t very impressed with the pgymy seahorses (they were really, really, really tiny) but I was amazed by the eight ginormous whale sharks I had the benefit of swimming with (and touching, but it was only one time, I promise!). Don’t get me wrong, there are times when smaller is better, but most of these usually involve a microscope or magnifying glass. Here are some photos of us underwater.

This is me. Everyone who sees this photo says I look like a man underwater.

This is me. Everyone who sees this photo says I look like a man underwater.

G and I. G likes to watch me 24/7 because he's afraid I'll drop dead from a heart attack underwater.

G and I. G likes to watch me 24/7 because he’s afraid I’ll drop dead from a heart attack underwater.

With my fishy friends and G flouncing around behind me.

With my fishy friends and G flouncing around behind me.

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G and I with our human friends, Sayuri and YYM. I am the toothy one in the photo.

This year, we’re all heading to the Maldives (!!!!!!! x infinity) in May to dive with manta rays. I know it’s more than a month away but I’m beyond excited. We’ll be staying for 6N7D at Casa Mia, a newly renovated resort with its own dive center. I’ll update again when that’s happened, but here are two pictures for now:

Beach in front of Casa Mia

Beach in front of Casa Mia

Casa Mia Maldives

Casa Mia Maldives

Happy mid-week, everyone!

Why I love my Kindle Paperwhite

Our home study and a highly inappropriate number of books

Our home study and a highly inappropriate number of books

I’m an avid reader. Been that way for as long as I can remember. If it was a toss up between a book or a movie/TV show and I’ll pick the book every time (the exception to this is Sherlock). I’m almost always disappointed when a book-to-movie venture arrives in theaters, because anyone hardly gets it just right. Movies and TV shows put boundaries on the imagination; books don’t.

I’ll read anything — books, magazines, periodicals, shampoo labels, instruction manuals and procurement contracts even — anytime, anywhere. This means a few things: (1) I take far too long on the potty; (2) thick and heavy books are a serious logistical problem; and (3) my eyesight is horrifying and will continue to deteriorate steadily with age.

Because my new Kindle Paperwhite solves at least two of those three problems I’ve decided to wax lyrical about it. I purchased it last week from Kindle Supply and it’s been fabulous so far (I’d also like to note that the good people at Kindle Supply were a pleasure to do business with!). They included 8,000 free e-books too! Score.

Please bear in mind that the last hunkajunk I owned was a Kindle Keyboard which died after a sad year, so the Kindle Paperwhite is a huge leap forward. For those who can’t remember, this is the Kindle Keyboard. It was an absolute pain in the bum.

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Back to the Kindle Paperwhite and why I love it so.

1. Light-weight and portable

Have you ever tried reading thick hard-copy books for extended periods of time? It’s on par with one hour of TRX class — everything starts to ache and you have to keep switching positions to get comfortable. Also, it’s quite impossible to hold these kinds of books with one hand. It’s even worse when you have to cart them around with you to read in your spare time.

The Kindle Paperwhite, on the other hand, is about the same weight as this box of my favorite chocolates ($8.95, Cold Storage), just way less bulky.  At a measly 206 grams, it’s great to hold. Image

The device is also really thin. Here, see for yourself:

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The portability of the Kindle Paperwhite makes it a great companion to the loo, on public transport, or just about anywhere, really. You can read sitting up or lying down and there is no long-term fatigue. My wrist and arm muscles have never been more grateful.

2. You can read in the dark

Aside from the stark contrast between its white background and black words, I’d also like to point out that the screen is back-lit! And the brightness is adjustable! This means you can read comfortably in bright or dark surroundings! How awesome is that! Are my exclamation marks driving the point home!

The Paperwhite’s ability to allow reading in the dark is extremely impressive. I have a big thing with reading in the dark. When I was younger, I used to read under the covers with a torchlight (yes, just like in the movies) after my parents sent me off to bed. They caught me a few times (yes, I was very poor at doing things behind their back) and I got a loud shelling for “reading in the dark” and “destroying the eyes”. So I figure if the Kindle Paperwhite had been around when I was a child, I daresay I wouldn’t be as blind as a bat today.

I know other devices like the iPad will allow for the same, but the Kindle wins the fight because it’s much lighter and easier to hold. As for which is healthier for the eyes, it seems that both are comparable (read more here and here).

3. Built in dictionary!

Some authors like to use bombastic words in confusing sentences. I wish we had Matrix capabilities and could download whole dictionaries into our heads so authors like these wouldn’t be an issue, but while we are waiting for that to happen… There’s the Kindle Paperwhite’s built in dictionary!

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And it’s so simple to access, too. Just press and hold a word on the screen (oh yes, it’s got a touch screen, friends!) and poof! the definition of the word appears in a pop-up box. There’s also a way to save all these words so you can review what you’ve learnt at a later time. For someone who reads so much but can’t be half-arsed to jot these words down and look them up, this is a very handy feature.

4. Other cool features

Long books with 2398429837582794719 million characters written into them are difficult to follow. This is where the X-Ray features come in super handy. Touch and hold the character that’s confusing you, and a description of the him/her from previous parts of the book will pop-up! Problem solved.

Lastly, the Kindle Paperwhite has this awesome previous feature that allows you to “flip” to other pages (in a pop up) without disrupting your current page. So, if I wanted to finish the chapter in… XX minutes, I’d be able to see if it was achievable before attempting it. This way, I don’t have to speed read and end up glazing over something important.

In summary, my Kindle Paperwhite is the shiz, and if you’re contemplating getting one too, DO IT. You can take it from someone who knows the downfalls of being an avid reader. #firstworldproblems

An inclusive society

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I was quite horrified to read this open letter to TRS from two tourists who were recently in Singapore for a holiday. I was horrified for two reasons: first, over their terrible experience in Singapore, and second, that they’d choose TRS to air unhappiness over a very serious issue. I’ll only be discussing the first reason here (there is subtext, in case you are wondering).

I was quite shocked to learn that there are still Singaporeans who think it’s okay to publicly and openly discriminate against a minority group. I know this isn’t surprising to many out there, but I’ve been extremely sheltered for most of my life — I went to a convent school and the culture was incredibly inclusive. In fact, almost all my friends are from different races/religions/sexual orientations. Festive celebrations in my home might as well be a successful and happy initiative for a racial harmony campaign.

So, to learn that a mother would openly (and clearly, loud enough for the two men to hear) tell her son to avert his eyes because being gay is abnormal seems just horrendous to me. Please note that the operative words here are “openly” and “loud enough”.

There is a world of difference between keeping opinions and beliefs that might hurt others to yourself and blatantly airing them for the world to see

I get it: we all have (and are entitled) to our own opinions. I dislike corn, peas, pork and a multitude of other harmless items. I also have less harmless opinions about this country, Singaporeans, various ethnic groups, and so on. But I know these opinions might end up causing more dissension than peace, so I am careful what I say and to whom (those who know me will know that I am not so good on volume control, so I am extra careful at times).

Openly airing our beliefs, especially if it may be hateful towards certain groups in society is not, and will never be, helpful. There is nothing to gain; nothing to achieve. The mother may have been caught unaware by her child’s curiosity in that moment, but the way she chose to handle the situation — trying to pass on sensitive values and beliefs loudly and in public – reflected a lack of wisdom and social awareness.

Be aware of what values we pass on to our children, when and where it happens

We’ve established that we’re all entitled to our own opinions. We were also raised with certain beliefs that we’ve assumed as our own. However, we should be mindful of the situation in which we attempt to convey these sensitive values and beliefs to the younger generations.

We should always do so with an awareness that the child will have to grow up (live and function) in a society where each individual has a different set of values and beliefs. In other words, we should teach them inclusion instead of exclusion.

We should do so behind closed doors (especially religious values that may be sensitive to a changing society), not with the intention of “hiding” our opinions, but simply being mindful that these values and beliefs we’ve cultivated may be hurtful to other members of society… and we don’t want our children, who might not have social awareness at a young age, slipping up and saying something harmful.

What that mother did publicly — covering her son’s eyes and telling him that the couple was “abnormal” — could have been done in a different way. I can’t fault the mother for having her own personal beliefs, but I can fault how she had expressed it, and the way she attempted to pass it on to a future generation.

Let me elaborate.

I am Christian. I grew up in a Christian family, which had a strong belief in the heterosexual family unit, according to the Bible. However, my parents never instilled hate along with the values and beliefs they passed on to me, instead, they made sure I understood humility. This was to ensure that I would be able to recognize fellow sinners and feel compassion before hate. In doing so, they passed on bigger and more important values of love. This also meant that in the face of a society with varying values and beliefs, I would not judge, instead, I’d attempt to understand first.

I would like to add that the children we mold today will grow up to be teenagers and adults of tomorrow, some of whom would think that it is perfectly okay to scream “f*cking faggots” to strangers and teach their children loudly and in public that being gay is “abnormal”.

The cycle continues. It’s time we break it.