Wednesday, 28 January 2009

The Chinese New Year of Ox

On the eve of the Chinese New Year (CNY) Day, I was out shooting for a wedding. I had completely forgotten about the customary reunion dinner and was about to head to another destination to continue the shoot until the realisation just hit me!

Back at home, I had asked my mum if I was supposed to wash my hair too even though I've washed them yesterday. I am not accustomed to washing my hair daily because the daily washes make them unhealthily dry. "Yes, you MUST!" she said.

Every CNY eve, everyone in the family bath with water from this! It's a bucket of water with pomelo leaves immersed in it. The water is supposed to wash off all our bad luck of the last year and ready us for the new year.

Every CNY has been pretty much the same except this year, there is much excitement in the family. Two of my cousins are expecting and one is expecting delivery anytime now! So, we will be having two little ox babies this year in our family and they will be the first additions to the new generation.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Activities of SSEAYP and on Nippon Maru

When I came back from my trip, I was often asked what I did on the ship or in the programme. So, here are the main elements of the SSEAYP programme plus the other activities that make the programme complete and fun.

I wrote an earlier post on Nippon Maru here.

Note: This is an extremely long post. Thus, I have put anchor links here for you to jump in between the page and you can hit the "Back" button to get back to the top.

1. Discussion
2. Institutional Visits
3. Home Stay
4. Introduction of a Contingent
5. Club Activities
6. Solidarity Group Activities
7. Flag Hoisting
8. Welcome Ceremony
9. Courtesy Calls
10. Send Off Ceremony
11. Flag Cheers
12. SSEAYP Festival
  • Deepavali
  • Hari Raya
  • Loy Krathong
13. Other SSEAYP Activities
  • Japan-ASEAN Film Festival
  • Japan-ASEAN Music Festival
  • Japan-ASEAN Photo Festival
  • Mr & Ms Nippon Maru
  • Tournaments (Basketball & Futsal)
  • Farewell Festival & SSEAYP Photo Festival
14. Doing your Contingent and SG Boards

1. Discussion
I remember Chris (BPY07) repeatedly mentioning how the discussion is the core of the programme and it is what is keeping the programme together. Having been through the programme, I completely agree with him. The discussion is what gives purpose to the programme because we discuss, share and work towards the improvement of our countries. We address the issues pertaining to our countries and identify solutions for betterment. We cover topics such as Cross-cultural understanding, Environment, School Education, Traditional Culture, International Relations, Information (Digital Divide), Volunteer Activities and Youth Development. In Youth Development where I participated, we subdivided our discussion into several aspects; Leadership, Education, Female Gender, Employment and Participation of Youth in Decision-making. Some of our groups have consolidated smaller teams comprising of representatives from each countries to collaborate on a project, be it the promotion of traditional culture or coming up with volunteer activities to help others and so forth.

Some of the on board projects that had been conducted were "Sit With Someone New Today", "Clean Plate Day", donation of clothing, Smile Project by Indonesia for dentistry and even "Drink With Someone New Today"!

The Cross-Cultural Understanding group came up with "Sit With Someone New Today" to encourage youths to mingle with one another to promote cultural understanding. The group would rushed into the dining hall, all repetitively shouting in unison, "Sit with someone new!"

The "Clean Plate Day" Project was started by the Environment group to encourage people not to waste food. So, they would stand by the entrances of the dining room, demonstrating on having clean plates after our meals.

Mamul at the back doing a demonstration for "Clean Plate Day"

As the programme was drawing to an end, so were our luggage spaces! What better ways to promote reuse of good clothes by donation rather than discarding them into trash bins. While we may have plenty to spare, many people in the world could not even own one. Thus, the Volunteer Activities group conducted the donation event.

Also, any spare foreign currencies could be donated to the Smile Project by the Indonesia contingent where they collect funds to help people who could not afford dental treatments.

We usually start our discussions sessions with some energisers or warm-up games just to get every one up and about. Whether it was a big discussion group or topical discussion groups, energisers is a must!

We usually take up sub-topics and discuss them in smaller groups. Sharing with the rest will come when we conduct presentations to summarise our findings.

During the course of the programme, we have about two or three presentation sessions from each discussion group. These sessions are conducted in the hopes for PYs from the other groups to share and learn with one another what they have done in their respective discussion groups. The presentations could be in the form of a lecture, skit, song, dance or in any combinations.

To ensure the smooth running of the presentation sessions, the discussion group (DG) steering committee has been formed. This steering committee organises and manages the presentation sessions. The flow of the sessions, the time-keeping, documentation and emcee-ing are all managed by the DG steering com. These are made up of individuals that have been nominated by members of their respective DGs, plus person-in-charge of discussion in their respective contingents, the facilitators and one or two administration staff. PYs in the steering com may assist the facilitators in the moderation of the discussions. Below is a picture of a DG steering com meeting in session.

2. Institutional Visits

Institutional visits are like study or field trips. We would visit a particular institution and learn about their activities, history or culture, which could be key solutions for improvement, in the hopes of applying these learning points when we return to our countries. We draw ideas of change and improvement not only from the discussions but also from the institutional visits. During some visits, we have opportunities to interact and network with the local youth allowing us to learn about the country or institution from various perspectives as well as form future collaborations with them.

Japanese Red Cross Society

Institute of Technology Brunei

Learning Angklung at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Indonesia

Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Thailand

Home for the disabled babies, Thailand

Orion Food Company headquartered in Korea, Vietnam

Money Museum in Bank Sentral Pilipinas, Philippines

3. Home Stay
Home stays bring you to a brand new world of experiences ranging from the cultures and life styles of your foster family, to the food, the places of interests and also, learning about the country. I enjoy home stays thoroughly! Despite language barriers, I managed to communicate well enough with my families to establish a bond with them. To date, I've received postcards from several of my families. They are all very dear to me for they are the kindest and warmest people I've met during the programme.

At the home stay matching ceremony, we get introduced to our foster family. Soon, formalities melted away as bonds became stronger. In the Philippines, here is Yoyo and Michelle with their foster mum.

This is Rinah and her home stay mate with their foster dad.

Home stay programmes allow you to try new things with your foster family. We learn about their lifestyles as we live with them, and some of us, try to live like them.

This is Judy (LPY) my home stay mate in Japan with our foster siblings. We took a stroll around the neighbourhood.

We learn about each others' cultures. This is Romy (JPY) helping Nik with the Yukata.

We do things together as a family though we were strangers just a day before. It was an amazing feeling, being bonded with people so closely when they were strangers to you a day ago.

Staying in different living conditions, finding each an exciting and unique experience.

Exploring the country with more institutional visits or tour to places of interest, learning more about the culture.

Trying out different types of food both at home and outside

And, even those on the streets for the adventurous.

Learning the culture and/or country by getting involved as well as interaction with the local youths.

Learning about the country by observation

Letting the feeling of excitement sweep you off when you see other PYs during your home stay, only to realise how much you've missed the people that you see everyday on board. I miss Nippon Maru during my home stays.

4. Introduction of a Contingent

A night will be dedicated to performances by a contingent. These performances could be a combination of dances, martial arts, singing, skits or so forth. These performances aim to educate us on the cultures and arts of each contingent.
Performance by the males of the Malaysian contingent

Performance by the ladies of the Malaysian contingent

Choir and dance by the Indonesian contingent

Grand finale with a jump by the Indonesian contingent

Dancing and singing to the grand finale with song, "Syukur" by the Bruneian contingent

Traditional dance by the Filipino contingent

Modern dance by the Filipino contingent

A shower of confettis at the grand finale of the Filipino contingent

Traditional dance by the Singaporean contingent

Retro dance by the Singaporean contingent

5. Club Activities
We learn about each others cultures through the club activities. Each contingent will run different activities such as designing your own batik, painting on saucers, learning a dance of another country, playing both modern or traditional games or musical instruments, trying on traditional costumes, balloon folding and so forth.

Sun (MAPY) is painting on a saucer

Jess (PPY) is painting himself one

Nazron (BPY) and Princess (PPY) are playing a Filipino game similar to "main getah" of Brunei

A IPY is trying out "main getah"

Masa (J-ADM) with his malay costume

Winnie and Hanzhi (SPYs) teaching the dances to Singaporean songs.

6. Solidarity Group (SG) Activities
Solidarity Groups are formed to promote mingling between PYs of different contingents. When SG activities are ran, SGs compete against one another. The activities are often in the form of competing games. To name a few, we have the SG flag drawing, SG cheer, treasure hunt, snake game, tug-of-war and so forth.
Egg and spoon game

Using actions version of Chinese Whisper

Snake game

Standing on folded paper


As we participated in the SG activities, our bonds grew among the group. My closest friends on board are also my SG and cabin mates.

We sweat in pain together

We laugh and rejoice together

SSEAYP 2008 in their respective SG shirts

We smile and do silly things together

In addition to SG activities, SG groups are responsible for several things such as the Morning Exercise, the Morning and Night calls.

SG A is in-charge of morning exercise

SG D in-charge of morning calls. Morning or night calls are made through the PA system to inform PYs the time to rise or to be in bed. Typical calls would be greetings in different languages followed by songs, which could be famous or traditional songs from their countries.

7. Flag Hoisting Ceremony
Since SSEAYP gathers fine representatives from the Japan-ASEAN countries, it seems befitting to have the flag hoisting ceremony where all participants of SSEAYP with the administration staff congregate. This is a formal and serious affair where we dress in our A1, stand in honour and pride, as we sing to our national anthems while the flags are raised. Different days are allocated for the flag hoisting of different contingents. On several occasions, two contingents have their flag hoisting ceremony together. The flag/s of the allocated contingent/s will be raised as the national anthem/s is/are played before the raising of all the other flags.

By 7.15am, we would all be panicking when any of our PYs are not found gathered at the Dolphin Lounge. We would be calling them up to rush them. It is considered imprudent if a contingent failed to gather in time.

Flag hoisters from the Brunei contingent are Tini (winner of Miss Aodai) and Mamul (winner of Mr & Ms Nippon Maru)

Here is another Brunei flag hoister, Nabil with Tini

Flag hoisters from Laos looking up at their flags while admin, Sato, composes a picture.

While PYs stand in their straightest positions in their respective contingent lines, press members are roaming around to take photos of the ceremony

Our Brunei contingent singing to our national anthem with patriotic gusto

After all the flags have been raised, the national leader/s would come on the podium to make a speech before we disperse for breakfast.

8. Welcome Ceremony

Each host country would organise a welcome ceremony to welcome us. This ceremony usually comprises of a speech by an official of the country and gift exchanges between the national leaders and officials from the country.

My most memorable welcome ceremony has got to be the one in Vietnam. Youths were doing cheers for us as we walked down the stairs. Later on, we had performances by beautiful Vietnamese youths, the ladies in their immaculately white Aodai.

This is the part which was most memorable. It started raining and we were handed plastic raincoats and green hats. Most of us managed to struggle to get into it.

While some of us have things in places where they are not supposed to be. Or, they couldn't get their arm out of the sleeve of the raincoat and all. It became rather warm after a while in the raincoat.

Gift exchange between the Brunei NL and an official

9. Courtesy Calls

During courtesy calls, we get to meet important people and visit important places such as palaces and government offices.

We had the privilege to visit the House of Representatives where the seats are filled by important government officials during important state meetings

A House of Representative official gave a speech during the courtesy call

10. Send Off Ceremony
Send off ceremonies are usually rather soapy. It would start with the customary speeches and gift exchanges before we bid our goodbyes to our new found families. What I enjoy most about send off ceremonies is running out of Dolphin Hall to the pre-agreed location of the ship to find my foster family there, hurl my roll of ribbons to them and hanging on to the ribbon for as long a time as the length of the ribbon. It was a beautiful gesture of love, unknown to me before. I remember crying myself silly when I left Indonesia and I couldn't explain why. It was perhaps the sadness of leaving when my family had been so wonderful to me. It was a strange and yet, amazing feeling.

The customary send-off speech

Gift exchange

Bidding goodbyes to our families

Everyone, get your ribbons! I love the green, purple and red ones!

We're not on "Whose line is it, anyway?", are we?

The most beautiful sight I've ever seen. A ship full of people, some crying and some shouting but all hanging on to ribbons of connection, of friendship, of love.

11. Flag Cheers
Flag cheers are usually held either during the welcoming or send-off ceremony depending on the arrangements of the host countries. Some host countries may do away without the flag cheers.

I proudly present to you flag cheers by our Brunei contingent

12. SSEAYP Festival

Another element of SSEAYP to promote cultural understanding is the SSEAYP Festival where PYs from different contingents and work together to organise common festivals celebrated in their countries.

Hari Raya by Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia contingents
I remember some of the PYs playing the hadrah (Malay musical instrument) which was borrowed from the Malaysian contingent. Some others were teaching some Malay dances to the other PYs while there was a row of table filled with snacks! My apologises for the lack of photos for I was busy learning some Indian dance and having henna drawn on my hand over the Deepavali corner. We had joined the festival immediately after our cultural night dance practice. So, there was little time left before the night call.

Deepavali by Singapore contingent
Nim (SPY) was leading a group of SPYs to teach us how to bhangra while some other SPYs were busy drawing henna on interested PYs.

Pauline (SPY) drawing henna on Mumboi's (TPY) arm.

Loy Krathong by Laos and Thailand contingents
There was Thai and Laos snacks served by the bar before Nanh (LPY) got everyone to form a circle around the pool for the procession of the Festival of Light.

Mumboi, Nub and Eddie (TPYs) fully caked in traditional cosmetics. The Myanmar contingent has something similar too where the ladies paste on both their cheeks.

We walked in line around the pool and later placed the flowers with the glow-sticks by the pool side. This was supposedly done to give thanks to the Goddess of Water.

PYs with their faces caked with traditional cosmetics happily following the procession

We can make our wishes as we placed the "krathongs" in the water. Apparently couples who put their krathongs will receive good luck in their relationship or something.

13. Other SSEAYP Activities
These are activities organised by our Group Leaders (GLs) and Assistant Group Leaders (AGLs) to promote more mingling in the ship among PYs as well as adding more fun to our SSEAYP experience.

Japan-ASEAN Film Festival
Every now and then, different contingents would play movies from their countries in the theatre and interested PYs could go watch them. These movies are usually played after a cultural night performance.

Japan-ASEAN Music Festival
Just for fun, any group with members from not less than 3 contingents can form a team to perform a song number.

Mr & Ms Nippon Maru

Jess (PPY) looks on while a TPY contestant is singing

We have a fan base on board!

The three final couples

Kosuke (JPY) couldn't sing a line from a Britney Spears' song. He mustered something from Avril Lavigne instead, sending the entire crowd in mad laughters. Hahahaha!

Mamul (BPY) doing his winning act

Anna (PPY) doing extremely well as MC!

Tournaments (Basketball & Futsal)

Farewell Festival & SSEAYP Photo Festival

During the farewell festival, the admin threw together their best act!

Siti (IPY) caught on camera ..

Singing to Nippon Maru for the last time on board while doing the traditional handholding.

14. Doing your Contingent and SG Boards
Each contingent as well as SG are given their respective board space to decorate. On these boards, little notes and gifts can be left in tiny pigeonhole-like things for PYs. Notices for the contingent or SG are also pasted on the respective boards.